TURNING POINT: 117 Years and Still Fighting

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 11 June) – The nation celebrates on Friday the 117th anniversary of our forebears’ declaration of independence from Spain. That is 117 long years of remembering. Yet, come to think of it, have we really done something of significance to honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for us in the altar of freedom?

Nothing much, I suppose, that we can collectively be proud of at the moment. We have not, in fact, accomplished enough to deserve the title we coveted as the Pearl of the Orient. For some time the Philippines was even called the sick man in Asia.

It now appears that the struggle for independence is a continuing enterprise. Our struggle from absolute foreign domination though had made two historical high marks – our independence from 350 years of slavery under Spain and 50 years of US manipulative rule.

True, the former invaders are no longer physically in our shores. Yet in some other ways we have remained under their control.

Consider this, our long prostration under the Spanish conquistadors rubbed on us certain undesirable attitudes, manners and traits that have undermined our character as a people. Our preference for white collar jobs and distaste for manual work, our mañana habit (postponing an important task or activity in favor of something immediately pleasurable), extended siesta, expensive fiesta and family celebrations, blind submission to authority and many others, all came and developed from our experience and blind imitation of our former Spanish colonial master. This character flaw impacts adversely on our work ethic, pulls down the quality of our performance and stymie our development as a nation. Our liberation from this socio-psychological bondage remains imperative today.

Moreover, to this day we continue to suffer from colonial mentality. We believe, accept, and swallow hook, line and sinker everything America dishes out to us, believing that anything made or coming from the US of A is good, superior and beneficial to us. This explains our obsession with American political beliefs, governance system, language, music, movies, TV series, basketball and what have you.

All this has to change. If only to move forward, we must continuously endeavor to develop our own systems and structures, principles and philosophy, materials and knowledge system and other things that could respond with relevance to our needs, nature and circumstances as a people. This national goal requires a clear vision, collective and united effort and such level of determination and perseverance that brought the tiny island state of Singapore to where it is now.

However, the most urgent of fights we are facing at the moment is against the interacting and reinforcing evils of poverty and corruption which spawn such life-threatening problems like illegal drugs, deteriorating peace and order, and resource and environmental degradation among others.

It is pointless to rely solely on the government to meet all our needs and solve all our problems. It is also wrong to blame it for all the blemishes in our landscape and the tragedies and misfortunes, man-made or otherwise, which we are endlessly experiencing. The government is only as good as the people we elected to represent and work for us, and the elected are only as good as the people who elected them.

Thus, we do not have to look far and away for the enemy that causes most of the pains and debilitating suffering of this nation. The enemy is us. We are our own enemy.

If we receive money and goods in exchange for our votes to put someone in a government post, we have lost the moral ascendancy to complain about his inefficiency, thieving and corrupting while in office.

By trading votes with money, goods or favor, we ignobly become part of the vicious cycle of corruption. Corruption results in inefficient and wasteful government services; products of inferior quality; non-delivery of project outcomes; and the degradation of our natural resources and environment. To become a truly functional democracy demands that we look for an effective way to put an end to this anomaly and immorality in our electoral system.

On the other hand, while a functional and responsive government may help reduce the impact of socio-economic and political woes on us, the greatest of help is to come from us, from within each one of us.

Poverty is a choice not a destiny. No matter how difficult our circumstances in life may be, we can always change them if we want to. We need only to appraise our situation objectively, define the options and do something to get us out of the rut.

If we succumb to so-called fate and do nothing as a result, we are doomed to remain abjectly poor and miserable through life.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Dr. William R. Adan is a retired professor and former chancellor of the Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)