Great Expectations

Five years ago, when the Philippines had just elected our incumbent president, our people were optimistic that things in our country would change for the better. The Inquirer printed an editorial expressing that sentiment and entitled it “Great Expectations”.

I wrote the paper a letter which I did not expect them to print but I thought the editors could use it for possible topics of their future editorials.

I post that letter here because I think these points are still valid or applicable at present not only for the Philippines but perhaps for other places.

I once more ask the forgiveness of my countrymen for bringing up some of our defects. My intention is good: so that we change for the better.

Here is the letter:

Last September 1 you published an editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer about “Great Expectations”. You are right in saying that we tend to think that things will change once we have a new President who is doing things very differently compared to previous presidents. Change does not happen overnight And change has to happen in every Filipino if we want our nation to develop and occupy a place in the world stage. We tend to rely too much on government. It is true that the government has a crucial role to play in national development. But the hard work necessary to bring the country forward has to be done by each and every one in the place where he or she may be.

In line with this, I think your editorials have a great role to play in shaping the changes necessary in Filipino culture so that our nation develops. I suggest you publish editorials giving lines of positive action for Filipinos to become better citizens and begin correct the defects we all can see in our culture.

These are a few examples:

1) When something goes wrong, we’re good at finger pointing and blaming, but we don’t find out how to solve our problems and put closure to them. Perhaps we must find out the true causes of our blunders and take the right steps to fix them and avoid them in the future.

2) The “crab mentality”: we tend to put others down so as to prop ourselves up. We lack a sense of national unity: that we are in this boat together; if it sinks we all sink. We tend to be divisive, or tribal. The only way to develop is to put our act together.

3) We don’t have a sense of history. We easily forget what we should not forget. Because we don’t have this kind of memory, we forget our past mistakes and we fall again into the same trap. Perhaps our feature articles, movies or tv programs can highlight real deeds done by real people so that we remember the good things and be inspired to do them.

4) We tend not to have high standards for our work: this is the “pwede na ‘yan” mentality. Can our Sarao jeep compete with a BMW in the world market?

5) We tend to have a small town or parochial mentality. Rarely has the Filipino undertaken huge projects. Our big enterprises have “foreign” blood: Sy, Tan, Gokongwei, Ayala.

6) We tend to be “superficial”. What matters a lot to us is how we are perceived, the looks, the externals (a nice house, a pretty face, curvaceous bodies, flashy car, etc.) We fail to realize that what is essential is invisible to the eye.

7) We want to easy way and the fast buck: just think of the long lines at the lotto and the huge crowds at Wow-wow-wee. To grow and develop, we need to save and work hard.

8) We tend to be long-suffering: tiis ng tiis na lang before we do something about our problems. We have the same streets flooded every year and new ones get flooded. We have the same traffic jams and they get worse. Many times the solutions require constant effort (cleaning the sewers, dredging the creeks, fixing traffic lights, catching the offenders), but we’re not good at this.

9) We have a poor appreciation of our worth as persons. A simple sign of this is the way we do not maintain our public toilets or bathrooms. Just compare our toilets with those of developed countries. Our bathrooms are worthy of pigs, not persons. In developed countries, the cars slow down when they approach pedestrian lanes. Here the pedestrians have to watch out for their lives.

10) We don’t have a culture of maintaining the good state and repair of things. We put up a public building and that will remain untouched or unmaintained until it collapses. They say it’s because we are poor and we don’t have the money. I don’t think so: if we work and look for the money to fix things, we will not be poor.

11) We have a sub-culture of “silence”. We’d rather not talk and tell a person the truth than tell the person the truth and in the process hurt his feelings. We don’t know how to take criticisms well. We always think they are personal affronts. Sometimes, the offended will hit back with a bullet.

12) About the truth, it is so difficult to find out the truth in our country. The typical word is deny: deny, deny, deny. No one admits he has cheated the wife or the nation. The Good Lord said, “The truth will set you free.”

These are just examples. I’m sure you know many more. I just hope that your editorials can serve as little sparks that may ignite a big conflagration of national change and renewal.

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