Hope for Our Country in 12 Little Things

imageI have always been skeptical about self-help books that tend to generalize and over-simplify problems or the solutions to problems. Life has taught me that things are not always as they seem…I have always been skeptical about self-help books that tend to generalize and over-simplify problems or the solutions to problems. Life has taught me that things are not always as they seem… and that a lot of well-meaning advice meted out by popular gurus in overrated self-help books often hit the nail way off of its head. Not a few books offer “simple” steps to success that turn out to be far from simple and a real pain on one’s intellect. On some rare occasions, though, I do stumble upon a gem and my inner skepticism is challenged. Such was the case with a very small book with an even “smaller” title written by Alexander L. Lacson: 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.

The title sounds simple enough; too simple, in fact, that it took me a few weeks to decide if it was worth reading at all. Common sense and a deeply instilled desire to do the right thing won over my well-guarded resistance. This tiny book was also given by an acquaintance to my husband with the sincere intention of “spreading the word”, and I was not about to be the hindrance to anyone’s noble intentions for the country.

It is often said that we get the country we deserve. Whether we believe that our country is ailing or in robust health does not belie the fact that we, the Filipinos, make our country what it is today. A nation in constant anarchy eventually dies; whereas a country united by its people’s determined purpose keeps the nation’s heart and pulse beating. I did not fully realize how much I cared about our country until I read the first few chapters of the book. The first two points echoed my deep-seated sentiments and reassured me that I was not a lone crusader.

Lacson began his 12 little things with this: Follow traffic rules. Follow the Law. This is one thing we all can do right away without having to spend any money. Understandably, this willbe more difficult for errant drivers and stubborn pedestrians than it will be for those of us who stop on a red light on an empty highway in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently, it is more difficult to unlearn a habit than it is to learn a new one – but not impossible. Imagine how EDSA would look with all the buses staying within their yellow lanes and not swerving their long steel frames diagonally across three lanes! That alone would ease the traffic situation dramatically and calm the frayed nerves of us hapless drivers.

The bottom line is that following traffic rules and the laws of our land reflect our respect, or lack of it, for our country and for each other. We can, as individuals, begin this discipline by stopping on a red light, using the pedestrian lanes and overpasses, using our car horns and high beams only when necessary, staying on the slow lane when we are not in a rush and curbing our seemingly innate desire to cut on someone else’s lane. According to Lacson, “This simple act of following rules can go a long, long way in our march towards the kind of society we dream for ourselves and our children.” I could not agree more.

His second little thing is this: Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt. This may sound a bit simplistic, but its impact on our nation is enormous. In this second chapter, Lacson went on to illustrate how taxes from unclaimed receipts, reflected on each official receipt as a ten percent value-added tax (VAT), accumulate and add up to billions of pesos worth of un-remitted taxes to the government. To simplify it further, imagine ten thousand motorists not claiming receipts for their mall parking fees worth forty pesos per vehicleper day. In one day, those unclaimed receipts will amount to four hundred thousand pesos of undeclared and un-remitted taxes! And that is just for one mall on any given day! We, as a people, need to be vigilant in demanding for a receipt every time we pay for anything. We do a disservice to our country whenever we don’t. Just do the math.

There is another little thing I feel strongly about and which Lacson mentioned in his sixth chapter: Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve. I wish I could say that this is simple but it’s not. I only recently discovered, to my detriment, that a significantly large part of our society does not support this movement. My husband and I live in a relatively progressive community that promotes, as one of its programs, the collection of recyclable junk. The reality, however, is that our village relies on outsourced trash collectorswho, like most small roadside business operators, think small. They seldom show up on schedule, are very choosy about the junk they collect, and pay very little for them. These hold true for all the junk shop operators within a two-mile stretch of our village. My house is now filled with mounds of uncollected and undesirable segregated trash.

It is this small-mindedness more than anything else that promotes this utter lack of concern for our environment. But then again, maybe it is the other way around. We need to start looking at the bigger picture and understanding the negative impact of our irresponsible waste disposal on our country. Lacson cited in this same chapter that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acknowledged that garbage is one of the major problems in Metro Manila today. We only need to look outside our windows to be reminded of this tragic reality.

Throwing our trash in their proper disposal units is another reflection of how much we value and respect our country and our people. Lacson reiterated that this does not cost us any money (again) but requires a conscious and deliberate effort to do the right thing. Have you ever followed an expensive car on the road and see trash flying out of its rolled-down power window? It takes discipline and a whole lot of courtesy to hold on to that piece of trash until you get to your destination – a trash bin. I have always believed that one person, regardless of status in life,can make a difference; just as one piece of carelessly discarded plastic can make a difference.We have a choice, and I pray we choose well

Lacson continued to enumerate the other little things we can do to help our country such as buying locally manufactured goods, speaking positively about our country and people to others, respecting our law officers, supporting our church, doing our duty as voters, paying our employees well, paying our taxes, adopting a scholar or poor child and being a good parent.Most of these are things we can already do right this minute which is why if every Filipinowould just start doing one or two of them, our country will already be a better place.

There were a few points Lacson raised that do require more introspection than the others. For example, while I strongly oppose buying smuggled goods and do believe in supporting our local industry, our “pwede na” (make do) mentality, not to mention greed and the desire to earn more for less, prompt many of us buyers and consumers to look for quality, though not necessarily expensive, merchandise elsewhere. The proliferation of “ukay-ukay” (dig andrummage) outlets, pirated items and imitation brands does not bode well for our local industry. It will take a concerted effort from the manufacturers, vendors and consumers to catapult our local industry to new and greater heights.

Another point Lacson raised that demanded more serious thought was his statement,“They (referring to traffic and law enforcers in the fifth chapter) are what they are because of what we are. They are who they are because of who we are.” While I agree with him that our actions toward others usually beget similar reactions, I still firmly believe that our attitude, words and actions are our responsibility. We cannot, and should not, expect others to be nice to us first so that we will be nice to them in return. Our words or actions should never be hinged or dependent on what other people say or do to us first. In the end, we are all accountable to God and to each other for our thoughts, words and actions. I do understand where Lacson is coming from in this chapter, though, and I am all for respecting other people regardless of occupation, status or appearance. It remains a fact, however, that respect is earned, not demanded.

I admire Lacson’s courage and determination  to speak his mind about the things that really matter and the steps we can and should take, no matter how “little”, to help make the Philippines a better country than what it is today. No amount of wishing or promising will get us anywhere. We all need to take baby steps at first and gradually mature to be a united people with a sense of pride and purpose for our nation. We all need to start in our own homes, teaching and instilling these values and more to our children and grandchildren. It is crucial that we first livethe lessons we preach and set the best examples for our children. Lacson said it best when he stated, “Today’s children will someday rule and lead this world. But whether they will be bad rulers or good leaders, will depend largely on how we raise them today.” May the next generation inherit a nation that is truly proud and free, and deserving of us mere yet sincere mortals.

Advertisements

My wishes for my country


As much as I am tempted to bash my country and the people who run it, I will, instead, opt to be hopeful and create my wishlist for this country I call my home.

For our leaders:

1. I wish for them to have true reverence for our God and spiritual transformation as evidenced by the fruits they bear.

2. I wish for them to genuinely love people in order for them to genuinely love our country.

3. I wish for them to truly care for Mother Earth and to take the urgent steps to save our planet, one small barrio street at a time.

4. I wish for them to drive themselves to and from work once in a while, to sit in traffic and come up with real and viable solutions to the many potholes, inefficient traffic flow, law violators, and the many MMDA officers lurking in shaded areas and behind curbs, waiting to pounce on innocent drivers instead of preventing traffic violations before they happen.

5. I wish for them to lead by powerful and inspiring example and educate the masses on how to be a model citizen of our country.

6. I wish for them to take public transportation once in a while to inhale the smog, get their well-groomed hair or toupees all messed up, feel the sticky and smelly perspiration trickle down their spine, witness the many poor children who board the jeepneys to beg for money and simply experience how it is really like for most public commuters.

7. I wish for them to really look around while they ride in their airconditioned luxury vehicles and not stick their noses on their cellphones and IPads. They might just notice the many homeless living under the sky ways and the “rugby boys” who pose a grave threat to many commuters. And I wish that they will actually contact the necessary agencies to address this serious situation. Yes, Mr. President, Congressman and Senator – this is SERIOUS!

8. I wish for them to end their greed once and for all – to use their allotted funds to improve the welfare of their constituents instead of printing countless streamers, billboards and floor tiles to promote their over-indulgent faces and “HB” initials that mean nothing to any of us and do nothing to alleviate the poverty in this country.

9. I wish for them to pass a law that protects job seekers and employees from age, gender and physical discrimination and enforce this law on companies so that they will become equal opportunity employers. Is it any wonder that our countrymen are leaving for greener pastures despite the negative effect on their families?

10. I wish for our president to just STEP UP to the plate.

For our countrymen:

1. I wish we would educate ourselves properly. Read, listen, observe, read. It does not take a formal education to be educated in what is moral, ethical, considerate and right.

2. I wish parents would educate themselves on how to raise their children the right way. Parents are spoiling their children more and teaching them less values; they are spending less time conversing with them and more time on their gadgets and businesses. Just because a person has a child does not mean that person knows how to raise that child properly. Parenting manuals and tips abound everywhere. Use them.

3. I wish we will be more conscientious about caring for our planet by segregating our trash, using less water and electrical power, by not throwing our garbage just anywhere, and NOT spitting anywhere. Anyone can do this — it is not rocket science. Plant more trees — DON’T CUT THEM FOR ANOTHER PARKING LOT, SM!!!

4. I wish we would all genuinely care for one another. We all need compassion, and we all need to give it as well.

5. I wish we could be kind to one another. Let us stop bullying each other, and stop the bullies who make going to school or work a nightmare for many.

6. I wish we would take a definite stand against  abuse of any kind, especially the sexual abuse of children. All abusers and perpetrators should be put in jail so that less children will be exposed to these dangerous criminals. I wish parents who choose to coddle the abuser/s of their children would be made seriously accountable for their selfish actions.

7. I wish we could all dream big dreams for ourselves, our families, our country and our planet, without harming or sacrificing anyone or anything.

And so my wish… is that these wishes will be granted.

When Compassion is Sadly Lacking

The Christmas season is fast approaching. For many families here in the Philippines, it will be a season of sadness and grieving, of homelessness and even hopelessness. The Christmas carols and blinking lights will be cruel reminders of loved ones lost and bleak futures. The typhoons that ravaged the country one strong fury after another will cast a dark shadow over the holiday celebrations. In these times of darkness and pain, the gift of compassion is greatly needed.

Sadly, there is a dearth of compassion in this world, even among so-called “Christians“.  It is highly encouraging to witness through the news funds being raised and food being distributed among the typhoon victims week after week. The heroism of a people is usually seen in tragedies of epic scales. But among the ordinary folks eking their way into existence every single day, a brief encounter with compassion is an oasis to a thirsty and war-weary soul. Yes, an oasis in the desert — hard to find, seldom seen, and a flitting mirage at best — but very much needed.

Compassion —  the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the active desire to alleviate it — is something every hurting soul needs right now. Let us give it. Let us throw away useless platitudes, judgment, self-righteousness and even a messianic complex. Let us just feel with the hurting — no words, just feelings and loving gestures. Maybe a hug, a sincere pat on the shoulder, an understanding and kind glance. This is compassion. A soft and gentle voice mouthing judgment is not the same thing.

We call ourselves “Christians” — let us live in the way Jesus Christ lived. He is compassionate (Exodus 34:6 – “…The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”). If we want to know how else we can sincerely express compassion, we can look to Jesus’ examples in his word (you can check out BibleGateway.com). After all, he is our best example.

A letter from a lady who cares…

Kudos to this brave lady! I feel the same way and have long lamented the state of our country because of the deep-seated corruption for many years. I pray there is still hope for our country — it’s the only one we’ve got.

Sheila

To all Filipinos Everywhere:

I used to think that corruption and criminality in the Philippines were caused by poverty. But recent events tell me this isn’t true. It is one thing to see people turn into drug addicts, prostitutes, thieves and murderers because of hunger and poverty, but what excuse do these rich, educated people have that could possibly explain their bizarre behavior? And to think I was always so relieved when petty snatchers got caught and locked away in jail because I never fully realized that the big time thieves were out there, making the laws and running our country. Can it get any worse than this?

Every night, I come home and am compelled to turn on my tv to watch the latest turn of events. I am mesmerized by these characters. They are not men. They are caricatures of men – too unreal to be believable and too bad to be real. To see these “honorable” crooks lambast each other, call each one names, look each other in the eye and accuse the other of committing the very same crimes that they themselves are guilty of, is so comical and appalling that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is entertainment at its worst!

I have never seen so many criminals roaming around unfettered and looking smug until now. These criminals wear suits and barongs, strut around with the confidence of the rich and famous, inspire fear and awe from the very citizens who voted them to power, bear titles like “Honorable”, “Senator”, “Justice”, “General” and worse, “President”. Ironically, these lawless individuals practice law, make our laws, enforce the law. And we wonder why our policemen act the way they do! These are their leaders, and the leaders of this nation – Robin Hoodlum and his band of moneymen. Their motto? “Rob the poor, moderate the greed of the rich.”

It makes me wonder where on earth these people came from, and what kind of upbringing they had to make them act the way they do for all the world to see. It makes me wonder what kind of schools they went to, what kind of teachers they had, what kind of environment would produce such creatures who can lie, cheat and steal from an already indebted country and from the impoverished people they had vowed to serve. It makes me wonder what their children and grandchildren think of them, and if they are breeding a whole new generation of improved Filipino crooks and liars with maybe a tad more style but equally negligible conscience. Heaven forbid!

I am an ordinary citizen and taxpayer. I am blessed to have a job that pays for my needs and those of my family’s, even though 30% of my earnings go to the nation’s coffers. Just like others in my lot, I have complained time and again because our government could not provide enough of the basic services that I expect and deserve. Rutty roads, poor educational system, poor social services, poor health services, poor everything. But I have always thought that was what all third world countries were all about, and my complaints never amounted to anything more.

And then this. Scandalous government deals. Plundering presidents pointing fingers. Senators associated with crooks. Congressmen who accept bribes. Big time lawyers on the side of injustice. De Venecia ratting on his boss only after his interminable term has ended, Enrile inquiring about someone’s morality! The already filthy rich Abalos and Arroyo wanting more money than they or their great grandchildren could ever spend in a lifetime. Joker making a joke of his own “pag bad ka, lagot ka!” slogan.. Defensor rendered defenseless. Gen. Razon involved in kidnapping. Security men providing anything but a sense of security. And it’s all about money, money, money that the average Juan de la Cruz could not even imagine in his dreams. Is it any wonder why our few remaining decent and hardworking citizens are leaving to go work in other countries?

And worst of all, we are once again saddled with a power-hungry president whose addiction has her clinging on to it like barnacle on a rusty ship. “Love (of power) is blind” takes a whole new meaning when PGMA time and again turns a blind eye on her husband’s financial deals. And still blinded with all that is happening, she opts to traipse around the world with her cohorts in tow while her country is in shambles.

They say the few stupid ones like me who remain in the Philippines are no longer capable of showing disgust. I don’t agree. Many like me feel anger at the brazenness of men we call our leaders, embarrassment to share the same nationality with them, frustration for our nation and helplessness at my own ineffectuality (correction: ineffectiveness). It is not that I won’t make a stand. It is just that I am afraid my actions would only be futile. After all, these monsters are capable of anything. They can hurt me and my family. They already have, though I may not yet feel it..

But I am writing this because I need to do something concrete. I need to let others know that ordinary citizens like me do not remain lukewarm to issues that would later affect me and my children. I want to make it known that there are also Filipinos who dream of something better for the Philippines. I want them to know that my country is not filled with scalawags and crooks in every corner, and that there are citizens left who believe in decency, fairness, a right to speak, a right to voice out ideas, a right to tell the people we have trusted to lead us that they have abused their power and that it is time for them to step down. I refuse to let this country go to hell because it is the only country I call mine and it is my responsibility to make sure I have done what I could for it.

Those of us who do not have the wealth, power or position it needs to battle the evil crime lords in the government can summon the power of good. We can pray. We can do this with our families every night. We can offer petitions every time we celebrate mass. We can ask others to pray, too, including relatives and friends here and overseas. And we can offer sacrifices along with our petitions, just so we get the message to Him of our desperation in ridding our nation of these vermin. After all, they cannot be more powerful than God!

I implore mothers out there to raise your children the best way you can. Do not smother, pamper, or lavish them with too much of the material comforts of life even if you can well afford them. Teach them that there are more important things in this world. I beg all fathers to spend time with their children, to teach them the virtues of hard work, honesty, fair play, sharing, dignity and compassion – right from the sandbox till they are old enough to go on their own. Not just in your homes, but at work, in school, everywhere you go. Be good role models. Be shining examples for your children so they will learn to be responsible adults who will carry and pass on your family name with pride and honor.

I call on educators and teachers – we always underestimate the power of your influence on the minds of our youth. Encourage them to be aware of what is happening in their surroundings. Instill in them a love of their country, inculcate in them the value of perseverance in order to gain real, worthwhile knowledge, help us mold our children into honorable men and women. Encourage our graduates, our best and brightest, to do what they can to lift this country from the mire our traditional politicians have sunk us into. The youth is our future – and it would be largely because of you,, our educators, that we will be able to repopulate the seats of power with good leaders, presidents, senators, congressmen, justices, lawmakers, law enforcers and lawful citizens.

I ask all students, young people and young professionals everywhere to look around and get involved in what is happening. Do not let your youth be an excuse for failure to concern yourselves with the harsh realities you see. But neither let this make you cynical, because we need your idealism and fresh perspective just as you need the wisdom of your elders. YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU! Let your voices be heard. Do what you can for this land that gave you your ancestors and your heritage. Use technology and all available resources at hand to spread good. Text meaningful messages to awaken social conscience. Try your best to fight moral decay because I promise you will not regret it when you become parents yourselves. You will look back at your past misdeeds and pray that your children will do better than you did.

Remember that there are a few handful who are capable of running this country.. You can join their ranks and make their numbers greater. We are tired of the old trapos. We need brave idealistic leaders who will think of the greater good before anything else. Do your utmost to excel in your chosen field.. Be good lawyers, civil servants, accountants, computer techs, engineers, doctors, military men so that when you are called to serve in government, you will have credibility and a record that can speak for itself.

For love of this country, for the future of our children, for the many who have sacrificed and died to uphold our rights and ideals, I urge you to do what you can. As ordinary citizens, we can do much more for the Philippines than sit around and let crooks lead us to perdition. We owe ourselves this. And we owe our country even more.

The Power of a Mother’s Prayer

PrayingWomanTwo weeks ago, the mother of Philippine democracy, former president Corazon (Cory) Aquino, was laid to rest beside her husband Ninoy. Our nation mourns the loss of a strong, courageous, peaceful and prayerful woman. She was known to pray every single day, several times a day, for her family and for our country. She was quoted as saying:

“So I cannot think of myself as being separate from the good Lord. And my whole day is dedicated to Him. I mean, I say that in the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day, I address myself to the Lord. So I pray that those who do not believe in Him hopefully will be given that grace, to go to Him so that their lives will be that much better, and that they will be able to handle whatever problems or trials come their way.” – Excerpt from her interview with Dr. Shann Ferch, 2007

Much has been said about the power of prayer. I live every moment of my life in constant communication with our Father in heaven and I cannot imagine any other life without it. He is the reason for my being, my hope and purpose for living. Also, my many prayers would have been for naught without our good Lord who answers each and every one of them. And I believe that many of my answered prayers are prayers my mom also said for me and my sister.

I recently had a wonderful conversation with two mothers in one of our larger congregations. I asked them if they believed in the power of their prayers for their families and they both readily agreed. Many times it could feel like God is not answering their prayers for their children when, as teenagers, they struggle to find their identities and establish themselves in their world. They make a lot of mistakes that cause them pain and make them take the rebellion road, but they eventually find their way back and realize who brought them there.

One mother was very grateful that her daughter, whom she prayed for and spent sleepless nights crying over, realized the error of her ways and has dedicated herself to serving her church through her gifts. Only later did this mother realize that she had prayed for this specifically many years ago and had almost forgotten about it until it came to fruition.

The other mom firmly believes that no matter what happens to her children, they will always go back on the right track because God honors all her prayers for them. She is now enjoying the fruit of those prayers as her children remain open with her and also share their faith with their office colleagues and friends. She enjoys a close relationship with them and continues to pray for them.

My mom always prayed for me and my sister. She prayed that God would always look after us, that he would draw us closer to him, that he would protect us from harm, that he would give us good and loving husbands who would also faithfully provide for us, and that God’s purpose for us will be fulfilled. Many violent storms have passed in our lives since our mom went home to our Lord, but we have weathered them all because our Father honored each and every heartfelt prayer. Some storms left us battered and bruised, but we still stand because of God’s goodness and mercy, and his faithfulness to our mom who dedicated her life to him.

I miss my mom. Whenever I begin to wonder if anyone out there is praying for me, I think of her and know that her prayer lives in me and sustains me. I pray that all mothers will realize how special and powerful their prayers are. In the midst of all our worries and fears, our Lord urges us to pray and he promises his blessed peace.
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)