by Manuel A. Rodriguez II
Why am I studying? For who I am sacrificing? Partly, it was that blind belief that my parents have instilled on my mind since I was a kid. Now that I am a grown-up I realized that what was instilled on me by my parents is a blind belief in learning upon which they both had placed such reliance.
Please do not get me wrong, blind belief as it may be, but it did helped me anyway in earning a Bachelor of Arts degree back in 2009 and I thank them for that and their support.
Studying, besides being a vague struggle to escape my unwanted inheritance (poverty), which is also the inheritance of many Filipinos, it was a manifestation of a fact that exists among our fellowmen, in which accomplishment becomes a fetish.
We Filipinos have been for so long under the control of foreign powers, who look down on us from what they deem to be their pretentious standards, that our own barely audible aspirations have been strained to search for any outlet no matter what. It did not matter that our knowledge, once acquired, would be exhausted in a cramped, repressed, unproductive society.
The degree was the thing; the honor was the objective; it lifted the Filipino of the past above the sweaty mass. The educated ones are the ones with better job and more money. Education is a fetish indeed.
And yet, FETISH WAS NOT MY PURPOSE.
Before, I wanted to be a doctor. When I was in kindergarten I was inspired by then Secretary of the Department of Health who visited our school and promoted a government health program for the young like me. I and my classmates made him a thank you card because we enjoyed his visit on our school. I will never forget that man; his name is Doctor Juan Flavier.
Dr. Flavier became a senator years later after serving in DOH. Senator Flavier is now retired on public service and yet his visit on my kindergarten more than a decade ago is still very vivid in my memory. I once said to myself that I wanted to be a doctor like Doctor Juan is.
Primarily, I was interested in pediatric medicine, to save the young. My grandmother whom we are fond of calling “Nanay” told me stories from the barrios during the Japanese wartime. There she said, the people died without tasting a single medicine, died gradually, and with suffering. The “albularyos” were the tenet, muttering magic words over cancers, tuberculosis and beri-beri.
In the barrios according to my Nanay if a child died the people bowed and said: “It is the will of God,” as they had been taught by their parish. Even as a child listening to my Nanay, It was never my will to accept it that way.
Then years later, after realizing that the field of medicine is not for me, I thought of studying law. I would be a lawyer for the people particularly for the rural poor (those similarly situated with the wartime barrio people my Nanay told me). I would defend the people with all my honesty. I will the use law to their advantage and be not like the corrupt politicians who are currently in office.
During election time I listen to the candidates. Every election whether national or barangay level it was the same. “The people this, the people that.” After campaign, the word “people” was stricken from the vocabularies of the winners, who sat on their polished chairs and collected both graft and salary, equally, with both hands, form the people.
The men I admired as I grew older were all simple men who had a genuine sympathy for the people. Senator Flavier is one, for his being a doctor to the barrios, Senator Jovy Salonga for his eloquence on his faith in the public sphere, Congressman Crispin Beltran for his fortitude in advancing the interest of the working class, the militancy of Bonifacio, Rizal for his dedication, Nelson Mandela for his unselfishness.
I was impressed by Joan of Arc, Rizal, and Jesus Christ because they went to their deaths for what they believed, and their beliefs were common and of the people.
I had begun to arrive at a philosophy, “If you do it, make sure you’ll finish it and do it with all your heart. If what you will do will benefit many people, though it threatens your happiness and safety, sacrifice your happiness and safety for your noble purpose.”
Such philosophy is my answer to the question my faith had posed on me; “What Would Jesus Do?”
Initially due to the blind belief my parents have instilled, I was studying to escape the constricted confines of poor Filipinos, but my efforts only led me to the conviction that the poor Filipinos was all important, and that I was inferior to it.
GOD BLESS THE FILIPINO.
For years the Philippines has been enjoying a status of being a democratic nation. After the Marcos regime, people believed that democracy has come. People became more jubilant and hopeful to the promises of democracy. Flash forward to the present time, where are the results of those promises?
Our people until now, although they are great believers of democracy are not great believers of its tedious process. They only enjoy its fruits without joining the few that is fighting for it. They thought that after that successful People Power Revolution (which was repeated – yr. 2000) democracy has come and will work on its own, and of course with them as the beneficiaries.
Our professor in Public Administration during college told us that sometime in the 90s Mr. Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that we Filipinos should minimize our democracy. Intrigued by the story, I immediately “googled” it after our class, and found out the entire story and concluded in my mind a personal opinion on the matter.
Singapore then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke to a mass of Filipino audience on a dinner mentioning that as a third world country, we Filipinos cannot afford to be a democratic nation. He added further that what our nation needs is more discipline and less democracy. And ironically his listeners applaud. The same people who were at EDSA during 1986 are the same people who are cheering on the idea that we must forget our democracy. Truly our government even back then is full of hypocrite individuals.
Mr. Lee probably forgot that Singapore is not the Philippines. Our cultures are different, what works on their system may not work on us. Mr. Lee probably forgot that we already experienced authoritarian ruling under the Marcoses, and we all know it was not as successful as his authoritarian government in fact, it’s a chaos. Applying it on our present time, imagine an unpopular PGMA ruling a Philippines under an authoritarian government, can you bear it?
In my personal opinion, the great leader Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is WRONG. His prescription belongs to another time and place, which goes not in accordance with the winds of change all-encompassing the face of the globe. It might work, as it appears to have worked until now, in a small country in size and population. But not in my beloved Pilipinas.
Democracy, not authoritarianism is the key to progress here in our nation. We also have a duty to assure our fellow citizens that we have not erred in choosing a democratic Constitution.
Why then our democracy is not working?
Our only error, which is prevailing in the government, the media, businesses, in the academe and in the marketplace, is that we tend to believe we already have the entirety of the democracy we believe in when all we have is its distorted version. We tend to run the Philippine government through the newspapers and decide what is good to the population on the basis of shocking news headlines and less than informed media, commentaries and educated predicaments.
We Filipinos value entertainment more than education. Our most popular role models are not the ones who are productive workers but those who are only a product of pinoy playful imagination.
Our error is that we elect men and women to high office expecting them to change the status quo when in fact they cannot even change themselves. We often hear them talk about their priority project for progress or their new movement to recover the moral tradition without them first accepting the teachings of morality and getting rid of their immoral attachments.
We Filipinos from every walk of life must realize that the system will not work by itself. We must make the system work. We already have the tool to progress, what we must now do is to learn how to use the tool. As of now, what we can do is to practice our democratic ideals, teach our democratic ideals to our Children and tell them not to commit the mistake our elders did in the past (and continuously doing). And pray to the Almighty to grant our people the wisdom. Yes, it is still a long way to go, but it is the only way.
Even as I speak out my mind here, some individuals may already lose their hope on democracy since they idolize the revered foreigner Mr. Lee and drawing up plans on how to impose the Mr. Lee system here in our nation.
Some may even disagree with my opinion regarding the Marcos regime and the PGMA presidency. They may never understand me, yet in the spirit of democracy I respect differing opinions.
Mabuhay tayong lahat!
APRIL 5, 2009, MANILA
“With This We Call For Change”
By Manuel Rodriguez II, UST - Students' Democratic Party(SDP)
“…DEMOCRACY… IT IS OUR DUTY NOW, IN DANGER AS IN SECURITY, TO UPHOLD AND SUSTAIN IT WITH ALL THAT WE HAVE AND ARE.”
-excerpt from the Democratic Creed by Stephen Bennet
(Standard creed of the SDP 1st party convention)
The case of Mr. Jocjoc Bolante on the 728 million pesos fund for fertilizers, the disappearance of the 3.1 billion budget for irrigation, Arroyo’s fraudulent acts on the 2004 national elections that made her an illegitimate president, left and right cases of extra-judicial killings and the most recent and controversial NBN-ZTE deal scandal.
For 7 years the Arroyo regime failed to uphold the trust of the Filipino nation, our country is left tortured and wounded. The continuous issues and scandals in the country’s political arena have effectively placed into the spotlight the crisis in the administration of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – the crisis which has transformed the people’s search for truth and justice into an advocacy to oust an immoral leader of the land.
The whole truth about the anomalous NBN-ZTE contract is slowly being revealed by the statements of a very credible individual in the persona of our fellow Thomasian, Eng’r Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, former President of PhilForest, a corporation owned by the government. According to Lozada, Mr. Jose Miguel “Mike”Arroyo the husband of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, and the former ComElec Chairperson Benjamin Abalos are one of the people who are very willing to close the deal between the Philippines and China, because of their self interests to earn a 65 million to 130 million US dollars commission.
While majority of our people live their everyday life with only 65 pesos or lower on their pockets, people like Mr. Arroyo and Mr. Abalos are earning millions without sweat.
Under this kind of administration our search for truth will not and never be easy and will face many crossroads and obstacles. We can expect the government to discredit witness like Eng’r Lozada and block possible bearer of truth like Sec. Romulo Neri of CHEd.
If the University of Santo Tomas (UST) demands from its students which are their main stakeholders commitment, compassion and competence, then the nation as the same expect from the Thomasians to make use of their education in defining and knowing the difference between justice and injustice with very strong fervor.
In a three page paper titled “Why I Cannot and Will Not Support Calls for the Presidents’ Resignation,” pro- administration priest Fr. Ranhillio Calangan- Aquino pointed out that “when one protests his earnestness in search for truth, and at the same time presses for the resignation of the President (PGMA), one is guilty ofperformative contradiction.”
“If you search for truth, you do not know yet the whether she is guilty or not. But if you do know this yet, what reason is there to ask her to resign?” Fr. Aquino retorted.
My response to his statement? It is not that the current President has lost her capacity to govern the country, however due to many controversial events, I believe that the President should step down or be ousted from her position because of her inability to gain the trust of the Filipino people. Leadership requires influence; clearly the President has lost that.
With this we call for change.
Often recalcitrant, but always principled.