Happy and free

Happy and free

Happy and free

Happy and free

By Jose Bayani Baylon

June 14, 2017

SO says the text on an Independence Day special edition mug issued by Bo’s Coffee for June 12. I smiled upon reading the text because I had some friends in mind who have chosen to remain free (and, they claim, happy) all their lives. (These are the ones who divide their friends by saying half are married and half are happy!) And then I started thinking about the country - and whether indeed Filipinos are happy and free. 

Out of curiosity I took a very unscientific survey - of six young Filipinos who represent some of the sustainability development goals of the UN. For their own sake I will hide their identities, but they were in Palawan recently to see for themselves the surface mining operations in Rio Tuba that earned praise from former DENR secretary Gina Lopez.

We were sharing a meal after their observation tour and while listening to their impressions of Rio Tuba I digressed and told them about the Bo’s Coffee mug. Are we happy and free?, I asked the millennials, which made them crease their brows and look at each other as they pondered their individual responses. I stirred the pot even more by asking: Do you think you would be in a happier state today if we were a State of the United States?

I noticed some hesitation in speaking up, and had to goad the most quiet among them to start the discussion. He said “Nationalistic fervor aside I guess my answer would be yes”, and his reply opened the floodgates for the others to answer. They now felt free - if not in fact happy - to admit that well maybe they would indeed be happier if by some quirk of history we had become the 50th or 51st State of the United States of America.

Imagine if that had happened. Donald Trump wouldn’t be President of the United States, I think. Ours would have been the most populous of all the 51 states and the one with the biggest number of electoral votes. There would have been, by now, a Fil-Am elected as President of the United States – and all around the White House you’d see very Philippine Islands souvenirs as a Last Supper wood carving and the “Weapons of Moro Land” wall decoration, with a huge wooden spoon and fork also in the main dining room. 

The national Christmas Tree would be up by September.

Imagine the Constitutional crisis that the President’s mother could provoke by insisting on an annual Marian celebration and the praying by the White House staff of the Holy Rosary for a whole week, kneeling before the image of the Virgin Mary in the middle of the East Room. Or plucking a Sto. Niño in a corner of the Lincoln Bedroom - at least a Sto. Niño dressed in the uniform of the Union soldiers to be politically correct.

Balut, sisig, and dinuguan would be served during White House State dinners. 

Malacañang in turn would become the official residence of the Governor of the State of the Philippine Islands. 

On a more serious note: Would China be daring to meddle in the South China/West Philippine Sea had we been a US state? Would the Maute brothers get as far as they have? Would North Korea point missiles out way? Would Hershey’s Kisses be cheaper? 

And in these islands we would be marking on June 12 the “Day of Insurrection” in the Philippine islands, with our history books teaching the next generation how silly those brown rebels were to even want to be apart from the great United States.

Oh well. How history both in these islands as well as in the continental United States would have changed! In the world as well. For better or worse is debatable, but changed for sure. 

Belated happy Independence Day to every freedom loving Filipino. And to those who truly believe we would have been better off as part of the United States, there’s always the immigration route, yes, even under Donald J. Trump.