Esquire (Philippines) - - NOTES & ESSAYS - Leloy Clau­dio His­to­rian, ed­u­ca­tor, and au­thor Ex­cerpt from the Af­ter­word of Lisandro E. Clau­dio’s new book from Ate­neo de Manila Univer­sity Press, LIB­ER­AL­ISM AND THE POST­COLONY: THINK­ING THE STATE IN 20th-CEN­TURY PHILIPPINES.

Lib­er­als let you dis­cover the val­ues of lib­er­al­ism for your­self. They will not con­vince you im­me­di­ately, as ap­pre­ci­at­ing mod­er­a­tion re­quires play­ing with fire first.


and psy­chol­o­gist, while my grand­fa­ther, Ho­ra­cio Estrada, was a phar­ma­col­o­gist. Both taught at the Univer­sity of the Philippines. And al­though Lolo Ho­ra­cio was a nat­u­ral sci­en­tist, he shared Lola Rita’s broad in­ter­est in phi­los­o­phy, history, and the so­cial sciences.

I knew them well, grow­ing up in their fac­ulty hous­ing at UP’s sprawl­ing Dil­i­man cam­pus. They were my sec­ond par­ents, dot­ing on me as their first grand­child. Through them and my par­ents, I ex­pe­ri­enced a child­hood canopied by aca­cia trees, em­braced by fa­mil­ial warmth, flanked by lib­eral in­tel­lec­tu­als. We lived in a bun­ga­low with a large porch and a mod­est back­yard. The house, on the far end of Ag­oncillo Street (a five-minute walk from the univer­sity in­fir­mary), was one of the old­est on cam­pus, built shortly af­ter the univer­sity re­lo­cated to its sprawl­ing grounds in Que­zon City, in the north of Metro Manila. My fond­est child­hood mem­o­ries are of Sun­day morn­ings watch­ing my grand­par­ents play­ing bridge with neigh­bor­ing pro­fes­sors from dif­fer­ent col­leges, my grand­mother serv­ing dishes like baked beans or a New Eng­land broiled din­ner.

Since they died be­fore I be­came a his­to­rian, it is only be­lat­edly that I have started to un­der­stand them as in­tel­lec­tu­als. My grand­par­ents, though decades younger, were of the same lib­eral ilk as the in­tel­lec­tu­als [in my book, Lib­er­al­ism and The Post­colony: Think­ing The State in 20th

Cen­tury Philippines]. I will never know for sure, but they were likely raised on Osias’ Philip­pine Read­ers; they most def­i­nitely would have lived through the eco­nomic de­bates of Sal­vador Araneta; and more im­por­tantly, they were pro­fes­sors in the univer­sity run by [Car­los P.] Ro­mulo and SP [Lopez]. (Mama tells me that Ro­mulo was once their din­ner guest.)

As a phar­ma­col­o­gist, Lolo Ho­ra­cio spent his ca­reer test­ing the ef­fi­ca­cious­ness of lo­cal herbs and plants re­puted to have medic­i­nal prop­er­ties. In many ways, his work was the med­i­cal equiv­a­lent of Osias’ Filip­in­ismo: Lolo was in­volved in a col­lec­tive ef­fort within UP to cre­ate a canon of lo­cal medic­i­nal plants. Early in his ca­reer, he was of­fered a ten­ure track po­si­tion at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia but he turned it down, be­liev­ing that his med­i­cal re­search needed to ben­e­fit Filipinos. Like other doc­tors of his era, he saw him­self as part of the na­tion-build­ing project. And he im­parted some of what he learned to us. Un­til now, upon con­tract­ing a mi­nor cough, I buy tablets made from the la­gundi plant—an herb tested in Lolo’s UP Col­lege of Medicine lab— in­stead of the cough medicines ped­dled by in­ter­na­tional pharma.

Rita Mau­rat Domingo was born in Manila on March 29, 1925 to Vi­tal­iano Domingo and Ju­lia Mau­rat. Nei­ther my mother nor my aunt re­mem­bers what Vi­tal­iano did for a liv­ing (he died when Lola was young), but Ju­lia was a fish­mon­ger, and she raised Rita in poverty. Ju­lia did not value Rita’s ed­u­ca­tion much, in­sist­ing that sell­ing fish was more pro­duc­tive than read­ing. The teenage Rita, in fact, had to hide in her closet to read Ta­ga­log fic­tion and komiks from the weekly mag­a­zine Li­way­way. When she was caught, she would be made to kneel on monggo seeds. At times, she would even be phys­i­cally re­strained, tied up so she would be un­able to grab books. Later in life, when Lola hoarded cheap ro­mance nov­els pur­chased at book sales, she would re­mind Mama that plea­sure read­ing still felt like a privilege.

Rita did not have to be­come a scholar. She was mes­tiza, with round eyes, thick brown hair, a nar­row nose, and slen­der lips—fea­tures prob­a­bly in­her­ited from her ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, who was a de­serter from the French army. Be­fore the war, Sam­pa­guita Pictures—the largest film stu­dio in the coun­try—of­fered her to join their sta­ble of ac­tresses. And dur­ing the war, she re­ceived nu­mer­ous mar­riage pro­pos­als from

G.I.S who wanted to take her to Amer­ica. Her nu­mer­ous ad­mir­ers also in­cluded scions of Manila’s wealth­i­est fam­i­lies, most no­tably the son of Max­imo Vi­ola—the fun­der of Rizal’s nov­els. Yet high so­ci­ety life did not in­ter­est Rita, who wanted to be­come a scholar.

Ju­lia agreed to send Rita to high school, but re­fused to spend a cent on col­lege, forc­ing Rita to look for a schol­ar­ship, which she found at the Far Eastern Univer­sity (FEU). But the schol­ar­ship was com­pet­i­tive, and a tuition waiver was granted to only the top stu­dent of the co­hort. Rita had to be num­ber one lest she lose her fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. So she re­mained at the top of her class un­til grad­u­a­tion.

She com­pleted her un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies in Phi­los­o­phy and English (dis­ci­plines re­flec­tive of her love for read­ing) in 1948, and moved on to com­plete an MA in Phi­los­o­phy (also at FEU) in 1954. While a grad­u­ate stu­dent, she met and mar­ried a med­i­cal stu­dent, Ho­ra­cio R. Estrada, a mem­ber of Cen­tral Lu­zon’s landown­ing elite, whose fam­ily looked down on mar­ry­ing be­low one’s class. Lolo was a low-level class traitor, and academia would be­come his refuge from his fam­ily. As for Lola, academia would let her read. She be­lieved so much in the joys of read­ing that she put her two younger sib­lings through col­lege.

Af­ter teach­ing phi­los­o­phy in FEU for 15 years, she was re­cruited by the chair of UP Dil­i­man’s Psy­chol­ogy Depart­ment—then a very young depart­ment that was only be­gin­ning to es­tab­lish its dis­ci­plinal bound­aries. That a philosopher would be hired to work in a psy­chol­ogy depart­ment only re­flected the poros­ity of the two dis­ci­plines at the time. I sus­pect Lola read Wil­liam James, be­cause prag­ma­tism pro­vided a com­mon dis­course for ex­per­i­men­tal psy­chol­ogy and phi­los­o­phy.

Lola would be­come one of the depart­ment’s in­sti­tu­tion builders, serv­ing in var­i­ous ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions. She also be­came a beloved teacher. Even be­fore meet­ing my mother, my fa­ther, then a Maoist stu­dent ac­tivist, al­ready con­sid­ered Rita Estrada one of his fa­vorite teach­ers: She sat on her desk, spoke off the top of her head, di­gressed, and cracked a lot of jokes. De­spite what ini­tially felt like ram­bling, Papa learned a lot.

Papa re­mem­bers how Prof. Estrada looked kindly to­wards stu­dent ac­tivists (per­haps be­cause her own daugh­ter was one), though she never pub­licly pro­claimed sup­port for the Maoists. Even if her fa­vorite philosopher was the anti-Com­mu­nist Ber­trand Rus­sell, this did not prevent her from feel­ing the same el­derly benef­i­cence that SP felt for his stu­dents. In her old files, my aunt found a jail­house let­ter from Lean Ale­jan­dro, one of the great mar­tyrs of the Com­mu­nist Left, call­ing Lola a “fel­low trav­eler” in the strug­gle against Mar­cos. She was one of Ale­jan­dro’s fa­vorite teach­ers, and, in his let­ter, he re­called meals in our house, where they spoke of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and of na­tional lib­er­a­tion. Mar­cos, for Ale­jan­dro, was the Sau­ron—the Dark Lord—of their times.

Lola’s sym­pa­thies for her stu­dents were ev­i­dent to any­one who lived through the dic­ta­tor­ship. Like SP, Lola took the stu­dents’ side against Mar­cos dur­ing the Dil­i­man Com­mune. Like SP, she lived on cam­pus, and saw the po­lice as­sault as an at­tack on her com­mu­nity, the Dil­i­man Repub­lic. And like SP, she vis­ited her stu­dents in the bar­ri­cades, of­fer­ing them en­cour­age­ment and sup­port. As a skilled cook and baker, she had the ad­di­tional ad­van­tage of be­ing able to of­fer them sand­wiches and juice.

Lola was pri­mar­ily a ped­a­gogue, and the pres­sure for Filipino aca­demics to pub­lish dur­ing her time was not as pro­nounced as it is to­day. As a con­se­quence, my fam­ily does not have a lot of her writ­ten work. I have, how­ever, found a very strange doc­u­ment in our shelves: her 1981 MA Psy­chol­ogy the­sis en­ti­tled An In­quiry into Sex­ism in the

Ta­ga­log Lan­guage. She was 56 when she com­pleted it.

By the late 1970s, the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­ogy be­gan to have a greater sense of its dis­ci­plinal bound­aries, which must have forced Lola, a philosopher, to earn cre­den­tials in the dis­ci­pline. She had al­ready com­menced a PhD in Psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Kansas in 1963, but re­turned to the Philippines af­ter a year of miss­ing her three kids.

The MA was just a box she had to tick. It must have been strange for her be­ing taught by peers and col­leagues whom she had worked with for so long. When she be­gan work on the the­sis, she was al­ready an As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor and As­sis­tant Chair of the Depart­ment. Her ad­viser, more­over, was some­one al­most 20 years her ju­nior: Virgilio “Ver” En­riquez—the man who would later be called the fa­ther of Filipino indige­nous psy­chol­ogy.

Even in­tel­lec­tu­ally, En­riquez was of a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion. In the field of psy­chol­ogy, he was the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the in­ward-

look­ing na­tion­al­ism of the Dil­i­man Con­sen­sus. Filipino indige­nous psy­chol­ogy—Sikolo­hiyang Pilipino—like its sib­ling, Pan­tay­ong Pananaw, sought to dis­cover and lib­er­ate “Filipino” sub­jec­tiv­ity by un­shack­ling it from “West­ern” cat­e­gories. It is a dis­ci­plinal ori­en­ta­tion that con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate UP Dil­i­man’s Psy­chol­ogy Depart­ment.

Os­ten­si­bly, Lola’s topic fit into the ethos of Sikolo­hiyang Pilipino, as it mined lin­guis­tic struc­tures for in­sights about the “Filipino psy­che.” In a sig­nif­i­cant way, how­ever, it did not. For one, the work is ex­plic­itly, if crudely, fem­i­nist at a time when no work in Filipino indige­nous psy­chol­ogy (then a very young un­der­tak­ing) had at­tempted to merge the sub­field with fem­i­nist cri­tique. Lola’s work it­self did not have am­bi­tions of re­vis­ing Sikolo­hiyang Pilipino’s foun­da­tional the­o­ries to in­clude gen­der anal­y­sis. That would come more than a decade later when, in 1996, Lola’s daugh­ter, Sylvia (Mama), com­pleted her dis­ser­ta­tion “Sek­swal­i­dad, Pagk­ababae, at Pagkatao: Isang Pan­im­u­lang Pag­sisiyasat sa

Kon­struksyon ng Pagk­ababae sa Kul­tur­ang Pilipino” (“Sex­u­al­ity, Fem­i­nin­ity, and Per­son­hood: A Pri­mary In­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Con­struc­tion of Fem­i­nin­ity in Filipino Cul­ture”).

Lola’s the­sis, un­like the jar­gon-laden pseudo-sci­en­tific works of con­tem­po­rary psy­chol­ogy, was writ­ten like an es­say, and its “method­ol­ogy” was the well-writ­ten ar­gu­ment. Its prose was un­en­cum­bered, since it did not have a ghastly sec­tion called the “the­o­ret­i­cal and an­a­lyt­i­cal frame­work.”

More im­por­tantly, the the­sis was bereft of the na­tion­al­ist earnest­ness of other works in Sikolo­hiyang Pilipino—in­clud­ing her daugh­ter’s. Mama wrote her dis­ser­ta­tion only a few years af­ter leav­ing the Maoist un­der­ground; she also com­pleted it in the year that Lola died. It is, thus, a se­ri­ous and schol­arly trea­tise that dis­sects con­struc­tions of Filip­ina fem­i­nin­ity in news­pa­per rape nar­ra­tives and pop­u­lar love sto­ries. Its goal was ex­plic­itly eman­ci­pa­tory, seek­ing to chal­lenge Filip­ina fem­i­nin­ity to forge it anew.

Lola’s goal, how­ever, was not lib­er­a­tion. The the­sis had a clear au­di­ence and a clear in­ten­tion of what it had to tell this au­di­ence:

The au­di­ence I had in mind, for this the­sis is (I hope) the lit­er­ate, U.S.-type-ed­u­cated Filipino of this era who may find this work in­ter­est­ing, even en­joy­able and af­ford him/her in­sight, through lan­guage, into the work­ings of the Filipino psy­che and per­haps laugh with the au­thor at our­selves.

Laugh­ter, in­deed, was part of her work. To wit, one sec­tion of the the­sis makes a point about find­ing a unique world­view of­fered by Ta­ga­log. She does this by jest­ing about the im­pos­si­bil­ity of trans­la­tion be­tween two lan­guages:

Trans­la­tion, of course, be­tween such dis­parate lan­guages as English and Ta­ga­log is not for the faint-hearted or the weak­minded [sic]. Some­day, some brave soul may tackle “I told you to not and then you again” or the present hor­rors “kadiri to death” [gross to the death] or “how baboy na­man the pig” [how pig-like the pig] and re­late it all to a

Weltan­schau­ung pe­cu­liarly Filipino moderne!

When Lola al­lowed her­self some of Sikolo­hiyang Pilipino’s na­tivism by ro­man­ti­ciz­ing “na­tive” cul­ture, she did so through the lens of a 20th­cen­tury Filipino lib­eral. She cel­e­brates, for in­stance, Ta­ga­log’s ca­pac­ity to ex­press “events sans a sub­ject-pred­i­cate for­mu­la­tion” (“umuu­lan” as op­posed to “It’s rain­ing out­side”). Us­ing terms prac­ti­cally lifted from prag­ma­tist phi­los­o­phy, she claimed that:

…Ta­ga­log hews closer to the modern physi­cist’s con­cep­tion of the re­al­ity—that this is in­deed a world of events, pro­cesses and con­tin­u­ally chang­ing phe­nom­ena. One can imag­ine Her­a­cli­tus, five cen­turies be­fore Christ, would have found Ta­ga­log his lan­guage of choice as it can ex­press re­al­is­ti­cally his uni­verse of eter­nal flux.

For­give the bias, but Camilo Osias could not have phrased an ar­gu­ment for the world’s dy­namism bet­ter. In­deed, Lola’s point is a kind of Osias-style in­ter­na­tion­al­ism: The beauty of the Ta­ga­log lan­guage is not only a func­tion of what it says about Filipinos, but what it al­lows us to say about the world. Like Osias, Lola, too, made men­tion of “nar­row na­tion­al­ism” and its blin­ders.

The broad point of the work, how­ever, con­cerned fe­male em­pow­er­ment and rights. In “the civ­i­lized world,” she claimed, “we de­mand the right of hu­man be­ings to be treated strictly ac­cord­ing

to their merit with­out re­gard or ref­er­ence to such ac­ci­dents as race, creed (re­li­gious or po­lit­i­cal) or place of ori­gin.” “To this list,” she added, hu­man rights dis­course has “added sex, and, in the wake of ho­mo­sex­ual and am­bi­sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion, sex­ual pref­er­ence.” These val­ues “are, for the most part, the val­ues of the West…” This fact, how­ever, was a not a con­cern since they are val­ues that “ed­u­cated Filipinos ac­cept, or at the very least, pay lip ser­vice to.”

Ta­ga­log passes this lib­eral cri­te­ria. Un­like West­ern lan­guages like English or Span­ish, Ta­ga­log, which has very few gen­dered sig­ni­fiers, “need not go through” a “tor­tu­ous purge” in or­der to re­move a “heav­ily mas­cu­line bias.” “There is some­thing to be said,” she joked, “for a child­hood where one’s con­cerns did not in­clude the sex of wa­ter (el

agua) or ta­ble (la mesa) [sic].” “This is re­ally in­no­cence!”

The the­sis makes a mod­est, even sim­plis­tic, point about equal­ity (“As such, Ta­ga­log qual­i­fies as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion medium for an an­drog­y­nous so­ci­ety where sex­ual egal­i­tar­i­an­ism, at least in lan­guage, is re­al­iz­able as an ideal”), and the work has no rev­o­lu­tion­ary im­pli­ca­tions; in fact, it dis­tances it­self from Marx­ist rhetoric through what I sus­pect was a snide rephras­ing of stale Maoist slo­gans: “Whether women of this na­tion are dis­ad­van­taged or not in the present semi-tech­no­log­i­cal semi­a­gri­cul­tural more than semi-colo­nial coun­try we live in is for other dis­ci­plines to es­tab­lish.”

The mod­est point of the the­sis was to be­gin a dy­namic con­ver­sa­tion about a dy­namic na­tion, in or­der to “forge a so­ci­ety that em­bod­ies all the good­ness of its past and the lessons, painful and oth­er­wise of its present and the prom­ise of re­al­iza­tion of its as­pi­ra­tions and vi­sions of its fu­ture.” It was a fu­ture-ori­ented view of na­tion and state build­ing.

My rea­son for writ­ing about Lola is as mod­est as her the­sis. I do not think she im­pacted Filipino in­tel­lec­tual life the way Osias, Araneta, Ro­mulo, or SP did. She was a hum­ble pro­fes­sor, tucked away in the Dil­i­man cam­pus. She was also a woman in a mas­cu­line in­tel­lec­tual world. But her story ex­em­pli­fies how lib­er­al­ism suf­fused the lives, think­ing, and ac­tions of an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of in­tel­lec­tu­als. And her re­la­tion­ship with her daugh­ter, my mother, re­flected the el­derly benef­i­cence of her lib­eral gen­er­a­tion: Mama was al­lowed her for­ays into rad­i­cal­ism and na­tivist na­tion­al­ism, be­cause lib­er­als let you dis­cover the val­ues of lib­er­al­ism for your­self. They will not con­vince you im­me­di­ately, as ap­pre­ci­at­ing mod­er­a­tion re­quires play­ing with fire first.

Re­cently, Mama has started to re­sem­ble the Lola I re­mem­ber, not just phys­i­cally, but also in­tel­lec­tu­ally. While writ­ing this, I have pressed nu­mer­ous books into her hands, most of them tracts on lib­eral pol­i­tics. In­ter­est­ingly, the ex-Maoist has had a very con­ge­nial re­la­tion­ship with these works, and has be­gun quot­ing them in her own writ­ings. They are fa­mil­iar to her be­cause they are ves­tiges of her youth. As the daugh­ter of Rita Estrada, she has lib­er­al­ism in her po­lit­i­cal DNA. In the past few years, she, too, has come out as a lib­eral, while main­tain­ing her roots in the women’s and re­pro­duc­tive health move­ment.

A part of her never gave up on lib­er­al­ism any­way. She has al­ways par­ented as a lib­eral, rais­ing me in a house bereft of a party line (she even let me at­tend what she con­sid­ered a con­ser­va­tive Catholic univer­sity, and paid for it to boot). But now her pri­vate lib­eral par­ent­ing co­in­cides per­fectly with her out­ward lib­eral pol­i­tics, mak­ing her per­sonal truly po­lit­i­cal.

The shift is most per­cep­ti­ble in her writ­ing, which these days has been in­creas­ingly funny—un­sur­pris­ing for some­one whose first writ­ing teacher was Rita Estrada. Last year Mama pub­lished her sec­ond book—a se­ries of es­says on her life as a rape and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence coun­selor. The topic is, nat­u­rally, grim, but the prose is ebul­lient, warm, joy­ful, and trans­par­ent. A hu­man­ist text, it is about the mo­ments of laugh­ter, even hu­mor, amid suf­fer­ing. It is called And Then She Laughed.

We may kill our Marx­ist fa­thers, but we be­come our lib­eral moth­ers.

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