Forward thinking — a tremendous challenge in Filipino society

As the date for president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s next State of the Nation Address (SONA) draws near, both critics and supporters are anticipating what he has to say. It’s been two (2) years into his term, and this is the third time that he will be giving this address. The questions on many people’s minds: what is he going to say this time? Is he going to report what we think he’s going to report? Will his state of the nation be in touch with the reality of our current conditions?

One thing I can say though: If the local media is emphasizing that PNoy is really preparing for his SONA by highlighting that he’s revised it seven times, then it better be good. The bigger the expectation, the higher the fall – whether his mouthpieces in the local media recognize this or not this is the reality of things, not that BS Aquino is in too high a place to fall from anyway.

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I won’t spend too much time analyzing what the possible content of the SONA will be. It’s common sense that he’ll trumpet his “accomplishments”, especially his “progress” in his “fight against corruption”. Also, he will say that the economy has gotten better under his term. Plus, he might probably claim that relations with China are on the mend just because he said thank you for Chinese help in the Angat Dam project, but I digress.

What I am more concerned with is what BS Aquino’s plans are for the future. If it is indeed a daang matuwid (straight path), why in the world is asking for a roadmap such an excruciating exercise? If it is indeed a straightforward path, how come there seems to be no clear way? I mean, he just has to project what his plans are for the future, given what he has done in the past. How hard can that be if he has had a lot of “activity”? He has to practice forward thinking.

Forward thinking – it’s just a formal and fancy-sounding term for planning for the future. The difficulty in applying forward thinking here in the Philippines is that it is anathema to the current Filipino mindset because of the dominance or two pillars of cultural dysfunction: “pwede-na-yan” (that will do) and “bahala na” (come what may). In BS Aquino’s case, he seems unable to practice forward thinking because he is seemingly bogged down by a third factor: the need to undo anything associated with his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo. suspension of Arroyo-era infrastructure projects is such a striking example. Never mind that his approach to much badly needed infrastructure has been to dump existing projects left and right; at this point I am inclined to take his “we’ll review these projects” stance with a grain of salt. Before his government thought of canceling/suspending these projects, he must have already had an alternative plan, right? Where is it, then?

As a reference, please check this link for an analysis of last year’s SONA technical report. This will also serve as a basis to measure any “accomplishments” he may have from last year.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” – PNoy’s very cliché answer to the question for charter change, or constitutional reform, as some proponents want it to be known as. The problem is, it is broken, Mr. President. Maybe for your oligarch buddies it isn’t, but for the rest of the Filipino people getting the short end of the stick, they don’t feel the same way. I wonder though where PNoy got the cockamamie idea that changing the charter might derail economic takeoff. If he hasn’t noticed, the only economic takeoff that we’re experiencing right now is the departure of several foreign firms from the Philippines. If there’s one thing that BS Aquino should have learned from being an Economics student, it’s that allowing, not controlling competition, benefits the market in the long run. Then again, charter change was also associated with his predecessor, GMA. If he does the same thing, then in his eyes he’s the same as she is. That’s a no-no to his clan!

Baka din kasi takot siyang mabisita ng multo ng nanay niya. (Maybe he’s also afraid to be visited by his dead mother’s ghost).

Cory: “Noynoy, bakit mo binago ang pamana kong Saligang-batas?” (Noynoy, why did you amend the Constitution that I bequeathed the Filipino people)
Noynoy: “Hindi, mommy! Wala akong ginagawa!” (No, mother! I have done nothing!)

That’s precisely it. He has done nothing. Nothing tangible nor measurable, to be exact. Two wasted years?

So, President Aquino, the bottom line here is simple. After you’re done bragging about your “accomplishments”, which I doubt will be measurable in any way, show us a concrete and definitive roadmap. You do have one, don’t you? Or is that daang matuwid more “hot air”? GMA has been put in jail, and you have charges against her for plunder. Now what? You’ve impeached former Chief Justice Renato Corona, and you’re now set to choose the next one. Now what? You’ve undone Arroyo’s infrastructure projects, and taken credit for her other economic programs. Where are you taking us? If you can’t answer these simple questions, Mr. President, we won’t be surprised. You shouldn’t expect your critics to believe you anymore. You’ve done nothing to prove them wrong, you’ve only lambasted them at best, for not telling you that you’re doing a good job. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

On a side note, the thing with being curious about other cultures is that I get snippets of wisdom or insight that I may not have found in my own. What follows are two proverbs that I think are very applicable to forward thinking. Hey, BS Aquino would do well to heed these pieces of advice!

Russian proverb: Dwell on the past, and you lose one eye. Forget the past, and you lose both eyes.

Indonesian proverb: Sedia payung sebelum hujan – Be ready with an umbrella in case it rains.

Speaking of having an umbrella in case it rains, it looks like the Philippines has failed again at forward thinking with the arrival of tropical depression Ferdie.. Haven’t we learned anything from Ondoy? Ferdie was not as strong, but if it could hold up traffic and cause that much commotion, then we obviously have learned nothing.

I will never understand why Filipino society prefers to remain focused on hindsight instead of foresight. Pinoys are fixated on the past, yet forget it anyway come election and natural disaster time. How many more disasters will it take for us to learn our lesson? What can we do differently from last time so that the same thing doesn’t happen to us again? How can we get to our desired state, which is much better than where we are now?

Alas, these are questions for a society that prefers to engage in thinking, and Pinoy society is hardly known to be one engaged in thought. It is a shallow society that prefers to stay “happy” in spite of hardships. It is a society that prefers a fatalistic approach to life instead of carving out what they want from it.

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, so they say. Is Filipino society doomed to forever be trapped in the cycle of self-inflicted suffering?

3 Replies to “Forward thinking — a tremendous challenge in Filipino society”

  1. “Pinoys are fixated on the past, yet forget it anyway come election and natural disaster time.”

    I don’t know but I am being inclined to think that most of us Filipinos are fixated on the past; a past that stretches as far as to Marcos’ Dictatorship, with all our trauma and that drama that our Yellow Media has been churning out ever since; events that have happened way earlier than that tend to be forgotten. (and yes, I do admit that I have yet to learn much more about our history, haha)

    Surely it must be our ancestors’ way of writing records on easily-perishable bamboo that is to blame, haha!

  2. Noynoy Aquino has no good accomplishment, except, to subject his political enemies to political inquisition. China has already grabbed some parts of the Philippine territories. And, he does not respond. His SONA, will surely be Illusion of Prosperity, backed up by this Delusion of progress. It will be lies and deceits, as usual…

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