Foundation of the Philippine Government

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Every country in the whole world had experienced to be the subject of colonizers, one example of it is the Philippines. When a country is at the hands of colonizers which causes sufferings, death, oppressions, and such to the inhabitants in the country in which the colonizers conquered, it is undeniable that there was no person or group of people who tried to win liberty and independence from their own motherland. In the Philippines, the ilustrados, namely Dr. Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez-Jaena, and Marcelo H. del Pilar are the ones who fought for our independence and contribute to the development of our nation. They gave knowledge about the things that are happening in our country during their time through their written works like Graciano Lopez-Jaena’s “Fray Botod” wherein he exposed the abusive powers of the Friars. Next is the “Monastic Supremacy” by Marcelo del Pilar which is the causes of misfortunes of the Filipino people and lastly, Dr. Jose Rizal’s political ideas in his two essays,- “The Indolence of the Filipinos” and “The Philippines a Century Hence”,- other works such as “Letter to the Young Women of Malolos” wherein he addresses his satisfaction and joy over the battle of the women against Spaniards in which they fought and he also addressed the qualities that a woman must have and lastly, his famous two novels, Noli and El Fili which serves as a theory and a political action. All of their ideas in their written works expanded the idea of a Philippine nation and became the foundations of the Katipunero’s revolution to fight for our independence. The ilustrados also strove to awaken the sleeping intellect of the Spaniard to the needs of our country and to create a closer, more equal association of the islands and the motherland. The theory of the Filipino nation was made because of all the things stated above but it was not successful because there was a revolution that happened.

The ilustrados/ propagandists wanted the Philippines to become the province of Spain through peaceful and gradual change unlike the Katipuneros goal which is independence through a revolution. According to Dolan, the specific goals of the ilustrados were representation of the Philippines in the Cortes, or Spanish parliament; secularization of the clergy; legalization of Spanish and Filipino equality; creation of a public school system independent of the friars; abolition of the polo (labor service) and vandala (forced sale of local products to the government); guarantee of basic freedoms of speech and association; and equal opportunity for Filipinos and Spanish to enter government service (1991). We could clearly see that fighting for the rights and equality of the Filipino people by the ilustrados is through peaceful means in which there is no shedding of blood.

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First, we could trace this in Graciano Lopez-Jaena’s “Fray Botod”. In this written work, he discriminated a friar by describing its physical features (plump, devil, seal, chubby-cheecked, barbarian), its attitudes and the way the said friar, Botod, lives. He also narrated that the women are just servants of the friars but the main topic of his work focuses on Botod, who abuses his power by doing a mass for a funeral by asking a fee that is unreasonable, not doing a confession to a man because he is playing cards, and repeatedly saying during his sermons that he went here in our land to conquer souls for heaven in order to be dear to great Fr. San Agustin. Aside from this, Botod was also described as a friar who will not hesitate to gave punishment to those persons who is not doing good in his eyes like the old man who did not work in the hacienda who were punished to have 150 lashes to his body, removed his clothes and underwear while his head and feet was tied to a chair and then pouring hot peppered vinegar in his body. If we will analyze this work of Graciano, we could see that he is targeting the friars and blaming the whole system. According to Peraz, during Gracianos’s time, friars become powerful and abuses among the Filipinos took place as stated. Foreclosure of mortgages and outright land grabbing were frequent. Abuses made by the friars among his constituents/ flock were observable. The secularization of the parishes also became an issue since the regulars won’t give up their parishes to the Filipino seculars (2007).

Second, the written work of Marcelo H. del Pilar entitled “Monastic Supremacy” also tackles the friars here in the Philippines. Del Pilar illustrated the problems here in our country because of the friars who interfered to the government in the Philippines wherein they were able to control everything. The religious aspect part of this work of Marcelo stated that the performance of their duties, the municipal officials depend on the parish priest. In economic aspect, the government refrains from creating new sources of revenue in order not to burden Filipino interests, but the friars invent every day new forms of devotion, some very costly, and the public pay, not because of fanaticism, but rather, for fear of displeasing the friars whose power they know has sent many innocent victims to exile and in addition, taxes was imposed by the Spanish government (Alzona, 1957). The thing that really marked to my mind about Marcelo’s peaceful change is his statement, “for our part, we desire nothing more than strengthening of fraternal ties between Spain and the Philippines” and with this, we could see what the author really wanted. By contrasting this work to Graciano, Marcelo’s ideas are straight to the point or direct because in “Fray Botod”, Graciano made characters in a story type written work wherein there was a friar who is doing evil things which is opposed to his position as the one who tells the words of God.

Lastly, we could trace that the ilustrados wanted the assimilation of the Philippines as a province of Spain aside from the things stated above in Jose Rizal’s essay, “The Indolence of the Filipinos” and “The Philippines a Century Hence”. In “The Indolence of the Filipinos”, he explained the alleged idleness of the Filipino people during the colonization of the Spaniards and that is because of the climate (since we are a tropical climate, it requires a person to rest); next is the Spanish colonization (the Spaniards influenced us to become indolent wherein they will not do their duties and responsibilities correctly and they will work late then go home early); and because of our own fault which is the continuation of indolence because of lack of training and lack of national sentiment. In his work “The Philippines a Century Hence”, he forecasted the future of the country within a hundred years. He started this essay by analyzing the various causes of the miseries suffered by the Filipino people: the Spain’s implementation of her military policies; deterioration and disappearances of Filipino indigenous culture; and passivity and submissiveness to the Spanish colonizers. In this work also, he forecasted that it depends on the situation whether the Spaniards could still hold us or not. If the answer to this is yes wherein the Spaniards could still hold us, reforms should be done and that is by giving freedom of the press and having a Filipino representative in the Spanish Cortes while if the answer is no, revolution will happen. Either yes or no, independence could still achieve according to Jose Rizal. He also forecasted that there would be a new conqueror aside from the Spaniards, and that is the Americans which came true. In his other work which is the “Letter to the Young Women of Malolos”, he expressed his joy and satisfaction because of the fighting spirit of the young women of Malolos who fought for their desire to learn. He also expressed everything that he wishes to all kinds of woman (wives, mothers, unmarried) to keep in mind like the being a noble wife, rearing her children in the service of the state like the quality of a Spartan mother, setting standards of behavior for men around her, and etc. He added in this work that women are blindly obedient to the friars because of two reasons. First is being ignorant and the last one is because of fear.

Those works made by Graciano, Marcelo, and Jose Rizal had exposed the defects of Spanish rule in the Philippines and the urgency of reforms to remedy them by waging their movement through their pen which expanded the idea of a Philippine nation wherein they are the ones who opened the eyes of the Filipinos in order to make an end to the wrongdoings of the Spaniards as well as the rise of nationalism. If they did not do those works, there would be no one who would initiate to free ourselves from the hands of those who try to hold and control us. Without them, we will not be able to have our independence and we will not attain the things that we have now. According to Dr. Ma. Luisa T. Camagay, well-known historian and professor at UP Diliman, “we owe to the Filipino ilustrados a compilation and analysis of the elements that builds our nation’s knowledge”. In her research, “Kaalamang Bayan: Balon ng Kaalaman ng mga Ilustradong Filipino,” she said this was the way to inform Spaniards that Filipinos had a culture or civilization before they came. Through the help of the ilustrados, people’s knowledge developed wherein we were able to identify who we really are as a Tagalog and later became a Filipino (Jadloc, 2017).

All written works of the propagandists stated above was under La Solidaridad which is a civic organization aimed at uniting the archipelago which protects the people at the same time. Rizal, del Pilar and Lopez-Jaena’s works were under La Solidaridad which became the platform for intelligent discourse on economic, cultural, political, and social conditions of the country (Geni, 2020) that is why their political ideas could be found here. Graciano’s written work aimed to increase the awareness of the Spanish of the needs of its colony which is the Philippines then it was followed by Marcelo’s written work which also targeted the whole system in order to have equal ties between them as stated in the previous page same with Rizal. The most evident political idea could be found in Rizal’s work which is Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo because these works were based from his personal experiences and he depicted the conditions of Spanish rule in the islands, particularly the abuses of the friars. In addition, as stated by our professor, Mr. Paul Micah Francisco, the Noli is the theory of Rizal while the El Fili symbolizes the political action. Aside from this, Rizal’s works are the main ideas of enlightenment: the advancement of individual liberty, social progress, tolerance, scientific knowledge, constitutional government, and separation of church and state (Dolan, 1991).

Those written work of the ilustrados helped the construction of a Filipino nation which paved way to a groundbreaking political ideas that have moved our nation to change. One example of it is that, we, Filipinos, is bound together by certain characteristics such as common social origin, language, customs, traditions, and who believed that we are distinct from others (De Leon & De Leon, 2014). As a consequence, we would really appreciate and love who we are. We would also become more strong and mindful about the things that we do for our country. For short, nationalism will flourish. Another example is having independence. Since we are an independent nation, we are considered a state which consists of four basic elements: people, territory, government and sovereignty. “A state is a community of persons more or less numerous, permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, having a government of their own to which the great body of inhabitants render obedience, and enjoying freedom from external control” (De Leon & De Leon, 2014). Considering that we are a state, we could see how it goes wherein there is an institution who will carry out the functions and objectives of the government which is based from the will of the people and which is based from what is right for the common good like providing education, health services, policies, economic advancement, safety, security and many more.

In order to know why the ilustrados was not successful in constructing the Filipino nation, we need to go back to the explanations given in the previous pages and that is the traces from the written works of Graciano, Marcelo, and Rizal. The ilustrados goal is to have a peaceful and gradual change unlike the revolution made by the members of the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan also known as KKK which resulted to a bloody war. The written works of the ilustrados especially the works of Jose Rizal was the way that awakened the minds of some Filipino people, like Andres Bonifacio, especially about Filipino nationalism. Andres Bonifacio was born in an era when the natives were considered Indios and the Spanish friars were believed to be God’s representative on earth. He observed that the Filipinos during his time were not free and the Spanish government and the Catholic Church enslaved them (GOVPH, 2012). When Filipino nationalism arose because of the great efforts of the ilustrados to awaken their countrymen, Bonifacio reinterpreted some works of Rizal like Mi Ultimo Adios (Huling Paalam) in order for the people to understand it because it was originally written in Spanish. Andres was determined to achieve our independence. He had an intention of rising up in arms against the government so he and his compatriots founded the Katipunan on July 7, 1892 when Rizal was to be deported to Dapitan (Mañebog, 2013). Bonifacio’s braveness and courage to make uprisings against Spaniards made him the “father of Philippine revolution”.

The main reason why revolution happened is that, the ilustrados was not successful to achieve reforms. The colonial government did not agree to their demands. Spain itself was undergoing a lot of internal problems all that time, which could explain why the mother country failed to heed the Filipino’s petitions. The friars, on the other hand, were at the height of their power and displayed even more arrogance in flaunting their influence. They had neither the time nor the desire to listen to the voice of the people (Philippine History, 2020). Other than this, instead of having “oneness”, the ilustrados were not united because of misunderstandings between them. The reformists showed a deep love for their country, although they still failed to maintain a united front because most of them belonged to the upper middle class, they had to exercise caution in order to safeguard their wealth and other private interests. Personal differences and petty quarrels, apart from the lack of funds, were also a hindrance to the movements success (Philippine History, 2020). The Katipuneros were also divided especially when Bonifacio died. With these simple scenarios from the Katipuneros and ilustrados, the ideas of “oneness” were not evident, how much more if they will create a Filipino nation.

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Beside this, although we won to overthrow the Spaniards, the Americans intervened that is why there was an unfinished revolution. Instead of building our nation from our own understanding, own interpretation of development, and other things that we have now have foreign influence. An example of this is our government. Our government is derived from the general nature of American governmental institutions like separation of the Church from the State which is one of the prime characteristics of the American government (Kalaw, 1948). Another example are the words which we usually say without knowing whether we have a Filipino translation about it like the word “ballpen” and “x-ray”. With those simple examples, I really think that the ilustrados was not successful in building a Filipino nation because all things that are existing until this day have foreign influences. Honestly, as a Filipino citizen, my patriotism comes out by being proud of my country when there is a large gathering like the sea games, supporting my fellow citizen in pageants, games and the like, but if I were to ask to choose between important and local products, I would more likely to choose the imported ones and due to this, the things that Rizal, Jaena and del Pilar did to awaken Filipino nationalism had failed.

The last but the most important reason for me why the ilustrados was not successful in constructing a Filipino nation is because of the assimilation of the Philippines as a province of Spain. The ilustrados wanted reforms like what stated in the previous pages is the equal status of the Filipinos and Spaniards, human rights of the Filipinos, secularization of the clergy, and many more. Although the ideas of the ilustrados helped to give informations about our history during their time which also contributed to the changes here in our nation as well as giving us the idea of “oneness” and emphasizing the importance of being a Filipino by awakening nationalism, they failed to create a “Filipino” nation because if they really want to construct a “Filipino” nation, the very first thing that they will do is on how the Philippines could be free from the hands of the Spaniards, and not as a province of Spain. Again, even though we won to overthrow the Spaniards, they were replaced by the Americans which influenced us in many aspects of our lives so whether the ilustrados had achieved their reforms, there would still no “Filipino” nation because Spaniards still control us. The one that we could achieved if this happen is freedom and not a Filipino nation.

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Foundation of the Philippine Government. (2021, Oct 15). Retrieved from