The Voice of the Common Man

by Brother Mike O. Isidro, Jr.

(This is the oratorical piece that was written and delivered by Brother Mike O. Isidro, Jr. who won as second runner-up in the FEU 60th Foundation Day Inter-Institute Oratorical Contest held on January 30, 1988 at the FEU Auditorium. It was published in the “The Common Voice” 1988 edition under the term of then Grand Chancellor Nestor Jimenez, Jr.) 

Tau Kappa Phi Law Fraternity FEU

(Tau Kappans flocked to MLQU to give support to brethren taking the 1988 Bar Examinations)

You are all looking at me. Your eyes are all serenely fixed on me. Are you asking yourselves who am I? If so, allow me to introduce myself to you: I AM THE COMMON MAN. Pliant. Strong. Full of feeling. And bursting with vibrance. My country is being regarded as one of the most literate in this part of the world. But as I scan the screaming headlines of today, I find that my blessed and beautiful land is besieged with disorder and disunity in practically all fronts. Misery and discontent are grumbling on the faces in the crowd, violence and lawlessness are rampaging all around, enmity and fractiousness are scourging my government and corps of public servants . . .

I AM THE COMMON MAN. At the end of each tiring day, how I wish to rest and wallow in unruffled tranquillity of mind. But when it occurs to me how troubled the environment I’m in, I couldn’t but be disturbed and feel the waves of fear, anxiety, and despair rising, racing, and roaring within me . . . I see the Communists advancing as time ticks away, soldiers and their civilian cohorts staging more coups, Muslim rebels flooding Mindanao with blood, management and labor strangling each other’s neck on the picket lines, political warlords maiming their rivals in the savage name of political lust . . . !

Yes, I AM THE COMMON MAN. Victim to the vagaries of time. Hostage to the vicious forces that are crushing the memorials of unity and peace in my heroic land . . . For almost four centuries, I was ruthlessly oppressed by Mother Spain . . . And just when I thought that I’ve already won my freedom through the Revolution of 1898 where I lost my gallant sons, I next became the captive of Uncle Sam . . . My white colonial master liberated me indeed from ignorance – and I am grateful for that. But I lately realized that the education he drilled into my mind has been the root cause of the divisiveness and turbulence that have been shaking my country for a long time now. 

The tragedy with the U. S. educational efforts upon me is that, despite benevolent intentions, my colonizer prepared neither for citizenship nor for the development and enrichment of my true Filipino character. The American tutelage functioned mainly to imprint and reinforce the image of Americans as masters in command of a language that I must learn t measure up to their own superior standards and, on top of that, to conform to the American requirements of monopoly capitalism. This deceptive educational structure caused the disintegration of my then fragile identity and the fragmentation of my nationalist culture which was then in the process of emergence. Perhaps, the most telling manifestation of my country’s miseducation is the alienation of the Filipino writer in English from the most urgent political and moral predicaments of his people, thereby transmuting Filipino arts and letters into a minor branch of American literature . . .

For instance, Filipino writers in U. S. exile tried to seek roots in a bygone rural Philippines seen through the eyes of Hemingway or Mark Twain or Longfellow – a rural landscape no longer mapped by American anthropologists but by the insurgents of the New People’s Army. Their epigones which are modelled after the prose of a Nabokov, a Pyncheon, or a Barthelme reproduce in the sphere of self-referential signifies the illusory and mystified subjectivity of the Westernized Filipino artist . . . And when Filipino writers have to look for validation by trying to get into Harper’s Bazaar, Partisan Review, Pacific Spectator, and other American journals, one sees how the semiotic of capitalist valorization operates . . . The death of Carlos P. Romulo in 1985 signals the passing away of three generations of Filipino intellectuals, from the pensionados of the first two decades to the Fullbright scholars of the Fifties, whose sensibilities bore the stigmata of the colonial apprentice forever subservient to the possession of the secrets of the English language . . .

I AM indeed a victim of miseducation. Of obscurantism. For I live in a nation that is held in bondage to Western-inspired cultural imperialism. How, therein, therefore, could unity and peace be achieved in my homeland if I, MYSELF, remain forever blind to foreign values, virtues and ideals?

Ladies and gentlemen, although I attribute my miseducation to the Americans, my teachers and even my national leaders are as guilty as, if not guiltier than Uncle Sam. For they rammed down into my throat the ersatz precept that schooling is synonymous with education; that learning is acquired only in the four walls of the classroom . . . When will the mentors of my children realize that formal education is but a slice of the holistic whole: that real education encompasses the more pervasive fields of informal and non-formal education? Truth hurt. Truth, indeed, hurts. But Filipino educators and national leaders failed to effectively address the needs of this nation, and failed even more miserably in succinctly articulating the Filipino aspiration. They are so fascinated with the multivalent mythology that American-oriented education will give Filipinos access to the world such that our experiences and dreams have been nothing but the original or primordial acts by a Western subject or agent . . .

The Marcos regime exacerbated the infirm state of our educational system. In an anomalous scheme of political rapacity, chicanery and deceit, the classroom was used to subserve the Marcosian dream of fascist rule in perpetuity. The conjugal dictatorship was so animated by the historical passion for power and grandeur so that, much to my grief and indignation, education was harnessed as a giant propaganda machine for its own personal aggrandizement, in the same evil manner that the government-controlled mass media was used as a veritable sounding board of the anomalous regime’s orchestrated claim for glory and political immortality . . . 

Yes, let education teach us achieve unity and peace. I, therefore, demand the restructuring of the Philippine educational system! I demand the overhauling of our curricular offerings in accordance with our historical sufferings, domestic sentiments and needs, and with zealous regard of our national heritage, all with the end view of promoting national consciousness which makes us truly proud as genuine Filipinos . . . ! I submit that educators have no right to be in the classroom and the powers-that-be have no right to receive the appropriate taxes I pay if they are only hell-bent on contaminating the minds of my children with the infectious virus of colonial mentality . . . !

 I do sound too demanding, don’t I? But it is because I am afraid that until we reorient our values and ideals in the compelling imperatives of nationalism, and unless we sooner wage a revolution within ourselves that I will drastically change our way of thinking and our way of being, this nation shall forever be in chains to the horrifying spectre of national disunity, political strife, blotted communal faith, chronic disorder, and social turmoil of confusing dimensions . . . Do we have to wait for that day when we will forever be consigned to the dustbin of history: a people without identity, a people devoid of native character, a people perpetually fantasizing of unity and peace, a people lost in a maze of McCarthyite passions and perfidious bullets?

Yes, yes, I know that peace and unity may forever be elusive in y battered country. I know that until our colonial educational structures are torn down to give way for the flowering of the true Filipino spirit, this nation shall always be at odds with itself and with its own people – the contrary pontifications of its literati and high priests of learning notwithstanding . . . I also know that my yearnings may just mix with the wind. But for as long as education is in me, is in you, is in us, we shall in the final reckoning finds ourselves together in the ultimate struggle of achieving unity and peace through nationalist education . . . Why don’t we move on as one right here, right now, and let THE VOICE OF THE COMMON MAN penetrate the deepest recesses of everyone’s heart, mind and soul?

We shall all be winners in the end . . .

Thank you.

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