Change begins with us

I have lived in four countries – a total of 21 years in the Philippines, 12 years & counting in the US, three years in Japan and nearly two years in Italy. Living & working in these different countries is an amazing learning experience. I cannot help but compare how life is like in the Philippines, where I was born & lived most of my life, to life in the three other countries. And I am not the only one. Whenever I’m at a gathering with fellow Filipinos, one of the topics that inevitably comes up is the state of our land of birth. People can’t help but compare how life is abroad and in the Philippines. To this day, I still cannot fathom how the Philippines is lagging behind other Asian countries.

According to history, in the ’60’s prior to Marcos’ rule, we were second only to Japan in terms of economic development. But now it’s sad to note that we have been surpassed by South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, and India. Matalino naman ang Pinoy, what went wrong?

One of the common things I’ve heard and which I myself for a long time thought was the reason for the Philippines’ lackluster performance in the global economy is government corruption. It is sadly widespread & pervasive. But after careful thought, it’s not the government, it’s not them, it’s us Filipinos, our culture.

Here are a few things in our culture which I think are not helping us progress, and what I think should replace them. We Filipinos are all guilty of saying & doing these things, it’s part of who we are, but that does not mean we can’t change them.

Bahala na! (It’s up to fate!) – Often said when we’re feeling frustrated or are not sure of what to do, we resign what will happen to us to tadhana or fate.

Instead of bahala na, let’s say “Pagisipan natin kung anong gagawin natin. (Let’s think about what we can do.)” – This is proactive, instead of reactive. We take charge of our life. We articulate a goal, & think of ways to reach our goal.

Pwede na yan! (That will do!) – This kind of thinking makes us content with mediocrity. Whenever we say pwede na yan, we’re saying I’m ok with so-so products & services, I’m ok with low quality or mediocre output. We all deserve better than that from ourselves & from others.

Instead of pwede na yan, let’s say “Ito ang best effort ko!” (This is my best effort!). If we expect only the best from ourselves & from others, it will vastly improve the quality of every aspect of our lives.

Utang na loob (debt of gratitude) – Our Filipino trait of utang na loob has not served us well – it’s the cause of nepotism & cronyism, which has fueled corruption at all levels in the government, as well as hiring based on who we know instead of what they know in both private companies & government entities.

Instead of hiring based on utang na loob, let’s hire & promote based on meritocracy, i.e, based on performance & qualifications.

Ganyan talaga, wala na tayong magagawa. (That’s how it is, there’s nothing we can do about it.) – Just because something has been done for ages doesn’t mean it’s always the right way or the best way to do things. Apathy is not good.

Instead of accepting things as they are, let’s say “Palitan natin ito, di na ito effective.” (Let’s change this, it isn’t effective anymore). If we know or can think of a better way to do things, let’s do that. Let’s get rid of the old way of doing things & in its place adopt the best way to do things

Regionalism – I was surprised that when I got to the States, there’s not one Filipino group – there are all kinds based on what province or region a person is from. Pare-pareho naman tayong Pinoy, why are there associations for Cebuanos, Ilokanos, Bicolanos, etc.? Why can’t we all just band together for the common good, like what Japan did after World War II? Plus, why the negative stereotypes based on where one is from – ang mga Ilokano kuripot, ang mga Waray war-freak, ang mga Kapampangan mayabang, puro porma, etc.

Let’s avoid creating any further groups based on where one is from. Let’s stop the negative stereotyping of each other – it simply doesn’t do us any good.

To paraphrase a popular saying during the 1986 EDSA revolution – Tama na, sobra na, palitan na ang mga kaugaliang Pilipino na naghahatak sa ating pababa! Enough of blaming everything & everyone but ourselves…change begins with us!

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