I started writing this from the roof deck of a cruise ship my wife and I took to savor awesome Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. My knees were too achy after two days of walking in Hanoi that I decided to stay aboard ship and commune with nature while the other guests went ashore to take a dip.
What startles a first-timer in Hanoi is the peril to life and limb when crossing city streets menaced by swarms of motorcyclists who don’t slow down or stop for you. After that, every other experience convinces you that Vietnam has passed us in economic development.
The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum. There I sensed Vietnam’s soul coming out of the memorabilia of Ho Chi Minh’s lifelong struggle to unify Vietnam and liberate her from her oppressors.
United by this soul, the Vietnamese were able to liberate themselves from French colonialism and later from American imperialism. It is remarkable that the Vietnamese, small as they are and poor as they were could defeat two great military powers.
I envy the Vietnamese. They have Uncle Ho, the unquestionable father and soul of Vietnam, while we are still debating who our national hero is and consequently who we are. It only goes to show that wars are not won by weapons and development not attained by natural resources but by soul, by the people’s indomitable will.
The Vietnamese after winning their wars moved forward in their own way, unfettered by a rejected colonial culture. They know who they are, where they came from, where they are going as a nation and how. They are looking very much like they are marching together as one towards a common destiny.
We Filipinos, on the other hand, for lack of a father and soul of our nation, have simply continued the oppressive ways of former colonial masters, Spain and the US. Unthinking, instead of liberating ourselves from Spanish colonialism and American imperialism, we allow our leaders to just step into the heavy boots of foreign oppressors. With nobody like Ho Chi Minh to provide the nation with a soul, we quarrel, we argue about solutions without even knowing or agreeing what the problem really is.
Soul is everything. I don’t know exactly how we can acquire a national soul but for a start education and religion must be radically reformed. Both, more especially the Philippine version of Catholicism, are still promoting defeatist and self-deprecating colonial values that domestic colonizers want etched in our psyche to prevent their privileged positions from being besieged by liberating values.
Finally, for whatever it is worth, Communist Vietnam takes much better care of its people than Catholic Philippines. So what is there to celebrate of Christianity’s 500 years?