ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Adlai Stevenson, an American senator from the mid-20th century, once remarked, “What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a total sense of national responsibility…a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” The Philippines is a country that has been blessed with patriots; men and women forged in the fires of our tumultuous history. From the famed martyred Friars Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos and Jacinto Zamora to the people of the EDSA revolution to the overseas workers whose remittances sustain the country, the Filipino has exhibited, in the most dire times, a love of country unparalleled.
The Philippines today is seeing a changing of the patriotic guard. The generation forged in the fires of World War II and Martial Law is giving way to a new generation of political and civic leaders and statesmen. The responsibility now of the elder statesmen is to passion their experience, their knowledge to the new generation. Historically, autobiographies have long been a vessel for passing on learned knowledge: from the early works of the early Confessions of St. Augustine to the Long Walk to Freedom of Nelson Mandela. At its heart the autobiography tells the story of a life, events and countries as seen through the eyes of someone who was witness.
Teofisto Guingona, from his student years to his time as the Vice-President of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been a man in touch with the events that shaped the Philippines. Today he occupies a status as one of the remaining elder statesmen in the country. In his autobiography, Fight for the Filipino, he has left to the current generation an invaluable account of the development of the Philippines, of the turmoil that we faced and the challenges that yet lay ahead. In spare and direct language, the story of the country, as seen through his eyes, is laid out before the reader. Naturally, the force of the book focuses on the hardships, political and economic, that the Philippines has endured. Through vignettes of his life, we are told the story of the rise of a dictator and the fall of democracy, of corruption in business and law and the never-ending struggle to preserve peace and strengthen the country.
Teofisto Guingona is a living example of the truth of Senator Adlai Stevenson’s quote. Patriotism is not a momentary frenzy of emotion, but a life’s work. Mr. Guingona has been a stalwart patriot of the Philippines; constantly and tirelessly working to preserve and create a country that he could be proud of. The book ends with the line that he will continue to fight for the Filipino. We hope that the book and the story it tells will prove instructive for a new generation so that in some small way it can inspire people to fight for the Philippines and the Filipino. There can be no greater lesson, no greater knowledge, passed from one generation to the next than that. The Philippines has a history of patriotism, we hope the future is the same.