My neighbor’s hamsters

I woke up one Saturday morning feeling hot and sick because the previous night was warm and humid. I decided to walk around the small yard beside my sister’s landlady’s house to breathe in some fresh air. I forgot I was only wearing my boxer’s when I saw these four little hamsters who came up to me and gave me those pleading look; they wanted to be fed.

So I scooped some pellets from a can beside their cage and showered them with those brown stuff. The four adorable hamsters munched them like wild beasts, as if the brown pellets were small rabbits ravaged by starving lions. I was in this trance-like fascination when my neighbor shouted at me, “Ay abaw toto, nga-a ga-uba-uba timo? Galisik na atubangan mo ho!” (Now this is something I wouldn’t translate.)

The bluntness of how Ilonggos use their language brought me back to my senses.


Short reviews of five short films

Of the six films offered by the Division of Humanities of the University of the Philippines Visayas in this year’s college week, I watched five. Five short films, each lasting 18 minutes to 25, in one sitting were too much of a tour de force. I was literally gasping for air in the middle of the third film, and figuratively went asphyxiated and with a sore bottom after the last film rolled its closing credits.

This is one of those good projects of the University in encouraging film appreciation among students. Seeing their classmates, themselves even, and professors on screen acting was an altogether fun and different experience. Moreover, all five out of six used Hiligaynon, the local language of the area, as medium. Hiligaynon can be as exciting and compelling as English when used in screenplay. The other one, Dayo, is in Filipino/Taglish and some gibberish peppered here and there by the supposed English-speaking characters.

Before I begin with my short reviews of all the films, allow me to give my observation on how the event was organized:

The venue was semi-outdoor (or call it semi-indoor). Films aren’t meant to be watched using this kind of set-up. The night sea breeze kept on blowing the overhead screen where the movies were projected, making it difficult to distinguish visual effects used in the films from the motion caused by the overzealous night breeze coming from the sea of Miagao. The monobloc seats were too uncomfortable for prolonged sitting; the stiff white chairs hardly provided comfort to complete the cinematic experience.  And the projector was improperly positioned which made the images a bit skewed, distorting the field of vision.

But these were minor glitches that could be forgone easily. After all, the combined sales of the 50-peso tickets barely covered the cost of production of all the films. Expecting that what members of the audience paid for the ticket would entitle them of a commercial-cinema kind of comfort, was too much.

The audience:

What was the most unpardonable, however, was the behavior of the audience.

I felt I was in a cinema for seedy and banned bomba films in the province. The students, especially upperclassmen who were with their peers, feeling entitled to their very smart opinions (while the movies were shown!), howled and screeched at the most commonplace of scenes, giggled at the most insignificant and insipid of lines. Some loudly laughed at the mispronunciation of the actors, and I heard shouts of invectives and sneer at some sexual and homosexual underpinnings between characters. It was disappointing how UP students have gone that low a point, some might have probably internalized that the more they talk the more intelligent they sound and appear.

The opposite, it appeared, has more truth in it. And what they’ve shown in that very small venue-on-campus was shameful, lacking anything close to what we refer to as urbanity, utterly crude and crass.

Now the films:

Sinda [roughly translates to ‘Enchant’] (written and directed by Mr. Robert Rodriquez) is the story of a country lass, Celia, who is abducted by tamawos (other-worldly supernatural creatures in Panay folklore) and is saved by her boyfriend, Armando, through the help of a surano (shaman).

Visually, this is the most appealing of the five films. Despite the limitations of the equipment used (an ordinary handicam), surprisingly, the colors and texture are crisp and the lighting is superb. It makes use of the forested area on campus in Miagao as location, which I did not know could look that gorgeous. The camera techniques are well thought of, varying every now and then, but at some point these also started to become predictable.

The film’s weakest point, however, especially for an Ilonggo viewer familiar with the story of the tamawo, is the triteness of the storyline. In fact, the story line is too bare it borders to being boring. Some scenes are painfully stretched to compensate for the lack of anything to say.

This (the abduction of a maiden, not the over-familiar storyline) has been a recurring theme in some mainstream films, like Chito Ronio’s T2. It would have helped if a new aspect or twist is added, which could be done by having ample research on the subject.  For works produced within the academe, competing head-on with big studios in terms of production quality is a bad decision, instead they should focus on something the academe is good at, and that’s research which can greatly develop an otherwise well-worn theme into something more exciting, if not cerebral.

Bugasan ni Andrea [Andrea’s Rice Container] (written and directed by Prof. Vicente Tan). Andrea, a widow with two children, becomes the object of love of a dwarf (elf, i believe, is a better translation).

We were taught in basic storytelling that a narrative is empty without conflict. This short film cannot use as an excuse its briefness to justify its lack of any decent clash.

There is a dwarf who falls in love with a widow. His love unrequited, he threatens her to hurt her children if she doesn’t go with him to his kingdom. The widow says she won’t go with him and that he should not touch her children. And the dwarf leaves her and her children unscathed that easy.

I looked for something that motivates and drives the characters, I found none.

The film is also found wanting in the technical front. The lighting is unflattering, too dark for something not so horrific (or horrible, but it is). There is so much extraneous sound unfiltered by the mic. And some minor continuity problem. The script has more semblance to a radio script than a screenplay; the main character narrating her every action when she could’ve saved time saying her lines as the audience can see fully well what she’s doing.

Bugasan ni Andrea is like an empty rice container, tapped from the outside — it’s loud, but empty.

Abu sa Kolon [Ashes in the Clay Jar] (written and directed by Prof Emmeline Cabalum and Prof. Maybelle Guillergan) is based on a true story of Nestorio Lagulao from Negros Occidental. Two siblings, recently orphaned by their babaylan mother are left in the care of their mambabarang (sorcerer) uncle who earlier kills the children’s father using barang. Their mother, before she dies, tells them to burn her body and make clay jars out of her ashes. These jars will help the children weather the harsh life by giving them whatever they ask. But their uncle wants everything to himself, including their land, cages the kids and intends to kill the kid when, finally, their mother’s twin, also a babaylan, Lirio, helps them escape their uncle with the help of the clay jars.

Although I felt that the film rushed itself at some point to satisfy the allotted running time, it is able to effectively convey its message. It has a just-right level of complexity to entrance the viewer but simple enough to be told in less than 20 minutes.  I’d say I was biased for this film, seeing former classmates playing the lead roles, but aside from that, I saw that this film was well thought out.

The execution of the casts still leaves room for improvement. The costumes of the different characters were higgledy-piggledy; a mix of Spanish-era, contemporary poor, contemporary casual, to something futuristic, but this disconnect makes the feel of the film even more ‘fantastic’.

For the effort of attempting to come up with a production of this size and and the filmmakers going the extra mile by offering something novel and innovative to a film that has an otherwise tired genre, my applause goes to the filmmakers of Abu sa Kolon.

Dayo [Outsider] (written and directed by Prof. Kevin Piamonte). If I follow Umberto Eco’s definition of pornography as any act that extends beyond the normal length of doing it, say, opening a car normally takes five seconds, if the film lingers on the act of opening a car for 20 seconds then it is pornographic.

Dayo unquestionably, therefore, belongs in this genre. The film is made long-winded by those lengthy (and very shaky) shots of the two protagonists walking, enjoying the sunset, and partying that have nothing, if nothing much, to do in the development of the film’s thesis. Aggravating the crime when the main characters can’t let go of their consciously imbibed, all-too stereotypical Manileno way of behaving when they are vacationing in the province. In the film’s case, Boracay.

I’ve seen this done in mainstream films, and mainstream films have already perfected this stereotype. An independent film, using equipment far less sophisticated than those used in big-studio productions, attempting to do exactly like this, will only force itself to succumb to a cinematic feel that is cheap, forced, ugly. And Dayo, unfortunately descended into this pitfall.

Its medium, Tagalog and an ample supply of that constrained twangy American English, caused an uproar among the already rowdy audience. Choonight… Man, don’t you love it here, man? Man, this is life, …man, the sun, ….the beach, …. and the girls, man.

And what are two guys, identifying themselves as close friends, doing in a rented nipa cottage? The not-so-cosmopolitan members of the audience had an answer, and they screamed the label every 25 seconds of the film.

It’s a hodge-podge of confusion, of loose ends improperly knotted, entangling with each other until the film gets lost in the very complicated pattern the filmmaker wanted to weave.

Si Mags, si Maki, kag si Moy (by Prof. Jonathan Jurilla).

Of the five films, this is the one I like most. Simple story line; adorable characters; bright colors; and cool, white monkey.

Si Mags, si Maki, kag si Moy is a 3D animation that made use of the open source animation program, Blender.

It may be the novelty, the almost flawless execution, the multi-variegated framing and perspectives, or all these combined that I liked. And I liked it.

The animation is something a stressed out college student after a day of boring lectures and class activities will enjoy watching.

And besides, it won’t feel sound to impose on these cute creatures the more exacting criteria we set for humans characters, so the film becomes a league of its own. And with the absence of any UPV 3D production as a precedent for comparison, this one stood out.

There’s something about Melanie

After two years of being away, the first time I entered JD Bake shop again on E. Lopez Street, I immediately looked for that familiar face behind the cash register.

I first saw her, in that same place, behind the cash register, six years ago when I was still a college freshman visiting my sister who was then studying in the city. My sister brought me to the place to have lunch as it was one of the least expensive places to eat for students like us. That moment I saw her I knew that there is something exceptional about her.

There is nothing special about her appearance. She looks unremarkable, if not altogether plain, if she stands side by side younger and prettier girls who are also working at JD as waitresses.

In an ordinary day, there are, at most, ten women who stand behind the counter, serve food, and wait for the customers at JD. These ten women are divided into two groups, those assigned in the ground floor and the level above it. She is assigned, in the upper floor. Most of these girls are unmarried, in their mid- or late twenties. They flirt around, walk a bit seductively, and give their male customers meaningful smiles. But not Melanie.

She seemed to be uninterested in this mundane pursuit for flings. I suspect she is married but I could not gather even a slight courage to inquire about her personal life. Although she looks like a caricature of an overwhelmed, overworked-underpaid Filipino worker, there is that air of dignity in her character, that sense of pride that will send anyone pitying her for the boring work she has, to shame.

She doesn’t look in the eyes when she asks for two-peso loose coins in exchange of giving you a 20-peso bill for your change. She doesn’t smile. And whenever she speaks, she makes use of her flat, monotone, unaccented, but slightly nasal Hiligaynon.

As it appears, she’s the oldest and the most experienced of the girls. At times, I heard her giving tips to the younger waitresses how to do things faster and more efficiently.

I know that I do not figure in her universe. Although I regularly eat at the place, I’ve never seen her, not even once, looking to my direction, or unwittingly looking at me in the eyes. Our paths never converged except for those brief moments when I stand in front of her to hand her my money, and she asking for loose two-peso coins so she could give me a twenty-peso bill for my change.

But she seems to play a role in my life more than being a cashier of the diner I always go to. Soon I’ll find out. There are people who touch our lives without them being aware of it. There are those who silently do what they are supposed to do but inadvertently doing more. Melanie is one of those.

The next time you happen to pass by JD on E.Lopez Street in Lapaz, look for a girl whose name is Melanie. Who knows, she’ll make you see things differently this time?


I saw this in the net, and love it. It’s entitled ‘Procrastination’. Speaks for me.

Subok lang (Just an attempt)

Eksena sa isang lansangan sa Maynila
Eksena sa isang lansangan sa Maynila

Matagal ko nang hindi nasusubukang sumulat gamit ang Filipino. Ang mga manunulat ay may tinatawag na “pandinig”; ang mga bagay na naririnig ay hindi ang pisikal na pagsagap ng mga tunog kundi ang ritmo ng mga salita na ginagamit at kung paano ito nakakabuo ng mga diwang nais ipahayag. Sadyang hindi lang siguro magandang pakinggan ang Filipino lalo na sa tulad kong isang probinsiyano na lumaki sa lugar na pinalibutan ng mga taong nagsasalita ng Cebuano at nagtapos ng kurso sa lugar ng mga Ilonggo kung saan ang gamit na wika ay Hiligaynon.

Isa rin sa mga dahilan ay ang pagnanais kong maging internasyunal ang blog na ito. Kung panay Filipino ang gamit ko, malilimita ang saklaw ng aking mga panulat. Magkagayon man, hindi rin ito ang pinakamabigat na dahilan kung bakit Ingles ang ginagamit ko.

Nakakahiya mang aminin pero hindi ko masasabing sapat ang mga salita sa aking talasalitaan sa Filipino upang magbigay buhay sa mga bagay na nais kong sabihin. Ang patlang na ito ay napunan nang simulan kong gamiting ang Ingles.

Nitong hapon, nakausap ko sa telepono ang isang kaibigan na taga-Manila. Natural, Inggles ang gamit ko sa pakikipag-usap sa halip na Tagalog. Kahit na alam ko na papasa ang pananagalog ko, hindi ako kumportableng gumamit ng wikang ito. Kung baga sa Cebuano “giluod ko” na kung isasalin sa Ingles ay mangangahulugang to feel like vomiting. Siguro’y dala na rin ito ng umiiral na pagtanggi ng mga taga-timog na tanggapin ang Tagalog bilang basehan ng Pambansang Wika. Hindi ko sisimulang ang argumentong ito ng hegemony o tunggalian ng taga-hilaga laban sa timog. Subalit sa Pilipinas, ang paggamit ng wika ay malaking isyu. Ang mga salitang lumalabas sa bibig ng isang tao ay repleksyon ng kanyang katayuan. Alam ng kausap mo ang pinagmulan mo, laman ng pitaka mo, pamantasang pinagtapusan mo sa oras na marinig niya ang pagsasalita mo, ang tono, o kahit na ang paraan ng pagkasunod-sunod ng mga salita mo (syntax ang tawag ng mga linguists dito.)

Sa isang tulad ko na lumaki sa isang multi-kultural na pamayanan, masasabi kong ang wikang ginagamit ko ay amalgamasyon ng iba’s ibang wikang naririnig kong ginagamit ng mga tao sa palibot ko na hindi ko namamalayang sinasalita ko na rin. Noong nasa kolehiyo pa ako, napagkakamalang nanggaling ako sa Maynila ng mga kaibigan kong taal na taga-Iloilo dahil sa tono ko. Subalit palasak na Cebuano ang alam kong indayog ng mga pangungusap ko.

Nagsimula akong mag-eksperimento sa paggamit ng Filipino sa pagsulat noong mga unang taon ko sa kolehiyo subalit ng mga sumunod na taon, naisip kong hindi ko mabibigyan ng hustisya ang mga bagay na nasa loob ng isipan ko kung magsusulat ako sa paraang hindi ko nakasanayan. Tinanggap ko ang pagakatalong ito sa pamamagitan ng muling pagsulat sa Inggles.

Sa pagkakataong ito, sisikapin kong muling gamitin ang wikang ito ay bigyang buhay ang mga ideya ko gamit ang kung ano mang natitira sa aking bukabularyo.

Natutuwa akong isipin na nakakapagsalita ako at nakakaintindi ng anim na wika: Hiligaynon, Cebuano (Sugbuanon), Kiniray-a, Filipino, English, Tieng Viet (Vietnamese). Hindi ako titigil dito. Balak kong sunod na aralin ang Aleman (German) o dili kaya’y Ruso (Russian).

Sa ngayon, sumusubok lang sa Filipino.

Why there are no words for green, blue, orange; and praying to my God in English

“Nagasulat ako sa Kinaray-a tungud amo dya ang pulong kang akun mga ginikanan. Amo dya ang pulong nga akun namat-an. Sa pulong nga dya mas mapabutyag ko it klaro kag manami ang mga baratyagun, kaaram, kahadluk, kag damgo kang mga tao sa akun palibot-mga mangingisda, mga mangunguma, mga marinero, mga uripon sa iban nga pungsod, kag mga tawo nga balhas kag dugo ang ginapaturo makakaun lamang tatlo ka beses sangka adlaw. Sa Kinaray-a ako nagahigugma. Sa kinaray-a ako nagadamgo. Kag labaw sa tanan, sa Kinaray-a ako nagadayaw kag nagapangayo kang bugay sa akun Ginuo.”

– J. I. E. Teodoro

(I write in Kiniray-a [a language in central Philippines concentrated in the island of Panay; it has roughly a million speakers] because it is the language of my parents. It is the language I was born with. In this language I can clearly evoke good feelings, understanding, fears, and the dreams of the people around me –  fishermen, farmers, sailors, and laborers in foreign countries, and people who have to shed sweat and blood just to eat three times in a day. I love in Kiniray-a. I dream in Kiniray-a. And above all else I worship and ask for graces from my God in Kiniray-a)

blog writer’s translation

I was struck by a realization two days ago that the two local languages that I grew up with – Cebuano and Hiligaynon, both spoken by a majority of people in the Visayas and Mindanao do not have words for yellow, green, blue, orange, brown, and all the other colors of the spectrum except red, white and black (although white and black are not considered part of the spectrum because they are a result of  certain combinations of color).

When I was very young, I used to wonder why every time my father asked me to buy sugar for his afternoon coffee in the nearby retail store we call sari-sari he would say: “‘To bakal to kalamay nga pula.” (‘To, you buy red sugar.) If translated literally. But what he actually meant was for me to buy for him brown sugar. It never occurred to me to question why he didn’t call it brown sugar or why there is no word for brown in our language.

Moreover, when we describe colors in my language, at least in my family, we use the English equivalent, say for example, “Diin na ang kabo nga green?” (Were is the green dipper?) or “Tsk, tsk, gamit niya naman orange niya nga bayo ba” (You’re wearing again your orange shirt.).

I thought that it was possibly because I grew up in a multi-lingual community. My father who was born in Janiuay, Iloilo speaks Kiniray-a; my mother who grew up in La Paz, Iloilo speaks Hiligaynon; my playmates as well as most of my neighbors use Cebuano; I watched prime time news in Filipino (a language based in Tagalog used by the majority of people in Northern Philippines); and the story books, encyclopedias, novels my parents bought for us to read are in English.

Probably, there should be words in the local languages that I grew up with for these colors, but I couldn’t remember using them.

I tried to ask my college friend whom I thought is good in Hiligaynon but he couldn’t think of any. This realization caused me to be flabbergasted. How come?

According to Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it.

We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscope flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems of our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language […] all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated.

– Benjamin Whorf

This reminded me of a story that in the Arctic region where Eskimos live they have hundred names for specific kinds of snows because they encounter this crystalline, white precipitate every day of their lives while in Philippines, a tropical country, does not have a local word for snow (niyebe and yelo are both borrowed from Spanish). The same is true with a pastoral tribe in Africa where they have more that four hundred names for cattle.

It posits the impossibility of perfectly representing the world with language since language is limited by the experience of the speakers, and the thoughts of the speakers are limited by the language of the community where they belong. Although this might sound fallacious and begging the question when scrutinized, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis gives a simple (and simplistic) explanation as to why some words are non-existent in a certain language.

But it’s not true for Hiligaynon and Cebuano; it’s not as if our eyes cannot detect green, blue, yellow, etc. But it puzzled me why we do not have words for such simple entities. Probably there is, but because English is too convenient, the local equivalent for these colors might have been lost in favor of the English words.

Too sad, I must say.

Before I could not imagine myself falling in love with a foreigner. The fact that I have to use a foreign language to express myself is just difficult since a language other than the ones I grew up with will never be able to capture the sincerity of my emotion. But for the past years, I’ve been seeing myself dreaming in English.

My Literature professor once told the class that one can only claim ownership to a language if that person  prays to his God using that language. In my case, although the idea of a god is very difficult for me to grasp, it’s even sadder because my thought are in English now, and in case one day I understand my God, then I’ll probably be praying in English.

Iloilo ang banwa ko

I first heard my mother singing this song to my little sister as a lullaby. For me then, it sounded so sad, so melancholic. She sang it as if she’s been far away from home for so long a time that only being physically present in the place could her longing be quenched. And indeed she was.

Iloilo ang Banwa ko ginahingadlan
Matam-is nga pulong ang akon gin mat-an
Dili ko ikaw bulagan banwa kong nahamut-an
Ikaw ang gintuna-an sang kalipayan

Ilonggo ako nga tunay nga nagapuyo sa higad sang baybay
Manami magkiay-kiay sa tagipusuon bug-os nga kalipay

The other person I heard singing this song was a Japanese student from Tokyo University. She was taking up Philippine Studies with concentration on Hiligaynon and the culture of Iloilo. I was surprised because she could memorize the lyrics and sang it with almost perfect accent. Even though my parents were both in Iloilo, and I spent four years as a student and a year as an instructor in the University of the Philippines Visayas in Miagao, my accent when I speak the local language is still heavily Cebuano. In some times, some Ilonggo even mistook me as Tagalog.

I must say Iloilo charmed me. I learned to love its hot and humid atmosphere and even basked under its unforgiving sun. I love its rocky shores and how the breeze blowing from its seas burned me and bestowed on me my brown skin.

Belfry of Jaro Cathedral

Man is wired by evolution to seek for the place where he was born. It’s like an instinct such that of green sea turtles: they always go back to the exact spot where they were hatched and in that same spot lay their eggs that will continue the whole cycle. The same is true for me or for anyone who traces his root in that small patch of land in the heart of the Philippines. Iloilo has this charm that only the experience of being in the place can explain. It has this warmth that a bowl of hot La Paz batchoy can give meaning to. It has this grandeur that the churches of Molo, Miagao, San Jose, or Jaro Cathedral can expound on. It has this life and love that only an Ilonggo can let you feel.

Jeepneys along Calle Real

A walk along Calle Real will bring you back to the late Spanish era when sugar barons built impressive houses matched with intricate facades and imposing columns. These proud structures are remnants of once ruling borguoisie and the booming sugar industry that ended as soon as the second world war was concluded.

Skyline of Iloilo City

Museo Iloilo that houses artifacts and contemporary arts by Ilonggo artists

Iloilo City is not a big city in terms of land area, roughly 70 square kilometers, but it’s an urban jungle of its own that will give a newcomer a harrowing experience of its circuitous and narrow roads. Friends of mine who have been to Iloilo City told me that the city has come to a dead-end as far as growth is concerned because it simply cannot expand. And I concede. Iloilo City is one of those few Philippine cities that have maintained its unique charm. Not that is has economically stagnated, it has remained loyal to its identity. It’s a hybrid city of urban growth, cultural dynamism, and rather conservative atmosphere. This narrow strip of land boasts seven big universities that rival other good universities in the country. Its people are one of the most literate and educated in the nation.

Iloilo shaped me as individual. It was in one of its sleepy towns, in Miagao, where a big chunk of my intellectual growth took place. It has made me aware that a big world out there is awaiting for a young man like me; nevertheless, it also made me realize that the bigger challenge to conquer is how to allow dreamers like me, young students, make their own yearnings possible.

And, true to its epithet as the “City of Love” (which I used to think as very funny if not downright pathetic), it’s also where I found the love of my life.

Language has its limitation. And it has reached its limit when it attempted to describe with words this city. As for me, a man who dreams to be a citizen of the world, I may have reached countries that once I was only able to picture out in my mind, and cities I thought I could only visit in my imagination, I still would want go back to that small city in one of the islands in the Pacific and hear a Latin mass in one of its churches, eat a bowl of batchoy in Tienda Lapaz, buy 12 pieces of the most delicious bibingka in the world for 20 pesos (0.50 USD) in Tanza, or just watch a Jaro-CPU-Ungka jeep pass by.

I have not anymore heard my mother sing that song for quite a long time. After all her children, five of us, left for Iloilo to get our college degrees, and our youngest sister whom we plan to have her high school also in Iloilo, she stopped singing the song. But like any Ilonggo, I know that she also one would want to go back to that beautiful city one day.

And maybe by that time Iloilo and banwa ko will not anymore be as melancholic as I remember her singing it.

Photos courtesy of Bernardo Arellano III, a former schoolmate in UP Visayas.

Imagining the Filipino Nation

Filipino children

Imagination is giving life to a possibility inside one’s mind. Imagination is the foundation of creative thinking, empirical supposition, scenario building process, and even the simple process of decision-making that we all have to go through each day.

Imagination may appear unstable at first, but as the number of entities, say members of the society, who believes in the existence even the tangibility of something increases, then that product of communal imagination becomes more than just a conception. It will eventually have a life of its own, not totally independent from the its source, but will have characteristics that are distantly-related to the entities that first imagined it. That is the power of man’s imagination. Dr. Shaharil Talib, dean of the Institute of European Studies at the Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, paraphrasing the works of Benedict Anderson, said “My nation i my imagination.” This simple statement captured the complexity that characterizes the concept of a nation.

Although there are states without a nation, such as Singapore, or nations without a state such as the Kurds in Central Asia or the Bangsa Moro People in Mindanao, Philippines (by the way, the Polish nation preceded the existence of Poland), it is important that they go together. A state, if it is to be truly sovereign should have a nation base where the people believe in their communal history and heritage, that they are connected by an invisible cord that bonds them as one group of people.

Looking at the Philippine setting, this seems to be absent. What is our concept of a Filipino nation? A friend pointed out that the local Filipino word for nation is “bayan”, which in English will roughly translate to a smaller political unit that of a municipality. The same is true in Hiligaynon (the language spoken in the majority of Panay and eastern Negros) the word “banwa”, also the word for nation which when translated to English will yield that smaller political unit. If you ask an Ilonggo, “Sa diin ang banwa mo?”, he would say Miagao or Iloilo, but never the Philippines.

This maybe a simple observation on the use of language as regards the word nation (bayan or banwa) or language per se but it has repercussions on our imagination of what comprises the Filipino nation. If we see our bayan as Miagao, Polomolok, Calamba, etc., and not the Philippines then we shall never see ourselves in context more so using the larger more complex community of Filipino people as a vantage point.

This can prove dangerous. The nation is already becoming obsolete, out-dated, and stale as the emergence of supra-national organizations such as the European Union, Mercosur, or ASEAN is becoming the menu for the day and homogeneity the hors’ oeuvre. We can just as easily fall into this trend, after-all the whole world is moving into it. But that is going to be a sad thing. These countries have established their national identities and have worked hard to maintain it. We are a people mired with multiple personality disorder, or worse have gone amnesiac and forgot who we really are.

Corruption, poverty, slow national development, diaspora of our people, these are just but some of the few result of our inability to imagine a Filipino nation.