Panes: Quo Vadis?

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, March 10, 2014


YEARS ago, someone pleaded the class to discuss the matter of values in a business environment without making any reference to Deity. Instantly, I found that absurd since time immemorial, societies had long been governed by a system of religious rules and these rules appeal to man’s spiritual nature. Albert Lindsey, author of the Ancient Moral Codes wrote in 2010 that from a deity’s authority, a moral code proceeds and the ruler (who implemented the code) acted as the deity’s earthly representative. I strongly believe that our values were inextricably anchored on some divine ordinance whether consciously acquired through teaching or tradition or spiritually encoded. San the supernatural source, man is a law unto himself and the short word for that is anarchy.

For academic discussions however excluding God from any topic is convenient. To most, it is the perfect order. God cannot be the subject over a table of beers. Most schools would not touch religion or intelligent design with a ten foot pole but would rather blindly embrace the vagueness of evolutionary science.

I would understand why. There are not enough qualified judges or men to speak of God. Even those who sport long and immaculately white vestments who had graduated from seminaries now affiliated with churches feel greater passion dabbling in worldly politics and defending mother earth rather than exalting and promoting the knowledge of the supernatural being. God has not become the awesome deity which He should be. He has become a figment of human imagination and a favorite subject of contentious debates.

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Sports conduct is a reflection of a belief system. The late Bruce Lee was a strong proponent of a faith demonstrated beyond words, a style which mirrored Eastern Taoist mysticism. In the Tao of Jeet Kune Do he writes, “In Buddhism, there is no place for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special…. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.” The west found the philosophy enigmatic.

In softball, Cat Osterman, one of USA’s top pitchers observed that Japanese teams approach the game with a personal or social orientation that emphasizes the good of the group, community, or society over and above individual gain. This is also known collectivism, a cultural character fiercely practiced by the Japanese.

Keilani Ricketts, one of America’s top pitchers had a different observation. In an interview with the Tokyo Weekender, Japan’s Premier English Magazine, she says: “Japanese girls are a lot smaller, they’re faster and quicker and they have short angles on their hitting. We Americans rely more on our power and our strength and we try to hit the long ball, hit home runs and pitch the ball hard. Japanese try to make things happen with their small plays, and that’s what works for them, because right now they are number one in the world.”

Making big things happen with small ways is a mindset distinctly Asian. Some of my Binonodo-based clients used to share that the secret of their ancestors’ wealth was “mamerang tubo” for every sale. There is no difference in the approach.

As for Philippine sports, I am convinced we are trapped in a maze.

Philippine basketball seeks the former glory days when Caloy Loyzaga was named part of the Mythical First Team in the 1954 World Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Surely, the achievement was an identity worth keeping but then the basketball landscape in Asia has changed significantly. China has become a basketball superpower. Yao Ming became a superstar in the NBA. Jeremy Lin also took the Big City by storm. I admire Japeth, Peter Aguilar’s son. I believe he is the country’s best shot to make a NBA basketball roster. I was sad he didn’t make the cut.

But as for naturalization being the quick solution for the pyrrhic national quest of basketball greatness, the compromise is disheartening. I wish I had intensively read my father’s copy of the Little Brown Brother – a book about the Filipino’s struggle for freedom from the Spanish regime. In time, we were liberated from Spain. Then from America we fought for freedom. Are we really free? In a way, yes but our freedoms notwithstanding many Independence Days celebrations are illusory.

If the current state of Philippines sports is a reflection of national belief, faith and values, then we are lost as the proverbial sheep in the wilderness. We are Asians nurturing a strange colonial mindset. History teaches us we are a melting pot of races? If still so, the Pinoy broth has a strange flavor and we are still far from the table.

President Manuel Quezon once declared his preference for a government run like hell by Filipinos. 70 years since his public declaration, hell has broken loose ditto. It sure feels like it. We are in a state of denial. We are in a state of confusion. We hate the prophecy but it is unfolding before us. Quo Vadis, Pilipinas?

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 11, 2014.

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