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Tracing our Malayan descent

THE ongoing visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Brunei Darussalam brings back to mind the history of our country prior to the arrival in the 16th century of the Spanish colonizers. Unfortunately, there is not much reference material on the subject. All we have is a vague reminder that the Sultanate of Brunei and the Sultanate of Sulu were “partners” in quelling a growing civil war movement and a rebellion in Brunei. As a gesture of gratitude, Brunei gifted the Sulu Sultanate with half of Sabah.
To this day, history tells us that our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, is the “pride of the Malay race,” confirming our descent from Malaysian, Indonesian and Bornean immigrants. But it would already be anachronistic for us Filipinos to refer to ourselves as Malayan. In fact, by the time Rizal was born, we had shed off most of our similarities with them – except our color and physique.
It’s only in Mindanao – with the Islam religion dominant in some provinces – that our Malayan identification still prevails.
But what if the Spaniards had not come to subdue and rule us for 333 years?
In his book Outcry for Change, the late Eugenio C. Galido of Sebaste, Antique expressed the notion that the shift from Spanish to American domination of the Philippines could not have transpired had Spain ruled justly. It was discontent with the ruling governor-generals and the friars that drove our great grandparents to collaborate with the Americans.
In 1901, under then President Warring Harding, the United States was wary of Emilio Aguinaldo, who had proclaimed himself first President of the Philippine Republic. The task of capturing Aguinaldo fell in the hands of Col. Frederick Funston, chief of regiment of the Kansas Volunteers to the Philippines.
Asked why they could not trust Aguinaldo, Funston replied, “He’s a would-be dictator presiding over a drunken and uncontrollable mob.”
Under American rule in 1901, the Philippine government bought most friar lands for the then princely sum of P14,474,000.
If history had not unfolded the way it did, could we have retained our Malayan identity?
What if the United States subjugated us to become its 51st state? Could the Philippines have been run like heaven, not hell?
The US decision to let go of our country was largely influenced by 250,000 Filipino students who rallied in front of the US Congress in 1931. US President Herbert Hoover – initially disturbed by a Philippine Commission report that most Filipinos in the Philippines would prefer representation in the US Congress first as prerequisite to eventual independence – begged for further time.
Shortly before becoming President of the Philippine Commonwealth, however, an unbowed Manuel Luis Molina Quezon spoke, “I prefer a government run like hell by the Filipinos to a government run like heaven by the Americans.”
He disagreed with Rizal, who had warned that sudden withdrawal of colonists could precipitate political instability. But of course, it must have been an offshoot of his personal ambition to be President.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (US President in 1933 to 1945) eventually agreed with Quezon.
What if it was the Japanese who conquered us in World War II? Could we have abandoned the “indolent” tag and trod the Japan way? Those who think so are awed by the industry, delicadeza, patriotism and incorruptibility that Japan – a non-Christian country — is known for.
Frankly today, under President Duterte – who would rather have the Chinese and Russians as allies instead of the Americans and Europeans – we are uncertain of the navigational path our ship of state is charting./PN