culture

Marching towards our national identity

June 11, 2019 – Ally Soriano

The possibility that our country could be caught up in a war at any time isn't a reality that many people want to think about; and even if they do, they might be inclined to think of it merely as a distant possibility in the far, far future. In short, it's something they won't have to deal with, and, therefore, why would they bother thinking about?

ROTC has been implemented in schools all over the world for as long as there have been conflict. One of its primary causes being to prepare civilians for the possibility of war, to steel them for the time when their country needs more than just their votes and tax money. Again, not a cause that much of the youth quite care for. Another is that ROTC is required to instill discipline and respect into the people. Quite possibly another even more groan-worthy reason for the youth. In fact, many might view it as unnecessary hardship or torture for those required to undergo it.

It's hard to pinpoint any one reason for people not seeing the need to undergo ROTC. Is it because they don't think it's necessary? Is it because we are confident that other countries and governments will swoop in and come to our rescue? But if our current administration denies the help of the US, who will then come to our aid? This should not be a question we need to ask ourselves. It's not who will help us, but what can we do to help ourselves. Our military, regardless of intentions, is still measly.

The Senate Bill 2232 or the Senior High School Reserve Officers Training Corps Act was supposedly approved on these grounds. The reasoning behind it is seemingly clear-cut and logical. With the tensions regarding our islands in the West Philippine Sea as well as the Marawi Crisis proving that we are in need of a stronger military. The other much cited reason is so that we may instill a sense of nationalism in the people. As President Duterte so put it, “I likewise encourage Congress to enact a law that will require Mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12 so we can instill patriotism, love of country among our youth.”

Whether or not we welcome the restoration of mandatory ROTC based on Duterte's recommendation, one thing we can agree on is that the previous culture of violence and corruption within the course must be controlled with the proper enforcement of newer, better guidelines.

Additionally, the President emphasized that “It’s not that I want to give kids, our children, a hard time. It’s for them. You have a duty to perform for your country when you grow up. It is your duty to defend the identity and the preservation of the republic.”

And here is where the conflict lies. The return of Mandatory ROTC is dubbed as a return for the spirit of nationalism. However, how can we claim that we are defending our identity and preserving our republic if we also support the removal of Filipino as a subject in our colleges?

CHED earlier this year upheld the legality of Memorandum Order 20 which officially removed Filipino and Philippine literature from college curriculums. Though its intentions are understandable, wherein they stated the removal of Filipino from the tertiary level would give way to other subjects or electives in the new curriculum, many students still leave secondary level education with less than standard proficiency in our own language.

In an interview with Boy Abunda on The Bottomline, Miss Universe Catriona Gray said it best. “I feel like when you reach a certain age, you will have an appreciation for what Tagalog is; the poetry of it, the history of it, how it’s represented in our culture. Whereas if you were to take that out, who else will pioneer our language for the next generation?”

Keeping this in mind, perhaps the reason why many students leave the secondary level not quite grasping the language is because they lack the maturity and the capacity to truly understand and appreciate it. The kind of appreciation that could only be cultivated while students are in college.

On the other hand, we must understand that in keeping Filipino in college, not only would we be repeating a subject that is already well-embedded in the K-12 program. Requiring it in university is also in some ways going against the Philippine Constitution which states, “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.” Colleges can choose what languages to offer and students can choose what languages they wish to learn. To mandate a specific language is to contradict our personal and academic freedom.

So where does that leave us? Whether it’s out in the sun at attention or in a classroom having class, we shouldn’t lose sight of who we are and how we got here. How we’re going to define ourselves and our national identity shouldn’t rest only in the hands of our governing bodies. We should have our own innate appreciation and love for our country. It’s been cultivated within us since we were young. Now it’s our turn.

—alike.com.ph


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