MY LEGACY TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Historyko.org, September 10, 2010
by W. SyCip

I GREATLY ADMIRE THE OBJECTIVES OF YOUR ORGANIZATION BUT I WAS FRIGHTENED WHEN MR. WILLIE SAMSON WANTED ME TO ADDRESS 2,000 PERSONS IN YOUR QUEZON CITY AUDITORIUM. WE COMPROMISED ON 200 PERSONS IN MAKATI, WHICH WAS FINALLY INCREASED TO 400, ON MY FIRST “ENCOUNTER” WITH YOUR VERY IDEALISTIC GROUP.

YOUR REVIVAL OF PAST HISTORY AND NATIONAL HEROES IS VERY COMMENDABLE. MEMORIES IN OUR COUNTRY ARE VERY SHORT, UNLESS THERE IS A NATIONAL MONUMENT OR A NATIONAL CELEBRATION DAY LIKE WE HAVE FOR JOSE RIZAL. WHEN CORY AQUINO INVITED ME TO VISIT THE NINOY AQUINO MEMORIAL IN TARLAC, SHE TOLD ME THAT THE SCHOOL CHILDREN FROM TARLAC WOULD INQUIRE AS TO “WHO IS NINOY AQUINO”. THEN THEY WOULD FINALLY REMEMBER HIM ONLY AS THE FATHER OF KRIS AQUINO.

I HAD INDICATED TO MR. WILLIE SAMSON THAT I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN FROM ALL OF YOU, WHO ARE VERY MUCH YOUNGER THAN ME, YOUR IDEAS OF OUR PRESENT PROBLEMS AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS.

OVER 60 YEARS AGO, WE WERE TOLD THAT WITH OUR ADVANTAGES OF BEING A CHRISTIAN NATION AND A DEMOCRACY, WE WILL BE, NEXT TO JAPAN, THE LEADING NATION IN EAST ASIA. INSTEAD WE FIND OURSELVES IN A STEADILY DECLINING POSITION REGARDLESS OF WHAT MEASURE WE GO BY: POVERTY INDEX, PER CAPITA SPENDING ON EDUCATION, CRIME RATE, CORRUPTION RANKING, PEACE AND ORDER, RURAL HEALTH, THE LIST GOES ON.

WE HAVE EVEN FOUND OURSELVES, IN SPITE OF OUR LARGE POPULATION, WITH THE LAMENTABLE DISTINCTION OF BEING THE ONLY MAJOR SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATION THAT DID NOT WIN ANY MEDAL AT THE LAST OLYMPIC GAMES.

CAN WE BLAME THE RELIGION SPAIN BROUGHT TO OUR SHORES FIVE CENTURIES AGO FOR OUR LIMITATIONS OR THE U.S. FOR THE FAILURE OF OUR DEMOCRACY? SHOULDN’T OUR DECADES OF FREEDOM BE LONG ENOUGH FOR US TO CORRECT ANY INHERITED DISADVANTAGES?

WITH ALL THE TALENTED PEOPLE WE HAVE, WHY HAVE WE NOT BEEN ABLE TO PRODUCE A LEE KWAN YEW, WHO IN ONE GENERATION BROUGHT HIS PEOPLE IN SINGAPORE TO INCOME LEVELS OF THE U.S. OR GERMANY?

OR A K. T. LI OF TAIWAN, A PHYSICS GRADUATE OF CAMBRIDGE, WHO INTRODUCED THE COMPUTER TO EVERY AGE GROUP IN TAIWAN SO THAT THIS SMALL COUNTRY HAS BECOME THE LARGEST EXPORTER OF COMPUTERS AND COMPONENTS?

OR A MAHATHIR OF MALAYSIA WHO GREATLY IMPROVED INFRASTRUCTURE AND INCREASED INCOME LEVELS OF ALL CITIZENS IN A MIXED SOCIETY OF MALAYS, CHINESE AND INDIANS?

OR A GENERAL PARK OF SOUTH KOREA WHOSE TOUGH AND DISCIPLINED ADMINISTRATION INDUSTRIALIZED A COUNTRY WHERE THE LARGE FIRMS SUCCESSFULLY COMPETED WITH THE COMPANIES OF ITS FORMER COLONIAL MASTER?

OR A DENG HSIAO PING OF CHINA WHO RELEASED THE ENERGY OF HIS PEOPLE TO ACHIEVE IN 25 YEARS THE GREATEST REDUCTION OF POVERTY IN WORLD HISTORY?

WE DID HAVE THE PROMISE OF A RAMON MAGSAYSAY WHO AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE GREATLY IMPROVED PEACE AND ORDER BUT WHOSE UNFORTUNATE EARLY DEATH OVER 50 YEARS AGO PREVENTED HIM FROM CARRYING OUT A PROGRAM TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF THE BOTTOM GROUP OF OUR PEOPLE.

THEN WE HAD RAFAEL SALAS, A BRILLIANT GRADUATE OF U.P. WHO ENABLED THE COUNTRY TO EXPORT RICE WHEN THE NEW PRESIDENT MARCOS GAVE HIM COMPLETE AUTHORITY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

UNFORTUNATELY, LIKE MANY BRIGHT FILIPINOS NOW, SALAS LEFT THE COUNTRY FOR A VERY SUCCESSFUL CAREER WITH THE UNITED NATIONS WHEN HE SAW CORRUPTION AT THE PALACE INCREASING.

IT MAY ALSO BE TIMELY TO QUOTE FROM A LETTER OF NINOY AQUINO, WRITTEN FROM HIS PRISON IN AUGUST 1973, TO SENATOR LORENZO TAÑADA, THE “GRAND OLD MAN OF THE OPPOSITION”:

“YOU NEVER LOST PERSPECTIVE OF HISTORY’S COLD JUDGMENT AND MY INSTINCTS TOLD ME THAT YOU WERE FIGHTING A GREATER CAUSE, GREATER THAN MY LIFE OR YOURS AND THAT YOU WERE FIRED UP BY THE OBSESSION TO RIGHT A TERRIBLE WRONG. IT WAS A QUIXOTIC INCLINATION WITH ALL ITS DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES BUT SOMEHOW I WAS ALSO LURED BY THE TEMPTATION TO TILT THE WINDMILLS ESPECIALLY AT A TIME WHEN SO MANY OF OUR NATIONAL LEADERS WOULD RATHER BE CAUTIOUS THAN COURAGEOUS. YOUR UNSHAKABLE CONVICTION INSPIRED ME TO GAMBLE WITH MY LIFE.

“I HEARD AN INNER VOICE TELL ME THAT YOUR ASSESSMENT THAT AN OPPRESSED PEOPLE WILL NOT AND CANNOT REMAIN OPPRESSED FOREVER IS NOT ONLY ACCURATE BUT REALISTIC. I WAS CONVINCED THAT YOUR ONE PER CENT WOULD SOMEDAY BE ONE HUNDRED PER CENT.”

AND WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS FROM AN ESSAY OF NINOY AQUINO:

“BENEATH THE OUTPOURINGS OF SELF-SERVING GOVERNMENT DATA, HIDDEN UNDERNEATH THE TRAPPINGS OF THE GOOD LIFE IN THE BIG CITIES, THERE REMAINS A DEPRESSED AND DISPIRITED PEOPLE. AGAINST THE YARDSTICK, NOT OF STATISTICS BUT OF QUALITY OF LIFE, THE FILIPINO PEOPLE AS A WHOLE ARE A MELANCHOLY – IF PATIENT – MASS. THEIR DAILY DIET IS MONOTONOUS (RICE, FISH, VEGETABLES), THEIR CLOTHES ARE THREADBARE AND THEIR HOMES PRIMITIVE AND CROWDED. WHAT COULD THEY HOPE TO BUILD ON A DAILY PER CAPITA INCOME OF JUST OVER 25 CENTS? IN SUM, THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY DO NOT INCLUDE LIBERATION FROM POVERTY.

“FOREIGN GADGETRY AND OTHER LUXURY GOODS CONTINUE TO FLOOD THE CITIES, AND MORE PEOPLE TRAVEL, DESPITE CURRENT GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS. BUT THIS ONLY SERVES TO DRAMATIZE THE GREAT DISPARITIES AND CHRONIC INEQUITIES OF FILIPINO SOCIETY. INDEED, THE PHILIPPINES IS A LAND OF TRAUMATIC CONTRASTS. HERE IS A LAND IN WHICH A FEW ARE SPECTACULARLY RICH WHILE THE MASSES REMAIN ABJECTLY POOR. GLEAMING SUBURBIA CLASHES WITH THE SQUALOR OF THE SLUMS. HERE IS A LAND WHERE FREEDOM AND ITS BLESSINGS ARE A REALITY FOR A MINORITY AND AN ILLUSION FOR THE MANY. HERE IS A LAND CONSECRATED TO DEMOCRACY BUT RUN BY AN ENTRENCHED PLUTOCRACY. HERE, TOO, ARE A PEOPLE WHOSE AMBITIONS RUN HIGH, BUT WHOSE FULFILLMENT IS LOW AND MAINLY RESTRICTED TO THE SELF-PERPETUATING ELITE. HERE IS A LAND OF PRIVILEGE AND RANK – A REPUBLIC DEDICATED TO EQUALITY BUT MIRED IN AN ARCHAIC SYSTEM OF CASTE.

“CASTE SPELLS BONDAGE. OF THIS THE CONTEMPORARY FILIPINO IS WELL AWARE. AND TO BREAK THROUGH – TO RISE OUT OF THIS BONDAGE INTO THE NEXT HIGHER SOCIAL STRATUM – IS THE AMBITION OF THE TAO, THE FILIPINO COMMON MAN. FOR HIM, EDUCATION APPEARS AT FIRST THE TICKET TO HIS ASPIRATIONS, AND PARENTS SELL THEIR LAST WORLDLY POSSESSIONS, EVEN GO DEEP INTO DEBT, TO SEE A SON OR A DAUGHTER THROUGH COLLEGE. BUT EACH YEAR, NO LESS THAN 65,000 SWELL THE RANKS OF THIS ARMY OF THE DISCONTENTED, EDUCATED UNEMPLOYED. UNEMPLOYMENT RUNS UP TO A MILLION, WHILE THE UNDER-EMPLOYED REPRESENT 20 TO 25 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION, LARGELY IN THE RURAL AREAS. THE UPSURGE OF THE COMMUNIST HUKS IN CENTRAL LUZON IS BUT ONE CHILLING MANIFESTATION OF PEASANT DISILLUSIONMENT. ANOTHER IS THE RECENT WAVE OF CRIME WHICH HAS CONVERTED THE COUNTRY INTO A LAND OF TERROR IN TIME OF PEACE.

“ADD TO THIS A GOVERNMENT WHICH IS FINANCIALLY ALMOST BANKRUPT, STATE AGENCIES RIDDEN BY DEBTS AND HONEYCOMBED WITH GRAFT, INDUSTRIES IN PATHETIC DISTRESS, PRICES IN A CONTINUING SPIRAL AND THERE IS GOOD REASON FOR THE FILIPINO TO FEEL SAPPED OF CONFIDENCE, HOPE AND WILL. THE NEW, YOUNG FILIPINO LEADERS WHO EXHORT THEIR PEERS TO BE ACTIVISTS, AND NOT TO GIVE UP, ARE GREETED WITH APATHY AND INDIFFERENCE.

“THE RESPONSIBILITY BELONGS ALSO TO THOSE WHO CAME, CONQUERED, AND RULED – TO AMERICA AS MUCH AS TO SPAIN. FOR ALL THE GOOD THEY DID (SPAIN WELDED AND CHRISTIANIZED THE PEOPLE, AMERICA DEMOCRATIZED THEM), THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORST IN THE FILIPINO. WHILE BLEEDING THEM, THEY MOLDED THE FILIPINOS IN THEIR OWN IMAGES, SPAIN HISPANIZING, AND AMERICA AMERICANIZING THE NATIVES. ALMOST HALF OF A CENTURY OF AMERICAN RULE BEQUEATHED TO THE ASIAN FILIPINO A TRAUMA BY MAKING HIM UNCOMFORTABLY AMERICAN IN OUTLOOK, VALUES AND TASTES. WHAT WAS LEFT WAS A PEOPLE WITHOUT A SOUL.

“THE NEW-GENERATION FILIPINO MUST ALSO SHAKE AND AWAKEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, WHICH HAS LONG IGNORED THE NEED FOR SOCIAL REFORM AND BECOME FLABBY IN ITS POSITION OF REVERED IRRELEVANCE. BECAUSE THE CHURCH HAS GROWN REMOTE FROM THE MASSES, QUASI-RELIGIOUS FANATICS HAVE BANDED TOGETHER AND PROSPERED IN THE COUNTRYSIDE.”

IT HAS BEEN 44 YEARS SINCE MARCOS BECAME PRESIDENT AND 27 YEARS SINCE NINOY AQUINO WAS MURDERED. HAS THERE BEEN AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE LIVES OF THE BOTTOM GROUPS OF OUR COUNTRY? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

LET US BEGIN BY FOCUSING ON EDUCATION.

WE TEND TO UNFAIRLY BLAME EVERY CURRENT ADMINISTRATION FOR OUR PROBLEMS. BUT CAN’T WE SEE THAT THE STEADY DECLINE OF EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS IS THE CUMULATIVE EFFECT OF THE NEGLECT OF MANY ADMINISTRATIONS AND THE UNWILLINGNESS TO ADOPT LONG TERM SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS THAT CANNOT BE SOLVED BY A RIBBON CUTTING EVENT!

THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF ANY ORGANIZATION DEPENDS UPON ITS POLICIES AND EFFORTS ON DEVELOPING ITS HUMAN RESOURCES. FOR A NATION TO ADOPT SHORT TERM POLICIES ON EDUCATION IS NATIONAL SUICIDE! DOESN’T THE SOLUTION OF PEACE AND ORDER PROBLEMS DEPEND UPON RELATIVELY EQUAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE RICH AND POOR, FOR THE CHRISTIANS AND MOSLEMS?

AS A NATION WE SEEM TO ACCEPT THE SCANDALOUSLY HIGH NATIONAL DROPOUT RATES OF STUDENTS IN BASIC EDUCATION. THE FIGURES ARE WORSE IN MOSLEM AREAS AND IN POOR COMMUNITIES.

IN MANY TOWNS AND VILLAGES, SYNERGEIA, LED BY NENE GUEVARA, AND WORKING WITH MAYORS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS WHO WANT CHANGE, HAS IMPROVED LITERACY RATES. BUT MUCH, MUCH GREATER NATIONAL EFFORTS ARE NEEDED.

SHOULD THE STUDENTS FROM UPPER INCOME GROUPS NOT BE ASKED TO PAY FOR THE FULL COST OF EDUCATION WHEN THEY STUDY IN A STATE-SUBSIDIZED INSTITUTIION LIKE THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES? WHEN UPPER INCOME FAMILIES SEND THEIR CHILDREN ABROAD, THEY DO PAY “FULL TUITION”. SHOULD THEY NOT BE ASKED TO DO THE SAME IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY?

THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK JUST RELEASED A REPORT POINTING OUT THAT THE PHILIPPINES AND INDIA, BOTH CLAIMING TO BE DEMOCRACIES, LAG BEHIND EAST ASIAN COUNTRIES IN REDUCING POVERTY. CHINA AND VIETNAM, BOTH AUTHORITARIAN STATES, ARE THE TWO COUNTRIES THAT HAVE RAPIDLY REDUCED POVERTY. ARE THERE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED HERE?

WHY HAVE SINGAPORE AND THAILAND DEVELOPED HOSPITALS FOR “MEDICAL TOURISM” WHILE WE SEND OUR EXCELLENT DOCTORS AND NURSES TO DEVELOPED COUNTRIES? SHOULD WE NOT ADVOCATE SOME SYSTEM WHERE DESTINATION COUNTRIES COMPENSATE US FOR TRAINING THESE PROFESSIONALS?

ARE INWARD REMITTANCES OF POOR OVERSEAS WORKERS WITH DIVIDED FAMILIES OFFSETTING OUTWARD REMITTANCES OF UPPER INCOME FILIPINOS, EDUCATED IN SUBSIDIZED SCHOOLS LIKE U.P., AND SETTING UP HOUSEHOLDS ABROAD?

YOU CAN, OF COURSE, TELL ME THAT THE WORLD IS FLAT AND YOUNG PEOPLE SHOULD BE FREE TO MOVE ANYWHERE. YES – OUR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN SHOULD GO ABROAD – IT WIDENS THEIR HORIZON AND GIVES THEM THE SKILLS TO BETTER SERVE THEIR COUNTRY. BUT WE SHOULD STRIVE TO KEEP THEIR HEARTS FILIPINO AND WITH A RESOLVE THAT THEY WILL RETURN TO SERVE IN THEIR COUNTRY’S DEVELOPMENT. AND GOVERNMENT POLICY SHOULD WORK WITH THEM TO USE ITS LIMITED RESOURCES TO REDUCE POVERTY AND IMPROVE THE LIVES OF ALL CITIZENS.

WE ALL AGREE ON THE NEED OF NATIONAL UNITY. IS THE LACK OF UNITY A BASIC DISADVANTAGE OF AN ISLAND NATION?

IS THE SLUGGISH PACE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT THE RESULT OF BLIND ACCEPTANCE OF WESTERN THINKING THAT POLITICAL FREEDOM OR DEMOCRACY COMES AHEAD OF ECONOMIC FREEDOM? DOESN’T DEMOCRACY ASSUME THAT THERE MUST BE THE “RULE OF LAW” WHICH IMPLIES AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY WITH WELL TRAINED AND WELL PAID HONEST LAWYERS? WHERE JUDGES MAY BE POORLY PAID AND SUBJECT TO POLITICAL PRESSURES IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY LET ALONE A WORKING DEMOCRACY? DOES THE 5,000 APPLICATIONS TO TAKE THE CURRENT BAR EXAMS NOT INDICATE AN URGENT NEED TO CHANGE LAW SCHOOLS TO SCIENCE OR ENGINEERING SCHOOLS?

ARE WE AWARE THAT THE PHILIPPINES IS PART OF ASIA AND THAT CHINA, INDIA AND JAPAN WILL BE EXERTING MORE INFLUENCE ON OUR FUTURE THAN THE U.S. AND EUROPE?

DOES OUR BEING THE ONLY CATHOLIC COUNTRY IN ASIA, WITH AN EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE CHURCH LEADERSHIP, SEEN ONLY IN POLAND AND MALTA, HAMPER OUR CAPACITY TO UNDERSTAND OUR ASIAN NEIGHBORS?

OUR 3,000,000 TOURIST ARRIVALS A YEAR ARE WAY BEHIND OUR NEIGHBORS’ 10 TO 15 MILLION VISITORS. TOURISM BENEFITS ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. OUR PEOPLE ARE KNOWN TO BE THE MOST HOSPITABLE AND FRIENDLY. WE ARE AHEAD OF OUR NEIGHBORS IN ENGLISH, THE FIRST LANGUAGE OF TOURISM.

WHEN I VISITED BOHOL I WAS TOLD THE INFLUX OF GERMAN TOURISTS TO THE ATTRACTIVE ISLAND IS DUE TO THE 200 GERMANS WHO HAVE HAPPILY SETTLED THERE WITH THEIR FILIPINA WIVES.

THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY WILL BE THE GROWTH AREA OF THE COUNTRY. WE ONLY HOPE THAT THE LACK OF DISCIPLINE AND LEADERSHIP IN THE LAST HOSTAGE INCIDENT WILL BE PROMPTLY CORRECTED.

I HAVE MET MANY THAIS WHO ARE GRADUATES OF THE PRESTIGIOUS LOS BAÑOS AGRICULTURAL SCHOOL. BUT I WONDER WHY THE THAIS, WHO USUALLY BRING BACK A FILIPINA WIFE, HAVE MADE THAI AGRICULTURE MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE AND EFFICIENT THAN WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO HERE. WHY?

LET US TAKE NOTICE OF THE DOLE SUCCESS STORY. AS DEAN OF THE BUSINESS SCHOOL, CESAR VIRATA HAD STRONGLY ADVOCATED COOPERATION WITH LOS BAÑOS. THROUGH HIS EFFORTS, DOLE ESTABLISHED THEIR VERY SUCCESSFUL AND PRODUCTIVE AGRI-BUSINESS OPERATIONS IN MINDANAO. WE DO NEED MORE FILIPINO ENTREPRENEURS LIKE THE FLORENDOS AND SENEN BACANI TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY IN OUR AGRICULTURAL SECTOR.

I WAS ON THE BOARD OF A MALAYSIAN PALM OIL COMPANY THAT WAS DIVERSIFYING INTO BAMBOO, THEY TOLD ME THE BAMBOO EXPERTS WERE IN LOS BAÑOS. YET WE IMPORT BAMBOO SHOOTS FROM CHINA!

SINCE AGRICULTURE IS STILL THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF OUR ECONOMY, SHOULDN’T THE GOVERNMENT, IN COOPERATION WITH SUCCESSFUL FARMERS, PUT PARTICULAR FOCUS ON THE STUDY AND IMPLEMENTATION OF EFFICIENT FOOD PRODUCTION TO BRING FOOD COSTS DOWN?

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST A SOUND GOVERNMENT POPULATION POLICY HAMPERS THE COUNTRY’S CAPACITY FOR ADDRESSING ITS POPULATION GROWTH RATE.

HOPEFULLY, OUR MANY BRIGHT PEOPLE WILL UNITE BEHIND A PROGRAM TO REDUCE POVERTY AND PUT THE PHILIPPINES AGAIN IN A RESPECTABLE POSITION IN ASIA.

U.P. ALUMNI CLOSELY IDENTIFY THE OBLATION WITH THEIR ALMA MATER. BUT HOW MANY OF THEM REALLY KNOW THAT WHEN THE SCULPTOR TOLENTINO CREATED THIS FIGURE OF A YOUNG MAN WHOSE ARMS ARE OUTSTRETCHED IN A GESTURE OF SACRIFICE TO HIS COUNTRY AND HUMANITY, THE ARTIST ALSO PLACED AT ITS FEET A CLUSTER OF KATAKALANTA LEAVES, A PLANT THAT RAPIDLY MULTIPLIES TO SYMBOLIZE, AS TOLENTINO TELLS US THE “UNDYING STREAM OF HEROISM IN THE FILIPINO RACE.”

I DIRECT A FINAL QUESTION TO ALL OF YOU: CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR YOUNG LEADERSHIP THIS HEROISM THE COUNTRY BEGS FOR?