The death of the Filipino empire

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

If there is a common, unifying theme throughout the history of these islands, it is that of resistance and struggles against an overarching authority which seeks to dominate and force control over the affairs of their smaller regional and ethnic polities, either through warfare or rebellion.

Among the historical anecdotes testifying to this assertion include, among others, the Visayans resisting the Chola Empire which threatened to invade them following the collapse of Srivijaya; the people of Sulu successfully resisting the conquest of the Majapahit Empire; the local kingdoms of Luzon repulsing the Ming Empire that wanted to annex the island; the fall of the expansionist Kingdom of Tondo; natives revolting against the Spanish colonial empire, then against the United States, and then Japan.

Today, we have the present Moro rebellion resisting the authority of the Filipino nation, a mere extension of the Western colonial project over these lands.

Here is the awful truth: this archipelago has been around for thousands and thousands of years and yet not a single monolithic national identity encompassing all these islands stood the test of time. There had been changing personal loyalties and spheres of influence, but none of them were permanent.

Am I saying that the Filipino nation itself is bound to suffer the fate of all those deceased empires? As a pessimist, my answer is yes. History informs us of this looming black swan with numerous examples. The Filipino nation will eventually disintegrate, causing the political landscape of these islands to revert to its natural state: an archipelago composed of diverse, lesser kingdoms, polities and societies.

In fact, at the moment, nationalist movements are growing in places like Pampanga, Cebu and many parts of Mindanao where learned natives have began unearthing their proud precolonial histories. What makes us so sure that the Ilocandia, Bicolandia and other areas with strong regional identities will not follow suit?

Geography is a huge factor. As the American writer Robert Kaplan wrote in his book The Revenge of Geography, “geography is destiny.” Geography is nature. And if there is one thing we, Filipinos, know better than the rest of the world: nature is a tough enemy.

Recently, we have been witnessing the widening gap in terms of economic development between the Imperial Capital and the other regions. This is a ticking time bomb. As natives from other regions become aware of the sharp contrast between their present dire situation and their rich histories, dissatisfaction over the current political system will only continue to grow. It only takes a single regional nationalist movement for the rest to be inspired. Defenders of the empire will be branded enemies by these freedom movements.

You cannot efficiently govern an archipelago such as ours using the unitary system. Just look back at history; everyone who tried failed. It is unstable nor is it sustainable.

As a patriotic Filipino who believe that we are better off united under a single banner, I think that there is a way to salvage the Filipino nation. Now is the time to explore the shift to a federal-parliamentary form of government. Otherwise, we risk converting the love that allowed the tumultuous, very recent existence of this nation to hate and violence.

Be on the right side of history.



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