Chapter one of the Philippine Society and Revolution is a review of Philippine history. The chapter begins with the geography and topography of the Philippines, goes into the ethnic lineage of Filipinos, and in about 60 pages takes you through presidencies and ending at the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26, 1968.
The text weaves together significant moments, individuals, and policies that steer Philippine history towards revolution. The tone of the text is directed, almost unwavering, as it builds the case against colonialism and imperialism. This very specific narrative is through a Marx-Lenin lens, so those familiar with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin will recognize the same components for Capitalist critique.
(Aeta or Negritos — photo from Correos Filipinas)
Philippine society bore “semicommunal and semislave social system in many parts,” and in the Southern parts of the Philippines, Mindanao, bore qualities of the feudal system. These elements were interrupted, co-opted upon the arrival of the Spanish.
(Marano Sultan of Unayan / Masiu with his entourage — Photo from Correos Filipinas)
Spanish conquest and colonialism creates the foundations for a feudal society for the majority of the Philippines (Mindanao remained a contentious region at that time too), an attribute that Marx defines as an intermediary for class stratification, and inevitable oppression by the landowning classes, and those that seek to gain in exploiting the poor. A false meritocracy, and a closed network of the bourgeoisie to finalize the mechanisms for capitalism.
(Upper class Muslim women, Sulu, 1900-1910 — photo from Correos Filipinas)
This section mixes recognition and criticism towards people power movements, and revolutions that happen more often than documented. The language almost suggests that the more mainstream Philippine historical texts do more to hide, and criminalize these movements.
(Unknown date — photo from Correos Filipinas)
The strongest parts of this section is the naming of the different “puppet” regimes that collude and bend at the will of American colonialism and imperialism. Presidencies and independents are “shams,” when specific treaties allowing for nearly unadulterated extraction for the benefit of the United States. This text pulls no punches, and explains in laypersons terms (as opposed to mathematical, economic-speak) just how these treaties and agreements have done an almost irreparable damage to Philippine infrastructure and economy.
(Women making cigars at La Insular Factory, Manila, 1920 - 1930 — photo from Correos Filipinas)
Despite the momentum this section has, I was left curious as to what the Communist party looked like, who comprised that party, and their movements within this extensive narrative. This almost seeming invisibility of the early iterations of the Communist party made me think about how they perceived themselves. This is all speculation, but perhaps in an oppressive regime, and in a war being waged, you do not identify yourself to the enemy as an individual, but as a people.
Another takeaway from the PSR is trying to understand the longevity of the text. In tandem with these photos, it’s not hard to see how long it took to oppress a country, and how a country stays in this seeming state of oppression. In fact, you see this pattern all over the world in the age of imperialism and conquest, and more contemporary times. So, I say ‘seeming’ because there continues to be an almost diametrically opposite way of living at that time, which benefitted the other population of Filipinos. What did prosperity look like, was it guiltless? What did happiness in it’s most basic form look like? The first chapter of the PSR isn’t structured to address the more minutiae, the quotidian — and it’s sometimes in this lacking that I’m finding myself distant from completely prescribing to it’s arguments.
It’s still a strong text as it’s a pronouncement of war, (and this is hella cliche) but what of peace?
Stay tuned for more.
(Execution Chamber and Garrote, Manila, 1899 — Photo from Correos Filipinas).
Stay tuned for more.