A day in our lives
There is an undercurrent that is not so obvious anymore at the surface. When a nation’s leadership is able to sustain a high level of acceptability, stability is established.
It was more fast and furious in the beginning. When one administration takes over another, especially when there is a lack of amity between the two, there is always a sense of urgency in their transition. The new group is in a hurry to get rid of the old one and put their own choices in as many posts as possible. Unfortunately, governance by institution falters badly when decisions are rushed. Only the leader’s popularity can hide the fact that there is an administrative mess unseen by the public eye. Meanwhile, papers are not signed, the newly- employed are not paid, and the foundation of future legal or audit problems are laid unnecessarily.
Of course, things do balance themselves out because governance by institution, by law, exists no matter how erratically. The leader’s wishes continue to drive the direction and tempo but the more permanent structures and career personnel slowly begin to take their rightful place. As they say, the bureaucracy goes to work. Even the dreaded red tape rears its ugly head once more. There may be a lot of pronouncements and sword- rattling by the few reformists in the new administration, but they would be largely alone. All the other new occupants or political appointees are only too eager to flex their muscles and taste the perks of office.
Credit to the leader. He won on an emotional wave (they usually do) and he is wise enough to keep riding that wave. Even his own temperamental outbursts are not enough to make him fail off his surfboard. Either, but I suspect both, his honed political instincts or a quiet coterie of advisers who are keenly aware of the twists and turns of public sentiment, eventually bring the leader back to understandable and acceptable parameters. Except to his detractors, of course, who will be more attuned to what they do not agree with, even if validly so. But they, too, will have to play their cards well, meaning with great patience, for as long as the leader has his support from the majority.
I am relieved that there is enough stability in the country while so much is going on around the world. Closest to home is China and Kuwait. Those facilities built by China in the controversial islands with many claimants including us are a bitter pill to swallow. They are like bones in our throats and we have no way to dislodge them. We continue to survive, but we carry an open wound. Rubbing salt to that wound is the fact that we see no peaceful or win-win solution. We resign to a superior force because we have no choice. We resign to the emerging fact, one that took many of us a long time to believe, that the United States will not go to war so we could keep the disputed islands. There are more islands at stake, more we believe are ours, that could be grabbed by China at will.
Crucial parallelism with Kuwait – again our need has made us accept more bitter pills to swallow. This time, it is not military but economic superiority and a great opportunity for our poor, unemployed and underemployed to find decent income. It is also at the cost of painful indecency for many OFWs who have suffered horrible abuse from their employers. And just the same, we swallow our pride, we endure our shame and see no win-win option meanwhile. The leader wants his people home. He knows he cannot protect them while they are on foreign shore. But he also knows his unemployed and underemployed cannot take in a few hundred thousand in one blow. Worse, too, because the OFWs who are already supporting their families will become a new burden – together with their families, of course.
We have a Build, Build, Build program that will run in the trillions. I wonder how much of the funding, by law or government regulation, can be directed to building jobs for those who need it the most. Otherwise, the trillions will fatten the already fat cows or those who have stronger than the rest.
Our exchange rate has weakened by over 10% if we are to consider what it was two years ago under another leader. The impact has been tolerable though inflation and rising prices are being felt especially by the poor today. I know there are more financial statistics that can tell a bigger and maybe more interesting story, but that is not my forte – not yet anyway without more research on my part. What I do know is that health care for everyone through PhilHealth has continued its powerful growth and massive coverage. The free college tuition, too, is like a dream. Whoever imagined it could happen?
Finally, beyond our shores but well within our lives, the North and South Korea rapprochement has made me a more avid believer in miracles. The positive mood that it generates and the message it sends – that even our own disputes here with rebels has hope – simply lifts the spirit.
Filipinos continue to face many challenges, but so what? Our problems are not new, and many of them are being deliberately addressed. When one problem gets solved, another one arises. We just learn how best to live together in an atmosphere that is harmonious as possible, or civil at the very least. Because when we look back, we have gone through a lot and a lot more lies ahead. We only need to understand better that our togetherness, or lack of it, will continue to be the strongest factor for collective success or failure.
I cannot help but be filled with hope. My eyes are clear, I see enough of what is going on. With hope, with a dream, today is fine and tomorrow can be better.
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