Yesterday’s State of the Nation address was quite impressive—concrete statistics supporting progress and development in our beloved Philippines. I reread the transcript today and it led me to thinking—if there’s a way to re-engineer an entire country and all its crazy systems, then there must be a way to re-engineer one’s self. That’s the only way to achieve real progress anyway: quit whining about the problem and be part of the solution. So if each of us were to take action to become a better person, a better worker, a better citizen, a better daughter, a better friend…then it follows that we would all be living in a better country and ultimately a better world.
Some years ago, we invited the author of the book “The 12 Little Things You Can Do for your country”, Atty. Alexander Lacson, to speak at a company event. And what he shared really made sense. These things are really not too much to ask of one person, but could make a world of difference if we were all to do it together. Allow me to repeat some of my favorites, with my own commentaries on them:
- Follow traffic rules. Follow the law. This sounds simple enough but isn’t always easy to do. The culture of corruption is so prevalent in the country that even private citizens like ourselves, when caught at a traffic altercation or lining up to get our driver’s license or even trying to obtain our NBI clearance, are tempted to cut corners and just pay off those traffic officers or government employees to get off the hook and skip the lines quickly. Don’t do it. Never mind the hassle of going through the whole process—yes, so much needs to be improved but we’ll never learn to do things right if we don’t start now.
- Buy local. Buy Filipino. I happen to think Filipino ingenuity is one of the best in the world. So yes, imported products and popular global brands are nice, but sometimes our own products are even better. Like when you carry a native woven bag from Benguet, or buy furniture made in Cebu, or use unique accessories made in local factories—all of it is exquisite, and always elicits oohs and aahs from foreign friends. It’s time to be proud of what the Filipino can do.
- Speak positively about our country. This gets me every time. Why is it that Filipinos are so quick to criticize our own country and point out how other countries are soooo much better in terms of roads, technology, government, whatever else. Where will this mentality get us, exactly? That’s right—nowhere. Now happens to be a good time to be a Filipino, our economy is growing fast and we are even being called ‘the next tiger economy of Asia’. Our OFWs are out there busting their behinds to send us remittances, the government is trying to clean up its act in terms of infrastructure, tourism, education and other reforms, and other countries are starting to take notice. We should do our part and try to be part of the solution instead of whining and doing nothing about it. In fact while we’re at it, why stop at speaking positively about the country? Volunteer and be of service. Now there’s a worthwhile use of your time.
- Respect traffic officers, policemen, soldiers. These people get so much flak for past cases of corruption, for crimes, for abuse. But really—with the salaries they’re getting, with the sorts of hardships their families are facing, we can hardly even blame them. If we keep treating them like the scum of the earth, they will continue to behave like it. And really, who are we to point fingers when we’re not the ones with our necks on the line to protect a country that doesn’t appreciate them nor give them the respect and support they deserve?
- Do not litter. Dispose trash properly. Recycle. Conserve. Once again, a small act that can mean a lot for the country and the rest of the world. Create a compost pit for your biodegradable trash, and find ways to reduce your consumption of non-biodegradables…or find ways to recycle and re-use them. Read up on carbon footprint and try to think up creative solutions to make up for it, by planting trees or organizing a car pool or even opting to use bikes or walk short distances. There’s so much that can still be done here and so many causes to support, all you need to do is jump in.
- During elections, do your solemn duty. Ah, my favourite part. Some of the biggest whiners I have ever met do not even bother to vote during the local or national elections. So who should be blamed for idiots getting elected into office? That’s right, you. My boss always says that people who don’t do their share don’t have a right to complain, and he’s right. All this takes is about an hour of your time, and you’ll have helped install the right people into the right positions. That’s really not too much for your country to ask.
- Pay your taxes. Yes, it hurts to see your payslip with such a huge tax deduction, and for the self employed, I’m sure it hurts just as much to declare your real income which will determine the tax you are due to pay. It hurts because we know that a percentage of it goes into the pocket of some people who are in the position to abuse their power. But that’s the whole point—we need to elect the right people into office, people who are truly willing to serve, people who want to see the country rise to its potential. And once we do, then the taxes we pay will be put to good use. For now, I guess we just need to hope that our current administration is doing what it can to straighten crooked practices and just take a deep breath and pay up. At least we’ll be seeing road and airport improvements in the near future, as well as improved healthcare and education for the less fortunate, and that’s a great start.
- Adopt a scholar or a poor child. This has been on my bucket list and I really intend to make good on it. If you have the extra resources, do send a less fortunate child to school—he or she could be a future nation builder, a future leader, a prodigy, and you would have given the world renewed hope for the future just by sharing what you have. This is worth so much more than whatever “It Bag” you were planning to spend the money on. If you want to leave a legacy, this could be a good opportunity to do so.
- Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love the country. Speaking of leaving a legacy, to those of you who have children, please be a good example. Teach them the value of respect, of faith, of honesty, of standing by their principles. Teach them to love God and to love the country, and to do everything in their power to make things better, through small random acts of kindness or through big breakthrough ideas. This is the best thing you can possibly leave behind—a future generation creating a better world.
If I were to add my own item to the list to round this off to 10, it would be to work hard. Strive for excellence in whatever you do, whether your occupation is a clerk or a CEO, whether working for someone or running your own business. Put your heart and soul into it, love your job, be amazing and do your country proud.