Stilled life. The miseducation of the Filipino


MANILA - I am very unhappy, and I am in media. First, mass media stilled our Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, he who came from mass media; that was surreal. Next, he died of heart failure last Tuesday, 19 January; that was real.

Same man, different deaths. Mass media crushed the heart of a good man. Diabetes and hypertension finished what was left of him. Death, twice is thy victory; death, twice is thy sting!

Let me tell you how the 2 deaths happened.

First, the mass media came out with the news in August 2009 that the entourage of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spent some P1 million for a dinner at a French restaurant in New York. 1 million is 1 million. "That's when it all started," said Marit Stinus, his wife, his love-exile from Denmark (quoted by Christian V Esguerra, Miko L Morelos & TJ Burgonio, inquirer.net). Cerge Remonde was part of that presidential entourage. Amidst the ferocious mass media barrage, amidst the static and noise, he tried his best to defend the President. Marit said (same source):

I was with him when the story came out and he said, "But it was (Leyte Rep Martin) Romualdez who invited us ... Others had wine but we had Coke Zero." He thought it was no big deal.

Then the mass media came out with a second story that GMA and company had spent around P700,000 for a dinner at a steak house in Washington DC. The alleged splurge was simply not true. "He really felt bad about it," Marit said. He gave out the facts, but "he felt he was not believed." He was devastated.

After that, Remonde began to show that he felt "no excitement anymore" about his job as Press Secretary. His wife said (same source):

He felt that no matter what he said, it would still come out negative. We noticed that he was not really smiling so much … he was not really so happy anymore.

His heart was no longer in his job. He felt he had lost credibility with the media whom he loved. They no longer took his word for it, he who had been National Chair of the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster sa Pilipinas for 6 consecutive times, he who had a very strong supporting role" (ANN, inquirer.net), he who taught to "make the most out of various shades of gray" (ANN, cdn.ph), he who taught many a young journalist, and he who had reached out even to the unbelievers (PNA, gov.ph).

What do you do when even your friends stop believing in you? The moment you stop believing in yourself, that's the moment you begin to die.

So, last December, he took the blame for GMA's continued very low approval rating. "I am very sad about the public approval rating of the President," he said, "despite all the good things she has done and the many sacrifices she has made for our country" (quoted by Paolo Romero, philstar.com). "Maybe I have failed as Press Secretary for 10 months now to do my job of effectively communicating the achievements of our very hardworking President." (On that subject, you may want to read his ultimate column at the Manila Bulletin, "Just Look Around You," 19 January, mb.ph.) Actually, he was saying, if you have friends in media like I have, who needs enemies?!

GMA is the most hated and most reviled President ever, the mass media keep repeating, even up to now. Boring to death. The freest media in the world and they have been miseducated to only revile, to only hate this President? Perhaps they love to display a limited vocabulary in politics and development, not to mention Christianity.

The public credibility of Cerge Remonde's boss had been in doubt, and now his. His heart gave in before his heart gave up on him. He was crying on the inside, laughing on the outside. It was a failure of the heart before it became heart failure. It was too much.

I blame the mass media for the demise of Cerge Remonde, the epitome of the mass media hero, now a martyr. For the demise of reason in viewing Philippine politics. For the miseducation of the Filipino, the mass media audience.

What miseducation? you ask. Good question! Ah, now, current events bring us back to some people's favorite past events, in particular a history of the articulate.

I beg your pardon, but no, the miseducation of the Filipino did not start with Renato Constantino. I mean he was mistaken in saying the miseducation of the Filipino started with the American Thomasites. In fact, it started on 16 March 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan came to conquer the Filipinos and was conquered instead - but he had opened the barbarians' gate. The Spaniards came back and taught us to believe they came in friendship; that was miseducation. They conquered us and taught us a religion not our own; if you don't call that miseducation, I don't know what miseducation is. The Spaniards also taught us that the Indios were inferior to the Spaniards; that was another kind of miseducation. Before he left for Spain, even the genius of Jose Rizal believed in that lie. Recall the story of Indios Bravos (see Gregorio F Zaide's classic biography, Jose Rizal: Life, Works And Writing (2003, Mandaluyong City: National Book Store, page 138). An unforgivable kind of miseducation. And the Spaniards taught us that obedience was the better part of the education of the native, and we learned that the hard way, the very hard way - with the whiplash, with the guillotine, or with the executioner's bullet.

Before that, the Spaniards taught us that their best was in Europe, and that attracted somebody named Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y De Quintos Alonso Realonda; when he realized that, he made a French leave to study there. The would-be national hero of the Philippines was himself for many years a victim of miseducation!

And so was I. In the late 1960s, when I was part of student activism, even if I was no longer a student, I never did speak in Tagalog (I am Ilocano, in case you ask). It was always in English, and I always said this as my unique intro for myself: "Excuse me, but I have to speak in English, because I too am a victim of colonial education."

I have been miseducated so that now I love the English language - but I don't regret it. Rather, I'm proud of it. Charice, our Pinoy Cinderella international star in the world of singing, has been miseducated so much so that she loves to sing mostly American songs - I love it that she does! She does the Philippines proud. (If you want to read more about her and her wonderful Mommy Raquel, try my Pinoy Cinderella, blogspot.com.)

So, when I'm around, do be careful when you say "miseducation of the Filipino." If Jose Rizal was The First Filipino as Leon Ma Guerrero said he was, then when he attended his very first lecture class in Spain after 02 September 1882 when he matriculated at the Universidad Central De Madrid (ChEd, joserizal.ph), that was the very beginning of the miseducation of the very first Filipino. He was miseducated within the European milieu, not the Filipino. He imbibed the arts & culture of Europe; can you forgive such miseducation?

In Europe, the first Filipino learned to be a Mason - Masonry is not Filipino; the nipa hut is. He learned medicine - science is not Filipino; folk wisdom is. He learned Spanish, and French, and German, and English - not one of these languages is Filipino. Rizal was a polyglot; he was miseducated in the European sense. How miseducated can you be!

Even Andres Bonifacio was miseducated, by himself - didn't he read and learn from books by foreign authors?

In other words, we must accept or welcome the miseducation of the Filipino!

Did the miseducation of the Filipino start when the first American teachers, the Thomasites arrived in these islands in the early 1900s? I say no, and I can prove it.

If you equate nationalism with the language Filipino, and you equate both with the national anthem, Lupang Hinirang, then the miseducation of the Filipino started in August 1899 when Jose Palma wrote the poem Filipinas, that which was much later translated into English by Senator Camilo Osias (Ilocano) and Mary A Lane (American) and legalized as the Philippine Hymn by the Philippine Congress in 1938, that which was subsequently translated into Tagalog, O Sintang Lupa by Julian Cruz Balmaceda, Ildefonso Santos & Francisco Caballo and approved as the national anthem in 1948; that which was revised into Lupang Hinirang and officially sung in 1956 (Wikipedia). How do you like that: The nationalistic song of the Philippines was written by an insulares Spaniard and is Spanish in its original lyrics?

Why was not the national anthem composed by a Cebuano, Tagalog, or an Ilocano in any of the 3 major languages of the Philippines at that time: Cebuano, Tagalog, or Ilocano? Did the Brains of the Katipunan miseducate us on the value of Spanish?

In still another sense, it was miseducation because the translation from Spanish to Tagalog (or Pilipino to Filipino) was bad, very bad.

Spanish: Tierra adorada
English: Land of the morning
Filipino: Bayang magiliw.

That's the first line of the poem Filipinas. The English version is bad; the Filipino (Tagalog) version is badder. Tierra adorada is properly translated as beloved land, or beloved country. So, Tierra adorada, Bayang minamahal, if you have been educated to equate Bayang magiliw with nationalism, your nationalism is the result of miseducation.

What is miseducation? I should know - I graduated with a BS in Agriculture major in (Agricultural) Education from the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines in 1965, and I passed the national Teachers Exam in 1964 (yes, before I graduated) with a grade of 80.6% (not bad, if I may say so myself), no cheating, no leakage - it was the very first such exam held in the Philippines for all teachers. I have also been voraciously reading about education (among other subjects), including about the theory of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard U. To be sure, many bright ideas come from Harvard, including "creative capitalism," this one from the most successful Harvard dropout of all time, Bill Gates (for more on this genius, try my "Creative CGIAR. Rich out for the poor - Bill Gates," americanchronicle.com).

To miseducate is to teach improperly. "Teach understanding," Gardner of Harvard says (H2O, harvard.edu). By saying that, he has defined education. I like it, but not quite. In my view, to teach understanding is limited if it is to teach meaning, not to teach the search for meaning. You are giving a man a fish, not showing him how to fish. Education has something to do with the very act of fishing; in my view, education is the search for meaning.

Thus, education, as I see it, is learning to think. And learning to think in the field of formal education is twofold: As the teacher, you model for the student to learn to think for himself; as the student, you practice to learn to think for yourself.

And don't think that school is the only meaningful place to learn. The mass media are meaningful learning places too. But whether in or out of school, we need to learn to think. Now, thinking comprises two aspects: creative thinking and critical thinking. The first must teach us to be original or innovative; the second must teach us to be rational or logical. We need both kinds of thinking; one is the flipside of the other - you cannot mint a wholesome, economic coin without a flipside.

But in school, 9 out of 10, we are taught only to think critically. And the schools produce outstanding graduates in us - we are so critical sometimes we cannot see anything good anymore. That is the miseducation of everyone, including the Americans, including those in the mass media, including me, and including Renato Constantino. Modern miseducation starts with the schools.

And that is why what the mass media are doing is important - they are trying to educate us. And in the case of Philippine politics, the mass media in the islands are also trying to miseducate the Filipino. In this case, the education the mass media are conducting is one-sided: only critical thinking. Unless and until the mass media learn to appreciate and understand the other side of midnight, the flipside of thinking, they will always try and shame any government into their way of thinking.

In particular, I cannot accept the miseducation of the Filipino that governance is about the popularity of the governor. This is miseducation by the mass media; this is media without understanding. (Now, you may want to see also my earlier essay on this subject, "Cerge Remonde. Understanding without media," FRANK A HiLARiO, blogspot.com.)

In grade school, our own miseducation started in Grade One, in 1947, when the lessons were all in English and each one of us had to shout, "I run to the door!" and do it. In high school, in 1953, my miseducation started on Day One, all the more so when I learned to love the Reader's Digest and TIME.

That kind of miseducation I could handle. In fact, I loved it! Unfortunately, the kind of miseducation that Cerge Remonde, 51 years old, was made to handle from the mass media was too much for him. For us, he tried so hard, too hard. So we lost him twice.

In fond remembrance if in quiet tears, and modesty aside, "Cerge Remonde was a great guy," his wife Marit says (quoted by Christian V Esguerra, Miko L Morelos, TJ Burgonio, inquirer.net). I can believe that even if I didn't know him from Adam. To emphasize, I italicize here what of her husband, fondly now, Marit also says (same source): "He was brilliant. He was very hardworking. He was very humble."

Sadly now, I say: Unlike the mass media in the Philippines!

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