Looking back, looking ahead | Inquirer Opinion

Looking back, looking ahead

12:30 AM June 28, 2024

Week after week for the past 23 years, I have written my articles for Inquirer.net (started out as INQ7 in 2001). It was never for money, and money was never offered as well. A simple email invitation to write was sent to me by the editor then, timed when the online publication was undergoing major changes. I accepted although I do not remember why. Though not used to regular writing, I suppose it was the temper of the times.

I had zero background for writing other than what a student is taught and learns from grade school to college. I did not seem to have a passion for writing although my teachers thought I wrote well and gave me the grades to affirm it. Through the years, however, from the kind of experiences I had lived through, the kind of influence mentors and friends had on me, and the unique vantage view I always had, a continuing stream of lessons and insights amassed. It is this pool of knowledge and understanding that I draw from, and especially the behavioral principles underlying all of them.

Later, I learned that many writers do not write from an intent to establish it as a professional career. Rather, many write because there is something in them that wants to find the light of day outside their minds and hearts. I am one of them. I write because I have much to write about. And it is not about chismis, either. That is not my line while I do accept many writers have a flair for that type of subject matter. I am aware, too, that more of the Filipino audience gravitate to that for their own personal reasons.

Although I started writing quite late, it has now been 23 years. Just like that and I realize I have written almost 1,200 articles on a weekly basis. If I had the discipline to review the tenor and temper of the articles, especially on the level of lessons and insights drawn from current events layered over past experiences, my views must have evolved. I believe that one’s conclusions may change as people and events add to the richness of reality. But hopefully, the change hardly contradicts and, in fact, enriches.


Changing the principles and values that have underpinned me as a human being would be a problem for me if it happens unless that change is for more depth and breadth, for clearer knowledge, and hints of wisdom. I would loathe for me to reverse what I believe in at soul level or behave as if I had. I do not have much capability for ethical and moral calisthenics. Admittedly, I have made compromises along the way – and I have suffered inner shame every time. When I judge others, I give the same leeway, but I hope they suffer, too.

My prelude to writing was the Erap Resign moment of the Philippines. His presidency, or to be more accurate, his presidential behavior was jarring to me as a Filipino wishing that his president would be an inspiration, a symbol of who and what the Filipino is to both the Filipino people and to the world. Not long before that, we had come from the nightmare of dictatorship and institutionalized looting and plunder – the kind that comes from the top and followed gleefully by the smaller thieves in the bureaucracy. My generation and the one before me saw the bankruptcy of the Philippines – and I mean it literally as well as allegorically.

Now, few can imagine what it is to be a financial pariah of the world where the Philippine peso meant nothing in financial transactions and only the US dollar in cash could satisfy those from whom we needed essential items. Our Central Bank had to be closed and a new institution established, known as BSP today. It deserved to be shut down anyway as it was providing false figures on our reserves to help prove lies as truth, one of the earliest and worst incidents of disinformation.

The Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos presidencies were the first desperate attempts to return the Philippines to normalcy in economics and in politics. More so, I believe, was the excruciating process of taming adventurism in the military and dismantling a culture of corruption. Well, it does seem that two presidencies were not enough because Estrada and the Filipino people had to go through an upheaval again on both fronts.


Are we now okay? No.

Can we now be okay? Can we ever find a governance that approximates the best of our race, the best of our culture, the best of our potential? Yes, but by prayer, by a miracle, and most of all, by the resolve of enough Filipinos to condemn dishonesty in all forms from the top. Because only from the top can come the kind of examples that people all the way to the communities nationwide can get inspiration from. Because only from the top can laws be truly enforced without fear or favor.


But the top fear only the people. So, the first step is the most arduous one, the step that begins with each one, with each family, with each village, with each barangay chairman, with each mayor, with each governor, until Malacañang Palace shakes with the kind of dread that forces reform.

We must instead amend the question to “Can we be okay?” Because if it begins with us, will we? Because if the top does not follow, will we insist?

Yes, but by prayer, by a miracle, and most of all, a resolve of enough Filipinos to condemn dishonesty in all forms beginning from the top. It is a simple question – can we keep condemning until power dreads the consequences?

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No, I do not think so. I can only pray that it is inching nearer. I fear, though, if great change is coming, there will be severe, preceding lessons that will make us sorrier, maybe wiser, and braver.


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