Brand X, Brand Y, Brand RP
Nationalism for me has always been a very difficult concept. How does one prove what it is in the first place? If a scholar defines nationalism and stands by it, how do I make sure he has been nationalistic for a good span in his life? How do I realize nationalism when the professors I listen to, the books I drill my brain into and the country I breathe unto altogether makes it all seem tolerable for me to lust for what is not Philippine-made, i.e. Snickers?
Speculations and academic debates have of course helped tweak my personal views on nationalism but they all seem to be, again, difficult. Interestingly, I can call myself nationalistic but at some point, one radical fellow might confront me with the imported items I already have.
But lately as it may seem more apparent than normal, nationalism has nudged itself towards public consciousness. It has outdone all other social principles such that for the purpose of this work, I’m calling it branded nationalism.
It’s All About the Brand
Branded nationalism is a grand-slam hit across the country just recently. Traditionally, the concept was just in line with pasalubongs like mugs, T-shirts and other handy merchandise (Read Ivy Andrada’s post here). Just think of those items where the first thing you could ever ponder as you fling from an out-of-town trip is displaying them on your living room or using them as gym clothes, respectively.
As branded nationalism evolved in the contemporary times-- more specifically during Jose Rizal’s 100th death anniversary-- more of our countrymen then saw that wearing an caricature of a heroic icon’s face was an expression of one’s ‘nationalism.”
And so did the entrepreneurs. Filipino clothing lines such as Collezione C2, Folded & Hung and Analog Soul have been modifying their designs in line with this craze. Eventually, the gimmick very much developed to the present period where I never fail to see on television the map of the entire Philippine archipelago sewn on some May 2010 candidate’s polo shirt.
Nationalism has indeed made people aware.
The Price we have to Pay
Which leads us to the next question: What does this tactic of branded nationalism make Filipinos aware of? The contributions heroes did and the pride that comes with it? Or the thinking that wearing nationalism literally gives one’s fashion statement an edge? Man, I’m making things more difficult than ever.
Jumes Putzel writes in his essay Social Capital and the Imagine Community that nationalism in the Philippines was never really scrupulous. “The ‘Filipino identity’ - to the extent that one can employ such a label to any society as collective identity is constantly in the process of change and reinvention,” he says.
Truly, I myself never saw nationalism would later become as branded as I could imagine the 1898 revolutionaries wearing the same clothes everyday. Now, the concept has risen up and it comes with a price tag.
I admit its being innovative. By “it” referring to the smart heads behind the industry of clothing and other lines who thought of eerily using the death anniversaries of known people, and the primary colors of the color wheel as an efficient marketing strategy.
Wendell Capili, an English professor and a popular culture expert from the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters says in an interview that “self-expression can be achieved in many ways [and these] clothes can be very strong statements.”
I believe though that self-expression through exterior projection is daring in the first place. But I don’t get why one’s individual sentiments judging from what he wears is now exactly the same with the strangers he sees on billboards.
Depends on the Purpose
The first people behind this “branding” may have the most immaculate intentions. If they, Capili adds, have made sure that these “emblems and colors are utilized to achieve a particular effect on citizens,” then they’re moving towards nationalistic.
Unfortunately when mass production and free market saw an opportunity, the event became a fad. A lot of this kind sprang from the woodwork. From ballers, to shoes to bags to caps-- they’re so many they’re eating each other out.
To be honest, I never had the goad to buy an item clearly suggesting that I’m Filipino or whatever symbolic message for that matter. I believe that nationalism, whatever theory one may have in mind, is still dependent on his contributory actions in his society. It’s a really difficult for me to even think of it, and even more difficult to practice it.
And so I often argue with people regarding this topic: I am unmistakably against selling people nationalism and likewise, showing it off to others without even rationalizing over it. I just hope that, in the middle of the mania, responsive action would race over the clothes people wear and not vice versa.