Book Review. Pook at Paninindigan: Mga Ugat ng Talastasang Sosyalista sa Rebolusyong Pilipino

Pook at Paninindigan: Mga Ugat ng Talastasang Sosyalista sa Rebolusyong Pilipino 
Ramon Guillermo Quezon City
Limbag Potopot and Amado V. Hernandez Resource Center (AVHRC) / 2000

The complex relationship between two “progressive perspectives” or “projects” – Marxism and the Pantayong Pananaw (PP, the “from-us-for-us” perspective) – is the subject of Ramon Guillermo’s new book. Although this engagement between a class and a “cultural” perspective was already evident during the 1896 revolution, in labor associations in the 1930s, and among nationalist academics in the 1970s, Guillermo’s is one of the first academic books to directly and purposively blend these two perspectives. It follows the author’s other timely attempts at a new, comprehensive, and in-depth inquiry into the engagement between Marxism and PP (1999; 2001; 2003), as well as works by Nancy Kimuell-Gabriel on slaves in Philippine history (1999; 2001) and Zeus Salazar’s translation of the Communist Manifesto (2000).

Guillermo’s book is an important addition to the development of both perspectives. Its value lies in its aim to “prove that socialist thought [in the Philippines] is rooted in people’s culture and to formulate an effective response to the criticism that socialism in the Philippines is a ‘foreign ideology.’” Its other goal is to “add to academic knowledge of the cultural character of Socialism and Marxism as a ‘foreign ideology’… [and] contribute to the promotion of a liberative ideology by involvement in the important arena of ideological struggle.”

Guillermo addresses these goals in the two major sections of his book. In “Pook” (Location), he examines the “most sophisticated and non-simplistic representations” of the ideological/intellectual position that dismisses Marxism as a “foreign ideology.” Guillermo decribes PP, which was started by Salazar (Navarro et al. 2000), as “one of the most serious and most ambitious projects aimed at understanding Filipino culture in the intellectual history of the Philippines.” Guillermo’s theoretical and methodological discussion of “people’s culture” as a way of understanding PP is extensive and multilayered. It avoids the problems of earlier reviews that were “uneven in their explications or were quick to dismiss it without closer investigation.” These conclusions often arose from associating PP with “intellectual production” of the “post-Marcos era” on the “local scene” (Abinales 2003 and 2004) or with “Philippine nationalist historiography” (Diokno 1997).

In the second section, “Paninindigan” (Standpoint), Guillermo focuses on literary works by Lope K. Santos (Banaag at Sikat [Light and Rays], Faustino Aguilar (Pinaghaluan [Admixtures]), and Amado V. Hernandez (Mga Ibong Mandaragit [Birds of Prey]). It is here that he determines the “elements of ‘indigenous’ culture in which one can root or ‘ground’ socialist thought” that is “external in origins.” This section also attempts to establish the “basis of the multifaceted structure of early socialist thought in the Philippines” and to deal with the “two antagonistic currents in the labor movement” – “yellow unionism” and “genuine unionism” – whose “confrontations continue to this very day.”

It is not difficult to read Guillermo’s book as “emerging from Pantayo,” as argued by an earlier reviewer (Asa 2002). This is also nothing new: earlier examinations had discussed “coming out of,” “going beyond,” or “incorporating” PP (Enriquez 1994; Llanes 1999). Guillermo’s book stands out, however, because he approaches the critique “not only ‘from the outside’ but also by drawing out the threads of its narrative” which “serve to underpin its explanatory strength.” He does this by unearthing the complex meanings of “people’s culture” and the concept of “inclusive we-us-ness” as “a totality-with-contradictions” through the prism of the Marxist notion of class struggle. In effect, he interrogates PP by insisting on a class standpoint.

The “emerging from Pantayo” standpoint is strengthened in his examination of the “early socialist literature” of Santos, Aguilar, and Hernandez, particularly as they relate to “international theorizing over the complicated relationship between Marxism and nationalism.” In the Philippines, the prevailing argument treats “indigenous pre-Marxist ideologies” and “peasant millenarian world views” as “handicaps” one must “transcend,” as Marxism’s “long-time enemies,” and “spectres that find ways to rise from the dead” (Asa 2002; Nemenzo 1984). Instead, Guillermo focuses on the comparabilities rather than the contradictions between “people’s culture” and Marxism.

As much as Guillermo wants to emphasize “emerging from Pantayo,” one can read the book as grounding itself within the perspective. This is evident in his discussion of works that “tease out” and “assign” meanings to terms like pag-aandukha [impoverishment], pag-aangkin [appropriate] and pagtatalaban [opposition] as they are articulated in everyday life (Alejo 1990; Ferriols 1991; Covar 1995). The book is an attempt both to engage Salazar, the main PP theorist, within Pantayo, as well as to enrich connections between the “socialist tradition” represented by Santos, Aguilar, and Hernandez and their communist counterparts Crisanto Evangelista, Luis Taruc, the Lava brothers, and Jose Ma. Sison.

Guillermo may not agree with this interpretation, but there is much in his book that confirms the grounding in a cultural or civilizational context of such diverse interactions as conflict-collaboration-association, coming together-comradeship-assimilation-connection, and difference-separation-incongruence-contradiction (Navarro 2000; 2001). This is equally confirmed by other authors: Torres-Yu (1993) looks at changes in Filipino civilization in terms of the “great cultural divide” that shapes “Filipino Cultural Discourse,” Aquino (1999) at the “union and interaction” of the “people” in a “Social Organization,” and Mendoza (1999; 2001; 2002) at “culture politics” and “culturalism’s intersection with the economic” in “unification” and “national discourse formation.

Salazar may still be unable to see the need for an intellectual to take a partisan position in favor of the oppressed, marginalized, and powerless, even in light of the strong role of the state in his discussions of nationalism and nationhood (Hau 2000a; 2000b). But it is a stance that other proponents of PP have already adopted (Kimuell-Gabriel 1999; 2001; Navarro 2000; 2001). As a peoples’ discourse, PP is neither “homogenous” nor a “monolithic system,” contrary to the earlier assertions of critics (Asa 2000; Diokno 1997). PP’s variability may enable Guillermo to recognize the ease with which one can imagine “Pantayo Marxism/Filipino Marxism” – an amalgamation for which Kimuell-Gabriel has repeatedly argued.

Whether it is “emerging from Pantayo” or “grounding itself within Pantayo,” this latest book constitutes a clear “Filipino contribution” to the discussion of the complex relationships between nationalism and Marxism. It is a contribution to both kadalumatang bayan (instruments of organizing knowledge based on the organization, totality, and capacity of a people) and kadalumatang makabayan (means of organizing knowledge with a partisan perspective or position favoring the promotion of the welfare, interests, and rights of the people) – ideas that Guillermo explored in his earlier “exposition, critique, and new directions for Pantayong Pananaw” (2003). Thus we are sure to see a fresh upsurge in debates between PP and Marxism, all leading to a nationalist Pantayo Marxism/Filipino Marxism that will be a much superior outlook to one that is simply Marxist.

Atoy Navarro
Atoy Navarro is lecturer at the  Department of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
University of the Philippines, Manila 

Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Issue 6 (March 2005). Elections and Statesmen


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