IF THERE is one lesson this week's dramatic hostage taking reveals, it would be that no matter how well-equipped our country may be to invest in tourism, the flaws of our culture will always get in the way.

The hostage-taking incident could be the most Artuadian way by which we can realize this truth. What occurred may be viewed as a case of someone taking people as hostages for own personal interest. Except that he chose tourists.

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The hostage-taker was indeed taking the lives of others for his own personal interest, but, if Lucien Goldmann's Structural Marxism also be used to look at the situation, the fact that he was able to do something like that is ultimately a reflection of what his society is able to do. While his motivations may be personal, his very self-centeredness is not unique to him but is a manifestation of the self-centeredness of our culture.

The situation ended up showing foreigners not the beauty of our country but the ugliness of our people. While the crisis may be an extreme example of this problem, there are also many simpler though equally concrete manifestations even within Davao.

Imagine a foreigner who, having heard from his colleagues at work that Davao City is one of the "most livable cities," with good security, beautiful scenery, adequate basic services and cleanliness buys a ticket bound for Davao out of curiosity.

Imagine then his disappointment when on his first step out of the airport he sees someone's green phlegm glistening in the hot afternoon sun. Yet again, the faults of our neglected and uncorrected culture have ruined an otherwise good first impression.

But it doesn't end there. Tourists, in their desire to know the city better, prefer walking over riding. Imagine our hypothetical tourist's disgust then when he walks up the overpass near Victoria and sees the usual mound of feces or the pool of urine on the floor, both manifestations of our cultural acceptance of using public places as comfort rooms.

Though the correlation may at first not be manifested, these examples show the intricate link between something as abstract as our way of living and something as concrete as the trade of tourism. Remember that in the latter, we are displaying our country, which doesn’t just encompass the scenic, the artistic and whatnot, but it also includes our everyday lives.

So before we decide to open our doors to spectators from outside, we should first correct the faults of our culture and make sure we ourselves are presentable. We should also check if they might not slip on someone’s phlegm or be held hostage by some dismissed cop.

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Sunday Essays are compositions by third year Masscom students of Ateneo de Davao University for their journalism class. (Karlo Antonio G. David)