By OSCAR F. SANTOS
Coconut Industry Reform Movement (COIR)
FLAG day seeks to promote love of country. These days, everywhere, we see big flags emblazoned with the words, “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.”
But do we really love our country? Maybe so, but we certainly have a funny way of showing it.
The Philippines is blessed with an abundance of natural resources—forests, seas, rivers, lakes, and marine and wildlife. But what do we do?
We pollute the air we breathe, ravage our forests, defile our lakes and rivers, ruin our corals and poison our fish and aquatic life. We litter our streets and dump garbage on our waterways. We treat our natural resources as if they do not belong to us.
Many behave as if they have no pride in being Filipinos. Four out of 10 Filipinos want to leave the country and reside elsewhere. Many are even ashamed of being identified as Filipinos when they go abroad. Our so-called educated avoid speaking their native tongue. To speak with a pronounced native accent is considered “un-cool.” Many struggle to speak English, no matter how broken, because not to be able to is looked down upon.
We are unmindful of our responsibilities as citizens. We close our eyes to the corruption around us. We blatantly break the law, traffic rules most especially, every chance we get. We love to stress our individual rights, but we ignore other people’s. We clean our own backyards, but dump the trash on our neighbor’s side of the street.
We sell our votes and elect plunderers and nincompoops to the highest offices. We give known cheaters seats of honor. Our public officials behave like masters, forgetting that they are public servants. They abuse authority, take bribes, get involved in scandalous contracts, take liberties with public funds, and treat our institutions with utter disrespect.
James Fallows once said that we remain underdeveloped because of our “damaged culture,” having been under Spanish, American and Japanese rule for the last 500 years or so. Randy David puts it this way: “This trait goes by other names. It is the barbarism of mindless profit-seeking, of getting something for almost nothing, of doing brisk business on the despair of others. It is the culture of shabbiness, of mediocrity, of neglect, and of perpetual improvisation. It is the absolute contempt for the public.”
Why do we have no pride in being Filipino? We are so unlike our South Korean neighbors who, when their country was in dire straits, donated their jewels and precious possessions to help fund their government. We are so unlike our Japanese neighbors who care and hold sacred their hills and mountains. To them, the faintest suspicion of wrongdoing can make top officials jump off a cliff. To them, one’s honor comes first, and failing to do right by their country is unforgivable.
The flags we are displaying these days should remind us that we are no longer under foreign control. It is time for all of us to wake up and behave like true Filipinos who could truly say with pride and dignity, “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.”