Speech delivered by His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, on the occasion of the awarding of prizes to the winners of the Essay Contest on the Symbol of the Government, Metropolitan Theater, Manila, on June 29, 1944.
MY COLLEAGUES IN THE GOVERNMENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I am very happy indeed that this contest has taken place, and I would like to tell you how this question was brought about before it was formulated. Before proceeding, I would like to say that I subscribe to the statement made by Minister Recto of Foreign Affairs that the result of this contest can not be taken as acceptable to the Government and that whatever symbol is advocated does not bear the official approval of the Administration.
The thought was provoked so that our people may seriously think on the question of creating a symbol of unity for the Filipinos. If I may be allowed to be somewhat immodest on this occasion, I would want to say that, fortunately or unfortunately for me, I have in the last forty-five years taken part in the administration of the affairs of our Government I have passed through many experiences and stages of which I need not tell you in detail In the past, as you all know, the Filipinos used to quarrel, especially during election, on broad political issues and on broad political questions. And, in the heat of political passion in the heat of excitement, we fought and fought with one another to the point of exhaustion. There was nobody, there was no symbol, there was no super-factional authority that could stop the bickerings and call the Filipinos to their senses in order to avoid further fratricidal conflicts.
We need a symbol around which the Filipinos can rally, a symbol that means the totality of everything that is Filipino and everything that is great and dear to the hearts of Filipinos. After the past administration, because of the vicissitudes of war, we established here a government of our own through the generous help of a sister Oriental nation; and, preliminary to that, we had the so-called Executive Commission headed by Filipinos. Then and thereafter and even now that we are running this Government in the midst of difficulties and in the midst of hardships, you will hear that those who readily accepted the responsibility were untrue and disloyal to our people; that the guerrilleros who do not believe in this Government are the true and loyal Filipinos.
As I pass sleepless nights in deep reflection and solitude in the midst of these difficulties, in the midst of hunger and starvation of our own people, when I kneel down and prostrate myself before Him Who is our Maker, I often ask this question: Oh, God, give us something of your hidden power, something of that which is Divine which would fill the heart of every living Filipino by which this division of the Filipinos could be remedied by some such inherent power and authority. Give us, 0 God, our symbol of unity to avoid fratricidal strife amongst the Filipinos, so that we may glorify You and after You, the great heroes that have given us and bequeathed to us real independence, a government of Filipinos and for Filipinos.
This is a question which I myself have never answered and which I am not in a position to answer. When I was inaugurated President of the Republic of the Philippines, you will remember that, in my inaugural speech, because of my inability to point to some definite sacred symbol before which the Filipinos would bow down and whose mandate they would accept with reverence, I called attention to four possible rallying points of unity for the Filipinos. I pointed to the Filipino flag, to our National Anthem, to our Constitution, to our President whoever he may be). I said that the symbol must be prepared because it can not be improvised as stated by Minister Recto. I believe that we can not find that symbol now, but I am sure that we can prepare our country and our people for its adoption.
Before the restoration in 1860, Japan was torn to pieces, because of the political strifes among their leaders, the feudal lords. Because of this and because of the threat of Occidental domination, the Japanese people realized the necessity of getting together, to be bound by one and the same purpose and by one and the same faith. This realization brought about the restoration. The feudal lords rallied to a supreme authority, a living symbol in the person of His August Majesty the Emperor of Japan. My frank opinion is that we can not have a symbol in the Philippines for the Filipinos unless we can discover one for which we can have a fervor almost religious in intensity and a faith almost as great as our faith in God. What shall be the symbol?
What is the symbol of the Catholic religion? Christ. The head of the Catholic church—and from the point of the Catholic religion, the only church—is the Pope; and he is its living symbol. The Pope is not only the representative but also the spokesman of Christ. When the Pope speaks on fundamental dogmas, he does not do so as a delegate. In Japan, there can be political revolutions. In times of grave crises, members of the Cabinet may be eliminated; but the Emperor, who is the symbol of that which is divine remains, and His statements are final. There must be faith in that symbol. There must be faith in that popular symbol.
The flag is something that is necessary and something that is beautiful, but it lacks that hallowed breath of a living symbol. The Constitution—what Constitution, in the first place? The Malolos Constitution? Many people say it is already obsolete, and many Filipinos would not accept that constitution if that constitution were to be adopted now. The Commonwealth Constitution does not represent the ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people because of its transitory provisions. By its very nature, it is temporary, leading to the independence promised in 1946. The present Constitution is also temporary. Its provisions are transitory, and it may last only as long as this war. After the war a new constitution, more in. keeping with the needs and idiosyncracies of the times may be adopted. Rizal and other national heroes? The composite voice of these great Filipinos? While the memory of Rizal and other great Filipinos is something that is sacred and should be treasured in the, hearts of all Filipinos, it lacks that life and vigor of a living symbol 11, as proposed in one of the theses here, Rizal” and the patriotic Filipinos were to be represented by a president to speak for the Filipinos in the name of Rizal, then the President can not be the spokesman 0f Rizal and the spokesman of the composite voices of our national heroes. Before that can be done, the head of the nation must be so removed from actual administration, from political entanglements and “disgustos” and disappointments of his men, of his fellowmen, of his countrymen. He should be so isolated and so spiritualized that the people would not consider him as acting with passion for any given individual or group of individuals. Can you unite the Filipinos by rallying around the Filipino leaders in supporting this Republic, invoking the memory of Rizal? You can not.
The general acceptance of a symbol will take a great deal of time. I have given in a little pamphlet, a description of the factors necessary in order to bring about that symbol for the Filipinos. I believe that in order to establish that symbol there must be religious faith and fervor behind it. There must be a sort of fanaticism on the part of the people so that they would instinctively believe in that symbol. And if it is not a living symbol, and if it is to have a living representative, that representative should, like the Pope, be infallible. That spokesman or that representative should be so spiritualized and so taken away from actual work of public administration, that he would be beyond criticism. He would be speaking for the faith of the people, for the blind faith of the people. He should have lost interest in himself, he should have lost interest in wealth, he should have lost interest in his own welfare. His only concern would be the collective concern of the people; and, whenever he speaks, he would speak for that symbol and for that faith, and the Filipinos will bow clown and obey.
We have to educate and prepare our people for such a symbol. Otherwise, that symbol can not serve as the force essential to the unity of the Filipino people. And that will take time. We may not be able to establish that symbol in this generation. But I believe that this generation can take the initial steps because there is no doubt that there is a need for such a symbol.
What that symbol shall be is still a question, notwithstanding the brilliant answers given by the contestants. I wish that the thought which has been provoked could be brought to the attention of all Filipinos, not only in Manila and in Luzon, but amongst the Moros and in the Visayan Islands likewise; because we are looking for that something—something which is divine and spiritual, something which is essential, something that will bind the Filipinos together, something that the Filipinos will appreciate and which will be a compelling force and power in their inner selves to follow because there is no debate about the wisdom of the decision as represented by that symbol. I hope, ladies and gentlemen, that this symbol will be found someday. It is still a question, but let us look forward. Let us think and see if after we shall have been dead and forgotten, our children and the children of our children will find that occult power, that symbol which shall be the integrating force for all Filipinos.
Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library