Land of Bondage, Land of the Free
By Raul Manglapus
And yet gentlemen, the tao is constitutionally free. No wonder, then that the tao, being a slave, has acquired the habits of a slave. No wonder that after three centuries in chains, without freedom, without hope, he should lose the erect and fearless posture of the freeman, and become the bent, misshapen, indolent, vicious, pitiful thing that he is! Who dares accuse him, who dares rise up in judgment against this man, reduced to this sub-human level by three centuries of oppression. The tao does not come here tonight to be judged — but to judge! Hear then his accusation and his sentence:
I indict the Spanish encomendero for inventing taxes impossible to bear.
I indict the usurer for saddling me with debts impossible to pay.
I indict the irresponsible radical leaders who undermine, with insidious eloquence, the confidence of my kind in our government.
You accuse me of not supporting my family. Free me from bondage, and I shall prove you false.
You accuse me of ignorance. But I am ignorant because my master finds it profitable to keep me ignorant. Free me from bondage, and I shall prove you false.
You accuse me of indolence. But I am indolent not because I have no will, but because I have no hope. Why should I labor, if all the fruits of my labor go to pay an unpayable debt. Free me from bondage, and I shall prove you false.
Give me land. Land to own. Land unbeholden to any tyrant. Land that will be free. Give me land for I am starving. Give me land that my children may not die. Sell it to me, sell it to me at a fair price, as one freeman sells to another and not as a usurer sells to a slave. I am poor, but I will pay it! I will work, work until I fall from weariness for my privilege, for my inalienable right to be free!
BUT IF YOU WILL NOT GRANT ME THIS … If you will not grant me this last request, this ultimate demand, then build a wall around your home … build it high! … build it strong! Place a sentry on every parapet! … for I who have been silent these three hundred years will come in the night when you are feasting, with my cry and my bolo at your door. And may God have mercy on your soul!
Note: When I was a teen-ager at the Ateneo this was one of the most popular elocution pieces that we delivered during auditions. Until now i recite lines of this essay written by one of the most eloquent Atenistas I know, Senator Raul Manglapus.