A case for Pan-Malayan unity by Wenceslao Q. Vinzons
The cyclic rise and fall of people in Providence’s immutable nomination. The crumbling ruins of castle walls and the struggling remnants of once powerful empires bear witness to this divine law. In a vain attempt to attain immortality, man has transmitted through the memory the storied splendors of by-gone civilizations. He clutches with the instinct of life at the barest threads linking his inglorious present with his glorious past. He lives over the conquests and wars of his ancestors, and in the tremulous fancy of his imaginings invests himself with the pretensions of greatness. He reconstructs in his mind the wisdom of his sires. He sets himself to the task of recreating the civilization that was prompted by this inexhaustible source of inspiration effects the redemption of his race.
In our struggle for emancipation from foreign control, during the centuries that our nationality has been repressed, our political outlook was circumscribed by narrow national boundaries. Towards the waning years of the regime of Spain, our enlightened patriots reconstructed our history and envisioned for us a future. We broke ourselves as a nation united by the bond of common traditions. Thirty years we have devoted for the strengthening of that bond. For thirty years, by the development of means of communication, the establishment of schools, the growth of commerce and trade, and exploitation of natural resources, we have nurtured our national consciousness until we have forged ourselves into a people that would rise and fall together through all the ages to come. But in the thirty years that we have grappled with internal problems, events have transpired in international relations which we, ignorant of their significance, have failed to notice. We do not comprehend the recurring changes in the evolution of nations which have transformed the Pacific Ocean into a vast stage of the world’s unfolding drama. The destiny of the nation and of the allied races in the oceanic islands is inextricably linked with these world affairs, in this stupendous political readjustment now beginning in the Far East. At this stage of our national history, let us, by expanded ambitions, prepare for ourselves a place of eminence and leadership in the world’s great hereafter.
Picture in your minds, ladies and gentlemen, an immense body of water extending mile after mile between four continents and connected with the rest of the globe by the eddying currents to waters equally vast. Place on this limitless expanse tiny points hardly perceptible to the eye, and surround it with great land masses and high mountains which stupefy even you, their own creator. Put on each diminutive isle small brown peoples hardly aware of the magnitude of creation about them, ignorant of when and whence they come, laboring like beasts for alien masters, without ambitions–therefore without a future. Then conceive for the surrounding masses countless millions of hardy, ambitious men, proud of a glorious history, scheming for world conquests, and looking with the hungry eyes of the panther at the helpless humanity in the ocean midst. And you, ladies and gentlemen, have the Pacific Ocean of the twentieth century, the center of activity, commercial and political, the crossroads where the conflict of nations rages in all its fury.
We are in a situation where we cannot disentangle ourselves from Asiatic complications. With the benign protection of the United States, we have been kept away from the conflict. But we indulge in self-deception when we ignore our inability to resist aggression; we jeopardize the interests of posterity when we fail to prepare for their defense; we invoke eternal curse on our heads when we continue in a policy of isolation contrary to the normal course of events. For the same power which has kept away from Oriental entanglements may, by its growing interest in the Sino-Japanese imbroglio, precipitate us into the conflict. We hear the din of revolution. The teeming masses, from the Himalayas to the China Coast, are shaking the foundation of the old order of things forging ahead in humanity’s march toward the millenium. Three hundred million Indians have hoisted the standard of revolt to wrest their government from foreign control. They have cast aside all differences, and identified themselves in a common cause. China, with her colossal proportions, with her four hundred million inhabitants, and her vast welath in natural resources is redeeming herself from the chaos of civil war. Imperialistic Japan is making her last bid for Asiatic leadership. If she succeeds in her Manchurian venture, she will have the Orient at her feet and the ocean for her dominion. Failing in this, she will cast her eyes to the south and mark for her only possible preys the weak and disunited oceanic islanders, the small brown peoples living in a hundred thousand islands from the rugged shores of Madagascar to the beetling crags of Easter Island.
I have portrayed for you, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, our national dilemma. We cannot ignore the magnitude of this problem. We are situated where shot and hell will rain the hardest in a Pacific war. We are impotent by reason of our number and our lack of means of protection and defense. With the instinct of the man in the last death throes with the waves, we look in the waters around us. We recall stray hits of historical knowledge which have trickled down through the years. Was there not in some distant past a race of Malayan Vikings? Were they not rulers of the seas and of the emerald isles, renowned for political genius? Did they not distinguish themselves by their dauntlessness in war and their achievements in peace? These recollections remind us of the possibility of the establishment of a nation that would consolidate a hundred million peoples into a Republic of Malaysia.
But the Malays have slept the sleep of the condemned. Not for one, nor for centuries, but for what seems an eternity. Their origin is shrouded in mystery. They only have a tradition of having come from the sea. A fantastic though not improbable theory would make the Malays the inhabitants of a great continent in the present ocean basin which sunk countless ages ago. They have with them the remnants of a once advanced civilization; they possess a highly developed language more widely-spread than those of the Greeks and the Romans. One would establish an affinity among the American Indians, Polynesians, and Malays, and striking similarities in language, traditions of a home in the sea and general dispersion, physical conformation and general character would seem to support the theory. It is not groundless to conclude that that these races are probably allied and at a period beyond the recollection of man shared a common home. But when the ocean waters submerged their continent, when the dreamy slumber of primeval ages overpowered all signs of activity, they slowly went down in the scale of civilization. More united racially than either the Indians or the Chinese, yet they have not formed a powerful modern state. Originally one in tongue; now they speak a confusion of dialects. Self-centered in their philosophy, repressed by long isolation, unmindful of their brilliant history, they have failed to conceive the dream of a free United State, of a redeemed Malaysia.
Our racial history is marked by the occasional display of the genius of remote ancestors. Under the influence of Hindu culture, the Shri-Visayan empire consolidated a vast territory from Formosa to Ceylon, and embracing to the south Java and the Moluccas. The magnificent edifices in Sumatra and the palaces of Angkor Thom are eternal monuments of its grandeur. In the wake of the Shri-Visayan empire, followed the more extensive conquests of the kingdom of Majapahit. Malayan soldiers fought against the hordes of Kublai Khan and founded a settlement in distant places. The Polynesians, too, have had their day of nation-building, and when the white man came with his Bible and rum bottle, he found in nearly every island an organized government. Hawaii had a constitution ever since Captain Cook abused Hawaiian hospitality. Fiji, Tahiti, and Samoa each had a stable government before the advent of missionaries. The Malays of Madagascar had consolidated themselves into a powerful kingdom and had established more churches than were found in Paris when a French man-of-war annexed the territory in the name of Catholic France. But the white man with his flaunted principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, suppressed native governments and substituted therewith foreign rule. While preaching a religion of peace, he introduced muskets and dynamite; intent upon the promotion of human happiness, he has met native resistance with fire and sword, depopulating villages with warships and canons. He has tried to eradicate all vestiges of the natives’ past and unduly emphasize the grandeur of his own.
By maintaining our individuality against the successive impacts of physical and cultural invasions, we have evolved into a race well-fitted for self-government and state-building. We have a splendid heritage of sufferings and persecutions under alien rulers; a heritage of the best of Western religion and thought superimposed on the best traditions and customs of the East. Add to these advantages our generous endowments from nature; the fertile lands which await the hands of the toiler; our mines of gold, coal, and iron ore which at present are more industrial potentialities rather than concrete wealth. A unified Malaysia extending from the northern extremity of the Malay Peninsula to the shores of New Guinea, from Madagascar to the Philippines and to the remotest islands of Polynesia, will be a powerful factor in the oceanic world. Such an achievement will vindicate us from the contumely of alien peoples. It will belie the charge that we are densely incapable of organization, a race devoid of the genius of government, averse to hard labor and industrious habits, improvident and indolent in disposition, fond of cockfighting and childish sports, inveterately addicted to gambling, and altogether lacking those qualities which are indispensable to a people that would rise to a place of responsibility in the great family of nations.
The plan which I propose to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is not entirely of a novel impression. It was the original state before the home of our civilized ancestors was swallowed by the waves. It was executed in a way when the Shri-Visayan and Madjapahit empires ruled the sea. It was the proposed by the Hawaiian parliament in 1879 and conceived in 1898 by Apolinario Mabini in his idea of a “Federacion Malaya.”
The gods release a challenge to the teeming millions of Malaysia. It finds echoes in the only Malayan state of Siam, is transmitted throughout the Straits Settlements, coursing with greater intensity among Pacific Islands. It found expression when the Javanese resisted Dutch arbitrary rule in the Moluccas; when the Chief Tamasese of Samoa dared an English firing squad; when the Philippines revolted against Spain and resisted American invasion. It will likewise find expression, when we shall extend our vision beyond our territorial boundaries, when every Malay nation will raise itself from its local peculiar interests, when every islet will resound with the hymns of glories of forgotten empires; when we in the vision of United State work in concert to adopt a common language and overcome our frailties, so that by our renewed racial vitality we may give birth to a new nationalism, that of Malaysia redeemed.
As I impart to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, the burden of my message, I feel that a shadow of doubt has crossed your minds. You must have shaken your heads in unbelief in a dream which because of the immensity of its proportions seem to defy reality; which by reason of its magnitude seems to be preposterous and absurd; which by its strange advocacy of the union of far distant peoples lost in the vastness of the ocean expanse, may for a moment be considered as highly improbable project. But your answer to this challenge will be your verdict on the capacity of your race for civilization, and your vision of a redeemed Malaysia will be the salvation of your posterity.