Gemino Abad, echoing poststructuralists, once said that a person is made up of words. We could say, echoing Abad, that a people is made up of words, or more precisely, of books, or even more precisely, of histories. Contrary to what Marx thought, the field of struggle is not the factory nor, as Mao thought, the countryside. The field of struggle in our century, the twenty-first century, is the field that Marx held in such contempt – the field of human consciousness, or the way we see ourselves, the way we imagine ourselves. Alfredo Roces joined this struggle many years ago, primarily through his advocacy of art as an integral element of our past, secondarily through his editorship of various projects rewriting published history. He has now directly challenged our view of ourselves through the book we have just launched.
Today we thank Amelia Galang, Javier Galvan, National Artist F. Sionil Jose, Edna Formilleza, and Antonio Hila for joining Roces in launching not just a book with chapters, but a chapter in the book of our past. The past is really only what we choose to remember, and until today, we chose to remember only what would not make us uncomfortable with the way we rush headlong into revolutions not of our own making. Roces identifies as, in his words, “the core of ilustrado ideology,” the manifesto in prose of Rizal, more telling than his manifesto in verse in “Mi Ultimo Adios.” Foreshadowing Roces, Rizal wrote explicitly, “Reforms, if they are to bear fruit, must come from above, for reforms that come from below are upheavals both violent and transitory.” Mabini, echoing Rizal, offers Roces even more support for the struggle to recreate our past. Said Mabini, “In order to build the proper edifice of our social regeneration, it is imperative that we change radically not only our institutions, but also our ways of thinking and behaving.”
These are words to remember as we struggle once again these days to regain control of our future and even of our present, as we try to stop our so-called national leaders from leading us towards international disaster, as we look around for ways to retrieve our dignity as a nation and our pride as a people. Roces has boldly pointed the way to discover “nuestro perdido
Congratulations to all of us for sharing the unrealized dream of the ilustrados and the realized dream of the De La Salle University Press and Alfredo Roces to publish Adios, Patria Adorada: The Filipino as Ilustrado, the Ilustrado as Filipino. May we all look forward to our past!