Have We Lost Our Highest Dreams

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

“The vision is to be of one heart and one mind. There is a common consciousness that there cannot be a needy person. Community means communion. People need to work for the common good. They must learn to work together, leaving no one behind. There needs to develop the spirit of good citizenship. Leaders shall be developed according to the principle of servant leadership, and faithful to the motto “Una sa serbisyo, huli sa benipisyo.”*

The essence is a combination of “maka kalinga” or caring, which is the highest quality of sharing, and of “bayanihan” which means to share the work load willingly and with lightness. The commitment says “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Our dream is to develop a sense of nation wherein the well-being of everyone becomes the common interest, for each one to assume responsibility for helping his neighbor, and for good leaders to earn the love and respect of their constituents. Nation-building begins with caring for neighbors and community, assuming responsibility for the greater community or nation, actively participating in community projects, builds discipline and diligence as key virtues in the collective work ethic, and inspired by leaders who do not allow self or family interest to compromise the common good.”

I copied the above statements almost word for word from a draft document which attempted to articulate the spirit and purpose of a noble work. It is a credo worth being adopted as the vision of a nation, a major political party, or a presidential candidate. In a political season draped by a depressing moral and social environment, the spirit and form of this vision would be a star of hope and a badge of courage.

Yet, it was not politics  or politicians that evolved this articulation of a dream and commitment. Rightfully so, it is the embodiment of the heart and soul of a mission absolutely dedicated to liberating the poor from the curse of a massive and historical poverty. It is an attempt to describe and institutionalize the spirit and form contained in the Gawad Kalinga (GK) vision, an initiative of a GK advocate and supporter, Malen Lorenzo.

Funding a study to assess the social impact of Gawad Kalinga, Malen lays no claim to what she has personally articulated except the sensitive use of words to capture nobility born of sacrifice and generosity. At most, she admits to interviewing the founder of Gawad Kalinga and facilitating group discussion and sharing among key GK workers, volunteers and residents of GK communities. In the innocence and purity of intention, however, can give birth to expressions which inspire powerfully.

Even Tony Meloto does not claim ownership of a dream and a work that has deliberately identified the helpless poor of the land as its primary focus, and their human liberation as a lifelong mission. Knowing that the vision of a caring and progressive nation will require more years than what is left of his own life, Meloto consistently encourages a second generation of leaders to take on a challenge that deserves to be the central theme of any national leadership.

In my previous article, my first for 2010, I was questioning the viability of writing more articles about what is good instead of the ugliness of corrupt governance. I affirmed my preference and joy for focusing on topics which inspire more than those which rabble rouse. While I said a prayer for good to win over evil in 2010, I expressed my fear that evil must not be allowed to pollute our national soul and enslave our people without some of us trying our best to point to it. Evil thrives in the dark and focusing attention on it makes it slink to the corner.

A reader from Los Angeles, Prosy de la Cruz, herself a feature writer/contributor to Asian Journal and a former commissioner in the LA Civil Service Commission, assured me that rooting for good over evil is not wishful thinking that comes out only in fairy tales, that, in fact, it must be a conviction that we hold on to all our lives. She insisted that it is the “can do” inner will, the willingness to sacrifice for the motherland, more than the rottenness of governance, that will be the stronger motivation for change.

Her own son, a UCLA student, was selected to be part of an immersion program which sent him to the Philippines and to Gawad Kalinga villages in Bicol. Carlo de la Cruz is now quoted in the January 4 issue of the New Yorker sharing this message, “that language in the university has to change from economic exchange to the common good.” It is amazing how a young Filipino-American has wisdom to see that the cause of our poverty is not economic but the absence of the common good as the fundamental value and obligation of all Filipinos. He ought to speak before those who govern us so that they will be reminded how they have mangled our culture and our ethics.

We have national elections coming this May. Among all our candidates, especially those for president, who has honesty as his fundamental character? The common good can never be the goal of a dishonest official, or one who tolerates dishonesty among his superiors or his peers in public office. All other policies and programs are not worth more than the paper they are written on if the common good is not their primordial purpose.

The war between good and evil is a classic personal and collective challenge. But it is a special drama for those who serve as leaders, be it in state governance or the Church, be it in civic organizations or religious communities. Among the many permutations that temptations will come into our lives, the more powerful ones will test our honesty. Corruption in governance at levels which now shock us tell a grim story of the polluted character of our societal leaders.

In our complacency, though, or in our subservient tolerance to the corruption of those in power, we have to realize that we compromising our own character. That compromise poisons the primacy of the common good. Unless we find our courage, it may yet come to pass that Filipinos will be governed only by traitors and the Philippines known as a nation of cowards.

“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus

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