Colonialism is seldom thought of with gratitude and appreciation. It is typically painted with images of injustice, destruction, and bloodshed—the very things that made all colonization efforts that happened in the history of the world victorious. It is no wonder then that decades or even centuries after the colonization has ended, there remains resentment in the hearts and minds of those who were subjugated. Many South Koreans, for instance, still despise Japan for controlling the country for 35 years. In fact, I personally know children who hold grudges against Japan, retelling stories of atrocities they have learned either from their parents or history books. The same is true in the case of the Philippines: ask someone what happened during the Japanese occupation and the American colonization, and she/he would bring up details of pain and violence. Spain is not spared from this, no, especially not her, for Spain had the longest hold on the country—333 years to be exact!
Having been under Spain for that long expanse of time, it’s not surprising that some Filipinos still bear ill feelings towards Spain’s past actions and perhaps, even pin the country’s lack of a strong sense of identity or the people’s negative traits on the former European oppressor. But should we?
I came across an excerpt* of a work of Nick Joaquin, a prominent figure in Philippine literature and journalism, and a recipient of a National Artist for Literature Award at that, too, which offers a different perspective:
“To accuse Spain, over and over again, of having brought us all sorts of things, mostly evil, among which we can usually remember nothing very valuable “except, perhaps,” religion and national unity, is equivalent to saying of a not very model mother that she has given her child nothing except life. For in the profoundest possible sense, Spain did give birth to us—as a nation, as an –historical people. This geographical unit of numberless islands called the Philippines—this mythical unit of numberless tongues, bloods and cultures called a Filipino—was begotten of Spain, is a Spanish creation… The content of our national destiny is ours to create, but the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy, Spain has created for us.
. . .
Towards our Spanish past, especially, it is time we became more friendly; bitterness but inhibit us; those years cry for a fresher appraisal.”
Should we now look back at all those years with more appreciation? Maybe to some degree gratitude? I’m not here to give an answer. It is something that I’m also pondering at the moment. Real food for thought.
*Unfortunately, I do not know from which work it was lifted as I only saw it as a screenshot from the Internet with no proper credits as well. Any information will be much appreciated.