Reflection Time: What is the Philippine’s Biggest Problem?


Low-hanging fruit. It can get some leaders misguided into addressing a problem just because it is easier to solve and check off, without even first weighing it out against the other more fundamentally relevant issues.

Remember those seminars teaching us the difference between urgent and important? Well there is much to learn about Filipinos by simply dissecting their thought process and discovering what really makes them tick – in particular, how they set their priorities.

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The Need for Focus

Identifying which problems to focus on and finding the most effective strategy to solve them are the types of critical decisions leaders face, especially for countries that do not have the luxury of time, cash and resources to put a plug on every ship-sinker hole simultaneously.

President Rodrigo Duterte comes in as a fresh new set of lenses for Filipinos, whose myopia has made the country renown for being a sick man that has faltered and lagged behind most of its neighbors in almost every field that makes up a nation.

President Duterte has set his eyes on drugs and criminality. On top of that, various sectors clamor and cry hard to be heard: agriculture, education, defense, rebel forces, workers, investors, commuters, media and businessmen. It looks like it’s a contest of shouting the loudest to get attention. The more relevant issues though get drowned out in all the noise.

Considering the country’s limited budget, we tend to allot a little for everything. Rather than focusing on just the few major problems a set at a time and solving each effectively, we choose to solve every little problem halfway all at once just to appease the many disgruntled voices. This is probably just a reflection of our national culture of moving into a house that’s only halfway finished.

Take a tip from the medical field – specialize! It is no longer practical to be a jack-of-all-trades master-of-none country. We as a nation should learn to focus on a niche and build on our few limited strengths.

Knowing the Goal (Motivation)

As we transition from a failed ineffective administration to a new one brewing with promising fresh new blood, it’s a good time to sit on the sandy beach, look towards the golden sunrise off in the seemingly unbounded sea’s horizon and reflect on the things that really matter. Let’s begin to ask the deeper questions – like the why and how, rather than the who and where.

Many of us are just too caught up in the routines of daily life, that we forget why we are even doing things in the first place. We have allowed empty traditions to take over our critical faculties, and believed with blind faith in people who claim to be authorities just because they changed their title of Mr./Ms. to something else.

Learn to say “No.” If you don’t plan how you use your money or time, others will do the planning and use it for you.

What is this country’s dream? As to a little lad in preschool, we are wont to asking: what do you want to be when you grow up? Does this country have a dream to be something someday? Why does it seek to go in that direction? Is it just to feed our national pride?

Everyone is just doing his/her own thing. We are all pulling and pushing one another for our own selfish agendas. Can we not unite for a common purpose even for once?

Many have grand goals – to reach the top of the mountain. And when they get to the top, you ask them: what’s the point of getting there? They are clueless.

People are driven by various forces: a force to survive, to live a comfortable life, to become great, to excel or to fulfill a dream. Ask a pedicab driver, and he will answer you: I just want to provide pan de sal for my 6 kids each morning. With that motivation he risks life and limb slugging it out on the highway with trucks and jeepneys, oblivious of the traffic he creates.

At this point in the life of our nation, let us move forward a step higher from “mere survival” to becoming a decent and functional society. After defining our goal and motivation, we need to identify the major roadblock that keeps us from getting there.

The Country’s Biggest Problem

Just what is the biggest problem in the country? What issue deserves honing in our strength and skills most to bring about its resolution? Is it the traffic in Metro Manila, the squatters and shanties that riddle urban places, the lack of classrooms and navy vessels, the ASG/MILF/NPA,  the lack of local jobs, or overpopulation? Or is it something much deeper?

I don’t think our problem is really that complex. Peering through to see the crux of our dysfunction as a nation and society, I think our biggest problem is simply the lack of common sense and basic honesty. These are elements of reality that reside in the unseen world of the mind and heart. And we will never really rise up above this tide that drowns each passing generation when our teachers, parents, politicians and priests are bankrupt, with nothing of genuine value to pass on to our youth. Because these are not really passed on to the youth through just words (as powerful we may think they can be) but by example through our actions.

All this nation’s apparently big but actually secondary problems are really just symptoms of these two deeply rooted deficiency-based evils that make the Philippines decay at the core. Ours is a house whose foundation has been made hollow by termites. But rather than replacing the foundation, we continue to build on top of the building until all the more the weight bears down on our weak spot and our great edifice comes crashing down like a precariously built house of cards.

Success – Being Part of the Solution

If you are a student, begin to realize that it’s not the head knowledge that you come out with that will really make a difference for this country, but how much integrity was ingrained in you while you worked towards attaining your degree.

If you are a teacher, begin to realize that it’s not the amount of information you were able to spoon-feed into your students’ gray matter that matters, but whether you have equipped them well enough to reason by themselves with a level of logic that can withstand a super-typhoon barrage of counter-arguments in a debate.

Fast forward… Imagine the last day of your life, at which point you find yourself lying down gasping for your last few breaths before you leave this planet. You ask yourself: what could I have done differently to make my life a resounding success?

Then travel back in time to this very day. Go and make a difference now. Be a part of the solution. Life is best lived not by gratifying endless desires, but in knowing our higher purpose and giving up ourselves to inspire others.

Six years is a short period of time. President Duterte is determined to leave a lasting legacy when he steps down. Let’s hope he truly finds the mother of all problems that eats at the heart of our people, and crush it at its core. How about you – will anyone ever remember you made a mark in contributing to solve this country’s biggest problem?

PS: If you do decide to make a difference by running against the grain, don’t be surprised or discouraged by all the opposition you’ll get. There’s a saying in Filipino: Ang punong maraming bunga, laging binabato. Benign0 recently brought up its English counterpart: If you are not annoying anyone, then you are probably not doing anything important.

20 Replies to “Reflection Time: What is the Philippine’s Biggest Problem?”

  1. A terrific,forward looking article. Zaxx,your writings should be required reading material for all Filipinos,especially the young and impressionable. The new administration would be well advised to have someone such as yourself broadcasting a daily message,to leave an indelible,honest approach to creating real change. CARRY ON !!

    1. Required Reading? Why not. Reminds me of my high school days. Read, raise your hand, and recite.

      Schools are simply “institutions invented for you to pay people who can force you to read stuff”.

      For out of school youth and non-youth, we have just the right person for the task. You can ask Digong to FORCE you to read GRP articles.

      Happy Inauguration Mr. President!

  2. >> lack of common sense and basic honesty.

    Absolutely spot-on, zaxx. The solution is not guns but education. But … how is that going to happen when all the teachers and parents are Filipinos, passing on their dysfunctional ideas?

    Switch off the f’ing TV, people, and go and read a book, preferably written by a successful culture (the Finns are my favourite example). Then discuss what you learned with your children.

    1. Hello! Pls rec me Finnish books for teens and school age kids. Thank you. Also, for adults too. Many thanks 🙂

    2. Yes education is the strategy. BUT we still need guns Marius. Most Filipinos will not read articles like these unless they’re FORCED to do so at gunpoint.

      Yes, we need to FORCE people to learn common sense and honesty. Digong is the right person for these days of stubborn zombies.

      The FORCE be with him.

      And if Digong still can’t fix the zombie menace, we may need to call in someone who can.

      1. Filipinos will never learn common sense and honesty, zaxx. They’re past redemption. They’re too full of themselves. Learning things requires at least admitting that you have something to learn. That’s never going to happen in a culture that thinks it knows everything already (despite in-your-face evidence to the contrary).

        Kids, on the other hand, are a lot more responsive to (how do we put this?) brainwashing. At the moment they’re brainwashed to being full of pride, ignorance, and selfishness. All someone needs to do is inculcate the opposite.

        You can’t really just go around shooting all the useless adults. I’m sure there must be something else we can do with them apart from providing worm food.

        SDK: you could start with the Moomins 🙂

        1. Beyond redemption!! Well that’s if we don’t come up with any radically different approach.

          We can export (at bargain prices) all the useless adults to North Korea for “processing”. The kids can start reading the Pinoy version of the Moomins that teach politeness, manners, humility and basic honesty while waiting for their parents (or whatever’s left of them) to come back – via their great escape through the Korean DMZ.

  3. Two news, which were very disturbing, reflect how deep our problems are.

    1. The hundreds, or thousands, who attended the funeral of a slain drug lord in Cebu this week. They call him the “Jaguar”, a kind of Robin Hood, except that he got his money not from the rich to give to the poor, but by destroying the lives of drug addicts in his multi-million drug operation.

    Narco-politics? I thought this was only true for Mexico and that DU30 was just exaggerating a situation. I never realized it is already here. The pictures of the funeral march sent shivers down my spine.

    2. The woman, who was kidnapped along with the two recently beheaded Canadians, was just released by the Abu Sayaf Group. She said that it is very hard to fight the ASG because they are helped by many families in Sulu and ARMM and employ many children. Kidnapping has become the cottage industry of baranggays who see the ASG as another kind of Robin Hood. It is scary especially if we think this group has pledged loyalty to ISIS.

    Because of inertia, the result of PNoy’s focus on management by self propaganda, media continue to picture said news as something in the fringes. Maybe, they are extreme examples. Maybe.

    I don’t think we can no longer take them as things happening remotely, and am glad there is a change of national leadership tomorrow The new administration seems not interested in self propaganda, but in real results in solving real problems, not manufactured and imaginary ones.

    What the two events showed us is that our people no longer know what transcendental values are. Everything is now judged on the basis of empirical and material values. People, individuals, no longer know what is the meaning of life and what societies and civilizations are all about. We will remain splintered, disunited, because each one of us have our own circumstances, and thus, material needs. Transcendental things are the only things that are timeless, and thus, the only things that unite. We basically have to go back to basics and find practically ways to do this. If we don’t know what are values, and what are valuable to future generations, we won’t know where we are going. If we don’t know the end, then we will just be like headless chickens running around.

    If the incoming administration will not be able to find what is important on a philosophical level, and gets bogged down by political exigencies, and ningas kogon too, then it also bound to fail. For our part, it is important we have again an honest to goodness reflection on what are the basics because this is how we should judge ourselves, and DU30’s admin, in the next six years.

    1. >> What the two events showed us is that our people no longer know what transcendental values are. Everything is now judged on the basis of empirical and material values. People, individuals, no longer know what is the meaning of life and what societies and civilizations are all about.

      I agree, Add. For a supposedly religious country, I’ve never seen a population so lacking in moral values, conscience, respect for God’s creation, or compassion for one’s fellow man. The average Filipino sees his neighbor as a slab of meat to be slaughtered and picked to pieces.

    2. Add,
      let’s assume I am a smoker. Can I now sue the cigarette manufacturers or did I start smoking myself – knowingly and willingly – one day?
      Everybody who starts/started smoking and starts using drugs (and alcohol) knows what it can and will do.
      Stop blaming the drug lords but instead blame the people/person who started injecting cocaïne or heroine or whatever.

      1. You read me incorrectly, Robert. It is exactly the people I am blaming. I was shocked at the hundreds of people who came out to attend his funeral. They basically gave this drug lord a royal burial. These people are out of their mind. This guy died in a shoot-out with the police, and the people didn’t give the police some well deserved recognition for killing this bastard.

        1. Okay then probably I misread that part. My apologies.

          For what its worth: pls try to find some video footages (youtube?) of funerals of motor gangs like “No Surrender”, “Hells Angels” and “Satudarah”. You will see the exact same scenes as what you saw in Cebu City. Most countries have its own chapters of those motor ‘clubs’.

    3. When I saw that post about Jaguar’s funeral, I thought that was the latest version of warlordism in the Philippines. First it was Guns, Goons and Gold, now we add Gurds (or Glitter, is meth shiny? Or at least it buys “Gold”). Warlordism happens because Filipinos tend to be moochers and see whoever is the “lord” as their provider. It’s a twisted version of “the lord provides,” where the lord is a corrupt human. Life seems so desperate for the Filipinos in those areas that they are willing to be subjugated as long as the subjugator provides for their needs. They are actually stuck at the survival level of existence.

      On the Abus being helped by the local populace, I remember a certain manual for the U.S. Army, the Small Wars Manual. I believe it said that you should win the hearts and minds of the local populace if you want to win against an insurgency. You can’t win if the local populace supports the insurgency.

      Perhaps that demonstrates how left out the southern regions of the Philippines are. The Abus would be the “warlords” of the region. They get the money to provide for the townspeople. It’s the thing Marius mentioned in Grimswald’s article about moochers – societies have “designated earners” or breadwinners, and designated breadlosers. I consider that a dysfunctional level of societal function.

    4. Jaguar – cool name. But yeah – I guess Filipinos have totally lost their common sense to be supporting these brain-melting drug lords or head-hacking ASG terrorists just because they get some bags of rice or what not.

      The way to the Pinoy’s heart is through their stomach. I bet when you open the coconuts of these zombies you won’t find gray matter but gastric fluid.

      Great examples Add. Never a good sermon without some colorful examples.

  4. I believe the greatest problem of our country is: apathy on the part of the Filipinos. On the part of the leaders: incompetence; corruption; too much politics; dishonesty; and greed.

    The Feudal Oligarchs want all the wealth and power they can have; at the expense of us all. See, who is profiting from the OFW remittances? It is the big merchandising businesses, run by Chekwas. The remittances of OFW , like me, are not invested to create industries, that could have created jobs…consumerism is encouraged, to buy “made in China” cheap goods .

    We need good Anti Trust Laws and control of imported goods. Anti Trust Laws , will control the big businesses, from becoming too big and powerful. We have to encourage competition, to allow other industries to flourish. Monopoly is the good game these Feudal Oligarchs and Chekwas are playing. Like the Aquino/Cojuangco political alliance with big business. It has created an economic condition, where few are too rich; and the rest of us are just surviving; or too poor.

  5. May I add the lack of courage and fearfulness to the problem, Zaxx. Because the Filipinos lack the true nature of Bayanihan and turned into sheep that fear criminals, criminalities/corruption abound. Not doing something about criminalities or illegal activities is as good as condoning it and encourages criminal behavior.

    Several times you will see local videos in social media exposing another person’s crime. Like one time, I saw this girl in a video being bullied by the man sitting beside her in a bus and the other time a child being maltreated by his father and another time an animal being bullied by teens. But other than the video being about the crime taking place, it’s noticeable that nobody comes to the rescue is why people just share it to their social media. I guess not even one of the spectators got the common sense to call a police to save the victim if they can’t themselves. The case of staying on the safe side (ayaw makialam) brings about the kanya-kanya mentality. Gone were the days where bayanihan makes the people strong as they come together to fight the offender and put them in place.

    Duterte is really fitting as President at this point in time since he’s major concern is to fight criminality. Hopefully though, his constitution-based rule of law won’t exempt anyone (like revolutionary forces).

  6. Hyden, Sick_amore,
    Apathy or “Ayaw makialam” also resides in the “transcendental” (borrowing Add’s term) realm where the problem really boils down to.

    The Filipino’s biggest problem is their mind. In the facebook comments for this article, most say the problem is overpopulation. If you analyze it – what causes overpopulation? It’s still the Filipino mind’s lack of common sense.

    Why would anyone produce more babies than he/she can feed? Logic lang yan. Mga Pinoy – hindi nagiisip. Bayag at tiyan/bituka lang ang nagpapatakbo ng buhay. Sabay nood ng Eat Bulaga at Tele Serye.

    Conditional Cash Transfer??? Relocation sites for Squatters??? They wouldn’t need all these moocher-feeding/provision programs IF they only applied basic common sense.

    Overpopulation is not the biggest problem – it is just a symptom of the lack of common sense.

    Almost any problem that materializes in the physical world has a spiritual root. Like obesity – it’s simply the lack of common sense to take in more calories than you can burn. If we want to fix this country, we need to fix everybody’s brain.

    Chicken-egg problem? Well we can start by fixing the leadership: Digong looks like he can lead by example to show everyone genuine honesty and common sense. Look at the inauguration. He’s trampling on tradition, in favor of practicality.

    This is exactly what we need – someone to inspire all of us. Someone who can live out what it’s like to have common sense. He is very radical – and I like it.

    1. Apathy or “Ayaw makialam” also resides in the “transcendental” (borrowing Add’s term) realm where the problem really boils down to.

      The Filipino’s biggest problem is their mind.

      Yes, I agree. Our corporal problems are but a result of what’s lacking in a Filipino. Pinoy mind lack common sense and the intelligence to question things, explore ideas and use many existing mediums of knowledge for their own good. Filipino character lack values, faith and virtues that they can’t bet their life on what they do or say, that they can be proud of themselves because of what others does, that their pride comes from a single Filipino that saved the day and not because of what they themselves contributed. Discipline should already be part of us as we are a democracy where peace and order is simplified by following law and order. But in our country discipline must be enforced. Pinoys don’t want an authoritarian government when it’s what fitted to a citizen of children.

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