It was just a kid trying to make a buck.
Jan-Jan, age 6, performed a macho dance on national television for the princely sum of ten thousand pesos. To the chant of his parents, the audience and Willie Revillame, the host, he did so, even in tears.
Willie was unapologetic: ”That’s how hard life is. He’s doing it for his family even if he feels bad about it.” Willie got it, even as he laughed all the way to the bank. We hope his corporate sponsors get it as well.
The producers and the station were officially contrite, but not really. It was just a lark, they intimated. To Manny Pangilinan’s boys we say, shame on you.
Jan-Jan’s parents decried: It was just for the money.
It was just for the money.
That seems something increasingly prevalent to our culture.
The three Filipino drug carriers executed in China did it just for the money.
Generals skim their budgets just for the money, even as their under-equipped men die in the jungles of Mindanao.
Our politicians and officials steal the nation blind, just for the money.
Our country did not attend the Nobel Peace ceremony just for the money. China is too big a trading partner to offend (The President was also hoping to save our convicted countrymen, to no avail).
Prostitution is defined as debasing oneself, just for the money. What does that make us as a nation?
The common belief is that the Philippines’ affliction is about corruption. Yet, as we see in the Jan-Jan and Nobel affairs, our condition extends beyond corruption.
Our illness is about the debasement of our culture. We are a nation that is down on itself.
Internally we have come to believe that we have a failed psychosis, a crab mentality that seeks the lowest common denominator. We seek in entertainment the most crass in the human condition: T&A, violence, and humiliation. Our idea of a good time is reducing a child to tears.
Externally we display this inferiority through subservience, witness our action on the Nobel matter, on the Luneta affair. It is of no help that we are known as the maids to the world.
We have become a diminished people.
And yet it need not be so.
For, when we apply ourselves, we are a nation of achievers. People Power, Manny Pacquiao, Lea Salonga, Heidi Mendoza, our overseas doctors and nurses, our call center operators, and, yes, even our exported household help show we are world class.
It just needs for us to believe.
It just needs for us to honor our dignity and our heritage, to recognize all that is worthy in us which is plentiful. We should not be defined by the corrupt, mindless and skeptics among us.
It just needs for us to stand tall in the society of nations, not be cowed by the power and wealth of our counterparties. We are a sovereign people.
It just needs for us to imbibe the values of community, love, discipline, care for the weak, respect for the elders, the spirit of Bayanihan.
We need to inject into our development plans the softer side of progress, the tenets that make for a kinder and gentler society. If necessary, let us trade so many points of GDP for a cultural renaissance, one that will restore our essence as humans.
The tragedy in Japan has so clearly demonstrated that in times of crisis it is not the financial wealth of a nation but the richness of its values- solidarity, order, respect, empathy- that will sustain and comfort the aggrieved.
Singapore is what it is not because of its economic strength but because of its core beliefs. The latter is what led to the former.
This country is ready for a restoration of its values. May 10 was a good start, it held the promise of high hopes and common purpose. However we have since returned to the mundane, to the small, to the petty.
The President has succumbed to the notion that resurrecting the economy is the key to our progress. In truth, with the right underpinnings, the economy will resurrect itself. The animal instincts of the private sector will see to that.
As our leader the President might instead address the elemental issue of our human spirit, the rekindling our national heritage.
As Filipinos, we must believe that we can be better than we are.