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Yes, There Is Hope

By: Cielito F. Habito, PhD
I ended my last column on a seemingly pessimistic note with the rhetorical question “Is there hope for the Philippines?” I did not mean to imply, much less conclude, that there isn’t. Indeed, if there’s one thing that we Filipinos can collectively take pride in, it is our people’s undying hope, even in the face of misfortunes, that things will get better, and a seemingly unshakeable faith that God has something good in store for us as a nation.
It was three decades ago when writer James Fallows stirred much debate when he wrote that we Filipinos might trace the root of our persistent woes to “a damaged culture,” in a controversial article of the same title in The Atlantic magazine. “It seems to me that the prospects for the Philippines are as dismal as those for, say, South Korea are bright,” he wrote then. “In each case the basic explanation seems to be culture: in the one case a culture that brings out the productive best in the Koreans (or the Japanese, or now even the Thais), and in the other a culture that pulls many Filipinos toward their most self-destructive, self-defeating worst.”
Many were led to either dispute or defend his thesis. Its adherents are the same people who would say “only in the Philippines” in describing the bad and ugly things around us that we see and do. A passage that stuck with me through the years was: “I felt I had a glimpse into the failures of the Philippines when I saw prosperous-looking matrons buying cakes and donuts in a bakery, eating them in a department store, and dropping the box and wrappers around them as they shopped.” While surely not something to be seen only in the Philippines, it does reflect the lack of concern for the common good that Fallows saw to be our fundamental problem: “a feeble sense of nationalism and a contempt for the public good.” He noted that “practically everything that is public in the Philippines seems neglected or abused,” and “because of this fragmentation—this lack of nationalism—people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.”
Read the full article at http://opinion.inquirer.net/102125/yes-there-is-hope