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Monday, September 29, 2014

Filipinos need to end their love affair with mediocrity and 'pwede na yan' mentality

My views are not very popular with Filipinos. I guess it’s partly my fault because I like posting topics that some might consider taboo and boring. But it’s not like I discuss religion or make fun of other people’s religious beliefs. Granted, I like talking about Philippine politics and society in general but I really think it’s time majority of Filipinos stopped pretending that things are going to be okay as long as we all maintain a “positive” outlook and be “hopeful”. Sadly, there is nothing to hope for if there is hardly anything being done to fix the country’s problems that keep coming up year after year. Flooding, anyone?
Unfortunately, most Filipinos would rather see the bright side of things probably because the reality tends to put them in a bad mood. They hold on to the old notion — the cliché of always seeing the glass half-full. They think people who highlight what is wrong with Filipino culture are being “negative”. Well, think again. Filipinos can try and pretend things are okay only until the next disaster strikes the country. That’s when people realize again that the country does not have the resources to save its citizens and has to seek help from overseas.
Poverty remains a pressing national issue 30 years after 'people power' supposedly won.
Poverty remains a pressing national issue 30 years after ‘people power’ supposedly won.
The problem is, it’s been three decades since former President Ferdinand Marcos dubbed “the dictator” was ousted from power, and yet the Philippines has remained backward in a lot of ways. The fact that most Filipinos still can’t be vocal about their views on important issues plaguing the nation is proof that 30 years after democracy was supposedly “restored”, majority of us are still afraid to speak out. It seems Filipinos are afraid of retribution from the powerful if they spoke out against political corruption and cronyism.
Filipinos in general just don’t like talking about what they consider to be unpleasant things. It seems they can’t handle the truth. As James Fallows puts it in his seminal article A Damaged Culture:
The Filipino ethic of delicadeza, their equivalent of saving face, encourages people to raise unpleasant topics indirectly, or, better still, not to raise them at all.
I just can’t get over the fact that it’s been 30 years since James Fallows wrote that observation about us but not much has changed. Most Filipinos to this day still frown upon those who criticize Filipino public servants and our own shortfalls. It could be because a lot of Filipinos treat their public servants like celebrities despite their incompetence. A classic example of this is the incumbent President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino who is still revered by many despite proof that he is also one of the most corrupt public official in the land. He is revered for the single reason that he is the son of so-called “heroes” Cory and Ninoy Aquino. It’s so bizarre especially since the Edsa “People Power” revolution’s only real legacy is the continued disregard for the rule of law.
Over at the Inquirer, someone by the name of Billy A. Chan wrote an article that hits the right notes — that is, if you are into empty platitudes. If you are, you will surely like his piece titled, I love this country. Apparently, if you believe Chan, just saying “I love this country and everything about it” will make life easier for the average Filipino.
I noticed that Chan’s article is short on specifics. He is of the belief that “there will be so much change if we love instead of hate.” It’s not clear how he expects change to happen just by “loving” but it is clear that he is very good at tuning out the bad bits about the Philippines.
Let’s start from the beginning. Chan wrote: “I love that there are still public servants who are sincere and genuine in fulfilling their duties as elected officials.” If I may ask, which elected public servant was he talking about? I wish he named at least one so we could look up his track record and see for ourselves if this “sincere and genuine” elected public servant really exists.
Chan also made a big deal of people who bother to go to the polls “just to cast their votes for the candidates they think they deserve.” Hmm…Let me see, a non-performing senator won the 2010 Presidential Election and the one who came second and almost won again was convicted plunderer former President and now Mayor Joseph Estrada. Obviously, a lot of those who do go to the polls don’t choose wisely. I do commend those who refuse to sell their votes, indeed. Unfortunately, there seems to be more voters who do sell their votes compared to those who don’t.
I don’t know how old Chan is but he gave this impression that typhoon Yolanda was the first devastating typhoon that ever struck the Philippines:
I love how this country produced thousands of leaders after Typhoon “Yolanda/Haiyan” devastated parts of the Visayas. I love how Filipinos have realized the importance of mangroves along coastlines, which saved hundreds of lives from the deadly storm surges unleashed by Yolanda. I love how natural calamities make Filipinos aware of the extreme effects of climate change and push them to implement measures to protect themselves and the environment.
The country gets visited by at least 20 typhoons every year. Yolanda may have been the strongest in recent times, but the country’s other devastating typhoon Sendong in 2011 or the ones before that should have made Filipinos “realize the importance of mangroves along coastlines” already. Obviously, the previous disasters have not pushed Filipinos enough to “implement measures to protect themselves and the environment”. It remains to be seen if Filipinos did learn from Yolanda and are more prepared for the next typhoon.
Filipinos are not a 'race'. How many times does that need to be said?
Filipinos are not a ‘race’. How many times does that need to be said?
Chan claims to love how “we are still a proud and strong race.” First of all, somebody ought to tell him that the concept of race has already been debunked. Instead of referring to us as a Filipino “race”, he should use Filipino ethnicity. Researchers have agreedthat races do not exist and that the concept of race “was socially constructed, arising from the colonization of the New World and the importation of slaves, mainly from western Africa”. Second, we don’t need to be a proud people just to get respect. Rather, we need to be more humble and stoic while working hard to build our country from the ground up especially since there’s still so much work to be done before we can be truly independent.
One can be forgiven for thinking that Chan may have been smoking something illegal when he wrote the article. He just loves everything that rational folks absolutely hate having to put up with. He loves riding in the cramped trains, loves standing on the bus, he loves to endure endless traffic, making detours and seeing the roads that are under repair. He is even willing to to pay more for the experience. What a guy! No wonder our public servants do not feel the need to improve the appalling conditions in the country.
A lot of Filipinos don’t realize that Chan’s over-enthusiasm for mediocrity is part of the reason things don’t improve in the Philippines. It’s the pwede na yan or “that’ll do” mentality at work. Is he expecting Filipinos to just accept the cramped conditions on public transport? I almost fainted when I rode the MRT in the middle of the day. That wasn’t even peak hour.
Colossal loss of productivity and shrinking bottom lines from a business perspective
Colossal loss of productivity and shrinking bottom lines from a business perspective
Will people like Chan frown on those who demand that the Department of Transportation and Communications do something to ease the congestion and overcrowding on trains? Is it too much to ask for an upgrade on the facilities and infrastructure on public transport? I don’t think so. Chan also does not see things from a business point of view. The economy suffers huge productivity losses and inefficiency as a result of traffic congestion. Only when Filipinos stop accepting mediocrity will things improve.
Chan also commended “brilliant” Filipinos who stay in the country. While I do agree that brain drain is cause for concern for the country, Filipinos who choose to leave the country for lack of better opportunity and recognition in their homeland should not be treated as outcasts or regarded as “unpatriotic”. He can even ask former PAGASA employees why they left.
Migration is not a phenomenon unique to Filipinos. Some folks are just wired to seek adventure elsewhere for a sea change or tree change. In fact, those who choose to live in another country can share the knowledge they learn from their adopted country with their compatriots. Filipinos in the Philippines just have to be more open to suggestions from people who have been exposed to progressive thinking.
Likewise, Filipinos who choose to stay in the Philippines do not have a monopoly on patriotism. They just have their own reasons for staying. Some just prefer to stay because of all the perks of living among family and friends and having cheap servants. Not all of them share their “skills and talent”. I know some who don’t even work and are just slacking off.
Chan also painted such a rosy picture of the overseas foreign workers’ (OFWs) plight.
I love it when mothers and fathers who need to work abroad take pains to explain to their children the reasons for their temporary absence. I love it when these parents, the country’s modern-day heroes, come home for good to resume family life, having saved enough for themselves and their loved ones.
Unfortunately, not all families whose loved ones had to go abroad for work have a happy ending. Some of the kids who were left behind by their OFW parents grow up without a mother or father figure to look up to. Their parents weren’t there on important events and milestones. When they come back, they are often estranged from the very people they financially supported from thousands of miles away.
A lot of these OFWs do not earn a lot from their jobs as domestic workers and fail to save money. Years after toiling abroad, they don’t even have a job they can come back to. This is a result of the government’s bad economic policies since the 1970s that made the country too dependent on OFW remittances to stimulate the economy. This is something that Chan needs to highlight if he truly wants “change”. Writing his representative in congress to do something about the plight of the OFWs is more productive than mouthing off “I love” platitudes.
Filipinos can’t just say, “they love everything about the Philippines” and expect things to improve. It won’t happen unless they do something about it. Demanding for change from their elected public servants is a good first step instead.
And Filipinos who express their “hate” of our culture of mediocrity don’t necessarily hate the Philippines. They just want the best for the country.
Image courtesy Jerry Ocampo.
Image courtesy Jerry Ocampo.


In life, things are not always what they seem.

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