WHEN Mactan’s chieftain Lapulapu and his people killed Ferdinand Magellan and some members of the Spanish expedition he was leading, it wasn’t for love of country but for the defense of his community. The concept of country, which includes both territory and people, would only be brought to the Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao by another group of Spaniards, no longer explorers but colonizers, led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
Defense of community is the crude version of the concept of loyalty. Lapulapu didn’t consider himself a Filipino defending the Philippines from foreign invaders. He and his people probably didn’t even think they were defending Mactan island from Magellan. After all, the concept of private property was as alien to them as the Spaniards. Rather, they were defending primarily the integrity of a community, not necessarily the place it was rooted.
Still, the act of Lapulapu and his people showed that the defense of community is as old as when man began living in groups. Soon, added to that was the defense of turf. With the rise of countries came allegiance to both people and territory and the willingness to kill and be killed in their defense. Loyalty became an important value and its opposite, treason, a hated one.
From Lapulapu or even before him to the Filipino revolt against Spain to our resistance to American subjugation to World War II when Filipinos fought the Japanese invaders to now, the understanding of such value and our giving importance to it hasn’t changed much. Generations of Filipino leaders fought and died for it. That is why it pains us when current leaders give lesser importance to the defense of the country’s integrity than other considerations.
We looked the other way when the loosening began, when the legal battle we won in an international court over our claim to territories in the West Philippine Sea that are also being claimed by China was set aside by our very own government. We refused to see the implications of kowtowing to China to get money to fund government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure project. We were largely silent when President Duterte talked about having China help us protect our southern seas from pirates.
I grew up listening to stories about how, during “peace time,” the increased presence of Japanese nationals in the Philippines was observed. The claim was that when Japan invaded the Philippines during World War II, those Japanese nationals were exposed as spies. That’s a lesson we have to learn as far as the Chinese are concerned because we could be on opposite sides in case war breaks out.
Yet our government is inviting a Chinese firm to supposedly break the “duopoly” of PLDT-Smart and Globe while downplaying its future security implication, that we are allowing a rival claimant to some of our territories to dig deep into the fabric of our nation and dredge its deepest secrets.
When former vice president Emmanuel Pelaez was wheeled into the emergency room after he was ambushed in 1982, he asked then Quezon City police chief Tomas Karingal this: “What is happening to our country?” Is it time to ask the same question now?