A Poverty of Role Models | Inquirer Opinion

A Poverty of Role Models

12:30 AM April 19, 2024

I do not know if the parent generation of the present (and fading) baby boomers are going through what many among my age range are experiencing today. What I can recall about the generation of my parents was a complete lack of griping about the good old days. They seemed grateful to have survived two world wars, were busy re-building from the rubble, or building inside a new and more peaceful world order.

For one thing, the rich and poor, despite the great gaps of their lives and lifestyles, seemed in agreement with what was good and bad, what was right and wrong. In other words, they knew the difference between one and the other, and generally tries to stay on the good and right side. The law was respected and accepted, and law breakers were more easily identified and condemned.

It does not mean that the economic and social inequalities did not exist, and these affected the lives of the disadvantaged as much as bless the lives of the more fortunate. Yet, somehow, it did appear as though both rich and poor understood and embraced the dynamics of right and wrong, of the good and bad. The traditional values that the grandparent generation remained in place, and our parent generation lived in harmony with them. In fact, in our earlier part of the baby boomers’ lives, these were the same values being taught to us.

So, what happened?

Life is more than economics, no question. Yet, national economic markers are real manifestations of crucial life concerns on a societal level. Un-doctored economic statistics give us valid bases of human development and living conditions, especially when inside a format of comparisons with other countries. When economies thrive, the probability is that citizens will have a better life, including less stress.


Strong economies do not indicate hunger levels of serious concern even though there may be scattered incidences. The same strong economies speak of greater competitiveness versus other countries, especially those neighboring us and with whom we compete the most. Inside a strong economy, the benefited society is given ample room to institute reforms on its weaker parts. There, too, is greater impetus to bridge the internal social and economic inequalities when scarcity does not threaten the nation.

My article is not about our economy, but I am constantly aware of it. I am trying to give more focus to our deterioration as a country in all its most important concerns. First is the deterioration of our values. There is confusion about what is true or false, what is right or wrong, what is good and bad. And because our society is deeply affected by this confusion, what guides us and our relationships, personal and sectoral, is now erratic and vulnerable to misunderstanding and conflict.

When our values deteriorate, our relationship with the law deteriorates as well, the laws of our land adhering closely to our traditions and culture – or what is important to us. But our laws hue closely, too, to accepted ethical and legal parameters of most countries in the world that follow (or claim to) universal human and democratic principles. When our adherence to our laws and international laws become erratic, a host of political and economic problems will arise.

The loose compliance of laws will make our justice system unstable and untrustworthy, slowly but surely pushing the citizenry to find alternative ways to survive, following whatever best serves their needs. Unfortunately, there will be loose compliance of international laws and principles as well. Our standing in the world of nations will suffer, and so will our economy which, thus far, remains very dependent on our international relations.


The weakening of our sense and trust in the justice system will breed criminality and disrupt the very foundation of order in society. Beyond that, we attract criminals from around the world who will welcome a domestic scene where money or superior force becomes as important (or more) than legal parameters which can be bent by money, favors, or intimidation.

It is no wonder, then, that scam and scammers are having a heyday in the Philippines today. Foreign criminals are running domestic scams and using Filipinos to lie and steal from the innocent. The POGO operators, legitimate and not, are a feared presence in many communities, and these operators go out of their way to keep themselves invisible behind walled compounds. Yet, the stink that flows from their enclaves threaten all within their reach.


With our social pillars teetering and generating doubts about the veracity of what our parents and ancestors tried to reach and inspire us towards, the massive, innocent victims are our youth – those who are at the most susceptible stage. The consequences are becoming obvious and alarming. Learning poverty and the debacle of Filipino students in the PISA tests are not a lack of intelligence, they are consequences of the growing scarcity of good role models and the emergence of the opposite.

Filipino children and students today are not any less intelligent than the generations before them. But academic results show they are less capable. There seems to be a stunting of their native intelligence, as if their environment is not nourishing at all. It is like the malnutrition of their capability, and there is no effective countermeasure being offered beyond the tutoring being encouraged for them. But what kind of tutoring can reach and reverse the learning poverty of 90% of young Filipino students?

The massiveness of the affliction on our young is evidence enough for me to claim that the traditional role models who affirm the verbal and academic teachings are steadily disappearing. The ascendancy of new but contrasting values, like money over truth or honor and success at any cost, cannot find enough resistance among those who believed otherwise and still do.

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Scarcity is usually addressed by increasing supply. Do we have enough Filipinos who will honor virtue and law over wrongdoing in a corrupt environment?

TAGS: law compliance, values

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