Values for the Philippines we want


When Alice was lost in Wonderland, she asked the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

We keep talking about changes in the political and economic system in our country, but we have to talk first about our society and ourselves.

We should much care where we want to get to as a people. We cannot change the political and economic systems without changing the values which shape the way we look at the world. We have to find the pearl of great price in today’s Gospel reading and sacrifice much so that we can possess it.

As a Filipino Christian, what is your new life in Christ worth to you? Do you love the word of God more than gold and silver, as we sing in today’s Psalm? Would you, like the characters in the Gospel today, sell all that you have in order to possess the kingdom God promises to us? If God were to grant any wish, would you follow Solomon’s example in today’s First Reading – asking not for a long life or riches, but for wisdom to know God’s ways and to desire His will and in doing his will build a nation of brotherhood and freedom?

What do we really value as a people? What is of utmost significance for us as a nation? What is the price we have to pay so that we can possess what will make us thrive? If we do not much care where we want to go as a people, it matters little what we do as the storms that batter our country become stronger because of climate change. It matters little how we react as political storms batter the country with the PDAF and DAP scandals, impeachment complaints are filed left and right and rumors of coup d’etats fill the already polluted air.

We cannot separate our social assumptions from our political and economic systems. We first have to figure out what kind of society we really want: a democratic society populated by responsible persons who thrive on interdependence and community, or a nation of patronage in a culture of consumption where citizens feel dependent on dole-outs and services from corrupt authority figures, and who are unwilling to take full responsibility for their actions.

We need a shared framework about what Filipinos as human beings are  “for” and how we might act and what we should strive for or resist. We need to redefine today what it means to be human in the absence of the kind of sustained, millennia-long reflection philosophy and the teaching of the humanities in the Philippine context. If we do not repair the damaged vehicle, it matters little who is driving it.

Values of the people in Smokey Mountain

During many conversations and Bible sharings in Smokey Mountain, I often asked the scavengers what they consider the most important questions in life. 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 drew the core values of integrity (from the Latin integer, whole), solidarity, creativity: pagpapakatao (becoming human), pakikipagsandiwaan (being one in spirit with others) and pagkamakasaysayan (being historical).

We 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). Sandiwaan means shared humanity and shared destiny.

Pagpapakatao for the scavengers 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. They would think that one goes against pagpapakatao if as a politician, one takes money that belongs to the people. This value also goes against the mediocrity that has plagued our damaged culture for so long —pwede na yan!

Pakikipagsandiwaan is the dynamic connectedness with other human beings as brothers and sisters. One loses this dynamic connectedness if one thinks only of his or her own interests and not the welfare of the community.

Pagkamakasaysayan means that the world is historical—it had a definite beginning and will someday end. Human beings are historical too with a past and with a future. They need to be creative to adapt to changing circumstances if they are to thrive in an evolving universe.

Our leaders therefore should not be myopic in making decisions, but think of generations yet to come and leave a lasting legacy that will make others remember them with honor and affection.

For the scavengers, historicity means 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). As historical beings, we are duty-bound to create a positive human future and fulfill our destiny as loving, thinking, relating and dreaming human beings. In the light of these questions and the accelerating changes in the world, the values of integrity, solidarity and creativity are the most crucial in order to live more humanly in an evolving world.

Politicians who come from the upper classes mostly are alienated from the majority of the populace’s view of the world. The middle class have also been brainwashed by our education to think like Westerners and embrace their values. While I catered to the understanding of “person” as an individual substance of a rational nature, for example, identity among the scavengers is always understood as shared identity.

Filipinos understand themselves as beings-in-relation. Their languages have many words for being in relationship—pakikipagsandiwaan, pakikiisa, pakikisama, pakikitungo, pakikisalamuha, pakikisangkot, pakikialam, pakikisali, pakikipagkapwa. They are more prone to say “we” instead of “I.”

The people in Smokey Mountain do not define themselves apart from each other. Their understanding of themselves is characterized by the intense experience of the self as a member of a group rather than as a separate ego. Our leaders have lost this sense of belongingness with the masses. They think only of themselves and so they have always betrayed the people. But they have mastered the art of using the people’s pakikisama and utang na loob to perpetuate their political dynasties.

Just like the scavengers of Smokey Mountain who transformed their community with communal values they themselves chose, we have to start as a nation by re-examining our collective values and envisioning a society where persons once again matter. What is worth striving for?

What should we accept, what should we question, and what should we resist? What system of ethics do we use, where does it come from, and how does it persist through time?

So you do not start with the PDAF and DAP scandals and ask how to redesign Philippine politics and economics. You start with life, with human life and the life of the planet, and ask: How do we generate the conditions for the Filipino’s flourishing in an evolving cosmos?
Ano ang Pilipinas na ating adhika?


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  1. If the Philippines has no corruption and the good prosperous economy extends to all Filipinos, poor and rich, we can be employers and we will not depend on OFW remittances. Singapore and Hong Kong achieved it, so why can’t we?

  2. I want to add that the Philippines do not have to rely on OFW remittances to buoy our economy. We should be ashamed of THIS rather than be proud. We are so used to dependence on handouts and lagay, that we are proud of them rather be embarrassed and changed for better treatment and be proud of our own achieveMeNts.
    The appalling situations in the Philippines made the OFWs stay in Lbya. They are afraid of returning to the Philippines since their future will be worst. Many Filipinos chise to leave the Philippines and take their chances in foreign countries. Usually, they are successful. Our government is always so corrupt.

  3. The first job to have the Philippines we want is how to get rid of the ingrained greedy dynastic plunderers, with insatiable appetite to plunder, nakaw, the Philippines coffer.

    Second, who among us has (have) the courage not to be enticed by the Philippines wealth to pocket it privately once in office. Filipinos voters and politicians have been used to colonial mentality that as long as they are benefited personally, it does not matter where the money, lagay, is unconstitutional, unlawful and deceitful.

    Third, it will take generations to get rid of this mentality. Thus, we are known internationally as good care givers, good nannies, subservient enablers and abbettors, etc. We are happy to be second fiddles. An example is PNoy, a puppet to A-BAD.

    Fourth, we have to start somewhere, somehow and sometime soon or anytime now. The time is right now and let’s have a viable, effective and sustainable honest government. UNFORTUNATELY, PNOY BLEW IT WHEN HE SHOWED HE IS AVOVE THE LAW. “NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT NO ONE IS NO ONE.”

  4. I suspect defining the identity and ideals of the Filipino nation is not as important as taking action vis a vis the problems that confront the country. I think solutions to problems are not lost to the Filipino nation. There just have to be enough concerned individuals not to be concerned of his personal future and his family’s future much like St. Peter and the other disciples who dropped what they were doing and left their families to join Jesus in His Mission or Mother Theresa’s single-mindedness to tend to the poor. Of course this is hard, that’s why the world is the way it is. It is always easier for all good men to do nothing heroic. But in consolation there are plenty of small and good things one can do alleviate people’s sufferings around him, at the very least, and leave Divine Providence play out the Grand Design. Not necessarily the ideal way.

  5. If only Fr. Ben P. Beltran’s ideas be put into action, I am for his suggestion for a possible course of action by the Filipino citizens to adhere to what he said and I quote “A democratic society populated by responsible persons who thrive on independence and community” and not “A nation of patronage in a culture of consumption where citizens feel dependent on dole outs and services from corrupt authority figures, and unwilling to take full responsibility for their actions”. Yes indeed, but the present culture of the general population is deep rooted that majority adhere to the second idea. It’s so sad…but only time will tell and I just hope the people wakes up soon.

    • The Liturgy of the Holy Mass can change a nation. Unfortunately, we do not know it truly is.. we just come and go, that’s it..

  6. This is exactly what is keeping the filipino people backward. You are to close to believing in god. Why cant you see reality, there are natural disasters all over the world every single year. You believe god created the heavens & the earth well he didnt do a very good job of it if he did as he could have made it these natural disasters dont occur. But your church explains that very simply to you.
    I would tell you to think of others if you see a child struggling to say carry water or an elderly person struggling to carry water, carry it for them. Dont throw your litter on the floor, teach your children not to throw their litter on the floor. If you see someone breaking the law, speeding in your subdivision, or children riding motorcycles in yur sub division, stop them. Make them obey rules. Then you yourself start obeyiong driving rules & i guarantee your life will feel much better instantly. The country will be a cleaner place a safer place. Start there but at the same time hold your politicians accountable for their actions.