Triggering change | Inquirer Opinion

Triggering change

12:30 AM July 27, 2018

Apparently, change needs triggers. Like a bomb, change needs fuses. Change is also more than a bomb as a bomb is itself only a trigger, albeit a powerful one. It is what is built with a firm foundation that becomes a transforming and sustainable factor of a higher understanding and lifestyle.

I have observed in my life and in the public actuation of people that we often mistake triggers for change as chance itself. Revolutions are dramatic, even bloody. They radically disrupt. But if their enduring impact does not raise our level of understanding, then our behavior will not change either. What happens is the proverbial same dog with a different collar, the same book with a different cover, the same person with different clothes. But no transformative change, just motion producing a vicious cycle.


The life pendulum that swings from one end to the other is another expression of motion that gets us nowhere. It does appear that we are moving, and motion is a traditional image of change without real change except for the position where one is at any moment. Life forces us to swing from one extreme to another until a level of unbearable pain teaches us to remove ourselves from destructive patterns. Yet, reading and listening to the commentators of many, if not most, there is a recurring letdown of expectations after mere changes of personalities without changes in the mindset.

The Filipino people have had numerous opportunities for meaningful and sustainable change. In the last 35 years alone, there have what looked like dramatic changes in leadership. Marco’s, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino, and Duterte. Distinctly different personalities and leadership styles. Yet, in the most substantive of values, the shift towards an elevated consciousness, towards collective harmony, and towards the adherence to virtues over transactional benefits has moved quite slowly. Up to today, the condemnation of plunder, the institutional of the rule of law, the professionalism of public service and determined practice of meritocracy are all erratic. They still mostly swing with the moods of dominant personalities.


The great lesson that life continuously tries to teach us and to bring to higher levels is the responsibility and accountability of the individual. Because we are social animals, the necessity of the collective life is not only important but necessary. Just as primordial, it’s the acceptance and tolerance of the crucial role of the individual. In terms of governance and national affairs, this is often expressed as good citizenship. In Philippine history, the serious dependency of citizens to the leadership of personalities has crippled their appreciation of their own capacity and obligations.

We are easily distracted when our favorite or most hated, political personalities act up. A case in point is today. We must remain aware of the political dynamics surrounding us, but we must remain all the more about our basic duties and accountabilities as citizens. If we have to forget, then let us forget what others are supposed to do and be keenly cognizant of our responsibilities. The more we favor looking at, and reacting to, political drama that does not raise our spirit and motivation for a brighter future, the more negligent we will be of our role in building our own bright future. Let us be more involved in what makes us and the nation as winners, not protagonists in battles that will never end anyway.

We have a long history, since the Spanish, times of political and religious controversies that began to divide us as a people. We may remember our heroes, but we may forget the traitors at that time, too. And while we focused on their conflicts and ourselves taking sides with political and religious personalities, our material well-being was left by the wayside or left completely in the hands of those who never really cared enough to surrender their interests for the common good. Thus, by today, we have become expert commentators on issues that are less relevant to the progress we seek for ourselves and our families, for that bright future of our country – but unable to let our collective will be the master of public servants.

So many times in the past, I have proposed openly, through my articles here or discussions with all sorts of groups, that good citizenship is the only enduring pathway to good governance. If I go back to my boyhood days, even those before I went to school, I kept hearing from my surroundings all the arguments and debates about good governance. Because politics have become more of a competition rather than an exercise of various sectors of society to make their collective life better for themselves, there is one side in power and another side in opposition. It is impossible, therefore, that society will not be fed with all that is bad about each side. In the noise, all that is good is buried.

At the same time, I also noticed that Filipinos who were beginning to pay taxes, open businesses, or in gainful employment, most especially the OFW sector and their families, were also becoming more demanding about the quality of service that was due to them – whether from government or from the private sector. I have seen the growing independence of the faithful from the Catholic Church in matters that they think are of their personal choice. That is a huge leap from the eras of blind obedience. I have seen citizens who have prospered financially and have become less subservient to politicians. This growing of our individual capacity in a productive manner is proving a to be a more sustainable path to independence that the good governance struggle. In fact, empowered good citizens are feared by any governance.

For too long, we have waited for, we have watched, we have cheered or protested what leaders do or do not do. We as citizens kept missing the most important thing of all – our fundamental responsibility and accountability to contribute, first and foremost, our share towards the common good. Change, therefore, goes to them, not us.

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