THERE is a particular characteristic about the Philippines that runs through this society. Perhaps even as much as the majority of Filipinos are connected by blood, marriage, affinity such as school or profession, and geography.
Filipinos lay claim to their provincial roots even after generations removed. Ask someone what province they are from. The answer might be “My father is from Pangasinan and mother is from Cebu.” Then you know you are speaking with a Manileno who was probably bred, born and raised in the area and who has most likely never lived outside of the National Capital Region.
In some way the nation is like a village. Living in a village has its own qualities. Most everyone knows or at least knows of each other. There is a sense of community where distant strangers are willing to help in times of calamity and trouble. There are shared experiences and shared memories. Outsiders may be welcomed but there is an underlying and lingering suspicion of motives and intent.
However, village life can also have a dark side illustrated in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in Verona, Italy. The play opens with a street fight between the servants of two important families—the Montagues and Capulets—who are sworn enemies. In a village, this type of situation can force outsiders to “take sides” even when they have no familial connection to either part of the feud.
You can do business with one family or the other but not with both. Battle lines are drawn by geography and even color. The Los Angeles street gang known as the “Crips” wear blue clothing; their bitter rivals—the “Bloods”—wear red. The two factions dominate the village. It seems as if every issue must be divided along loyalty to one side or the other.
The Philippines seems to move closer and closer toward the hostilities of Verona or the streets of Los Angeles where there is little rational discussion and none without the prejudice of one group or the other. This can be found in the latest controversy over the naming of the major gateway to the Philippines, the airport in Manila.
While most global airports are named after the destination city or country, some are named after a person. There is the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, both named after founders of the nation. Rome, Italy’s airport is named after Leonardo da Vinci and Liverpool, England, named its airport after its most favorite son John Lennon.
The naming of every public facility is political. LaGuardia Airport in New York City was named after the man who was mayor when the airport was built.
The renaming of our airport to “Ninoy Aquino International Airport” may have been made to honor Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. But, perhaps, more important than the honor was that the name became a constant reminder of his murder on August 21, 1983. Regardless of who the perpetrators might have been, the event itself was a decisive event in Philippine history that cannot be forgotten.
But the political implications of the name change then and great furor over the consideration of another name change now is not good for the nation and that is what should be the priority.
The facility that saw all the space flights leading to putting a man on the moon, an initiative of US President John F. Kennedy, was renamed from “Cape Canaveral”—the name of a nearby town—to “Cape Kennedy” after his assassination. After 10 years, the name was changed back to Cape Canaveral.