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Nation and Nationalism Defined in Philippine Context

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Whenever circumstances require, the Filipino nation tends to unify as one nation, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Interestingly, people know that they are part of a certain nation even if no one ever formally taught them about it. Wherever an individual goes, they know that they are part of one nation—in this case, the Filipino nation. Considering this, and given the diversity and differences among groups and communities within the Philippines, a question may be raised: what makes the Filipino nation a single nation?

The book entitled Imagined Communities, first published in 1983, is written by Benedict Anderson.

The book entitled Imagined Communities, first published in 1983, is written by Benedict Anderson.

What Is a Nation?

A nation is usually determined by a common race, ethnicity, origin, and cultural ties. However, considering where the word "nation" brought most of the nations existing today, it seems to have a deeper meaning than being determined by race, origin, ethnicity, and culture. In his book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson describes a nation as an "imagined community" that is both "real and fictional."

It is both real and fictional because, as he narrates it, we know that it exists, but we do not know where it begins or where it ends. He also states that the only way to approach the idea of a nation is by imagining it.

In addition, a nation is "imagined" because all members of a certain nation do not particularly know their fellow members—they don’t know their names, they may not have met each other at all, and they may not even know that each other exists. Yet they imagine that there is a tie that binds them together as one nation.

Nations start or occur when groups or communities possess "abstract solidarity," which makes people united and tied. To look further into this, let us explore the idea of the Filipino nation.

The Filipino Nation

In today’s political climate in the Philippines, Filipino citizens are mainly divided into two conflicting affiliations. Generally, there are pro-government and critics of the government.

Most Filipino citizens become part of one of the aforementioned affiliations due to their contrasting political opinions. Underneath this division, however, is most likely their collective desire for the betterment of their country, which is something that most countries strive for. As a nation, they are united through this collective desire.

Hence, a nation is a concept that arises from a mental characteristic among individuals, groups, and communities to which its members identify themselves as part of, rather than being a physical institution.

What Is Nationalism?

Whenever a nation is being discussed, the term "nationalism" is always tied to it. Nationalism is commonly defined as the attitude of loyalty towards one nation, which may include supporting the collective interests of the nation and fighting in the name of the nation. This is usually characterized by love for one’s nation.

Unfortunately, nationalism is not automatically present among all the members of a certain nation. For instance, although a group or community is driven by the same desire for a better condition for their nation, opposing groups within their own nation form due to different political opinions, motivations, and loyalties.

For example, there are groups that have their loyalty to the nation—continuously fighting for the people’s rights and for better conditions for their fellow citizens. While there are others who choose to be loyal to the state or government alone, which they thought they shared the same desire for, there are also others who are acting on behalf of their own loyalty to themselves.

This is present in the Philippines, even way back in its history. Since time immemorial, there have been Filipinos who fight for their nation and their rights against the colonizers and invaders, but there are also Filipinos who turn their backs and would rather choose to betray their own nation.

Similarly, the concept of nationalism is inextricably linked to narratives from the country's history, and how a large number of Filipinos with deep nationalism fought for the country and its sovereignty from the colonizers to the dark years of dictatorship.

Nationalism has been a huge part of Filipino history. It united thousands of Philippine islands, hundreds of languages, and diverse cultures and religious beliefs into a single Filipino nation.

With nationalism’s huge impact on the nation, does it mean that every act of nationalism should be similar to the actions of the known heroes? Should people be martyrs, die, or be executed to express their nationalism? Certainly not. The country is in an era when there are no physical wars, no dictatorships, and no direct colonization, but that does not mean that there is no oppression and injustice.

It should always be remembered that nationalism is characterized by one’s love for the country and nation—hence, love for fellow countrymen. One can express nationalism in many ways, such as by supporting the interests of the nation above others, standing up for other’s rights, and refusing to support oppression and injustice.

Words alone cannot measure nationalism. It takes genuine actions more than blank claims to express one’s nationalism. These acts of nationalism are what make a person nationalistic.

Since grade school, people have been taught about nationalism and how it shapes the Filipino nation, but not everyone grows to be nationalistic. Many may talk about nationalism with dignity, but not everyone has the qualities of a nationalist. Being nationalistic entails a genuine desire to act and express one's patriotism. Being nationalistic means doing even the simplest thing that one can do for the betterment of the nation.

Simple things add up and can result in huge outcomes. For instance, the biggest gesture of nationalism, apart from love, is showing respect towards one’s nation and the things that symbolize it—such as respect for one’s national flag, national anthem, and the country itself.

However, while nationalism is a positive trait to have, it should not be taken too far. Too much nationalism can result in negative outcomes, such as what happened with the Nazis.

The Philippine flag - a symbol of Filipino nation.

The Philippine flag - a symbol of Filipino nation.

Final Thoughts

A good example of instances when a nation's nationalism spikes is during a national crisis, such as a health crisis brought on by a pandemic, a security crisis, or a crisis brought on by a natural disaster. People tend to support their country and work together to help one another. However, events like a national crisis also tend to pave the way for the rise of different political opinions among Filipino citizens more than ever, in response to the actions taken by the government towards this certain crisis.

Neither a pandemic nor a natural disaster is a political crisis, but it can become one under certain conditions. Politics has always been everywhere, even during such crises. As members of one nation, one should not let bad politics sway their nationalism in different directions.

A nation is different from a state, and vice versa. However, nation and state can and should go hand in hand to achieve goals and meet the needs of the people. Bad politics can misalign the goals of the state with the needs of the nation.

Whether during a crisis or not, people should maintain their loyalty to their nation by prevailing and practicing nationalism.


Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. Verso.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 JC Guiao