CEBU

Atienza: The demons within us

Chatroom

AFTER saying in this column that President Duterte is a potential “folk hero,” my husband teased me and asked, “So you are now a certified Dutertard?”

I huffed, “Of course not!” But I have a realistic and practical frame of mind. When PRRD takes the Filipinos to task and proclaims, “The enemy is us. We are our own demons,” many say they are aghast! How dare he?

Yet for all intents and purposes, I believe he is right. PRRD rebukes us by verbalizing what we are all afraid to acknowledge. We are all party to the mess our country is in.

A simple examination of conscience will bear this out:

Have I ever run through a red light because I was in a hurry?

Have I ever stopped in a No Standing area? Tell the guard “I’ll just be a minute” and then take 15 minutes instead?

Have I ever used someone else’s Student Card or Senior Citizen card to get a discount?

Have I ever given some sort of “gift” to a government employee so I can get my paperwork done faster?

Do I turn a blind eye to injustices done around me?

Those are but a few.

Here’s more: Notice how opposing political parties (red, yellow, green, blue or rainbow) will say and do almost anything to bring down the other. Like taking home toilet seats and refusing to vacate office. Like voting along political lines regardless of the fact that a particular ordinance may be good for the community. Or for that matter, voting to borrow billions of pesos to build a non-priority structure that is more detrimental than helpful to the country.

Notice also how we Filipinos are the first to shoot ourselves in the foot. When choosing house pets, we get the “French” poodle, instead of adopting the homeless “irong Bisaya.” For parties, we serve “Peking duck” instead of the tough to chew and lowly “manok Bisaya.” For the longest time, Cebuanos used to refer to anything inferior as “Bisaya.” It was not until Bisdak was coined that we even began to feel pride in being Cebuano.

We love to bring down ourselves not only in our own neighborhood but also in the international arena. We allow Iceland to shame us and call on international celebrity lawyers like Amal Clooney to destroy our country’s credibility in the name of press freedom. In the same breath, we allow multinational pharmaceuticals to use us as guinea pigs for their medicine and, when the medicines are finally approved, allow them to charge us 20 times the cost of similar medication made in India.

A few years ago, I was on the same flight with a motley group of young American, European and Asian surfers who were on their way to Bali from Siargao. They heaved their backpacks, lugged their surfboards and noisily waddled their way through Philippine airport security–hair unkempt, jaws unshaven.

When we got to Changi Airport for a stopover, they straightened and cleaned up. One chap called out, “We gotta behave now guys. We are in Singapore, not the Philippines!” I did not know whether to cry or not. Clearly, their respect for the Filipino was a rung or 10 lower than their respect for the Singaporean.

When the former President Noynoy Aquino ran on the slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” we embraced the idea. Aquino raised our hopes for the end of corruption and for a better country. We ended up with Napoles, Mamasapano and undistributed Typhoon Yolanda goods.

Nowadays, we throw more mud at each other in the name of fighting for sovereignty over disputed waters. In the meantime, Cebu’s poor immerse in bacteria-ridden, polluted waters to get food in exchange for collecting trash. We debate over drug casualties and press freedom. Yet abused and innocent children in our neighborhoods are making headlines in the dark information highway.

No, neither the Human Rights Commission nor Amal Clooney can make our country better for us. SWS surveys will not change our perceptions of us. Not all the prayers of the archbishops, the clergy, the elders, the imams and the laity will help us. Not if we, as a nation, refuse to see, accept and pray that we as individuals truly need to change from the inside and to fight the demons within us.


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