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In serious transition

12:07 AM June 16, 2017

I still remember the campaign slogan “Change is coming.” It went viral, so to speak, because the message resonated. The messenger, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, resonated as well, and a new presidency was born.

“Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap.” This was an older campaign slogan, and it went viral, too, more than enough to establish a new presidency in 2010. And even if the word “change” was not in the slogan, it was, nevertheless, the spirit of change that was driving the words.

If nothing beyond the fact that presidential campaigns are extremely prone to favor change, then Duterte and Aquino shared the same atmosphere when they ran. In times such as the present era, the present dispensation, no matter how seemingly positive on the surface, becomes automatically swept into a mood of expected change. If the incumbents or their chosen ones are not nimble enough to appreciate the underlying demand for change that presidential elections bring, someone out there will be anointed by destiny. Since 1986, no status quo has held on to power except one in 2004. Of course, that presidential election was so controversial that the winner had to say, “I am sorry.”


The popularity of a new president is a great asset to begin with but it is no magic talisman. It only slows down the inevitable whiplash of a disappointed people that had proportional expectations to the change demanded. In a setting where change itself is the heartbeat of the times, even success cannot prevent a weakening unless change is continually honored. There is no difference in the essence, really, as shown in the telecom industry where new devices become instant winners but where more innovation is expected. Success not only builds on success but fades away quickly if not sustained with new inventions. It may be not as fast and furious, but Filipinos and the nation it seeks to be are so prone to disappointment and frustrations.

The more recent and continuing dynamics in the developed world are great teachers that our own political leaders would do well to observe and understand. Brexit came to be because the party in power in England, having just won a general election, thought it could increase and intensify its agenda and pushed for a Remain referendum. Not learning quick enough, an overconfident leadership wanted to cement Brexit and just succeeded in weakening it. The Democrats in America thought Trump could never win, that he seemed so incongruent with their few of the times. Trump won, but he is struggling by the day as he insists on his way or no way at all. It was the same with Duterte in the Philippines, Macron in France, both of whom came from nowhere and where the status quo and its candidates were demolished. Yet, both must stay very sensitive to what change wants and move strongly to please it.

On a bigger scale, talking about countries who are clearly more advanced than others, they have not been insulated from that energy called change. The refugee problem in Western Europe is a shocking reminder that the world is truly just a village where a nation’s economic advantage can be adversely affected by another nation’s economic and political mess. The United States wants to build a wall and ban the entry of people from specified countries. Russia and China are keeping a tight lid on their own people, using authoritarian rule to arrest the mood for political change. Venezuela is teetering, the great divide between the status quo and change seekers expected to intensify and implode.

Simply put, the world is in serious transition, the old and the way in an almost unnoticed struggle for supremacy, where success is a not a state of things but a mere pit stop in a long journey. It is not all such a scary environment. In fact, the moment is a widening channel through which evolution is more visible in the present, not just a reflection from hindsight. In other words, change is a demand because people are in want, are in pain, deeply frustrated at being unable to access dignity, security and an open lane to opportunity. Change is a demand because 1% have more than 99%, and the bottom half of the global human population suffer day in and day out.

The misery of many finds strange and ugly expressions. The traditional face was called revolution. Today, it is terrorism. The frustration and anger give birth to monsters. The only reason why there is no Third World War is that the major players are fearful of a nuclear war, are afraid of eliminating themselves and handing over what is left without deadly radiation to people and nations whom they felt were too insignificant to bomb. A Third World War could most probably turn out to be the greatest game changer where the small ones get their chance to be the new world leaders.
A world in serious transition makes the Philippines a people and nation a most affected member. The natural empathy we possess makes us natural workers everywhere. The OFW phenomenon proves that Filipinos are adaptable not just by choice but by inclination. That adaptability opens doors of opportunity for millions and brings in trillions of pesos. But it also means we fluctuate whenever other countries fluctuate, especially those who are bigger and richer than us. We have not yet parlayed our natural advantages to develop our capacity for independence.

A global and local environment of serious transition creates adversity. Out unity, then, as a people, fortifies our adaptability and resiliency to survive natural and man-made calamities. My greatest fear is the corrosive divisiveness that plagues us as a people, and the crippling poverty that sabotages every economic and political success we achieve. How ironic that crisis and disaster, consequences of serious transitions, may just be the entry point to our unity and prosperity. Freedom is not cheap, after all, and independence even more costly.

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