Leadership and basic values | Inquirer Opinion

Leadership and basic values

/ 04:06 AM January 18, 2021

Many years ago, the 12th Asian Games were held in Hiroshima, Japan, site of the first use of the atom bomb during World War II. Members of the Philippine delegation paid a farewell call on President Fidel V. Ramos just before their departure. Part of the program for the day was the singing of the National Anthem. Apparently, it was done in a lukewarm, half-hearted manner that resulted in a public scolding by the President. “What’s the matter with you? You will represent the country in another land and you cannot even sing the National Anthem properly,” Ramos said. An attempt to recover lost ground was cut short with a curt “Don’t bother, you should have been well-prepared for this earlier.” Here were the top athletes of the nation bidding goodbye to the chief executive and they could not belt out the National Anthem with the enthusiasm and spirit that the occasion called for. It was possible many of them were not familiar with the words, and were just going through the motion of mouthing the lyrics. Some were slouching instead of standing straight, with head held high and chest full of pride in being sent to represent their country at such an important and prestigious sports event. Some were not familiar with or accustomed to the practice of placing their right hand over the left breast while singing the anthem. All these may have raised the hackles of the President and his sharp tongue put them on notice that he expected much more from the young people assembled before him.

During my service in the armed forces, I had witnessed flashes of this presidential temper on a number of occasions. Just when you think things were moving comfortably, he would remind you of your shortcomings to keep you on your toes. I was not surprised that the incident at Malacañang took place. It is symptomatic of how we carry on in many of the activities that we undertake in our daily lives — from the way we behave in traffic situations, to our inability to set aside partisan interests for the national good. We take too many things for granted and we place individual concerns over and above community interests.


The system in place does not seem to sufficiently inculcate and emphasize basic values, like respect for the flag and the National Anthem, discipline, civic duties, and responsibilities. It is in the homes and in the classrooms where kids start to learn about the history of our country, where they develop respect for the symbols of our nation, where discipline can be instilled while preparing them for useful roles in the community. A lot depends on the family and the educational system, but just as important is the role played by the national leadership.

In Singapore, energetic campaigns for simple civic duties like cleanliness, environmental awareness, polite behavior, and courtesy for others, are spearheaded at the highest levels of the national leadership and have inevitably turned out to be huge successes.


One of the things that impressed me most during my stint in Indonesia many years ago, was the sense of nationalism of its people. For one thing, there were no endless queues by individuals at the Dutch or US embassies applying for immigrant visas. Their athletes being sent abroad always returned home unlike some of ours who disappeared after the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. If my recollection is correct, the entire cycling team opted to stay behind.

Perhaps, this can be explained partly by the fact that Indonesia has a national ideology known as the “Pancasila,” or “Five Principles.” These principles that form the nation’s political philosophy are (1) Belief in God; (2) A just and civilized humanity; (3) Nationalism, or love of country; (4) Sovereignty of the people; and (5) Social justice. Since its independence in 1945, more than 75 years ago, this national ideology has been drummed into the minds of every Indonesian child, from the formative school years, all the way to adulthood, without let-up in dissemination and emphasis. Many of the official programs are attended by the Indonesian president and often start with the recitation of the “Pancasila” by a group of youngsters and this would set the tone for the day’s activities.

It is never too late to devote greater emphasis on the inculcation and nurturing of basic values among the youth. The national leadership would have to play an active and significant role in the effort if success is to be achieved.

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TAGS: fidel v. ramos, leadership, Ramon J. Farolan, Reveille, values
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