MANILA, OCTOBER 13, 2003 (STAR) LIVING ALIVE By Dero Pedero  - Economic poverty corrupts the body; moral poverty corrupts the soul. – Rajarishid

Many people are out-raged at what has been happening in the Philippines lately. Some are disgusted, others feel insulted and violated. Some don’t know any better and feel that it is all a part of the daily carnival, many are disillusioned and have lost hope in the government. I know of at least two disgruntled people who want to change their nationality. Others, like myself, don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The series of news recently hogging the headlines have been so contemptible and ridiculous. There is a smorgasbord of political dung slinging, graft and corruption as well as money laundering exposés that never seem to end (yet no one ever gets convicted!), malicious character assassination, despicable crimes (think unsolved mysteries like Nida Blanca’s murder), and domestic affairs blown out to gargantuan national concerns.

Harvest Time

Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, knew about what was happening from the very start. He termed it "social cancer" and the same malignant growth that afflicted the Philippines during the Spanish era has today developed into a full-blown disease of lethal proportions.

We are harvesting what we have been planting in the consciousness of our people though the years. We have glorified crime and violence in our movies and filled our newspapers and media with daily reportage of lawbreakers’ activities. We’ve had our fill of gun-toting brown cowboys who look more ridiculous than those spur-booted dudes in old spaghetti westerns. There was a time when we had massacre movies one after another and producers even flaunted their box-office gains.

The bomba (porno) movies of the ‘60s till the early ‘80s certainly molded the malleable minds of the youthful viewers of that era. Just going through the titles of Filipino movies (even those released as late as last year) would make you want to throw up. The sordid double entendres are just too lewd and too repulsive.

Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten to balance bad news with truly good news. We were conditioned to believe that evil is the way of the world. That killing and lawlessness are glamorous and macho. And who wouldn’t? After all, Nardong Putik and Asiong Salonga plus many more crime and massacre characters became movie titles.

The Corrupt Way Of Life

Lagay (bribery) is now an institution in both private and government offices. The once catchy slogan "Magsaysay (the ‘50s Philippine president) is my guy" was ingeniously twisted into "lagay is my guy," a battlecry in most government offices. Without lagay, nobody would lift a finger to help you.

Many other factors like the padrino system, utang na loob (debt of gratitude), crab mentality (pulling down those who are successful), petty inggit (envy), kanya-kanya (to each his own), pwede na ‘yan (shortcut mentality) and other cultural quirks added to ingrain corruption as an almost indelible part of the Filipino system.

Our country is suffering from something much worse than the economic poverty that we already wallow in. There is a dark, portentous cloud of moral poverty blocking the sun of our national future. We have chosen to live by corrupt values and managed to create a society that has become callous to daily abuse and failure. We have turned into a nation that is amoral!

Notoriety gets the lion’s share on the front pages of newspapers; lawbreakers and wrongdoers get away scot-free. People in power no longer have word of honor; misguided role models get elevated into national icons. Tabloid journalism churn insignificant events into sensationalized media wars for ratings; money has become the ultimate silencer to right any wrong.

Honesty And Integrity

There was a time when parents would never serve food bought with stolen money to their children. Those days of virtue are gone. Nowadays, a truly honest man is hard to find. That’s why people view politicians with skepticism, policemen with distrust, even their fellowmen with suspicion.

We have to start reviving the virtue of honesty. When people are honest, they would think twice before committing anything morally wrong or illegal. The absence of honesty is the reason behind all the stealing and corruption in government and the infidelity that breaks up families. With honesty set in place, trust will once more rule.

Furthermore, we must re-introduce to our people the concepts of honor and integrity. These sterling, age-old yardsticks of personal worthiness will certainly bring back some genteel, polish and social correctness into our turbulent society.

Back To Basic Values

But the Philippines is not without hope. We need to go back to having solid, basic values. We must have a crash course on God’s Ten Commandments. No ifs and buts about them, Moses’ laws are so clear. The first four are intended for God – for us not to have other gods before Him, not to make idols of any kind, not to use His name in vain, and to keep holy the Sabbath day.

The next six are for man – to honor our parents, and for us not to kill, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony against our neighbor, and not to covet our neighbor’s wife and goods. We must drive home the point that even without the real act of stealing, simply coveting a neighbor’s wife and goods is already unlawful in God’s eyes.

As an adjunct, I hope that very soon, the use of temporarily paralyzing guns (like the ones used by jungle veterinarians to tame ailing wild animals for treatment) would be imposed. Then lawbreakers would not be killed but rendered temporarily harmless.

We must furthermore awaken in the hearts of our children the spirit of nationalism. We must give emphasis once more to the Panatang Makabayan or the "I Love the Philippines" creed. Let our schoolchildren recite that every opening and closing of the day to instill in them love of country.

We should also teach our people, especially those in the media, that there are personal matters best kept in private. We all have dark secrets but we need not wash our dirty linen in public. A new directive about the right to personal privacy should be enforced to guide media people from intruding into private lives (like what the paparazzi did that tragically ended Princess Diana’s life) and making financial profit from other people’s misery.

What We Really Want

We want a Philippine president who truly loves the Filipino nation and people. We want politicians who really love to serve. We want cops who really protect and firemen who fight fire without asking for money first. We want Filipinos who are concerned for the welfare of other Filipinos. We want every Filipino to be free from fear, oppression and hunger. We want peace, freedom, justice and happiness for all.

What Next?

What usually happens in our country is that a piece of hot news gets overshadowed once a new, more shocking headline grabs the scene. Ergo, vital government problems don’t get solved because our attention is riveted to something else. We keep jumping deeper into the fire, away from what should be our true national concerns.

What is there to expect from a country that cannot delineate politics from show business? We seem to have become addicted to EDSA revolutions or coups d’état that we subconsciously wait for the next one. These events have become our masochistic version of the Mardi Gras.

As the circus turns, politicians and show business celebrities laugh all the way to the bank. In this true-to-life telenovela, the real loser is the Filipino. If you are like me who does not know whether to laugh or cry at this satire plaguing our country, you might want to consider another alternative. Start praying.

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I’d love to hear from you. E-mail or text/call 0920-4053233. Thank you for all your comments and suggestions.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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