Disciples of Discipline

I’m posting a letter I wrote to the Inquirer which they printed April 13, 2016.

This refers to the Inquirer editorial on the fires that hit Mt. Apo (“Mt. Apo in flames,” Opinion, 4/3/16). Although the article focused on the incident of the forest fire possibly caused by some campers, it also mentioned the lack of care for the environment arising from the lack of discipline of climbers: “In 2014, for example, climbers left 2.6 tons of garbage—discarded food wrappers, empty water bottles, cigarette butts, even sanitary napkins, all non-biodegradable—for volunteers to gather and dispose of.”

Some 40 or so years ago, a slogan was composed aimed at encouraging people to bring about some changes in our society: Para sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan! (For the country to develop, we need discipline!) As a student then in high school, I thought that motto was very relevant. At present, I think it still is. I think we still need to realize how discipline is very necessary for our nation to develop.

Every day as I go out, I see so much garbage in gutters and sewer holes, and I ask myself: Why don’t people throw them in the right places? As I go through the traffic of the city, I ask myself: Why don’t these drivers follow the lines (they go counterflow, thus exacerbating traffic jams). As I read news about a container van truck falling on its side on a curve, I ask: Why didn’t the driver decrease his speed at the curve? When I read about a boat sinking because it was over-loaded, I ask: Why didn’t the captain observe the load limits? The list of indiscipline can go on.

Many of the accidents, woes and calamities we suffer are caused by our own lack of discipline: our not observing the rules, making shortcuts and haste, lack of thought, lack of foresight, taking the easy way out, selfishness, and so forth. Discipline is defined by Webster as: training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

Discipline begins with correct thinking. Then a determined will must follow the correct way of acting that was conceived. As the definition states, it hones the mind and the character. It makes for personal and national development.

Though it seems that we Filipinos are not like the Japanese or the Germans who are known for order and discipline, I think we can and should learn and practice it. Over the past 40 years, I’ve noticed much progress in this field: people queuing patiently for public transportation, more efficient office bureaucracies, successful businesses and enterprises, to name some examples. But if we want to continue improving our lives, we must observe discipline consistently and in even more instances of our personal and social lives.


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