Sona, Soka, Sorna, Sopia and Socga-A A +A
Sunday, July 22, 2012
ONE of the discussion topics I could recall during the wake for my father Tiyong in 2002 was the one raised by Noy Pepe, a relative who came all the way from Mindanao. He surprised me one night when he talked about rituals while a religious group was holding a prayer session. “These ceremonies,” he said, “tend to be repetitive and monotonous. It has been virtually the same everywhere and through the years.”
I wasn’t in the mood to argue with him that night but his point came to mind when I attended the remaining nightly novenas before Tatay was buried. The mananabtan, who was my kababata in Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2, led the prayers using the same booklet sold by vendors selling religious items near churches, the one that contained prayers in Cebuano mixed with Latin. Same old same old, I would say.
A State of the Nation Address (Sona) does not fall in the same category, it not being a religious undertaking or tied to a set of prayers unchanged through generations. It becomes a ritual only because of such factors as to when and where it should be held, and the understanding that the outline of the speech should hew to tradition.
But it is repetitive in a historical context, or how can one describe differently every year the state of a nation that has remained in flux through the decades?
The particulars may change but the substance doesn’t. The country’s politics, the economy or even such specifics as governance (and the extent of the problems hounding it, like corruption in the bureaucracy) are essentially the same (with certain variations, of course) since Filipinos were allowed to administer the country’s affairs.
While surfing the net, I was drawn to a website that tackled the Sona “ritual” in the Philippines. It’s an interesting read. The website calls itself East Asian Affairs @ Suite 101 (suite101.com). The article “History of the State of the Nation Address,” quoting a Professor Frank Grego, tells you that before the Sona, there were the Soka, Sorna, Sopia and Socga.
Okay, I will dwell on it for your satisfaction.
On March 22, 1897, Andres Bonifacio, the tragic founder of Katipunan, the secret society that fought Spanish colonial rule, delivered a speech-cum-situationer as the group’s Supremo. Grego calls it the “State of the Katipunan Address” (Soka). On Sept. 15, 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, who wrested the leadership of the revolution from the assassinated Bonifacio, delivered what Grego calls the “State of the Revolutionary Nation Address” (Sorna) before the Malolos Congress as the country’s head of state.
After the Americans colonized the archipelago, then governor-general William Howard Taft delivered a one-page speech on behalf of then US president Theodore Roosevelt before the Philippine Assembly. That was on Oct. 12, 1907. It was called the State of the Philippine Islands Address (Sopia). Three decades later, on June 16, 1936, Manuel L. Quezon, first president of the Commonwealth, delivered a similar speech during the inauguration of the First National Assembly. It was called the State of the Commonwealth Government Affairs (Socga).
The Sona as we know it? It was first delivered by then president Manuel Roxas after the country was granted full independence on July 4, 1946.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 23, 2012.