IN AN anthropology class, our professor told us that changing anything cultural takes generations. Evolution of culture too takes decades if not centuries to shape. Undoing it takes the same time, if not longer.

That lecture was in 1986 yet, a month when the fresh air of freedom breezed through the entire country when Ferdinand Marcos was booted out from office. Almost a quarter century after, our professor may still be right after all.

Post your reaction to the Manila hostage crisis

The legacy of Marcos era was twenty years of evolving culture of corruption, which has been embedded further deep in the national psyche, by the coterie of leaders around Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos with his power barges, Erap with his BW resources, and Gloria Arroyo’s infamy in ZTE deals and fertilizer scams.

While we howl in protest against big-time scams, we seem timid to protest the varied forms of corruption that is going-on in our daily affairs. Erringly, our silence amid corruption in our daily existence is an indication that it has become a norm, something part of our culture, ergo, our society.

There is a sense that corruption is something that always occurs anywhere and one has only to live with it. Corruption in this case is now cultural mainstream. Tragic, but its truth rings aloud.

Just last Sunday, my nine-year-old son was playing lawn tennis in Gingoog City. I was wondering why my son cried during changed-over. He complained that the referee called shots of the opponent “in” when it should have been "out". I was suspicious of the calls, but good faith should be presumed. I urged my son to just play, and assured him that even in grand slam events, referees commit mistakes too.

My son lost. But he was inconsolable. He complained of the many wrong calls which favored his opponent. I lectured him on sportsmanship and of accepting defeat graciously.

My son was crying to raise a point that fairness must be upheld, in any sports and even in the big game called life. His cries were those of protest of the wrong which he saw clearly in the way the game was officiated.

I heard his protest. I was observing the referee after the game. He was fifty meters away. The father of the opponent of my son approached him. I smelled something foul. So I went near the two who were huddled in a corner. To my shock, the referee was given crisp P500 bill.

Of course, I complained and raised hell. I felt a numbing sensation. Even the sports played by kids are being tainted with corruption. Otherwise innocent minds are corrupted early on.

Politics and corruption have stunted our sports. But to spread its corrupting influences even to kids as young as nine years old is simply abominable.

All around us, we see varied forms of corruption, in different colors and hues. Corruption has permeated in all levels of society, from top to bottom, and across classes. But it must be certain that in whatever shape and color, corruption is detestable.

A top executive in Xavier University complained that he has been spending days just to follow-up his land titles with the Register of Deeds. The clerk gave him piecemeal list of requirements. Every time he complies with the requirement, another one was added to the list.

This modus operandi is going-on in government offices. These government employees intentionally delay the processing so you give grease money. Pronto! As soon as the money is given, the processing is immediately over.

Few days ago, the hostage drama in Manila hugged the cable news courtesy of Police Officer Rolando del Rosario Mendoza.

Mendoza’s case was a parody of the moral malaise that besets our country. Charged with extortion, he wanted his name cleared by the Office of the Ombudsman via, ironically, the hostage drama. An officer should know that his plan has no place in the legal order. He was doomed.

Imagine an extortionist – he was dismissed for the offense – in the police corps demanding acquittal from his misdeeds. The thought is simply horrifying.

And maybe, in his distorted sense of justice, he deserved to be acquitted. Fear should grip the country if this idea spreads throughout the bureaucracy. And fear we must. The tentacles of corruption seem to have a firm hold in our country.

Mendoza’s case was decidedly more numbing than what happened in the tennis court last Sunday: A completely distorted concept of law and morality.

What we have are mere vignettes of the many cases of corruption that have become mainstream that is elevated as a cultural phenomenon. Corruption goes on in our daily lives that we tend to accept it as part of our existence. The moment we hold this idea then corruption has become cultural.

If we take the theory of our anthropology professor, our fight against corruption is a long way to go. It is way to go indeed, Pnoy. [emails, comments to tiburciopalasan@palasanlaw.com]