Saturday, December 22, 2007

Human Capital

This blog is about our damaged culture and the necessity to fix it if we want to move forward as a nation. The politcial solution has to wait. We need to do something about "us" first.

Through Manolo's blog, nakalkal uli ang isyu ng pag uugali nating mga Pilipino. Through a link, I was able to read an essay written two decades ago by James Fallow entitled A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?. And Newsstand noted, "Has anything actually changed?"

One thing that really prevents us from taking off is our penchant for a political solution. Again, the politcal solution has to wait. We need to change first as a people.

Artemio Panganiban noted on his Inquirer column today the three L's of our survival instinct, lusot, lagay and lakas. He noted that the World Bank identifies three sources of wealth; natural capital, produced capital and human capital. Natural capital accounts for 5% of the total wealth, 18% for produced capital and 77% for human capital. It is just too obvious why we are not progressing. There is so much that has to be desired with regards to our human capital.

I was at SBMA in the last couple of days. We stayed at the Binictican housing renting a four bedroom house. I ahve been to SBMA several times. It is quire notable that once you are inside SBMA, the aura is different. There is so much order. Everyone is very conscious of the rules. In boarding a vehicle, it is quite automatic to facten one's seatbelt. In the housing where we stayed, there is zero trash. At stop signs, drivers do come to a full halt even when there is no other vehicle around. Everytime I visit the palce, I kept saying to myself, kaya naman palang gawin kung gugustuhin. I am not a regular visitor of Marikina but from reports, I reckon there is also a lot of sense of orderliness in that city. Again, kaya naman palang gawin. The human capital is capable of making things work.

But as a nation, as a race, as a people, there is so much to be desired on the Filipno human capital. The poor survive with the three L's. The middle class see the solution to their woes outside the borders of the Phlippines. While the rich continue to benefit from an expanding economy. Everythin is about the "I", my interest, my future, my survival. Nothing about my country. Oh yes, we have so much debates about our country. But that is as far as it goes, debates. Some took the extra step to form groups. Now we have thousands of groups but not even one truly making a dent. Not even one because no single group or cause has truly captured our imagination.

Our human capital is our biggest liability. The World Bank considers it as an intangible asset. But that asset is not really working for us. The human capital retards our growth. Our damaged, decadent, superficial (whatever we call it and it is pointless to debate on terminologies) culture needs correction, redirection and guidance. We can do it one small step at a time. We only need to be creative and imaginative to get the attention of everyone. Once we get everybody's attention, we can start to influence the collective mindset. It can be done.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Moral Revolt II

The following post is a response to the comments made from the previous post.

to pmcsi and nw49socal:

thank you for your comments and inquiries.

Our common concept of capturing the imagination is something that involves a person just like how Cory captured the imagination of the middle class in 1986, Erap to the masses in 1998 and Fr. Panlilio to the Kapampangans this year. Hitler is an excellent example of someone capturing the imagination of an entire race. I am not sure if Lee Kwan Yew captured the imagination of Singaporeans. Maybe he did. From the political point of view, capturing the imagination is often associated with a person.

But capturing the imagination is not just about politics. Everytime Manny Pacquiao goes to the ring, he captures our imagination and there is no politics involved in it except for politicians waiting for photo ops. Capturing the imagination is a marketing tool. Capturing the imagination gets the attention of a target market. In my advocacy, to capture the imagination is to get the attention of each and every Filipino. It is just the very first step in a long journey. Nothing preachy. Just get their attention and also for confidence building. Getting the public's trust.

Texting is one activity that has captured our imagination and that is faceless. It just happened. Everybody got hooked to texting that made our country the texting capital of the world. Technology has greatly influenced our lives. Therefore, it is possible to capture the imagination with a "faceless" campaign.

Why "faceless"? Because the moment you give the campaign a "face" the public will only be interested on the who and the motives instead of the objectives of the campaign. It deflects the attention. Secondly, it creates an aura of mystery. To keep the interest. To keep the attention. "Faceless" is a marketing strategy. It may be difficult to grasp at this point as we are used to campaigns with "faces", with endorsers.

The issue of citizenship, moral reorientation, good values, proper conduct are very sensivitve subjects. We are a very sensitive people. Balat sibuyas. You just don't tell people that what they do is wrong because their normal reaction is, "Sino ka? Santo ka ba?"

The call for moral revolt by politicians will never be heeded. As I said previously, they are the epitome of corruption. Even the calls of the Church will not be heeded. In the first place, we are what we are is simply a reflection of the Church having failed to guide its flock in the right direction. The Church has been with us for centuries but why have we become like this? There are many devout Christians among us but why are we what we are? Because the Church has its own agenda.

So to whom do we go to? Who will lead us? No one. There is no single individual, not even Tony Meloto or Father Panlilio, that each and every Filipino will listen to or trust. When someone calls for moral change, the usual reaction is "Bakit santo ka ba?" But if you hold a "faceles" campaign with a pure heart and intentions, people will listen because there is no face that they can argue against with. But that is already getting ahead of the story, influencing their mindset. We need to get first their attention by capturing their imagination.

This blog is my simple way of starting this campaign.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Moral Revolt

Finally, a serious attempt to initiate a moral revolution.

Top Jesuit tapped for ‘moral revolt’ vs corruption

I call it good citizenship. They call it moral revolt. Whatever term is used, it means the same, the issue is behavioral.

But from the looks of it, this moral revolution campaign is bound to fail. People will not take this campaign seriously. Being the brain child of Speaker de Venecia, that in itself is already a liability. A moral revolt being initiated by a big time trapo will never take off. With all the so many trapos supporting this initiative, both from the exccutive and legislative, it is just too obvious the personal agenda these trapos have on this campaign.

Having a priest at the forefront is not enough to give this campaign some level of credibility. Fr. Intengan, a PDSP ideologue, must be very close to National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, who is a PDSP top rank.

By denying the participation of the left like Bayan Muna, Intengan has already highlighted his group's ideological difference with the Marxist-Leninist left. That is counter productive.

There is a need to influence collective behavioural pattern to minimize corrupt practices in our society. Initiating a moral revolution is a step in that direction. But to be effective, this campaign must be faceless. By coming out with names behind the move, the motive becomes suspect. People will not take the campaign seriously. They will only see this campaign as an attempt of trapos to deodorize themselves. Politicians have very, very low trust rating. They don't have the moral ascendancy to lead and initiate campaigns vs. corruption. They are the epitome of corruption.

My advocacy is a sustained and faceless good citizenship campaign that will capture the imagination of our people in order to influence our collective mindset. For not being faceless, I don't think this initiative can capture the imagination of our people. It will never be able to influence our collective mindset. Therefore, this initiative will just be a waste of time and money.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Let us start the change we want to see

The following is an email I wrote in response to this statement from our La Salle brothers.

I am writing to share my opinion with regards to your statement I got from my inbox.

Like your group, I am also very much disturbed by the moral degeneration that has engulfed our society. Since the Hello Garci scandal, however, our sitiuation has gone from bad to worse. Everyday, it has been a regular fare to read on the news never ending scandals and charges of corruption. It appears that ethical practices become more alien to us as a people as time pass by. Unless we can find a way to arrest the moral disintegration, our country will really go nowhere.

The statement you made is your small contribution to somehow help arrest the moral disintegration. But it is also this small contribution that contributes to the continued moral disintegration. Ironic, isn't it?

Let me first say that I am on your side. We fight the same battle. My personal advocacy is good citizenship. You may want to visit my blog to understand more where I am coming from. The problem is the approach.

Morals being the issue, obviously, the problem is behavioral. It is our collective behavior that needs to be fixed. Behaviors are very, very difficult to change, to influence. What more if we talk of the collective behavior. But it can be done. Psychology is part of the solution.

Honesty, integrity and truthfulness are manifested through our behaviors. On how we deal and interact with other people. Corrupt practices are again seen through our behavior. In fact, most of our values in life are reflected on how we behave. Therefore, the need is on how to maintain the good behavioral patterns and eliminate the bad ones.

Our collective behavior is what we need to influence. That is our role as middle class Filipinos. We can influence. Unfortunately, the approach we are doing will never do the job of influencing behaviors.

Making statements and passing it forward through emails will not do the trick. Initiating online petitions will not get the job done. Marching to Manila Pen nor sending Pinoy Big Briber card to Malacanang cannot influence behavior. Even starting the change we can to see won't change a thing. The thousand of advocacies around us with Gawad Kalinga the most popular of them all are hardly making a dent. Why? Because no one or group or advocacy is trying to capture the imagination of our people.

Capturing the imagination of our people does not necessarily come from an individual. A campaign, if properly executed, can capture the imagination of our people. Capturing the imagination is a necessary ingredient to get the collective attention. Once we have the collective attention, then we can start to influence the collective mindset.

There are tens of thousands of us who are truly frustrated with all the events around us. Unfortunately, us, the educated, cannot even get our act together so do we expect to masses be moved in the moral revolution that we want to see. We become content with the small contributions we make like coming out with a statement. We already feel good about ourselves when we do small acts of heroism or random acts of kindness. We already feel satisfied when we share our views and values to our immediate social circle. We content ourselves in influencing others one Filipino at a time and that will take forever. Even our approach reflects mediocrity.

The middle class can easily create critical mass of good citizens if only there is a single campaign they may bring them together.

We need to have a critical mass of good citizens. That is the objective. We cannot change everybody. But a critical mass can influence the collective mindset. This critical mass need not be organized. They are just out there, waiting to be tapped, waiting to be moved, ready to take the extra step.

Revolutions are won when the idea or concept captures the imagination of our people. If it is a moral revolution that we seek, let us capture our people's imagination. It will only need a few dedicated individuals to execute this moral revolution.

Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas,

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Spirituality of Nation Building

By Tony Meloto, Executive Director Gawad Kalinga

[ Ed’s Note: The “Spirituality of Nation Building” talk was given by Antonio Meloto last October 5, 2007 as a public lecture in theology at the Ateneo de Manila University.]

Today, I am not here to preach or lecture for I am not a religious leader or a teacher in theology. I am just an ordinary Filipino in search of answers - why my country is poor, and a Catholic wondering why my people are corrupt. My nationality and religion are intertwined in defining who I am. In the process of raising certain issues about my birthright, it is not my intention to judge our religious institutions or to doubt my belief systems. It is simply to discover more honest expressions in showing that God did not make a mistake in designing me the way I am—and the Filipino, the way he is. I realize that I should be more honest in asking relevant and even embarrassing questions about my faith if my goal is to seek greater faithfulness and integrity in practicing it..

The journey that began for me 12 years ago in Bagong Silang,Caloocan City with 127 out of school youth, mostly gang members,was the start of a process—the spirit we now call Gawad Kalinga—of bridging the disconnect between faith and action, between preaching and practice. Even with my limited understanding, it is clear to me that the lack of conviction in putting faith into action has led to the inequity in wealth, inequality in status and the long history of injustice that has made our country the most corrupt and one of the poorest in Asia.

Poverty is the consequence when we do not walk our talk.

Hypocrisy justifies how we live with it.

We cannot talk about nation building without touching on religion since more than 80% of Filipinos are Catholics and their control and influence in the country is almost absolute. A strong nation needs a strong moral foundation. If we are a weak nation it must be because we are a weak people with nominal faith, lacking in character and moral conviction. A weak people elect corrupt leaders who use immoral power for personal gain, who impose their will on the weak majority with the use of force and violence. Corruption, greed, and violence that cause poverty are social ills that define us as a nation. In religion they are called sins. We cannot regain our pride as Filipinos unless we remove these ills. We cannot call ourselves Christians until we decide to purge these sins.

“Are we poor because we are Catholic or are we Catholic because we are poor?” This question raised by a Jesuit priest brings to mind the thought whether religion had failed us as a people. Clearly, God is not to blame for our poverty and corruption. My Church did not fail me, I failed my Church.. The sermons and the bible are replete with moral guidelines for a just and upright life for all, yet we who hear these have failed to live them out. We are poor because we failed to practice our religion. We compromised our integrity and tolerated corruption. We lowered our standard and accepted poverty.

In short, we became unfaithful. We lost faith in God, in our institutions, in each other, and in ourselves. We forgot the master plan, we lost our direction, we became a divided people and a weak nation. The Filipino has become his own worst enemy. We cultivated behavioral aberrations and cultural patterns that make it difficult for us to cut the cycle of poverty and remove corruption.

First is our split-level Christianity. We live double-lives: one inside the Church and another one the moment we step out of it. We have two laws that govern one life. Piety in our Christian environment, and self interest in the workplace. We learn to be our brother’s keeper in our Christian teaching yet we practice apathy towards the need of others in our daily lives. In dealing with the poor, our Christian compassion is mostly limited to giving alms making mendicancy a way of life for many. We stopped at pity towards the poor, instead of learning to genuinely care for them in the way that Christ showed us. We stopped at dole outs, instead of growing towards full maturity in Christian stewardship.

For me to be a real Christian I must practice Christianity.

Second is our double standard of morality. The prevailing state of inequality in our country is pronounced not only in a different justice system for the rich and the poor but more remarkably in the behavior of men and women. Men generally are on a survival mode in a third-world setting like the Philippines. They develop their predatory instincts and physical strength more than their intellect— dropping out of school early, attracted to jobs that require more brawn than brain, growing up with a fascination for weapons that draw them to gangs and syndicates engaged in illegal activities. Women on the other hand, who are designed by God for life giving and nurturing, learn to develop their emotional, spiritual, and intellectual strength— making them stronger and live longer—to cope in a similar environment. A difficult situation brings out the martyr in the women and the predator in the men. The patterns are clear. Raised under subhuman conditions, men are more prone to be irresponsible, unreliable, and abusive. Our criminals are mostly male. Our rebels are mostly male. Our corrupt politicians are mostly male; the politics of guns, goons and gold are expressions of our immoral macho culture. Thus, there is a clear bias in favor of women in poverty and development programs because they are easier to deal with and produce better results like those involved in microfinance.

Development to be effective must not lose sight of the need in also prioritizing help for men to develop character, to grow in their role as provider of the home and protector of their community in accordance with their divine design. Convert them from liability to asset, from burden to blessing, and raise them to be heroes and patriots for their country. If men are the problem, they can also be the solution.

Real Filipino men are those who are ready to die for honor, not those willing to live in shame.

Third is our “matapobre” culture. The historical pattern of exclusion and discrimination of the poor majority by the elite minority still prevail today. We who have been blessed with better opportunities in life feel safe living in exclusive communities, oblivious to the misery of Lazarus outside our subdivision gates. The poor are not our friends. They are our servants that we treat kindly because we are Christians, beggars that we should be charitable to or threats to our safety that we should wisely avoid. We look down on the poor when our Christianity demands that we exalt them the way Jesus did. We insult the poor by living extravagant first world lifestyles in a third world environment. Jesus calls on us to raise up the poor among us—those who are the least in opportunity, the lowest in status, and the last in priority. It is not hard to find the poor—they are all around us. We can make caring for them the new status symbol and nation building the new lifestyle. The new Filipino elite are those with the most who give the best to the least.

The truly rich are those who value the poor more than money.

Fourth is our crab mentality. This is our habit of bashing and blaming, of pushing and pulling people down. The concept of the collective good is difficult to practice when people are on a survival mode. The hungry and the angry find it easier to destroy than to build, to steal rather than work. Crabbing is the natural outlet to societal frustration when there is absence of hope or caring for those at the bottom. Envy is a common attitude towards those who succeed in their endeavors, even to those who work for causes that give hope.

Rather than wait for the poor majority to pull down by force the few who are on top, we must inspire those at the peak to go down to the weak and the fallen and raise them up with love. We must convince the poor that we will not leave them behind, that we will not cross the finish line without them. The book of Acts states it simply: “God’s community of believers shared their resources with one another and no one was in need. ” Being community of believers is about solidarity. It is about a relationship of caring and sharing. It is about presence—a giving of self to people we genuinely care about. It is finding joy when we see their dignity restored, when their lives get better—helping the poor become unpoor. The real poor are those who do not know the poor.

In my faith journey, I have learned to relate to God through different forms of prayer. As a Catholic, I memorized rote prayer early and nurtured my spirituality through liturgical and devotional prayer. Retreats in college introduced the contemplative type and I learned to pray charismatically when I joined Couples for Christ. They are all designed to bring presence and to nurture a relationship with God. But I realized that oftentimes they are mostly about me—about my needs and wants, my plans, my family and the people who are important to me. Jesus’ prayer was about faith in God’s plan—”Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is about presence on earth, about building God’s Kingdom in this life. God the designer, Jesus the builder. Jesus is not about living for self, but living for others. He told Peter if you love me “feed my sheep.” Jesus is about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, building homes and communities. Caring for the poor is not
mere social work. It is the heart of the mission of Jesus. I do not know Jesus if I do not know the poor.

As a Christian and Filipino, I am constantly challenged with choices and decisions that demand my faithfulness to my divine purpose. I call these my faith moments. To love or to hate, to despair or to hope, to build or to destroy, to be honest or to cheat- I am faced with life or death, heaven or hell situations everyday. My choices define who I am, influence those around me and affect the state of my country and the world.

First are my Adam moments. These are invitations to proper stewardship- to come to terms with my original design for goodness and excellence as a child of God and to execute the blueprint for a prosperous and just society taught to me at home, in school and in church. As the Filipino Adam it is my responsibility to protect the environment, to promote good governance in politics, to develop market with a social conscience and to build abundance for all where no Filipino is in need.

Second are my Abraham moments. These are moments when God calls me to surrender my Isaacs—the things that are most precious to me for the sake of others. Isaac was Abraham’s most precious, a gift from God given to him and his wife Sarah in their very old age. Just like Abraham and most parents my children are also my precious. I want the best for them, but my idea of best may not please God if it will deprive many others their just share in the country’s goods. This means sharing my land to the landless, building homes for the homeless and growing food for the hungry. Until I learn to make the poor my heir, my own children will not have security and quality of life in this land.

The third are my Judas moments. These are times of betrayal, of abandoning the ideal for what is practical, of selling out when the price is right. The Judases in our midst are not only the corrupt politicians, the gambling lords, the land grabbers, the crime syndicates and evil-doers who prey on the poor and make us a poor nation. They are mostly ordinary people like myself who profess to know Jesus but who easily sellout for a few silver pieces. They include mass going Catholics and bible-quoting Christians who cheat on their taxes and in elections, bend rules and disregard merit for patronage. Religion that does not build character breeds a nation of Judases.

Finally, my Jesus moments, are the daily opportunities to build on the innate goodness of the Filipino. While it is important to be vigilant in pointing out injustice and wrongdoing, I am called to just as vigorously honor what is good and what is right. I need to consciously extol kindness, generosity, hard work and heroism until these qualities become second nature to me. Jesus moments are opportunities to bring about societal change motivated by love, nurtured by caring, pursuing the path of peace. We are called to be witnesses to a lifestyle that brings hope, builds heroism and restores honor. By practicing true discipleship, we can build a first-world nation that honors God.

Ateneo de Manila President Fr. Ben Nebres talks about nation building, like the Gawad Kalinga model, as a Filipino response to a Filipino problem, anchored on strong faith and family values and aspirations. It is a development model that merges faith and patriotism, spirit and science, holiness and heroism. He is not referring to a self-centered religion and family ties that only seek the interest of kin which can be barriers to development but about the capacity for caring and sacrifice that Filipinos are capable of because of their love for God and devotion to family.. It is about loving the Philippines and pride in being Filipino.

The GK brand is a Filipino creation with a global mission to show religion not as opium but as faith that fuels growth. The branding is a marketing strategy to make love of God and country popular and exciting and make the Filipino believe that he has the power to move mountains of garbage and transform slums into beautiful communities. It is the good news about the Filipino that sells newspapers, the corporate campaign designed to prove that marketing hope is good business. The brand transcends social, political, cultural and religious borders for everyone to desire it and demands a contribution of excellence as its price tag for every Filipino to be proud to wear it. It aims to generate massive co-branding strong enough for politicians to deliver the promise, for businessmen to share the profit, for Christians and Moslems to walk the talk. It must be powerful enough to make weak and inconsistent Christians like myself believe that the way to holiness is marked daily
by little and big acts of heroism, that the door to heaven in the afterlife is wide open to those who liberate the poor from hell and misery in this life.

Today, it is my joy to see my children and many others join the Gawad Kalinga pilgrimage of hope. What began with Couples for Christ is now embraced by other religious organizations as their own journey of faith. What started in The Philippines is now spreading to other developing countries. In time, this nation in darkness will not only shine but will be a light to the world.

Let me end by asking all of you to start looking at yourself no longer as second-class citizens of a third world nation. Like Jesus, let us all be architects of hope and builders of dreams for our people who have lost their capacity to hope and to dream. Let us be patriots and saints who will restore the abundance of a rich land and the honor of a great people loved by a great God.