Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Philippines is a Poor Country

I was discussing with someone on the internet regarding the image of the Philippines as a country rich in natural resources. He asked me proof of this claim. I can only parrot what are being said and projected by writers and researchers. But, given comparative study of our natural resouces with that of other nations, we are not really at the top to be called rich. I'm inclined to believe that the Philippines, my beloved country, is in fact poor and our natural resources limited.

He wrote, "I think we might agree on this point. I think it is necessary to imbue the citizens of a country with the attitude that their country is "poor," meaning, its resources are limited and they have to be well managed for the sake of all the citizens of the country. I believe this attitude is necessary even for so-called "rich" countries like the U.S. The resources of a country must be well managed by the state. The state has, I believe, a grave responsibility toward its citizens in this respect. I learned from a scholar who studied in Japan that the Japanese are taught throughout their formal schooling that their country is "poor." They are taught that Japan has practically no natural resources, and so the citizens must work and innovate in order to prosper. This kind of attitude appears to have worked to the benefit of all Japanese. The same kind of attitude is necessary for the citizens of most countries, which have limited and sometimes even poor natural resources, if a nation is to prosper. It's not the only factor that influences the material well being of a country, but it is, I believe, a very significant one."

Yes, we have to be educated and believe that the Philippines is a poor country and our resources limited. Because of this acceptance of a sad reality, we need to do something great and double our efforts as a nation to improve our situation. We should do it ourselves and not depend on outside help. We should draw solutions to our problems using our ingenuity and indigenous materials. If we want to go forward; if we want to be at par with richer countries, we need to maximize our resources. We need to develop technologies appropriate to our situations.

I am saddened by our national government's strategy in resolving our rice crisis. Why do we need to import rice from other countries? Secretary Yap has an insight to the problem of the country when he called for reduction of waste on rice. It was a nice move, but it seems majority of the businessmen took it as suppressive act. This administration is known for its aggressiveness to bring about its programs despite the noisy opposition. They should not give in to the call of the already financially liberated groups. Millions of suffering Filipinos must be the prime consideration of the government's decisions. How much the NFA spent on cellophanes and on labor when they rebagged the rice by 1 kilo, when they can ask the people to bring their own container?

We are not a rich country, and we should not act as if we are.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Integrity, the Second Principle


The second principle that the citizens of a nation ought to possess is integrity. We learn from the Book of Proverbs that the integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them (Prov. 11,3). In my previous post, I discussed few important ethical standards which are based from Chinese philosophy, the Bible and the Qur’an. Closely related to ethics is Integrity which is the firm resolve to follow or obey an ethical code.
Integrity, as Wikipedia puts it, “is the basing of one's actions on an internally consistent framework of principles…One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything one does and believes is based on the same core set of values. While those values may change, it is their consistency with each other and with the person's actions that determine the person's integrity…The concept of integrity is directly linked to responsibility in that implementation spawning from principles is designed with a specific outcome in mind. When the action fails to achieve the desired effect, a change of principles is indicated. Accountability is achieved when a faulty principle is identified and changed to produce a more useful action.”

Chris Zach Hidalgo connects integrity with truth and honesty as its guideline, benchmark, a point of reference or a goal. To him integrity is a skill that is developed and learned overtime. One needs to train himself in and practice integrity, since it is a trait that is taught and learned over an entire lifetime. He compared integrity with a building or a plant that one constructs or plants and maintains or waters in order to keep it standing or living. Like the building and the plant, integrity may collapse or wither and die. But, for Hidalgo, though the building may fall and the plant may die, you can always re-build it or plant a new seed, which again you need to maintain or take good care of.

Hidalgo said that people can tweak or modify their definition of integrity to suit their needs, desires and ambitions at the time. For that reason, it's possible to have a large number of definitions of the word or state of affairs in a person's life--but that doesn't necessarily mean they're all sound definitions. He gave other definitions of integrity:
Integrity will:
1. begin and continue as a personal ON-GOING decision to stand firm on principals that are inherently good.
2. most likely take the long, straight and narrow road and does not cave into cheating
3. tell the truth over a lie despite the consequences
4. suffer the consequences instead of compromise itself
5. help to steer a person clear of those that easily bow to a corrupt nature
6. be apt to lend a helping hand simply as a by-product of this special lifestyle decision
7. diminish and eventually disappear if you choose to ignore and abandon it's blessing
8. set you apart from a great number of people who have chosen to follow the lead of a different drummer
9. sometimes separate you from the "in" crowd, but that's not always the case
10. on some occasions, make other people feel uncomfortable around you because of their own insecurities, problems and guilt
11. impress others only because of your decision to adhere to such a (sometimes) difficult lifestyle
12. sometimes put you into tight situations that APPEAR to be needlessly difficult
13. allow for rebuilding. It will come back and continue to blossom if you choose and allow it to grow within
Integrity will NOT:
14. allow for decisions that may compromise personal belief and faith
15. always APPEAR to help a situation
16. be an easy decision for all situations
17. be Disneyland and roses all the time
18. give in to peer pressure simply because "everyone's doing it"
19. give up on you--you can always re-establish integrity by making a conscious effort to re-build what past mistakes have broken down
20. in an obvious way come to the rescue of a person

Our country now, more than ever, needs Filipinos with integrity. It is a virtue that we can have if we choose to have it every day and in every circumstance of our life. We have to possess clear principles that will govern our life and the ends that we will seek give purpose to our daily decisions. As a nation, we need to have a national creed which will give us a point of reference for navigating the sometimes-stormy seas of national journey. Without a set of such beliefs, we will have no rudder, and we’ll easily be blown about by the winds of fashion and selfishness. We need a National Credo to guide us and prevent confusion along the way.

Chiara's love for the Church


In one of Chiara Lubich's writings, I understood how she loved the Church and united herself very much with the church, she said:

"The gospel, which is inexhaustible, the epistles and all the scriptures, for this is where God expresses himself, will inspire and confirm your actions, correcting them when necessary.

“You have only one teacher.” Christ is teacher and guide. His presence is enough to make us walk in the light. But the light, however bright, must be approved by the church. Did not Christ himself promise? “Anyone who listens to you listens to me.

For you, the church, can never be without Christ nor Christ without the church. Your love for her and the humility of recognizing her maternity towards you count more than the light itself.

If you do everything with this attitude, you can be certain that the Spirit speaking to you is the same spirit that lives in the church. One will guarantee the other. You will discover with amazement that the church is the home of truth. You will experience that the fresh, clear truth which lives ,,in the depths of your souls and which is ready to overflow among you if you love God, is the same truth that the church has preserved and treasured for two thousand years.

Love truth, and therefore the church. Love the gospel of Jesus Christ as the church teaches it and you will feel members of the church, you will that you are the church. Feed on the light which she spreads through the word and other signs which are hers to give, such as the Eucharist. How could you really understand unity without the sacrament of unity? This sacrament makes you all one, a single body. Then you will share the light of Christ."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI in the US

This picture is taken from EWTN.

I was following the historic visit of the Pope to the United States through Eternal Word Television Network, and I was dumbfounded to hear the answer of President Bush to the final question of Host Raymond Arroyo. He was referring to President Bush’s words about looking into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and “seeing his soul.” When Arroyo asked Bush what he saw when he looked into the eyes of Pope Benedict XVI, the president replied, “God”.

The main message of the pope to the people of America is: "Christ is our hope".

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ethics, as a basic principle

The first principle necessary in the making of a rich and developed country, according to Dr. Arsenio Martin, is Ethics. What is Ethics? Wikipedia defines it as “a major branch of philosophy, encompassing right conduct and good life.” What is right conduct?

Bhagavan Baba, in describing Dharma, gives us the synthesis of right conduct. “Dharma is a body of principles that are fundamental to social stability and individual progress. If we obey it, we are happy. It’s common definition is the adherence to the golden rule: 'Do unto others what you wish them to do unto you. Do not have a double standard. Treat all as your own self'.

“Dharma means certain obligations and duties and regulations over actions, words and behavior. For example, elders have certain obligations towards younger people and vice versa; neighbors have mutual duties and rights. The task of everyone is to do the duty that has come upon him, with a full sense of responsibility to the utmost of his capacity. There should be complete coordination between what one feels, says and does. Then work becomes worship…
“How are you to decide in any particular case what is Dharma and what is not? That which does not inflict pain on you and others - that is Dharma. This follows from the recognition that same God resides in everyone and if you injure another, you are hurting the same God who is in you. Dharma enables you to come to the recognition that anything that is bad for another is also bad for you. So act in such a way that you get joy and others too get joy. Or take another standard for your actions: Make the mind, the speech and body agree in harmony. Act as you speak, speak as you feel, do not play false to your conscience. ..
“Dharma is the eternal source. Dharma is a great virtue. Dharma is the basis for everything. In this world nothing is higher than righteousness. Man must follow the path of Dharma, to know himself, to discard demonic qualities, to foster human qualities, to develop divine qualities and to achieve a good life.” http://www.eaisai.com/baba/docs/right.html

Moreover, still within the Chinese philosophy, there are "noble eightfold path" which would lead to the cessation of suffering: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right mindfulness and right concentration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path

1. Right view is commonly translated as "right perspective", "right vision" or "right understanding". It overcomes "wrong view" arising from ignorance. The purpose of right view is 'to clear one's path of the majority of confusion, misunderstanding and deluded thinking. It is a means to gain right understanding of reality. It should be held with a flexible, open mind, without clinging to that view as a dogmatic position. In this way, right view becomes a route to liberation rather than an obstacle.'

2. Right intention’s other terms are "right thought", "right resolve", or "right aspiration" or "the exertion of our own will to change". It 'enjoins renunciation of worldly things and an accordant greater commitment to spiritual matters; good will; and a commitment to non-violence towards other living beings.'

3. Right speech 'deals with the way in which one would best make use of his or her words.' By 'abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter, ultimately means that "one naturally has to speak the truth, has to use words that are friendly and benevolent, pleasant and gentle, meaningful and useful".'

4. Right action, as the name implies, 'deals with the proper way in which one would act in his or her daily life. And what is right action? It is abstaining from taking life, from stealing, from illicit sex, from false speech and from intoxicants, which lead to heedlessness.'

5. Right livelihood is 'based around the concept of harmlessness, and essentially states that one ought not to engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm to other living beings or systems. Such occupations include "trading in arms and lethal weapons, intoxicating drinks, poisons, killing animals, cheating". It also forbids slave trading and prostitution, several other dishonest means of gaining wealth, such as scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, and pursuing gain with gain."'

6. Right effort or '"right endeavor" involves one’s continuous effort to, essentially, keep his or her mind free of thoughts that might impair his or her ability to realize or put into practice the other elements of the Noble Eightfold Path; for example, wishing ill towards another living being would contradict the injunction—contained in the "Right thought" element—to have good will towards others, and the "Right effort" element refers to the process of attempting to root out such an ill wish and replace it with a good wish.'
The four phases of Right Effort:
(1) make effort to prevent the unwholesome that has not yet come.
(2) make effort to destroy the unwholesome that has come.
(3) make effort to produce the wholesome that has not yet come.
(4) make effort to cultivate the wholesome that has come. '

7. Right mindfulness, also translated as "right memory", 'together with right concentration, is concerned broadly with the practice of meditation. Roughly speaking, "mindfulness" refers to the practice of keeping the mind alert to phenomena as they are affecting the body and mind.The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.'

8. Right concentration, together with right mindfulness, is concerned broadly with the practice of meditation which is dependent on the development of preceding path factors:
The Blessed One said: 'Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.' "

Philippines, as a Christian nation, based its ethical standards from the Bible. And the Bible teaches almost the same concepts above. The Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Command to Love God and every person, the way Jesus did, are sure way for good life. Do Christians conduct themselves according to Christ?

In like manner the "Ummah", the Community in Islam are guided by the Quran which "regards individuals as part of a community in which the totality of Islamic values and goals can be expressed and realized... It is the embodiment of the model behavior expected of society and individuals, and as such represents an example to other human societies. It also embraces the wider goal in the Quran of maintaining a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. The Koran has supplied Muslims with a comprehensive code of conduct for everyday life. It prescribes a wide range of acts for Muslims, of either sex, from birth to death. These guidelines form the basis for their laws. Islamic laws prohibit wine and gambling. There are regulations covering the relations of the sexes. Women are granted a higher status." http://1stholistic.com/Prayer/hol_islam-right-conduct.htm
Hopefully, Muslims may also live according to their ethical standards so that the Philippine society maybe transformed and be saved from its worsening situation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why is Philippines Poor?

My friend sent me an email containing the article sent by Dr. Arsenio Martin of Fort Arthur, Texas. The article delineates the essential difference between rich and poor countries:

"The difference between the poor countries and the rich ones is not the age of the country: This can be shown by countries like India & Egypt, that are more than 2000 years old, but are poor. On the other hand, Canada , Australia & New Zealand, that 150 years ago were inexpressive, today are developed countries, and are rich. The difference between poor & rich countries does not reside in the available natural resources. Japan has a limited territory, 80% mountainous, inadequate for agriculture & cattle raising, but it is the second world economy. The country is like an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products. Another example is Switzerland, which does not plant cocoa but has the best chocolate in the world. In its little territory they raise animals and plant the soil during 4 months per year. Not enough, they produce dairy products of the best quality! It is a small country that transmits an image of security, order & labor, which made it the world's strongest, safest place. Executives from rich countries who communicate with their counterparts in poor countries show that there is no significant intellectual difference. Race or skin color are also not important: immigrants labeled lazy in their countries of origin are the productive power in rich European countries. What is the difference then? The difference is the attitude of the people, framed along the years by the education & the culture & flawed tradition. On analyzing the behavior of the people in rich & developed countries, we find that the great majority follow the following principles in their lives:
1. Ethics, as a basic principle.
2. Integrity.
3. Responsibility.
4. Respect to the laws & rules.
5. Respect to the rights of other citizens.
6. Work loving.
7. Strive for savings & investment.
8. Will of super action.
9. Punctuality.
10. and of course...Discipline

In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their daily life. The Philippines is not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature was cruel to us. In fact, we are supposedly rich in natural resources. We are poor because we lack the correct attitude. We lack the will to comply with and teach these functional principles of rich & developed societies."

This email has challenged me, personally. I commit to discuss in my next blogs these principles in detail. Suffice to say that there is truth to what has been presented by the author. Only if these principles are lived and taught at home, in the school, in the church, at work shall we taste the true Filipino greatness. A strong Republic should start with a convicted individual to the right principles of living. A virtuous individual will contaminate the people around him/her to live these virtues. Together they will develop a cell of environment that will influence other groups. When these cells are multiplied to form a critical mass, we expect a transformation of our sick communities into a healthy and wealthy society.