7 habits you can learn, practice to change the country (politics-free)

THE elections are over. A new set of leaders, voted in by the Filipino public. Major props to all the politicians who took losing gracefully, and congratulations to all the newly elected officials.

However, these are the days when being a Filipino can sometimes be discouraging.

First, we realize that the Filipino’s “innate compassion” finds a way to practice “forgive and forget” when it comes to the allegedly corrupt. But second, and more importantly, the Filipino sees himself as a “VIP” with a newly hired set of employees ready to do the dirty work for him.

The water crisis? The constant case of “carmageddon”? The drainage problem? Sure, public officials need to kick-start solutions to these concerns. But at the end of the day, it is still up to the public how successful these “solutions” are. What we need therefore, is a little mind-set change. Big things start small.

That said, here are seven—just seven—habits everyone can start practicing for a better country. The Philippines will definitely fare better if people start doing these things daily.

Clean up after your meal at a fast-food joint

It’s a tradition we learned from our fathers, which they learned from their fathers. After we enjoy eating our fried chicken or burgers, we just leave the trash—tray and all—on the table. Sure, there are “servers” who clean up after you. But these places are actually self-service establishments. Third-world as we are, burdened by so much more than just disposing a couple of paper cups and wrappers, we don’t have to stay third-world. Cleaning up is a practice of discipline.

Utilize jeepney, bus stops

People are quick to judge public utility vehicle drivers. “Oh, they don’t know how to drive.” “Ah, they’re ticking traffic time bombs waiting to explode.” “Boo, shabu.”

But have we thought of actually properly utilizing jeepney or bus stops? Some encouragement: Some metro bus lines today are teaching commuters to line up at stops, and to wait for the buses that arrive and leave on time. In the case of jeepneys, the jeepney stop needs to be respected. If we, the public, respect the stop by waiting for our ride there and actually lining up (or something) before a ride, the drivers have no choice but to respect the stop.

Abolish Filipino time

We did not invent Filipino time. We came up with a fun way to brand our incompetence. If everybody arrived on time during meetings or get-togethers, we get to practice the virtues of being credible and trustworthy. “But, the traffic,” you say? Find a way to beat the traffic. And if you still end up late, don’t overthink: It’s not your fault anymore. You are a responsible, progressive adult coping with what we like to call a temporary “speed bump.”

Don’t litter—ever

No matter how tiny that candy wrap looks like or no matter how insignificant that receipt from the ATM seems, do not throw these things anywhere. We, Filipinos, are quick to say “he did it, too.” Just because our neighbors left piles of trash in front of the street, where it’s clearly not the place to do so, doesn’t mean we can do it, too. And please don’t throw a banana peeling on the street from a moving vehicle. Those things are biodegradable, yes. But that’s besides the point. Again, practice discipline. Schools have taught us this ever since: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

Stop sharing fake news

“But I didn’t know it was fake.” A celebrity dies again, a quote is taken out of context—we all fall for click-bait traps sometimes. But with a little self-restraint and careful comprehension, we can play our roles in being responsible citizens, online or offline. The Philippines is one of the most active countries on social media (boy, do we have a lot of time on our hands, do we?). Imagine the kind of social upgrade it can experience, if its citizens can stop sharing and promoting fake news altogether?

Follow the signs

Obedience, please. Just follow all legit signs. When the parish has built a gate for pedestrians with an entrance/exit label, just follow it. When the sign says, “No Flash Photography Allowed,” don’t even think about taking that picture. When the sign says “Observe Silence,” then respect the peace. We talk about keeping our public leaders accountable, and then we’re here, unrelenting in our selfish pursuits. Keep cool. Respect rules.

Say no to fixers

When it comes to paperwork, or some errand one needs to do in a government office, say no to fixers. No matter how slow the workers in that particular office branch may be, bypassing the system is not fixing the system. The system remains broken, and you just leapfrogged a hundred or more people waiting in line—the proper way—just because you paid a fixer to do your business for you.

At the end of the day, losing one’s claim to self-entitlement may be the very best thing that could happen to this country. And who better to start the ball rolling? The people voted into power; those in the best position to be exemplary model citizens.

God bless the Philippines!


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