Thursday, October 07, 2004

The one with the political slant

Raul Pangalangan makes some extremely interesting points in his October 1 opinion piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, titled Why Filipinos Sacrifice for Family but not for Nation. It provides valuable food for thought in many areas, and you would do well to browse it, if you'd like to get into the Filipino psyche.

I could provide colorful discourse on why it's so hard to trust my country's leaders and its history. When I was born, the peso was roughly P15 to US$1. Now, it's barely holding on at P56.30 to US$1. That's a drop of P41 in just a little less than three decades. Inflation takes its toll, but our money is virtually toilet paper. When I was born, the cost of a college education was in the mid-teen thousands. When I went to college, it cost roughly P35,000.00. When Nathan is old enough, based on today's inflation rate, it will cost me P75,000.00 to send him to a state university. As for a Lasallian or Atenean education, we will have to rely on our savings, plus help from the college education plan we've gotten for him.

Everyone - and I mean, everyone - is telling me to find fortune abroad. Pangalangan notes overseas foreign workers are the ones slogging away, "forfeit[ing] the best years of their lives, doing work beneath their education and past jobs in Manila, to live among cold strangers for whom they are invisible, easily replaceable help so they can send siblings to school," and dreaming of appliances that Westerners take for granted, a television set, a VCD player, a refrigerator that can provide cold water in the heat of a summer's day.

And for this, I am tremendously disappointed in the government, because instead of trying to patch up the infrastructure to make the country self-sustaining, the Arroyo administration seems to be giving off the impression that we should go abroad. Even if every newspaper in the country were to trumpet doomsday prophecies, an allegation given off by the hotheaded, irritable, and terribly self-aware Office of the President itself, the fact remains: there is too little good news to keep us optimistic about our country's future. In the midst of all this, we are encouraged to make money by going abroad, to further support our heavy economy and because our money is worth nothing. 15% of our population are starving.

When public school teachers, the heart and soul of this nation, the men and women who raise our children and defend the vote during elections, requested a raise in their salaries, not only did the Department of Education not increase this, they were insulted with an increase in the amount of money that can borrow from a DepEd fund. They don't need money to borrow, because they don't have money to pay the loan. Come on, Madame President, you're an economist. How can poor people pay back a loan if they don't even have money? They sink deeper into debt. Food coupons won't work. Give people jobs, and give them jobs on local soil!

Fact: no one will trust the government. Period. Corruption is such an integral part of Philippine government culture, and short of "sweeping reforms," which in the past have proven mostly cosmetic, will continue to thrive and prosper. We are to blame, as well. Instead of paying the P500 for the parket ticket, most drivers will pay P250 to the cop who pulls them over. I won't stand for it, though. If you knew what I've had to endure these past six months trying to set up my company, you'd be shocked. I'm playing by the rules, and it's been six months.

So how do we start to trust the government? Get fresh people in there, people who aren't afraid to kick some butt, and kick out the corrupt. Good luck making that happen, but I agree with Pangalangan: government has always watched for itself, and we need to bring in people with altruistic virtue and value, whose work history has shown a love for the improvement of life all around.

Meanwhile, I choose to stay here, because I believe the country needs me. I believe God has determined my mission and that of my family's is to help my nation here. If the Gokongweis are to be believed, then Ateneans and Lasallians owe it to their country to start businesses, companies, jumpstart the economy, and not bail the sinking ship. As Mike has discoursed before, the brain drain will kill the economy. It's not like the B and C classes suffer from hunger. No, they're comfortable. No, they're not in immediate danger. It's just uncomfortable. But if the literati of the country abandon the nation, who will help those left behind?


Jax said...

whenever i read the newspaper each morning, naiiyak ako. i still remember those days when the exchange rate was still US$1=P18. and it seems like there's no hope for the country. but i refuse to believe it. other people may have lost hope but i haven't. i have plans of trying to live in another countries but never for good. in the end, when i try to look into my future and i try to envision my life 50 years from now, it always changes, different people "visit" my future but only one thing stays the same: they're all set here in the Philippines. my parents wants my siblings and i to try and move to different countries. i've agreed but my sister and i know it'll never be permanent. we know we will go back here and do something. besides, it's the least i can do as a Filipino: to stay and do something.

Deb said...

I truly admire and respect your commitment and dedication.

Phisch said...

One of my batchmates once asked me "why do Filipinos choose to go abroad?" I think her question would be quite different now. It's not the same Philippines I grew up in. I remember reading an old day-to-day calendar of my mom's and in her handwriting there was "P2 to $1" during the time period my parents went on their second honeymoon. It's too bad that corruption's effects aren't limited to economics: security is another casualty. Our family was a victim of a horrendous crime in Manila some years ago. Things have gotten worse in general and so my youngest sister and her husband are trying very hard to move here to the U.S.

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The guy is definitely right, and there's no question.