Always the silver lining

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

I have often participated in numerous discussions about the traits of the Filipino. I think all of us have at one time or the other. It is natural, I believe, for us to point to what is good and noble about our race. From our collective personality, we derive much pride and confidence.

Too bad, then, that there is also the opposite side, the dark side, the weak side. And lately, I hear more of what is not good about us than the virtues of our race. It can sound that speaking about our time-honored cultural values, like bayanihan, like hospitality, like spirituality, is reserved for schools to mention or for government propaganda. Yet, it is becoming more common, and terribly alarming, to have our bad traits take center stage in our commentaries. Like self-inflicted prophecies, what we think of is what dominates our speech and then directs our behavior.

In an environment that highlights controversies and conflicts more than what is inspiring and productive, our thoughts and words revolve around the negative. I know there are reasons why, and that these reasons are true and factual.

We know about drugs, especially the pain and fear they inflict on society. I say society because it is unusual for any Filipino to not know someone, or about someone, who is not or has not been in drugs. We do not need to look far, often not beyond our relatives and friends, to see or hear about the misery of a user and the family involved.

We know about partisan politics. We are too often engaged in conversations or debates about political issues and personalities. Worse, we often take sides and end up depressed or angry.

We know about our economic needs and how they seem to constantly outpace economic opportunities. Life was hard when inflation was low, so life is harder because inflation today is driving prices to go up faster. Many Filipino families are enjoying free educational benefits where there were less before, but the economic hardships are what is felt and affect us more.

For the population that lives in urbanized areas, especially Metro Manila and the capital cities, we know about the traffic and living conditions. We are trapped in a level of human density that is truly unhealthy in more ways than one. And the lack or absence of mass transport systems cripples our mobility, making us feel trapped all the more. Floods become more common in congested areas and communities because water is trapped as well.

I think I can go on and on because there are other concerns that bother us. I think, though, I have made my point clear. There are many, many issues that are deemed negative and limiting in our lives. They can dominate us if we go about life swimming with the tide mindlessly.people

But why, then, are we not as depressed as we should be? Why is it that, if we actually look back at each day, we had more neutral or positive moments? We were inside the traffic for one or two hours but we found ways to think about better things, the people we like to see, the work we have to do, the family at home, and the weekend treat we are planning to have. Inside us is the acceptance that life is naturally hard at times, just as naturally light at times. We develop a realistic view, and then we develop resiliency. Accepting that life and some level of hardship is normal, and we do not gripe about it every day.

Beyond being realistic, though, is the fact that we really live a life where hope is an intrinsic part of. We are able to wake up and have something to live for. For many, it may be just looking at the children and dreaming that they will have lives better than ours. We then take our daily tasks with a lighter grain of salt, hopeful that our efforts today will bloom into a brighter future for our families and our motherland. This hope of a better tomorrow gives us so much strength that we endure sacrifices without turning negative.

Venting, though, is one way that we release both exhaustion and frustration. We may mean little by it, no malice whatsoever. Unfortunately, venting our tension to the public sphere which, by the way, is magnified by social media, compliments the negativity that some deliberately spread for their own vested interests. Partisan politics always tries to say the worst about the other side. It does not matter who is administration or opposition because both sides will put down the other. Governance becomes a contest between protagonists who try to beat each other up. Yet, governance is the one big hope of our people, especially the poor, if that governance can focus on delivering benefits instead of engaging in political intramurals.

Whatever is going on, I cannot but help see the good things that happen and anticipate that more good things will happen. I am not blind to the ugly facets of our reality. Once being a professional tasked with troubleshooting, seeing and smelling trouble was my skill. In other words, I did not go around being blind to different facets of reality. However, my pragmatic side tells me, as in a prayer I love so much, that I should know what I cannot change and accept it, what I can and be courageous enough to change it, and the good sense to know the difference. And even when I know I can make a difference, the challenge is how to help fix a problem without making it worse by the methods I choose.

Everyone is free to take a path towards their own dreams. We are one people, one Filipino, and I must pray that the greater number will find a collective harmony far beyond our differences. This is my prayer.

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