What is patriotism?

“Everybody’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.” ― W.C. Fields

Last November Bacolod City’s lone representative, Cong. Anthony Golez, filed House Bill 6689 – “An Act Strengthening National Pride by Mandating the Playing of the National Anthem Three Times a Day in All Malls, Commercial Centers, and Government Offices”. 

Golez explaining his bill to a Bacolod newspaper intoned, “I believe that playing the Lupang Hinirang in prominent public places will make Filipinos more nationalistic, more sympathetic to the plight of less fortunate Filipinos and more participative in activities that concern our nation. Playing the Lupang Hinirang three times a day in public places can be considered as equivalent to saying I love you, Philippines!” Don’t laugh. Golez is serious.

His bill says the National Anthem must be played “loudly and clearly” three times a day everyday – at 10 AM, 1 PM, and 4 PM – in “the premises of their offices” in the Office of the President, the Senate of the Philippines, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court; “within the premises” of all government offices the President shall designate; and “within the corridors and hallways” of all malls and commercial centers when they are open. 

Furthermore, all persons inside the above locations “shall be required to stand still, listen, and stop what they are doing every time the Lupang Hinirang is being played.” Violators will be punished. 

“All heads of government offices or the division of a particular government office, tasked with making sure that the provisions of this Act shall be properly implemented, shall be charged with serious neglect for non-compliance with the requirements of this Act and shall be removed from office with forfeiture of all retirement and separation benefits.”

“Owners of malls and commercial centers” will be fined P25,000 Pesos every time they fail to play the anthem at the designated hours and “all persons” inside the malls and commercial centers who do not “stand still, listen, and stop what they are doing every time the Lupang Hinirang is being played” will be imprisoned for one month and fined P1000 Pesos. I know what you are thinking but don’t do it. Slashing your wrists will leave a mess that you won’t be able to clean up afterwards.

Golez filed his bill while Congress was preoccupied with the RH and Sin Tax bills. It escaped my attention until a few days ago when some Batasan members issued a call to declare pop star Justin Bieber persona non grata for making fun of Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s knock-out courtesy of Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez. 

Why ban Bieber? “Banning him will show how seriously we take our national pride,” declared  Yacap party-list Rep. Mary Jane Lopez, the congresswomen leading the Batasan’s patriotic charge on Bieber. 

Chauvinism is not new to politicians. Several years ago, the City of Manila declared Oscar-awarded actress Claire Danes persona non grata and banned all her movies from being shown in the city after she described Manila as a “ghastly and weird city” that “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over.” 

Danes later apologized for her observation by putting it in context, ”Because of the subject matter of our film Brokedown Palace, the cast was exposed to the darker and more impoverished places of Manila. My comments in Premiere magazine only reflect those locations, not my attitude towards the Filipino people. They were nothing but warm, friendly, and supportive.” But her apology was not accepted.

Councilor Kim Atienza who sponsored the resolution against Danes said it was “an excuse made by Hollywood press officers and not a genuine apology. We are not hard to appease, but we know if an apology is true or not. We will lift the ban only if we are satisfied.”

Danes also raised the patriotic hackle of former president Joseph Estrada, “Her remarks were uncalled for. She should not be allowed to come here. She should not even be allowed to set foot in the country.”  As a senator Estrada showed his patriotism by voting against the US bases but he tempered it after he became president and championed the Visiting Forces Agreement and finally forgot all about it when he committed plunder, a crime for which he earned both a life sentence from the Sandigan Bayan and a presidential pardon from Gloria Arroyo. 

Patriotism is not the chauvinism espoused by Rep Lopez and her colleagues and it is not “liberating” your fellow countrymen from foreign “occupation” only to rob them afterwards. It is certainly not something to be indoctrinated through music as Rep. Golez believes. Patriotism is so simple and straightforward that it was summed up in one sentence by the late syndicated columnist Bill Vaughn, “A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.” “Yun lang.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • UPnnGrd

    oooops, my bad. Wrong comment about Pilipinas needing more school buildings and chairs and books. PersiNoy in Inquirer-dot storyline says the story that he believes that his administraton has already solved the school-building and school books problem….

    Where before, the country was short of 66,800 classrooms, there is now
    sufficient rooms, chairs and tables, and books for students, he said.

    YAY!!! President Noynoy!!!!

  • UPnnGrd

    that Golez-dude is pretty smart. Inculcating patriotism via en-forced playing of Bayang Magiliw is the cheaper alternative to better method. Better would be to provide the right number of chairs and tables and books to Pinas elementary schools, but this will mean raising taxes for the better good of the poor, which is a low-low priority item.

    And my bet is that he’s doing the bill just for Pogi-points.

  • It is usually in times of economic crisis and instability that the masses become susceptible to different forms of propaganda be it religious or ideological in nature. The restoration in Japan of the conservative LDP under Shinzo Abe whose strident views have caused controversy in the past along with the governor who sought to “nationalise” the Senkaku Islands which sparked tensions with China and who is now leading the second largest party in the Diet demonstrate this same effect. The restoration of the party of General Park in South Korea under his daughter’s stewardship is also seen as a response to the North Korean provocations.

    In America, the conservative gun lobby fears that the Federal government has hatched a plot to take away their second amendment right to bear arms and will use climate change “fearmongering” as a cover to introduce a “one world government”. The social conservatives also feared that liberals were going to use a proposed law to yank children being home-schooled from their parents’ care and place them under the custody of the state for not installing disability friendly facilities in their home. They also feared that liberals would use the healthcare act to run “death panels” and decide who the system could afford to keep alive and who to withdraw treatment from.

    China itself feels it is the subject of a deliberate and coordinated policy from Washington. This perception that it is being “isolated and contained” is giving rise to a faction of hardliners within the Chinese military and ruling elite who oppose any attempt at political reform.

    The Philippines is similarly feeling under threat in the South China Sea disputes. National symbols like Manny Pacquiao may become emblematic of the travails of the country. People become hypersensitive to any form of perceived criticism from outsiders.The tone of the political debate is often an indicator of how bad the situation has become. The RH debate was a case in point. It is won’t be fully resolved until the SC rules on it. At least so far the parties have relied on the system to resolve the dispute and are willing to abide by the final decision. Indeed misguided patriotism can rear its ugly head in various ways when people feel they need to take extreme measures because the system has failed to resolve things in their favour.

  • I rather think that mandated patriotism is the opposite of authentic patriotism. This notion that faith and loyalty can be imposed by order is sooo soooo North Korean. Patriotism is best instilled by responsibility and good deeds. Nitwits who propose these bizarre acts of law give the name Philippines a really bad reputation.