What the Philippines needs
What our country needs now, more than anything else, is Christ. Only he can heal our broken nation. Some put their hope in political movements. Others in the Kalashnikov rifle. Still others in much money. But movements and guns and money do not heal nations. They cannot make broken people whole. We need Christ to restore our hope. We need Christ to help people find joy. Many people have placed their trust in politicians and action stars and hoped for the wrong things, which only served to dampen their hope and extinguish their joy.
As we usher in the Advent Season, it would be good to think again about what is really important in life to prevent more brokenness and more despair. How do we really welcome Emmanuel, God-with-us, apart from Christmas trees and expensive gifts?
During many conversations and Bible sharings in Smokey Mountain, I often asked the scavengers what they consider the most important questions in life, more than the accumulation of material goods and passing pleasures. They summarized them into three: What does it mean to be a human being; How can we live together as brothers and sisters; and, How can we give the children a good future. Their answers can be summarized into three principles from which we draw the core values of integrity, solidarity, creativity: pagpapakatao (becoming human), pakikipag-sandiwaan (being one in spirit with others) and pagkamakasaysayan (being historical).
Pagpapakatao means becoming all that one can be, constantly striving for wholeness and the fullness of life. It also means having unchanging principles to live by, while adapting to the changing times. This means that if you steal money that is not yours, especially if you are a leader in a poor country, you forfeit your integrity, you lose your humanity, and the right to celebrate the coming of the Messiah.
We have made diwa, the root word of sandiwa, one in mind and heart, into an acronym for damdamin (feeling), isip (thought), wika (language) and adhika (passionate intention, dream or ambition). Pakikipagsandiwaan is to be profoundly related to others and to the earth.
Pagkamakasaysayan means for the scavengers isaloob ang kahapon (put the past in your innermost being), isapuso ang ngayon (put the present in your heart), and isadiwa ang bukas (put tomorrow in your spirit) in order to create a positive human future and fulfill our destiny as loving, thinking, relating and dreaming human beings. We used the value of creativity because the scavengers thought you have to be creative in being historical, in providing for the young a better future in the light of the limited resources of the earth and the dominant position of aggressive people ruled by greed.
Values in an evolving cosmos
Pagpapakatao is the dynamism towards wholeness and the movement towards becoming complete, the deepening of our humanity and personhood through self-transcendence, solidarity and creativity. Integrity as a value means the disposition to live an undivided existence, to stand complete and whole – soul and body, spirit and matter. It is the condition of being whole, complete, and unimpaired – its opposite is a life in which our words and actions conceal or even contradict our personal truth, in which the deepest things in us are hidden from view.
Pagpapakatao means there is no dichotomy between what is right and what is done to fulfill oneself, to become whole. We are moral beings, motivated by a sense of obligation, committed to values in order to live a life of dignity and grace, of humility and attentiveness, of empathy and compassion.
We are free to act rightly, because it is the right way to act as moral beings, and not only because of the consequences of our actions. Pagpapakatao is rooted in the “passion for being finally and permanently more,” in the words of Teilhard de Chardin. Our destiny is to live a truly human life, becoming all that we can be in an evolving cosmos, integrating wholeness in our work, life, relationships, and in our social impact.
Pakikipagsandiwaan means that to be human is to be in relationship—the growth of the self happens in relationship with the other. Each human person is a deeply relational center connected dynamically into an evolutionary environment that includes numerous other complex living and non-living systems. We have to understand human personality ecologically, in terms of its complex relatedness to the wider evolving universe. Forming connections and bonds is one of the defining characteristics of human beings.
Our identity grows continually through interaction with other persons and with the world around us. The increased capacity for personal identity cannot be separated from the capacity for mutual presence – every human being has an intersubjective need, the need for one’s status to be acknowledged by another human being. The need for recognition by the other is central to what it means to be human.
Understanding ourselves as related to others, to those who have gone before us and to those who will come after, is crucial for respecting ourselves and understanding who we are. The stress is on people working together, people flourishing within networked communities. Solidarity is the virtue by which each person is aware of belonging to the whole human race, of being brother or sister to all human beings, of living in communion with all other sentient beings in an evolving universe. We are all related, to Earth and to each other, and these relationships are inescapable, inherently valuable, and increasingly interconnected.
Creativity is the ability to relate unconnected pieces of information in new ways and apply the integrated information in an adaptive manner. The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering. The dynamism of the world of becoming grounds creativity, intelligence and human consciousness. We have to be infused with the spirit of creativity because the ability to think ahead and plan for the future is one of the necessary features of our pagkamakasaysayan. We need to be creative to assure a sustainable future for generations of Filipinos yet to come.
The future belongs to creators and emphatizers, pattern recognizers, meaning-makers – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers. These are people who have the capacity, according to Daniel Pink, to “detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine unrelated ideas into something new.” Creativity involves crossing boundaries and pushing the envelope. We have to use the creative power of our imagination to generate hope and frame our visions of what we want to become.
Just like the Little Drummer Boy in the Christmas carol, we have no gifts to bring to the Baby Jesus except ourselves. Our striving to become more human, more connected to others, and making the world a better place is the best way to prepare for the Christ-Child. And the best way to transform our country.