The Power of Information
Information is power1.
Whoever controls the shaping of the databases of information2 that defines a country also dictates the fate of the nation and its people.
To illustrate this point, the Philippines is referred to still as the "Philippine Islands" by many foreigners, international institutions, organizations, governments, publications and internet sites. While seemingly innocuous, "Philippine Islands" conjures an obscure collection of islands somewhere in the world and emphasizes the colonial past of the Philippines, as if it still remains a colony of a superpower, like the United States.
Other simple terms, like "bandidos", "brown race", "insurrection", "insurrectos", etc. — integrated in historical books and other publications written by foreigners about the Philippines and Filipinos — have immense impact on how foreigners (and even Filipinos) view the Philippines and Filipino people.
This perception of the Philippines and the Filipino people continues to be reflected in many of the more popular commercial internet sites or even in some academic archives. Many of these sites have very scarce information about the Philippines and Filipinos; if any at all, they are based mainly from outside or dated sources. As a result, the body of information seldom reflect the perspective of Filipinos. At worst, they are inaccurate or antiquated.
These misrepresentations and marginalization lead to the current situation where the Philippines and Filipinos get the attention of the international press and policy makers only when there is news about natural or manmade disasters, kidnappings, political corruption, scandals, terrorist acts, "people power", etc. — which in turn further compound the misrepresentation3 and marginalization of the Philippines and Filipinos.
By default, therefore, we allowed foreigners to define us and our nation. At worst, we took this foreign perspective as our own reality. A dedicated number of Filipinos are trying to redress this situation — to provide a more balanced presentation of the Philippines and her people, from a Filipino perspective.
This internet site, "Likas-Philippines", from the term "likas", i.e., "innate" or "natural" in the Filipino language, aims to contribute to this collective pursuit by consolidating, into one site, the efforts of Filipinos, scholars and their kindreds who have endeavored to provide more accurate information about the Philippines and the Filipino people.
At the same time, "Likas-Philippines"will attempt to correct the tendency of Filipinos, including some Filipino historians and nationalists, to over-compensate and romanticize the portrayal of the Philippines and Filipinos — in regard history and origins. The other extreme is the use of an ideological framework to define or rationalize the current plight of the Philippines and the Filipino people.
To address the aforementioned situations, "Likas-Philippines" will attempt to present differing perspectives rather than just the "official line" or voice from one perspective, in interpreting Philippine history4, for example.
"Likas-Philippines" is created also, with "Filipinos abroad" as a special audience — to provide Filipinos abroad a mode of maintaining ties with the Motherland. This kinship with the Motherland should provide "Filipinos abroad" a sense of roots and identity, as they are being integrated in other cultures.
More important, "Likas-Philippines" is being developed as part of a more comprehensive database, the Treasures of the Internet webpage, so that Filipinos and others who are interested to learn more about the Philippines will have a better understanding of the Filipino people and their culture, in the context of a world that is becoming a more global community.
Unlike several Philippine-oriented internet sites, "Likas-Philippines" will avoid overcommercialization of the endeavor. This will include respect of privacy of those who visit the site. Be sure to read our policies on privacy, as well as the disclaimers.
Please read "Help Build 'Likas-Philippines'" and our ongoing and planned projects to find out more on how you may contribute in developing this webpage. Or, better still, become a member of the "Likas-Philippines Team".
- Except for a few rearrangements, this document is essentially the text of the original "Why Likas-Philippines", written when "Likas-Philippines" was first created way back in 1999. Some of the examples or the situations described in the original document may be dated already. For example, the case about the shoes of Imelda Marcos as an example in the original document (see Note 3 below) is fading finally in the memory of foreigners.
A new "Why Likas-Philippines" will be written in the future. However, this "slightly" rearranged and revised document will be retained, to be tagged as original "Why Likas-Philippines", as a historical document of "Likas-Philippines". This type of document will be useful, in the future, to understand how much progress has transpired, and to what extent, the purported goals of Likas-Philippines are being achieved.
In this regard, while there may be less "Imelda shoes" small talk these days, it is just replaced by others. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Imelda has just been replaced in small talks by other more relevant topics, like Abu Sayeff(?). In this context, nothing has really changed, just the topic of the small talk.
However, this aspect of the original document is analyzed further here, for a very different and quite important reason. It is evident, in this case, that I (as the author) when writing the original document was offended by all those "Imelda shoes" small talk. The first time was OK, as I can be as patronizing also. But, innumerable repetitions, albeit by different people, can get into one's system. Thus, the offense taken. But, as a Filipino usually would do, when you do not want to pick a fight, you smile and bear the situation.
Taken from another perspective, I was aware quite often that the other person actually might have meant well, and this can be perceived easily in the context of the discussion. Usually, the anecdote was intended to convey to you, as the other person in the conversation, that (s)he cared enough to read about your country. Moreover, if the other person has ever met a Filipino, or has been to the Philippines, (s)he usually focuses on the positive experience with his(her) interactions with Filipinos.
This situation illustrates, in a way, how oversensitivity can cloud our perception. In this context, if I were writing as a historian in the original "Why Likas-Philippines", that would have been a fatal character.
[This note was added 20050627 — CGC]
- Even today, a similar shaping of information occurs in all modes of communication. For example, terms such as "terrorists" as opposed to "freedom fighters", "third world", etc., are used indiscriminately or unintentionally by journalists, policy makers and other molders of social and cultural values. The choice of terms to describe current events will have long term impact — as much as similar shaping of information has affected the historical perception of nations and peoples. To cite a few examples, the modern world are fully aware of the Holocaust (suffered by the Jews in Europe under Hitler); but how many have ever heard of the same genocide of the Armenian people under Turkey? Closer to home, how many around the world fully understand the plight of Filipinos and other Asians under the Japanese during World War II? Or, the massacre of "barbaric" Filipinos during the Filipino-American war?
- It is not unusual, even today, when you introduce yourself around the world as a Filipino, there are still some overeager foreigners who are very likely to focus on discussing the shoe collection of Imelda Marcos — as if the aforementioned topic is the embodiment of the Philippines and Filipinos. This reflects an utter case of ignorance and insensitivity of these foreigners. But who can blame many of these foreigners if some Filipinos themselves, just a few years ago, actually took pride of the creation of the internet virus that crippled many computers around the world, and considered this as the pinnacle of Filipino expertise and Philippine technology.
- At present, many of the readily available information (in the internet) about the Philippines, especially in regard to history and culture, are derivative works — a condensation of books written by recent historians. These internet resources about the history and culture of the Philippines have been linked by other internet sites, including supposed academic institutions involved in scholarly Philippine Studies. [Unfortunately, even Likas - Philippines has to link these sources because of the dearth of original materials about Philippine culture and history in the internet). The serious impact of this reliance on derivative works is that they perpetuate "erroneous information" (that are then difficult to debunk) — if the original historical book sources turned out to be fraudulent, incorrect or based from shoddy research.
Thus, one of the long-term goals of "Likas-Philippines" is to collaborate with academic institutions, galleries, museums and libraries towards the digitization of original documents about the Philippines and the Filipino people.