Lag(g)ing Behind

A blogger friend has been running a mini series on the Filipino’s chronic social woes and what seems to be his inability to improve his condition. Another frustrated individual – but who could blame people for feeling down these days?

A notable novelist made a series of essays tackling the reason behind why we are poor. For the most part the old man was right, we have these “self defeating” traits that keeps us where we are, at the very bottom – cawawa, the old Tagalog word that best describes our predicament. But when the same novelist started to invade history in his quest for answers, the book became laughable. Let’s stop blaming the past shall we?

Some social scientist say that the people themselves, the Filipinos, is the problem. They say that we keep on shooting ourselves on the foot, that we are who we are, as one writer (Emerita Quito) points out it’s the “ambivalence of Filipino Traits and Character”, these according to the writer is the reason why were lagging behind. She weighted the pros and cons, trying to best describe the Filipino’s famous “ugali” and why it continues to work against him.

I really have no qualms with the analogy, a flawed character  would always be dethrimental. What has been said about some of our traits and character is true but what I don’t subscribe to is that these traits are the one to be blame, as if all these things uniquely belongs to our race. Quito’s list includes Hiya, Ningas Cogon, Pakikisama, Utang na Loob, Bahala na, Kasi (sisihan) to name a few from her essay.

What many forget is that a “Hiya” or say, “Pakikisama” also exist on other parts of the globe. Some of the most richest men in US history for example are the shyest people around, some celebrities even have insecurity issues – with all their money and beauty I’m not sure what’s there to feel insecure about. The “Pakikisama” on the other hand is not solely Pinoy, let’s look at the Italians, they are known for this trait, some even believe that it runs so deep in their culture that these was the reason why mafia flourished in their conservative society.

Lets look at this train we call the “padrino” system, is it Pinoy? No, even the mafiaso’s would be embarrassed to claim it as theirs but they have been known to carry it out just like all the grandfathered deals around the world – it’s not foreign, not Filipino either but some of us just enjoys claiming all defects as Filipino originals, clearly a not so good national mindset.

All of these so called traits and character are universal. Some points to the “ningas cogon” and “manana habit” as proof that Filipinos are often times lazy, as if we have the laziest people in the world! Just lookat some real time stats and one could see that the fattest nation (US) have the biggest economy and the second largest economy belongs to a nation so in love with making things small.

So why, some ask, are we the only ones in the world that have people peeing on the streets, violating traffic laws or throwing garbage in the estero? Why are we so undisciplined?

The simple answer is that our government tolerates such gross behaviour. I mean every nation has their share of punks, ours is increasing in number because our government is doing nothing, the difference is that some government has more political will than others.

The fact is that our government has gone soft on its overly sensitive citizens, a news crew reported that illegal vendors are being ‘violently’ removed, then came a Congressmen and traded blows with the government demolition crew, what does these shows us? – I mean, its a sad reality, never easy to watch but that’s why we have laws. Some people would be quick to say, “Mali ang gobyerno, dapat hayaan nila sila” or “dapat hanapan ng malilipatan yan, hindi basta-basta pinapaalis”, what if it’s your land being illegally squatted on? Would you still express this generous support?

The nations law protects its people, its designed to look after those who follows it, not the ones who don’t suppory it. Yes its tragic but then again it goes back to my point earlier, the leaders, what the hell are they in power for?

The most developed nation in South East Asia once had a problem, they were losing their greatest river to squatting and pollution, the leaders never waited for the people around the river to change and grow a conscience because if they did, the river would’ve be dead in a few years time. It only took them a few years to fix the problem, they have cleared the river of illegal structures, regulated boats and fined or imprison those who would be caught polluting the river. End of story, river’s alive – everybody’s happy, except of course for the violators.

The problem sometimes is that we see each other as the problem, that the Filipinos problem is because he is Filipino. We should look at what’s the “real” reason why we have this kind of country. We have great people, diverse and educated. The greatest resource of our land is our people and yet we see them go abroad in mass numbers, something that our government seems to welcome.

Some of the most successful story we hear are those coming from the OFW, some Filipinos made it big in the US, there was a governor, congressmen, mayors, entrepreneurs, artist and union leaders – endless list of accomplished Filipinos – they represent what we are capable of doing anywhere but here, even common folks that has been working as clerks and engineers, as cooks and seamen, they come home with good retirement money and with all their labour has sent apo’s, nephews, and brothers to good schools – have we ever wonder why a Filipino can do so much outside and so little inside his island?

Yes, of course the value of money makes all the difference. But isn’t this admitting that the country is not good enough for its people? that Filipino skills and talent is better utilized abroad? That other nation deserves Filipinos more than his home country where he seems to have no place?

We compliment these OFW’s by calling them bayani, because of their sacrifice, I say they are heroes indeed for some of them have already lost their heads (literally), suffered unbearable living conditions, some experienced descrimination, so that a country can grow its dollar reserves and by doing so, help the national economy, no wonder they’re the leaders heroes – more remittance the better say the government. What kind of a government would rather send professional abroad than have them serving their people? the remittance is a small picture solution weall know this but leaders would rather bet on it than having any long term project.

The people as I’ve said before on other foras is not the problem, we’re not at fault because we have “pakikisama”, “bahala na”, “ningas cogon” etc etc, believing that we have a monopoly on all these negative traits is being stupid. When we talk of Filipino’s we speak of a race that stood against the Spaniards, survived the Americans, fought the Japs, weathered dozens of coup de etat, deposed Marcos, survived countless natural calamities, dethroned Erap and now trying to live with GMA’s incompetency. Is this not an impressive fight record? Is there anything more we could ask from the Filipinos? Aside from being urged to learn skills so they can get employed elsewhere so they can send dollars?

They say people here are timid, that we’re not self starters, that we are lazy – I know for a fact these are gross generalization for the hardest working individuals I know are all Filipinos, here in abroad and back home. We never lack the genius also, we had some of the smartest inventors around, what happen to their inventions? That’s the million dollar question, one inventor said, “I wanted to sell this to an investor so it can be marketed in the US” – government help, anyone? This is the sad picture my friends, we have what it takes to make it, too bad we don’t have our leaders with us.

We fail to recognize the role of our leaders and how their inability to lead the nation has caused us a lot. We never had good governance, when we study Philippine government, the trend seems to be a familiar pattern, from bad to worst. Just look at Erap and GMA. We removed the corrupt and the one that succeded turns out to be worst.
These leaders do make good speeches but it has always been asking more sacrifice when we had already done our share, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”, but where is our government when we needed them?

News about the OFW’s just the other day, men sentenced to death without even having the benefit of an attorney courtesy of our embassy. The DFA cites the lack of fund but you have millions of tax money getting stolen by government officials. When it elections comes all the money seems so accessible but when Filipinos need them, all of a sudden its lacking.

Yes, Filipinos do possess some weak character, but its overrated – its not enough to be his downfall, its not the reason why were behind, we are at bottom because our leaders impeded our development by not having a genuine love for the Filipino.

If you’ve ever been in the US you’d understand why Filipinos are very productive there, because they can do all kinds of work normal Americans usually wouldn’t accept. So how is it that Filipinos are productive elsewhere, possessing strong work ethic and just as good as the citizens of the land they came to work for, when they too have this ‘Ugaling Filipino’?

What we need are leaders that can take us to the promise land. The kind of leader that can turn things around and make us a better people. Leaders inspires people – effective leadership that has its people in mind, like private business, an establishment needs to be efficiently run from top to bottom. We can give all the support, all the dollars to the motherland but if our leaders would not have us in mind, what’s going to happen?

So how do we break the cycle? if the leaders is the problem – how can we remedy the situation? Are these leaders a clear representation of who we  are as a people or we just haven’t been lucky getting the right ones? that we are indeed a corrupted society and that we could not change? borrowing from Carlito Brigante, “right or wrong” we can’t change, is this who we really are?

For now, there’s no other choice but to keep our faith, in God and ourselves. Just like a people waiting to be save, were on the look out for a Moises – or men that could take us to the promise land. Even the Jews needed a leader, being the chosen people was not enough.

Filipinos need to take care of their fellow Filipinos, I’ve seen this here abroad – I hope that our leaders would have the same commitment. We have given our share, we deserve better…


11 responses to “Lag(g)ing Behind

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