Pliant Like The Bamboo Ismael V. Mallari There is a story in Philippine folklore about a mango tree and a bamboo tree. Not being able to agree as to which was stronger of the two, they called upon the wind to make the decision. The winds blew its hardest. The mango tree stood fast. It would not yield. It knew it was strong and sturdy. It would not sway. It was too proud. It was too sure of itself. But finally, its roots gave way, and it tumbled down. The bamboo tree was wis er. It knew it was not as robust as the mango tree.
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And so every time the wind blew, it bent its head gracefully. It made loud protests, but it let the winds have its way. When finally the wind got tired of blowing, the bamboo tree still stood in all its beauty and grace. The Filipino is like the bamboo. He knows that he is not strong enough to withstand the onslaughts of superior forces. And so, he yields. He bends his head gracefully with many loud protests. And he has survived. The Spaniards came and dominated him for more than three hundred years.
And when the Spaniards left, the Filipinos still stood only much richer in experience and culture. The Americans took the place of the Spaniards. They used more subtle means of winning over the Filipinos who embraced the American way of life more readily that the Spaniards’ vague promise of the hereafter. Then the Japanese came like a storm, like a plague of locusts, like a pestilence rude, relentless and cruel. The Filipino learned to bow his head low to “cooperate” with the Japanese in their “holy mission of establishing the Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Filipino had only hate and contempt for the Japanese, but he learned to smile sweetly at them and to thank them graciously for their “benevolence and magnanimity. ” And now that the Americans have come back and driven away the Japanese, Filipino have been loudest in their protestations of innocence. Everything is as if Japanese had never been in the Philippines. For the Filipino will welcome any kind of life that the gods offer him. That is why he is contented, happy and at peace. The sad plight of other peoples of the world is not his. To him, as to that ancient Oriental poet, “The past is already a dream and omorrow is only a vision but today, well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow, a vision of hope. ” In like manner, the Filipino regards the vicissitudes of fortune as the bamboo tree regards the angry blasts of the blustering wind. The Filipino is eminently suited to his romantic role. He is slender and wiry, He is nimble and graceful in his movements. His voice is soft, and he has the gift of languages. In what other place in the world can you find people who can carry on a fluent conversation in at least three languages?
This gift is another means by which the Filipino has managed to survive. There is no insurmountable barrier between him and any of the people who have come to live with him – Spanish, Americans, Japanese. The Foreigners do not have to learn his language. He easily manages to master theirs. Verily, the Filipino is like the bamboo tree. In its grace, in its ability to adjust itself to the peculiar and inexplicable whims to fate, the bamboo tree is his expressive and symbolic national tree. It will have to be, not the molave nor the narra, but the bamboo.