1. Anarchist Pirates and Enlightened Treasures (or Rizal the Pirate)

    The origin of the word filibuster is almost as interesting as how it was used during the 19th century; most famously (at least for us) as the title of Jose Rizal’s polemic El Filibusterismo

    Filibuster’s linguistic ancestor is the Dutch term vrijbuiter, or in English freebooter. In other words, a pirate, a buccaneer, a scalawag, the scourge of the high seas. And then the word evolved, as words their meanings are wont to do. In this case, leave it to the French to do so. The first known usage of filibuster in a positive political sense was found in a political and philosophical history of Europe, the phrase was "Les filibustiers desolent les mere d’Amerique Origine, moeurs, expeditions, decadence de cease corsairs." And yes, it does sound better in the original French. Essentially, the writers admired the filibuster, the freebooters, love of liberty and code of honor. Our story takes us then to Louisiana, where filibuster was used to describe liberals and fighters who joined with Narciso Lopez in his attempts to invade Cuba and throw off the chains of Spanish imperial rule. Ah, and as we know (well at least I hope we know) the Philippine revolutionaries drew inspiration from the successive and successful revolutions in Latin America. Rizal, in turn, planned on going to Cuba to study how the revolutionaries there were successfully prosecuting and preparing their country for self-governance. The word then arrived in the Philippines carried by a succession of high-ranking Spanish officials who served in the Caribbean and Latin America. The evolution of filibuster stayed true to its roots. At the heart was a dream, a demand, to fight for and remain at liberty.

    As a political brand, the idea of a filibuster was referred to differently in various areas of the collapsing Spanish empire. Fernando Terrida wrote: "The moths of these modern Inquisitors are always the same: torture, executions, slanders. If the wretched person whom they mean to destroy lives in Cuba, he is called a filibuster; if he lives in the Peninsula, an anarchist; if in the Philippines, a freemason." Within the language of Rizal and the various revolutionaries a filibuster was a brand of honor, a call to arms, and a desire for self-determination. How strange we have even glossed over his revolutionary wishes in the words that he employed; even as he criticized the methods that would typically be employed. What we have consistently failed is in understanding the political context of the words and descriptions employed by Rizal et al.

    There is little doubt, politically speaking, that some of our revolutionaries (especially those based in Europe) drew some inspiration from the anarchy movement of the 19th century. When we consider that, at the time, filibuster and anarchist (especially with Simoun presciently deploying well known anarchist techniques) the scope of El Filibusterismo broadens. While filibusterismo has lived on popular consciousness with positive connotations, one of its synonyms has not faired as well: ilustrado. In truth, the self description of ilustrado by Rizal and other reformists connected them to a wide and deep philosophical movement in Europe. Much like filibuster connected them to revolutionary agitations on-going in Latin American and the Peninsula, so to did ilustrado connect them to modern schools of philosophy and their social and political vehicles in Europe. Ilustrado, in its original sense, was derived from the Enlightenment; that Europe spanning intellectual awakening. At the time, ilustrado was less about class, less about material wealth, and more about the ideas that were espoused and believed in. In a sort of down and dirty comparison, ilustrado and the Enlightenment was the light, the Luz, that beat back and counteracted the ‘darkness’ of obscurantism and ignorance. At the time, social constructs like wealth, class, and even ‘formal education’ were far less important in creating an 'ilustrado' than we have been led to believe. The term had deep political connotations connected to criticisms of existing power structures. The desire to criticize and envision a new, hopefully better, society was at the heart of the European Enlightenment and ilustrado movement. Ilustrado existed in the same sense as a librepensador, in other words a “freethinker.” While existing in the same political strata, the idea of a filibuster was both more violent and radically subversive. An ilustrado could be an anarchist, he could become a filibuster.

    The connection between the use of ilustrado and filibuster found best expression with Rizal. In his essay, Filipinos dentro de cien anos, he described a clase ilustrada as “Filipino writers, free thinkers, historiographers, philosophers, chemists, physicians, artists jurists etc.” Basically, the ilustrados were to be the revolutionary backbone of a free and independence Filipinas. There are other connotations that ilustrado took on; including the idea of an ‘exile’, a person who has to leave home to learn more, to gain the tools necessary to free their countrymen. The wholly obscured historical idea is the need for Filipinos to become free-thinkers (ilustrados) and revolutionary anarchists (filibusters) to gain their freedom. And once they have attained that freedom, to maintain the ilustrado frame of mind through education.

    Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote: “…it is clear that the ilustrados who suffer so much suspicion and vengeful humiliation in the hands of the alliance of friar-scoundrels and Castilian illusocracy will in the end prefer to risk their life and liberty in a war of independence.” While certain elements in our historiography love to excise the ilustrado from the revolution, the fact is the ilustrado were positive integral parts of the prosecution of the revolution and the creation of the Philippine Republic; not to mention the creation of the awareness necessary for independence. That events and circumstances may have changed with the advent of American rule should not obscure the key role that ilustrados played in creating the Philippine identity, and the hope they carried for a free Filipinas.

    The meanings that words carry evolve; they shift and change with prevailing political and social circumstances. That is how a pirate becomes an anarchist; an ilustrado a free-thinking revolutionary. What we need to realize, to understand, is that the deployment of terms in the 19th century carried their connotations, completely at odds (at times) to modern meanings. In reconstructing those meanings we gain additional insights into the motivations of our ancestors, and hopefully new perspectives on what it means to be Filipino.

    And of course, who doesn’t like the image of Rizal et al as swashbuckling anarchist philosophy-quoting rum-swilling pirates trying to take down an empire? It almost demands a movie.

    Sources:

    Ilustrado by Caroline Sy Hau (essay in Philippine Studies March 2011)

    Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination by Benedict Anderson

     

  2. Bad History: Ilustrado

    Lately I have become fascinated with the term ilustrado. A word so influential in our historical discourse on the revolution, but has so little meaning truly attached to it. Instead the word has become a catch-all; a label used to brand anyone who did not support one Andres Bonifacio’s revolution. Thus all that exists in popular consciousness are negative connotations. It is a by-product of our popular reductionist Marxist take on Philippine history. It is class warfare at its worst.

    Who exactly were the ilustrados? According to the most popular interpretation, they are the petty bougeous, those dastardly wealthy men who co-opted the revolution from the faceless, seething masses who spontaneously rose up against the Spanish. Spontaneously and at the same time I might add. How fascinating is that: The inarticulate seem somehow possessing of a mass sub-conscious that enabled them to rise up at the same time, in different areas with no coordination or preparation. After then to see their glorious spontaneous revolution stolen out from under them by the ilustrado, those wealthy men of education and status who were glory hounds and control freaks. Yeah…right. There are serious flaws in the common understanding of ilustrado, the restrictive and inconsistent application of the term.

    If going by the usage of Renato Constantino, and every historian influenced there in by his analysis, the ilustrado is everyone who wasn’t a peninsulare or a member of the masses. Constantino sees the ilustrado as the “petty bourgeois”; essentially the entirety of the middle class. For Constantino this stratum is, well, kind of bad. He specifically utilizes the term ilustrado as a way to separate the revolution of the masses from the actions of the middle class. Unsurprising in his highly restrictive class warfare sense of history. Yet is at odds with historical fact. Revolution usually rests on the shoulders of the middle class, the men of new wealth and education who are able to critique the status quo and conceptualize a new way of life. Thus, the middle class is frequently the engine behind revolutions around the world. In the 19th century this was borne out with the creole uprisings in Latin American and the Philippines (unsuccessful though they may have been). Just this year we have seen popular uprisings throughout the Middle East, driven by the strata of reasonably well-off and educated individuals. During the 1970s and 80s the middle class played crucial roles not only in resisting Martial Law but articulating why a popular revolution, like EDSA, was necessary. While Constantino approaches the middle class as the antagonists in his history of the Philippines, the realities were far different. As others have aptly demonstrated, the middle class was the leadership, the brains and some of the money behind the Philippine Revolution. They weren’t alone though. A revolution limited to one stratum of society would always be doomed to fail. Ours did not. The untold story is the level of cooperation that existed up and down Philippine society during the late 19th century.

    In modern parlance the term ilustrado has shifted away from its original concept of the educated and enlightened and become more closely aligned with the idea of wealth. Elite status is attributed to wealth, not necessarily forethought. When evaluating the complexities of the revolution, if we are to retain the term I firmly believe that we need to shift ilustrado back towards the idea of ‘enlightened individuals.’ As it is, there are so many exceptions to the rule when it comes to who is an ilustrado that the use of the term becomes a farce.

    For example, if we are going by the common use of ilustrado as a wealthy educated, where does that leave someone like Emilio Aguinaldo? Yes, he came from a landed provincial family, but he did not attain a very high level of education. Admitting that his Spanish was poor and he likely never really read Rizal’s works (even as he was inspired by them). While on the other hand Andres Bonifacio came from an urban family of some means, and was a mestizo. He attained a reasonably high level of education (for the period), was knowledgeable enough to manage warehouses for multinational corporations, read extensively and was able to translate Rizal’s works into Tagalog for dissemination. Then there is a man like Mabini; someone who on the surface should embody the term ilustrado: Enlightened, intelligent and…poor.  Ooops. Then men like Pardo de Tavera are also considered ilustrados, even as they existed much closer to in wealth and social status to the peninsulares. Or shall we say that all ilustrados are those who were able to leave the Philippines and achieve some level of education and exposure internationally. That means men like Rizal, del Pilar, Luna, Apacible and so on.

    I would rather that ilustrado was rescued from class warfare and racial bias and deployed in its traditional, original sense: those sons of the Enlightenment, the men who attempted to cultivate a higher educational, intellectual and rational sense.

    The root of our misunderstanding of the term ilustrado comes from a radical reinterpreting of our history along purely forced class lines: A dichotomization that also encompasses attempts to re-cast the revolutionary middle class as counter-revolutionary. Rizal the ilustrado, was reformist. Aguinaldo, the ilustrado, was the betrayer of Bonifacio’s revolution. And Bonifacio, the ilustrado, did not exist, because he was the exception to the ilustrado rule. The end result is that ilustrado doesn’t basically mean anything; it is instead a derogatory term used as a critique of any who were not ‘of the masses.’ This is best exemplified with a passage from Constantino’s flawed “Veneration without Understanding”:

    “Rizal was a bourgeois reformist…he cannot be our national hero…As a first step to decolonizing our minds we must liberate ourselves from the spell of ilustrados like Rizal. We should look for those more deserving of the title of national hero, such as Andres Bonifacio…”

    How interesting indeed that Bonifacio spent so much time translating and disseminating Rizal’s writings. But, that is an aside for this essay. Constantino’s succinct description of ilustrado and how he employs it encompasses so much of what is flawed with our history. Class warfare, bereft of historical evidence and in fact the inheritor of colonial thought. Constantino and his use of ilustrado is colonialism in action; it is highly influenced by Retana and Craig’s biographies of Rizal. I’d argue instead that the truest way to become a supra-colonial people is to reclaim the term ilustrado.

    Ilustrado as a term was not used by any of the actors in the 19th century. At least so far as I have discovered. The term was of more modern deployment; even if its roots are found in the 18th century and the Enlightenment. In that respect, the term does have positive notes. Our heroes were sons of the Enlightenment, even as they reinterpreted and filtered Enlightenment ideals through new frameworks. To reclaim the word and its original meaning we also have to stand away from pat classifications based on wealth and race. Using those forms for definition creates untenable contradictions, contradictions that undermine our understanding of Philippine history.  An ilustrado essentially was man, from any walk of life, who sought higher knowledge, greater understanding of self and country, and fought for it.

    Maybe we should just drop the use of ilustrado. Basically, the term has become meaningless, useless in modern discourse precisely because it has become a term associated with so many exceptions and misconceptions. The fact is ilustrado has become a tool in the arsenal of those who have analyzed our history along gross economic and Marxist lines; obscuring and pitting our heroes against one another, contrary to how they worked together and drew inspiration from one another. Ilustrado is bad history because it is not history. It is in fact a weapon of modern ideology, used to twist our history until it has become unrecognizable and a stumbling block to nationhood and greater cooperation. That is the danger of bad history. However, as the term is so embedded in our popular consciousness, re-understanding and re-interpreting the term in a positive and more accurate manner will likely redound throughout our historiography. We can start by reclaiming the legacy of the most well known and revolutionary of all ilustrados: Jose Rizal. Along with the rest of that motley band of conspirators, who came from every walk of life to try and fight for the betterment of the Philippines.

     

  3. Literary License

    Was leafing through, or ok clicking around, and came across this article from the Washington Post:

    A mistake has been made in the Oval Office makeover that goes beyond the beige.

    "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." According media reports, this quote keeping Obama company on his wheat-colored carpet is from King.

    Except it’s not a King quote. The words belong to a long-gone Bostonian champion of social progress. His roots in the republic ran so deep that his grandfather commanded the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington.

    For the record, Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama.

    Oval Office rug gets history wrong

    Anyone who has delved, even superficially into history and literature, knows that writers consciously build on past writers. Ideas are cribbed frequently, though rarely verbatim. And more often than not it is an homage or a nod to the past. And truly brilliant ideas are always given due credit to those originators. For example, Martin Luther King (according to the article) frequently gave credit to Theodore Parker for the quotation. What caught me by surprise in the article actually is that Parker also originated that famous line of Abraham Lincoln:

    "A democracy — that is a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people."

    Which according to the Washington Post he wrote in 1850.

    Funnily, enough that line is also quoted on President Obama’s rug of inspiration.

    For Filipinos, Jose Rizal consciously built his ideas on those of American and French philosophers, as well as Filipino thinkers such as Father Burgos and Father Pedro Pelaez. Ideas build upon ideas. But, those who usually get credit for them are the ones who bring them into the mainstream. Which is understandable. Hence, why a brilliant thinker and wordsmith like Theodore Parker is overlooked. Though, the men he influenced credit his work prior.

    And it is such that men like Mabini, Bonifacio, Jacinto, Aguinaldo were consciously influenced by Rizal, and Rizal respected those who came before.

    What I have noticed lately is another example of literary license (perfectly ok, mind you), in Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. While the book is essentially a pastiche of Philippine social critiques, Philippine literature and the lives of lit luminaries (a well-written one at that), one line in particular is garnering attention and praise:

    The slaves of today will become the tyrants of tomorrow—the proletariat overthrows the hegemon to become the hegemon itself, only to be eventually overthrown by a proto-hegemon that will in turn lose its position. It is this dizzying cycle that keeps humanity chasing the tail it lost millenia ago.

    Jose Rizal wrote:

    What is the use of independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And no doubt they will, because whoever submits to tyranny loves it!

    By the way, this is not the only reference/parallel to be found.

    Essentially, a restatement of Rizal’s supposed ideas. Rizal as well consciously cribbed from Shakespeare and other European writers. As I said, writers borrow, whether in structure, idea or even occasionally phrasing. It’s what we do. Someone somewhere down the line once said, everything that can be said has been said already. Which basically means we’re just chasing our tales (ha! see what I did there?) most of the time.

    With regards to this specific line, Rizal was not making a broad Marxist commentary, and unfortunately the lines have been recast in this sort of framework. Proletariat et al. Which also feeds in and supports the idea that the Revolution was purely one of the masses, and the elites were piggy-backing along and tried to co-opt the Revolution. A reading that is fundamentally flawed to begin with.

    Rizal was instead criticizing the preparation, or lack there of, needed before a Revolution could be successful. He was criticizing the educational and economic elites who wished to embark on a Revolution, without adequately preparing the population for self-rule.

    Pop history has a tendency to remember those who made certain phrases famous. For obvious reasons. Yet, sometimes it is fun to remember those who came before, those who influenced whether subtly or overtly who we are and even how we perceive ourselves.

    And in the Philippines, who is more famous than Rizal? It’s a brilliant thought; likely influenced by Revolutions that came before, and the need for the Philippines to avoid those mistakes in crafting their own nation.

    One day, I hope we stop cribbing Rizal’s ideas and start living up to them.

    In the meantime, wonder if they are going to re-weave the Oval Office rug?

     

  4. Ilustrado - My (Capsule) Review

    I finished Ilustrado the other day and was finally able to put my initial thoughts down. I’m putting together a fuller and more comprehensive critique for something, so I guess depending on how it turns it out I may post it in parts (I mean come on, I don’t even want to write thematic and symbolic analysis…much less read it). Anyway, my first thoughts are here and here, in case you’re interested.

    In two words: Me likey. In five words: Me likey, go read it. I truly enjoyed the novel, and any criticisms should be taken in that spirit. Literature is there to make you think, and in this Ilustrado succeeds brilliantly.

    If you need a nice sedative…read on:

    First and foremost, it must be said that Ilustrado is a Filipino book. It touches on life in the Philippines, on Philippine life in the diaspora and the faltering relationship between the two. Who cares whether it is in Tagalog or English or Spanish; the language is Filipino and the sentiments are Filipino. They just may not be what certain segments of the domestic “literati” may consider Filipino. That is their loss.

    In the book Syjuco crafted a brilliant scene that criticized some aspects of the local literati for this very attitude. You could argue that he was instead heading off domestic critiques which will run somewhat along the same lines: Not in Tagalog, does not touch on “masa” subjects and so forth. The novel was, I believe, trying to re-carve a new niche in Filipino literature for Diasporic writers, and even local writers who are more comfortable in English. I will say that the passage, in many ways, came across as a passioned defense of Filipino English and Spanish writers (Joaquin/Sionil Jose/Rizal). His defense of our National Artists seemed to be a prevailing theme throughout the work.

    The strength of the book is found in the structure, style and narrative trickery that he utilized. It kept the reader slightly off-balance, but almost completely focused. But, in certain parts I think the structure that he employed, as opposed to strengthening the overall experience, ended up weakening the emotional impact of certain areas. Even the narrative trickery (and he does employ a great deal) he employed at the end (telegraphed earlier in the story) ended up being nothing more than…well trickery. The inversion created a new way to evaluate the story, but my feelings about it are mixed.

    I pointed out earlier in a post the parallels between his main character and a number of our well-known National Artists. These parallels were only strengthened as the book evolved. The book, very purposefully and almost in its entirety, cribbed from other sources, lives, events, people and so forth. I am sure that some readers who are familiar with Samuel Beckett will smile ever so wryly during one of the narrative reveals.

    Thus, what the book is, is a essentially a well-crafted pastiche of Filipino characters, history and social comments. He adroitly weaves long extant comments on Philippine culture together and re-engineers them as literature. It does not necessarily mine any new territory (if anything it is slightly too referential and self-referential), yet it packages old thoughts in new and intriguing ways.

    The question that everyone will of course be considering is, is this an IMPORTANT (capitalized intentionally) work? A ground-breaking work? Or an important work?

    I would hazard that it strives to be an IMPORTANT work, but does not necessarily reach those heights. However, it is an important work. And one that I hope encourages domestic writers to re-evaluate what they consider “Filipino” literature and spurs diasporic writers to begin the process of reconsidering their relationship with the homeland. At the same time, I hope it encourages young Filipino writers (here and abroad) to revisit the literary and historical works of the Philippines. For the historical writings something other than the typical Constantinos, Zaides and Agoncillos. 

    I read a review in the Guardian (after finishing the book) that said this is a case of ambition over-reaching achievement, a malaise they pointed out usually found in young authors. I guess I would sort of agree. In some respects, the parts are superior than the sum. If that sounds overly critical, it is not. The narrative layering, themes and symbols will be a source of much coffee house discussion (virtual and real alike).

    So, anyone else out there read it?

     

  5. A National (Artist) Pastiche

    Was finally able to sit down and start reading Ilustrado while stuck in traffic today (good lord it is not easy to get to and from Cavite these days). What caught my attention though, right from the very beginning was the character of Crispin Salvador; that he is a pastiche of a number of National Artists and literary figures.

    Whether intentional or not (and based on the care with which he constructed the book I’m going with intentional) he obviously modeled Salvador after some of our greatest writers. The most obvious initial influence is Nick Joaquin. From the “Manila Gothic” novel, which clearly references Cave and Shadows and Tropical Gothic, to his boozing, womanizing and hints of homosexuality. As with Joaquin, Salvador was prolific in the first two regards, and ‘silently’ accused of in the other one. One of Nick’s closest friends once described him to me as that “drunken fairy”. Also, as with the character of Salvador, Nick Joaquin figured prominently nationally with his reportage. For Joaquin, his pseudonym was Quijana de Manila (an anagram of his name and a not so subtle reference to Don Quixote de la Mancha).

    F Sionil Jose also has some influence in the character of Salvador; I would guess that the part about being on the short list of the Nobel Prize in Literature is a nod in his direction. In other respects to the character I may be adding in my own interpretations (such as Anding Roces, Lacaba, Carlos Quirino and so forth). There are also subtle hints of Jose Rizal and other famed literary figures. Along with the local authors there are also distinct JD Salinger overtones (with the long gestating never published masterpiece). You could also argue that this is a reference to Jose Rizal and his unfinished work “Makamisa”.

    I may be seeing more than is there, but like I said, based on the care with which he constructed the book and his stated objectives, I am sure that the Joaquin/Sionil Jose/Rizal parallels are intentional. Likely as well the Salinger influence.

    Interesting.

     
  6. Finally picked up Miguel Syjuco’s debut Ilustrado at Fully Booked over the weekend (yes, I know I’m using the British cover, but dammit, it’s so purty). Really looking forward to getting into it.

    What intrigues me the most is, again, we have a novel of literary importance coming out of the Diaspora. This of course follows on the heels of such diasporic Filipino literary luminaries as Jessica Hagedorn (“Dogeaters”) and (going further back) Carlos Bulosan (“American is in the Heart”).

    We can argue whether there is merit to the attitudes reflected in the works (especially “Dogeaters”), but the importance of the diaspora casting a critical eye towards the Philippines and reflecting what they see through literature cannot be gainsaid. The importance of the diaspora in Philippine history is a phenomenon rarely understood outside of economic terms itself.

    Today it is de rigeur to praise the OFWs for their salutatory economic effect. Yet, they can be, and have been, so much more than that. During the Propaganda Movement of the late 19th century, the primary movers were not here in the Philippines, they were based in Europe. There they expressed themselves freely and with a critical bend; often playing with local politicians and political factions with the purpose of (not necessarily emancipating the Islands) but improving their autonomous standing within the Empire. It was from them that the ideas of freedom and, later, independence came; flowing into the country from an external source. And for the Propagandists there was a distinction: First freedom within a the framework of the Empire, followed after by Independence and self-determination.

    Even during the early American period, the diaspora tried to keep the idea of a free Philippines alive. The figure of Artemio Ricarte, hobbled and a tool of the Japanese government, became the pathetic footnote to that movement. But early in the 20th century, they kept the flame of Filipino intellectualism burning. It was during his exile that Apolinario Mabini wrote The Philippine Revolution. And it was in places like Paris that exiled members of the Philippine Revolution and Republic would meet to discuss the goings-on in the Philippines.

    During the Martial Law era, the diaspora took on a new role: that of a support network for political exiles and Martial Law dissidents who fled persecution. When Senator Ninoy Aquino arrived in the United States there was a connected system of Filipino exiles already in place.

    The book is another affirmation of the importance of culture and arts in Philippine society. And further reflections on Philippine society and identity filtered through the prism of the Diaspora can only be beneficial for the local arts and literature community.

    We are all searching for the new Filipino identity, and how it figures in our bold new world. The Diaspora, as it has in the past, can help us re-discover what it means to be, Filipino.

    The Filipino diaspora then can take on a larger role than it has today. I would hope that the Syjuco book is just the harbinger of a more active diaspora.

     

  7. The Ilustrado Model of Development

    I’m still synthesizing the Time article on Senator Noynoy “The Great Yellow Hope” Aquino (errr…not really, I’ve just been lazy tonight), but one thing did strike me:

    He talks with ease and intelligence about his plans to expand the country’s middle class with microcredit programs, to boost industry, universalize health care, fix education and shake up the judiciary. 

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1982219-3,00.html#ixzz0lHAhQysq

    While I may be supporting Senator Aquino, a-politically speaking these are items every candidate needs be developing policies for.

    Right there are four of the five things that I’ve felt very strongly about, in terms of rebuilding the Philippines.  The fifth of course is targeted protectionist trade policies modeled after the Hamiltonian/American System that Singapore/Korea/Japan/Malaysia have adopted.  But, hey, four out of five ain’t bad.

    The only way to quickly reduce corruption involves a two-prong approach:  

    1. Increasing basic salaries to allow government officials to live a more comfortable life (for an example of how this helps, in reverse, look at England and what has happened since they removed MP salaries).  
    2. Strong deterrents.  We already have good laws on the books.  Our judicial system needs to be strengthened and cleaned up.  If people are prosecuted, the perceived freedom to act with impunity disappears.

    Truly, the development of a middle class has to mirror the development of the ilustrado class in the 19th century.

    The development and exposure to higher education, coupled with increased access to capital, allowed that class to grow philosophically and intellectually.  Of course, educational interventions do not stop at improving primary school enrolment, improving infrastructure, fixing the textbooks (seriously, this has to get done), moving the cycle from 10 to 12 years, and training/increasing the competence of our teachers  Our curriculum, overall, needs a dramatic overhaul.

    I just found out two disturbing things this week:  1. The Ateneo has dropped its honors courses. 2. UP has dropped its 1st year history course.

    Over the last week Dr. Alejandro Roces has been touting the importance of culture and history being infused into social and educational development (Here and Here) More so, multiculturalism and multi-disciplinary frameworks needs to be re-introduced into our basic and higher education system.  In other words, bring back liberal arts.  For the importance of liberal arts, look no further than Jose Rizal:

    A fundamental part of liberal arts is philosophy, literature, science, sociology, culture, and history. Consider what Jose Rizal would write of his first encounter with the liberal arts: “the eyes of my intelligence opened a little, and my heart began to cherish nobler sentiments…”

    This is very key to social and intellectual development on a national level.  Liberal arts introduces students to a broad array of influences, domestic and international. It widens their world-view and allows them to understand the connections between things as superficially disparate as…well culture and politics.  Ethics and myth.  

    We brag about the Renaissance Man aspects of Rizal, but do nothing to inculcate those intellectual virtues in our youth.  But what is important is that our education system and new educational ethics needs to be grounded in a Philippine-ccentric view.  Our culture and ethics need to take a central role in basic and higher education.  The international perspective needs to be in addition not in place of, our culture and history. With regards to our Founding Fathers, they have left us more than enough in terms of material to work with.  More so, than many other countries.  We have a treasure trove in intellectual and educational development materials, and have done nothing with it.

    The UNESCO and other educators have been calling for this for years.  My hope is that Senator Aquino is the first to listen.

    The micro-credit aspect as well is a welcome discussion point. What has often been overlooked is not the income disparity between the rich and the poor, but the asset disparity.

    Access to assets (like land or stocks or bonds) creates additional sources of credit; credit that can be used to fund entrepreneurial enterprises and higher education.  This was part in parcel of what occurred in the Philippines leading up to the Revolution.  Filipinos for the first time had access to capital and were generating personal wealth.  That wealth, in turn, allowed them to break free of the Philippines and travel the rest of the country and, in turn, the world.  The specific beneficiaries of this new found wealth were their children.  Men like Jose Rizal were now able to travel to Manila for education, and from their the rest of the world.  We forget, but the Propaganda Movement did not develop in the Philippines, but outside our borders.  There they were exposed to new ideas and were able to apply these new critical frameworks to identify the flaws extant in their homeland.

    The Enlightenment entered in the bags of the ilustrados.  The ideas, once they entered the country, spread like wildfire.  Access to higher education and new economic prosperity prepared the country for Revolution.  Today, with the internet and new modes of information sharing disseminating ideas is even simpler.  But, the underlying education necessary for people to be able to synthesize and apply these new ideas to their daily lives is missing.  The economic component that will allow them to implement opportunities for personal and familial growth (without accessing graft/corruption/illegal means) remains missing in action.

    Coupling improvements in education with increased access to credit will help create what we really need:  A new Ilustrado Class requires:

    1. Liberal arts education + technical education (for those who want it as an elective) + improved free basic education across the board
    2. Access to microcredit and reducing the asset inequality disparity.
    3. Creating protectionist targeted trade and investment policies and mimicking the broad development of agriculture and industry that took place in the 19th century.
    4. Strengthening the judiciary and making sure there are real and verifiable deterrents to law-breaking
    5. Basic and limited universal healthcare (I’m not a socialist, but I understand that at a certain level of society, access to healthcare needs to be free.  However, there must be a system in place to keep track of those in need).

    You do that, you do it well and you do it right and the Philippines will begin to redevelop.  Just look at the rapidity within which change took place in the 19th century.  Today, it could happen even faster.