Darkness Into Light

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

There are so many things to write about, and maybe even more things not to write about. Writing an opinion is not about reporting the news, it is about reporting one’s view. An opinion write can be very selective about what to give an opinion of, largely based on what experience and expertise he or she may have. News reporting is quite demanding in variety, objectivity, and deadlines.

We are approaching the winter of 2014. Much has happened in eleven months, much to report, much to reflect on and share. Even though I write only once a week online, I feel some level of exhaustion.  It is caused less by the writing and more by the constant witnessing and attempts to find their connection to human and societal evolution. I guess, that, at my age, I have more to write about other than the frivolous, no matter how colorful.

2014 started with the Yolanda aftermath. That was quite a heavy beginning for a new year. The suffering of millions of typhoon victims, still shell-shocked from the November 8 catastrophe, defined the start of 2014 not just for the provinces affected. The heavy clouds were expanded by the conflict between the Executive and the Judiciary over the legality of the DAP, exacerbated by the open-ended accountability of DAP participants after it was declared constitutional. Then, we had three senators and many less senior public officials accused and/or detained for plunder and graft. Indeed, 2014 had more than its fair share of dampeners.

It is almost a miracle that the Philippine economy resisted most of the negative political and legal development with another strong performance. It may not have been as fast as 2013 but it was more outstanding when taken into context. The Philippine economic growth still outpaced most of the world’s economies, the good news still a net winner over bad news. This, most of all, is a reflection of Filipino resiliency, maybe Filipino spirituality.

In several instances, in several public messages, I expressed a personal commitment to light a candle rather than to curse the darkness. I was keenly aware of the hard life on the ground as my greater advocacy is not literary but community development. It meant that I devoted more of my time and energy relating to the more needy sectors of society, and especially those affected by disasters.

It is easy to get sucked in by the horror of poverty and calamity. There can be so much darkness to curse.  At the same time, because we want that darkness to give way to light, cursing it simply turns black to very black. Fighting darkness has only one effective methodology, and that is to bring or allow light to come in. When suffering and frustration overwhelm our sentiments, no light can enter. A lit candle, or sunlight, must find its way to the darkness of our environment.

What is not easy is to raise the flag of hope in the midst of despair, when life offers us more than enough reason to complain. That is why I chose, with many others in a common direction, to publicly express that commitment to light a candle instead. Being public with a commitment to build a light helps strengthen the resolve when the temptation to curse is pressing. Hope is not easy to build but it must be. Without basis to hope, without being able to point to evidence that hoping pays, we will only be selling a fantasy.

I cannot be more happy that many kept building the basis for hope all throughout 2014. The predictions of doomsday prophets did not materialize, thankfully.  It is not because they had no basis for their negativity, but because there was more reason to hope.  It helped that enough of the world continued to believe in the Filipino capacity, and leadership. It helped that more business and investment went sent our way. It helped that more buildings are being built to accommodate the need for business growth and employment.  It helped that government is pushing for more infrastructure development to further encourage investments.

The determination that characterizes the OFWs who are so responsible for an awesome amount of foreign remittances is not from despair, it is courage and hope. Filipinos who are sacrificing the best years of their lives away from their families are not cursing the darkness, they are lighting a candle. We hear about the lack of opportunities in the Philippines, opportunities for the poorer sectors, and that is true. But many other countries are poorer than us, yet their citizens do not choose to try their luck abroad.  Poverty stalks two-thirds of mankind, but not all choose to light a candle.

The violence that defines many societies involves mostly poor people. That is why it is seldom that developed countries experience civil war. There may be other reasons besides for people to choose violence, like politics, like religion, but the fact remains that they are at war. Ten million Filipinos chose to find greener pastures, at great personal sacrifice, yes, but have also brought great benefits to their families. Lighting a candle in the darkness is not easy, but it can be more rewarding than cursing it.

Poverty, hunger, corruption, these are cancers that will provoke us to curse. And we will. And we must. Cursing the root causes of the darkness may be a necessary stage in order to build our intolerance of them. That is the only benefit of the cursing. And we must quickly realize that we must build what we want as fast as we destroy what we don’t want. It is about our dreams, our visions, the tomorrow we seek for our children and their children. It is for these, for them, that we must turn darkness into light.

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