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- The Indolence of the Filipino - 1/9 -
Prepared by Jeroen Hellingman
THE INDOLENCE OF THE FILIPINO
BY JOSE RIZAL
("LA INDOLENCIA DE LOS FILIPINOS" IN ENGLISH.)
Mr. Charles Derbyshire, who put Rizal's great novel Noli me tangere and its sequel El Filibusterismo into English (as The Social Cancer and The Reign of Greed), besides many minor writings of the "Greatest Man of the Brown Race", has rendered a similar service for La Indolencia de los Filipinos in the following pages, and with that same fidelity and sympathetic comprehension of the author's meaning which has made possible an understanding of the real Rizal by English readers. Notes by Dr. James A. Robertson (Librarian of the Philippine Library and co-editor of the 55-volume series of historical reprints well called The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, so comprehensive are they) show the breadth of Rizal's historical scholarship, and that the only error mentioned is due to using a faulty reprint where the original was not available indicates the conscientiousness of the pioneer worker.
An appropriate setting has been attempted by page decorations whose scenes are taken from Philippine textbooks of the World Book Company and whose borders were made in the Drawing Department of the Philippine School of Arts and Trades.
The frontispiece shows a hurried pencil sketch of himself which Rizal made in Berlin in the Spring of 1887 that Prof. Blumentritt, whom then he knew only through correspondence, might recognize him at the Leitmeritz railway station when he should arrive for a proposed visit. The photograph from which the engraving was reproduced came one year ago with the Christmas greetings of the Austrian professor whose recent death the Philippine Islands, who knew him as their friend and Rizal's, is mourning.
The picture perhaps deserves a couple of comments. As a child Rizal had been trained to rapid work, an expertness kept up by practice, and the copying of his own countenance from a convenient near-by mirror was but a moment's task. Yet the incident suggests that he did not keep photographs of himself about, and that he had the Cromwellian desire to see himself as he really was, for the Filipino features are more prominent than in any photograph of his extant.
The essay itself originally appeared in the Filipino forthrightly review, La Solidaridad, of Madrid, in five installments, running from July 15 to September 15, 1890. It was a continuation of Rizal's campaign of education in which he sought by blunt truths to awaken his countrymen to their own faults at the same time that he was arousing the Spaniards to the defects in Spain's colonial system that caused and continued such shortcomings.
To-day there seems a place in Manila for just suets, missionary work as The Indolence of the Filipino aimed at. It may help on the present improving understanding between Continental Americans and their countrymen of these "Far Off Eden Isles", for the writer submits as his mature opinion, based on ten years' acquaintance among Filipinos through studies which enlisted their interest, that the political problem would have been greatly simplified had it been understood in Dewey's day that among intelligent Americans the much-talked-of lack of "capacity" referred to the mass of the people's want of political experience and not to any alleged racial inferiority. To wounded pride has the discontent been due rather than to withholding of political privileges.
Spanish Philippine history has curiously repeated itself during the fifteen years of America's administration of this archipelago.
Just as some colonial Spaniards seemed to the Filipinos less creditable representatives of the metropolis than the average of those who remained in the Peninsula, so not all who now pass for Americans in the Philippines are believed here to measure up to the highest homestandard.
Sitters in swivel-chairs underneath electric fans hold hopeless the future of the land where men do not desire to be drudges just as did their predecessors who in wide armed lazy seats, beneath punkahs, talked of Filipino indolence.
Ingratitude, to-day as then, is the regular rejoinder to the progressing people's protest against paternalism, and altruistic regard for their real welfare is still represented as the reason why special legislation should be provided when Filipinos prefer the same laws as govern the sovereign people.
Though those who claim to champion the Philippines' cause apparently are unaware of it, these Islands have a population strangely alike in its make up to the people of America; their history is full of American associations; Americans developed their leading resources, and American ideas have inspired their political aspirations. It betrays blindness somewhere that ever since 1898 Filipinos have been trying to get loose from America in order to set up here an American form of government,
There seems now a, prospect that insular legislation may make available to the individual the guarantees of personal liberty upon which America at home prides itself, that municipal self-government and provincial autonomy may become realities in the Philippines, and possibly even that both Filipinos and Americans may realize before it is too late how our elastic territorial government could be made to exact from them much less of their independence than the sacrifice of sovereignty necessary in Neutralization or internationalization.
Unwillingness to work when there is nothing in it for them is common to Filipinos and Americans, for Thomas Jefferson admitted that extravagance and indolence were the chief faults of his countrymen. Labor-saving machinery has made the fruits of Americans' labors in their land of abundance afford a luxury in living not elsewhere existing. But the Filipino, in his rich and not over-populated home, shutting out, as we do, oriental cheap labor, may employ American machinery and attain the same standard. The possibilities for the prosperity of the population put the Philippines in the New World, just as their discovery and their history group them with the Western Hemisphere.
University of the Philippines,
Manila, December 20th, 1913.
DOCTOR Sancianco, in his Progreso de Filipinas, (1), has taken up this question, agitated, as he calls it, and, relying upon facts and reports furnished by the very same Spanish authorities that rule the Philippines, has demonstrated that such indolence does not exist, and that all said about it does not deserve reply or even passing notice.
Nevertheless, as discussion of it has been continued, not only by government employees who make it responsible for their own shortcomings, not only by the friars who regard it as necessary in order that they may continue to represent, themselves as indispensable, but also by serious and disinterested persons; and as evidence of greater or less weight may be adduced in opposition to that which Dr. Sancianco cites, it seems expedient, to us to study this question thoroughly, without superciliousness or sensitiveness, without prejudice, without pessimism. And as we can only serve our country by telling the truth, however bit, tee it be, just as a flat and skilful negation cannot refute a real and positive fact, in spite of the brilliance of the arguments; as a mere affirmation is not sufficient to create something impossible, let us calmly examine the facts, using on our part all the impartiality of which a man is capable who is convinced that there is no redemption except upon solid bases of virtue.
The word indolence has been greatly misused in the sense of little love for work and lack of energy, while ridicule has concealed the misuse. This much-discussed question has met with the same fate as certain panaceas and specifies of the quacks who by ascribing to them impossible virtues have discredited them. In the Middle Ages, and even in some Catholic countries now, the devil is blamed for everything that superstitious folk cannot understand or the perversity of mankind is loath to confess. In the Philippines one's own and another's faults, the shortcomings of one, the misdeeds of another, are attributed to indolence. And just as in the Middle Ages he who sought the explanation of phenomena outside of infernal influences was persecuted, so in the Philippines worse happens to him who seeks the origin of the trouble outside of accepted beliefs.
The consequence of this misuse is that there are some who are interested in stating it as a dogma and others in combating it as a ridiculous superstition, if not a punishable delusion. Yet it is not to be inferred from the misuse of a thing that it does not exist.
We think that there must be something behind all this outcry, for it is incredible that so many should err, among whom we have said there are a lot of serious and disinterested persons. Some act in bad faith, through levity, through want of sound judgment, through limitation in reasoning power, ignorance of the past, or other cause. Some repeat what they have heard, without, examination or reflection; others speak through pessimism or are impelled by that human characteristic which paints as perfect everything that belongs to oneself and defective whatever belongs to another. But it cannot be denied that there are some who worship truth, or if not truth itself at least the semblance thereof, which is truth in the mind of the crowd.
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