Saturday, September 26, 2009

No to ray number 9

Filipino patriotism is sometimes roused by short-lived indignation.  I hope the people who have registered their opposition to the ninth ray stay mad enough, long enough.  And I hope they honor and obey the Heraldic code of the Philippines, otherwise, all this will be meaningless.

With that said, allow me to present the views of those opposed to the addition of a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag.  This will be followed by another entry devoted to the views of Muslim Filipinos who support the Ninth Ray Bill.

The sun’s rays do not represent mere hostilities with the Spaniards – which the Muslims undoubtedly had – but the attempt to gain freedom. The Muslims weren’t fighting for freedom.They were fighting to keep their lands free from Spanish incursion and to stave off the Christianization campaign. From all accounts there was no solidarity between the Muslims in the south and the rest of the country then firmly under the Spanish heel. So why should the flag – designed to reflect the heroism of those provinces that first rose up in revolt – be forcibly made to accommodate a people who did not have any sort of ideological kinship with those brave rebels?

And even if we were to accept that, yeah, the Muslims were fighting the Spaniards for the same reason as those eight provinces did, adding just one ray to the sun doesn’t make sense.

Following Gordon’s logic of rewarding a nation for fighting the Spaniards, then why not give every other nation a place in the flag as well? What about the nation of Cebuanos? I’m sure they didn’t just sit the fight out. What about the nation of Hiligaynons? Heck, Marcelo H. del Pilar Graciano Lopez Jaena – the great propagandist – was from Iloilo (Thanks, non-smoker, for the edit)! Oh, and didn’t the Ifugaos mix it up with the Spaniards as well? So that makes, what? 12 rays now?

Black Shama
In short, the flag is all about the revolution of which the Katipunan initiated and gave rise to the Republic we have now. Gordon is right to pay homage to Muslim resistance to colonial rule but they did not join the Katipunan. Cesar Majul’s “Muslims in the Philippines” cites the letters sent by the Aguinaldo government to the sultans asking them to join in the revolution but while the sultans recognized the common struggle for independence, they could not join it. They viewed the Christian Filipinos as colonial proxies for subjugating Islam in the Philippines. The American, Commonwealth and post 1946 independent Philippines sadly confirmed this as true.

With Muslim Filipinos choosing not to be part of the Katipunan led revolution, should they be honored with an additional ray? This I believe depreciates and trivializes the nature of their struggle against colonialism. If Filipinos want to honor their struggle, the Christian majority should say their mea culpas and recognize and value their Islamic identity in all aspects. They should not be surprised when Eid al Fitr is celebrated. Christian and Muslim Filipinos should accept that the Mindanao Star in the flag recognizes that the First Philippine Republic wanted a united Philippines that includes Muslim Mindanao. That is the ideal that we Filipinos haven’t reached. Gordon should leave it at that.

As Philippine society becomes more mobile, Muslims are found in all regions of the country. By and large Christian and Muslim communities exist peacefully side by side. Mosques are found in Luzon, Visayas and of course in Mindanao and Sulu. Many are in close proximity to Christian churches.

Of course the Flag can be changed by law. What riles me as a citizen (whose great great grandparents, grandparents and granduncles died for the Flag) is that these amendments proposed without consulting the Filipino people. Gordon should submit his bill to a referendum if he wants to change the Flag. Not a few Muslims died for the same Flag in World War II. They died for that Mindanao Star too. My Aglipayan and Roman Catholic granduncles were executed by the Japanese in Intramuros for the Flag and the Luzon Star.

Flags are not just repositories of symbols: the flag itself is a symbol. Our nation’s flag represents our nation not because of what forms it, and the meanings of the forms inside it, but because of what it is. Those rays may mean more than just provinces,, those stars may mean more than just Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Those colors may mean more than just purity, bravery, and peace. The Flag, on its own, without the forcible deconstruction of its component parts, is the definitive symbol of our people. That Flag, as it stands and waves, is the representation of our people, our sovereignty, and our independence.

Adding rays on the Sun on that Flag is to trivialize that Flag as a piece of cloth, a scrapbook, a repository of symbols. In his sales pitch, Gordon claims that our Flag becomes all-inclusive and united with the addition of a ninth ray. Will it make us any “more Filipino” to add one, sixteen, or 7,099 more rays to that Sun? Will it make us any “more Filipino” if we added a crucifix and crescent to that white field? Does the present iteration of our Flag make us any less Filipino?

Adding rays to the Sun to accommodate Mindanao is the brilliant (pun intended) excuse to make up for promises forgotten and a history forgotten. Rays that translate to votes, support, and more than just the usual footnote to history. The people who live and die by that Flag do not do so because they have a province in a ray, or a star in the field, but because that Flag represents who they are, where they came from, and their duty to protect what it stands for and what it is.

Any piece of cloth – burned, altered, sewn, or changed – wouldn’t mean much. Yet when a symbol of national identity – when that rectangle called the Flag – is changed, it is the people who are represented and who represent that Flag will evoke and invoke emotions never given to other pieces of cloth. The Flag, as it stands, is all-inclusive; it is the identity and representation of a nation, a population. As it stands, it is meaningful and beautiful. To change it just because, is to reduce that Flag to nothing more than cloth.

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