I WAS having breakfast with my husband and younger daughter when a news item read over the daily TV morning show we were watching caught the attention of my husband. The pretty program host had announced the appointment of a certain Rico Puno, not the singer and Makati politician, as Undersecretary for Peace and Order of the Department of Interior and Local Government. The hubby said that if the new appointee has Escalona for his middle name, he was his mate—a “brod”—in his dormitory organization while they were students at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos. A check in the internet later, confirmed that indeed he was Rico Escalona Puno. Typical, may be, of most Filipinos, I instinctively blurted to my hubby, “What (favors) can we get from him?” My quick thinking hubby humorously replied: “The best jail cell should you get in trouble over unauthorized collections in your school!” As Undersecretary for Peace and Order, Puno will oversee the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

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That brief amusing exchange made me reflect on two things as I made my way to school that morning. One, it made me realize the extent of how our values have evolved, nay for the worse, through the years. My instinctive exclaim—“what (favors) can we get from him!”—speaks volume of what’s in my subconscious mind. And no one could begrudge me if I declare that I was not alone—“hindi ako nag-iisa”—in having that state of mind and attitude. Only a few would not think of enriching themselves from every situation that they find themselves in. In this dog-eat-dog world, we would derisively regard these few “sick in the mind” for letting such opportunity passed unmoved from their seats and their pockets unfilled.

This brought me to my second reflection. Many of us, educators like me included, albeit matured and professionals, are hard to instruct and follow orders. At the start of the school year, how many school administrators and other personnel found them mired in controversy over unlawful collections of unauthorized school fees? This was in spite of the repeated reminders from the secretary and other officials of the education department. These administrators and personnel, may have thought that they could get away anew from this infraction as they did in the past. What they failed to realize was the truism of the cliché “thieves hate the company of their fellow thieves.” I must categorically state that I never consider my fellow school administrators thieves, I used this cliché figuratively to assert the fact that the parents of our pupils are, may be, like us, hated it when they are “naisahan.” Most would find it a non-issue if we strike while the iron is hot, so to speak, to make a fast one on others; some would even call you smart for that! But these same people would be greatly sore if they are at the receiving end of the said act. For the truth is, we always want to take advantage of others but would raise hell when it is our turn to be taken advantage of.

I may not be that old, but I failed to note when this change in our attitude started to dominate our psyche as a people. We used to care a lot for each other as our sense of “kapwa tao” was strong that we could not do harm to anyone among us. I can only hypothesize that this was brought about when we began to look down on our culture, thinking, and practices as inferior from the western norms and mores that bombarded us through various media. And it has pervasively gained acceptance as we become more western and global in our outlook. Before we further turn for the worst, isn’t it high time that we act decisively and regain our basic, good old Filipino values, like “kapwa tao?”

Gloria Braganza-Sarmiento

Principal II

Natividad Elementary School

Guagua, Pampanga