Monday, March 30, 2009

12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country


“It is good to read about Filipinos like Alex Lacson who continue to be very positive about our country. Very often, we hear people complaining about conditions in our country and always putting the blame on someone else. It is good that Alex believes that the answer to our problems lies in each and every Filipino. Each of us should ask ourselves – What can I do for my country?

“This book is very timely and practical because it is comparatively easy to do the suggested 12 little things to help our country. I truly hope that this book will be read by many, many Filipinos.”

President of the Philippines, 1986-92

Last Christmas I was gifted with a small 100-page book with the title: “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country”. The little book was written by Alexander L. Lacson who is a lawyer by profession, an “activist” by avocation.

As the title suggests, Alex simply listed down 12 “little things” which every Filipino can do to improve the way things are in this, our one and only beloved country.

The first “little thing” is – Follow Traffic Rules. According to Alex, traffic rules are the simplest of our laws. If we follow these rules, it is a potent form of national discipline that we can develop.

I agree with him completely. Since I drive practically every single day, I am confronted with the rules of the road from morning till night. The challenge whether to follow these rules or not therefore confronts me every day. I follow the rules by choice.

John Maxwell says that if we do an act repeatedly for 30 consecutive days, it becomes a habit. If we follow traffic rules every day, this becomes a habit and can become a form of national discipline. It promotes us as a people of good manners.

The second “little thing” is – Whenever You Buy or Pay for Anything, Always Ask for an Official Receipt. Not just any receipt, but with emphasis on the word “official”.

We may or may not realize it, but the price we pay for any goods or service includes the tax which should be remitted to the government. As consumers, we are actually paying taxes for everything that we buy or pay for.

With more taxes collected, there may be hope for better and more social services like education, medicare and infrastructure. Even hoping against hope. Presumably, the government is now awash with cash because of the increase in VAT.

Unfortunately, professionals like doctors and lawyers seldom, if ever, issue official receipts. And yet they can be the bigger earners on a day to day basis.

Always ask for an official receipt and help our country. You might even win a million pesos in the BIR’s Kuwarta sa Resibo promo which was launched by Commissioner Willie Parayno.

Listen to Benjamin Franklin, the Great American: “Our people’s habits can be the destiny of our nation”. Talaga!

The third “little thing” is – Do Not Buy Smuggled Goods. Buy Local. Buy Filipino. Shades of President Carlos P. Garcia.

Atty. Lacson says that there are two things we can do: stop buying smuggled goods and report any kind of smuggling activity to the proper authorities. Kaya ba natin yan?

He observed that the Koreans are really patriotic people because they patronize their own products, from basic commodities to cars. They are supposed to have aversion to foreign products, especially Japanese and Chinese made.

Can we say the same thing about us? Palagay ko hindi, given our penchant for imported goods, and aversion for our own local products. It seems that Atty. Lacson realizes this and suggests that we adopt a 50-50 buying attitude – 50% for local goods and 50% for our imported choices.

This may be a good compromise, for a start, but the real key is to develop quality Filipino products and brands. And this is possible if we get rid of the “puwede na yan” attitude and aim for real quality in every product and service delivered.

William Brann says you can’t be a patriot without sacrificing for your country.

Umpisahan mo sa di pagbili ng pirated DVD.

The fourth “little thing” is – When You Talk to Others, Especially to Foreigners, Speak Positively of Our Race and Our Country. This will really take some effort and a lot of practice.

Sanay na sanay na tayong pagtawanan ang pasaway na Pinoy. We relish this self-bashing and self-flagellating rituals, especially when we talk to foreigners. I am guilty of this myself.

Atty. Lacson says this is socially irresponsible and unpatriotic, especially for the rich and the middle class people who are often in contact with foreigners.

We should start focusing on the positive aspects of our national being, sabi pa niya, like talking about our great heroes and Filipinos who have earned world acclaim.

He advocates a revolution, one that will fight the negative energies in our minds so that we don’t pass them on to the next generation. Sali ako diyan!

This revolution will raise a “new generation who will have respect for their past … and faith in their own selves”. Mukhang posibleng solusyon sa marami nating problema. Wala pang gastos. We simply need a change in attitude, at the way we look at things.

The fifth “little thing” is – Respect Your Traffic Officer, Policeman, Soldier and Other Public Servants. The author accompanies this with a reminder: “As always, the educated, knowing what needs to be done must not wait for those who do not know what to do. The learned has the solemn obligation to show the way, the sacred duty to take the first move”.

Kasali ako sa “public servants” and, certainly, I expect people to respect me, as long as I show them respect, too. Ganoon lang talaga. Respect begets respect.

Nowadays, however, it is really a challenge to show respect to a traffic officer or a policeman, realizing that the dominant feeling is one of fear and worry. I know, and I’m sure you know, many police officers who have earned our respect, but we read of a few scoundrels who lend a bad image to law enforcers.

Atty. Lacson makes the important point about the power of respect. He says that when we show respect, the other person is empowered, is dignified and feels honorable. It is an expression of the value and dignity of the other person. Giving respect is, to him, a most profound mark of an educated person.

Totoo naman, if we treat traffic cops with respect, they will also be respectful of us. If we look at and speak to them with dignity, they will consider themselves with dignity.

This can be said of others, but it may as well be said about us. As they say, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Hindi talaga mamumunga ng mansanas ang itinanim na puno ng bayabas.

The sixth “little thing” is – Do Not Litter. Dispose Your Garbage Properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve. It is not difficult to learn to do these things. The more difficult thing is to unlearn our bad habits relating to littering and garbage disposal.

One can easily imagine how much garbage is being produced by about 14 million residents of Metro Manila. Estimates put it at about 8,000 tons of solid waste daily, up from 6,000 tons in 2002. Araw-araw na ginawa ng Diyos, nagtatapon ng basura ang more than 1.5 million households in Metro Manila alone!

Sabi pa: the government spends some 7 billion pesos a year just to haul our garbage and DPWH earmarks another 18 million pesos to unclog our rivers and canals of plastics, etc. So much funds “wasted” which may be put to better use. Only if we can follow Atty. Lacson’s simple advice.

Para sa akin, our bad littering habit is a strong indictment of the weakening and misdirected basic education – lalo na yong tungkol sa good manners and right conduct. I refer to this as one of the 5 Rs of basic education – responsible citizenship.

The seventh “little thing” is – Support Your Church. As a Christian family, we regularly attend mass at the San Bartolome Parish Church in Novaliches, very near the QC Polytechnic.

My wife and I always give something to the church during collection time, often a few peso bills each. Like Atty. Lacson, we are oftentimes confronted with the situation: walang barya. So I end up giving one hundred pesos, or any bill that I have.

I really don’t have any qualms about that since, for me, giving to the church is a duty, an obligation. We need to believe that the church is doing its share in maintaining peace and sanity in the world. Whether you are Christian, Muslim or Jew.

Found in Abe Lincoln’s pocket noong nabaril siya: “I shall walk through this world but once. Therefore, if there is any good thing that I need to do, let me do it now, for I shall not walk this way again.” Very true, there is no best time to do good but NOW!

The eighth “little thing” is – During Elections, Do Your Solemn Duty. The author quotes John F. Kennedy who said: “The people always get the government they deserve.”

It is fast approaching, so let’s get ready to vote. But whom should we vote into office? Atty. Lacson gives some examples, some models, to be precise.

He begins with South Korean leader Park Chung Hee who was installed into office through a successful coup d’etat. Because of the ravages of war and bad economic situation, Seoul could not borrow money from any country. He sent mine laborers, railway workers and nurses to Germany so they could remit part of their earnings to help the South Korean economy.

Park Chung Hee did not have superlative credentials. But he was honest, both in the eyes of the public and in real life. When he died in 1981, the Koreans were pleasantly shocked to discover that he owned only one property, an old apartment which he bought for his family before he became president. At the time of his death, South Korea has become an emerging economic tiger.

Perhaps, similar to President Park, we had our own President Ramon Magsaysay who did not have superlative credentials, too.

During his time the country recorded 7.3% annual GNP rate, but it is said that at the time of his death, he had only P2000 to leave to his family. He did not even own a house in Manila.

President Magsaysay was perceived to be honest, so he had credibility which is what makes people follow the leader. The credibility of a leader is what makes people follow a common vision. Can say the same things about our leaders today?

Sabi ni Abraham Lincoln, “power is best used by a leader who has character”. Dagdag naman ni Lolo Plato, “He who does not seek power is the most qualified to hold it.”

The ninth “little thing” is – Pay Your Employees Well. Although this does not apply to us now, we are undeniably better off if we are paid well, according to the kind of work that we put in on a day-to-day basis.

Employers should definitely not shortchange their workers because to do so will deprive their families some comfort and a lot of opportunities. Sabi pa ni Atty. Lacson, money that is kept to oneself does not build a family; it does not build a community.

Tandaan ang mga salita ni Abraham Lincoln: “The ultimate measure of success is not what you have become, or who you have become, but what others have become because of you.”

In other words, we should always be ready to share, not only the profit that we generate, but also our thoughts and our ideas, to lift someone else, to serve others.

Maganda ang sinabi ni Pareng Kahlil Gibran tungkol dito: “You give but little when you give of your material possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

The tenth “little thing” is – Pay Your Taxes. This is another timely reminder since this is the tax-payment period for government employees and workers in the private sector.

Kunsabagay, I guess we need not really be reminded. As government employees, our taxes are withheld at source, in the payroll, even before we catch sight of the small amount that remains after all our deductions.

But those of us who may be engaged in some business outside of our work in government, let’s do our duty to our country. After all, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “By the taxes he pays, a citizen has every right to demand for a good and honest government.”

Atty. Lacson says that we have to pay our taxes properly because we have to share in the cost of governance. The task of building our country is a task that we all must share. I agree.

The eleventh “little thing” is – Adopt a Scholar or Adopt a Poor Child. Atty. Lacson cites Luke 3:11 – “whoever has two shirts must give one to the person who has none, and whoever has food must share it with the hungry”.

Sabi pa niya: “We can all make a difference in the future of our country if we make a difference in the world of children.” Let’s not even look far – our relatives, our clan. There will surely be one child to help, especially with his or her education and training.

We pride ourselves as a Christian nation, so it should be second nature for us to help our kindred, the poor and the hungry among us. If we do help, it is indeed a very Christian act.

If one million young Filipinos can be adopted and given good education, we will end up with a million kids with a better future.

The twelfth “little thing” is – Be A Good Parent. Teach Your Kids To Follow The Law & To Love Our Country. Sabi pa niya: “Today’s children will someday rule and lead this world. But whether they will be bad rulers or good leaders will depend largely on how we raise them today.”

If our children are taught how to listen to each other at home, they will someday know how to listen to other people in school and in their workplace.

If we teach our children to respect each other’s views, they will very likely respect other people’s views in the larger society.

If they are taught to follow some house rules, they will someday learn to follow the rules and laws of the land.

Every child in this world acquires the concept of right and wrong from his or her parents, so let us be good models.

Parents are indeed true models for children. Becoming a good father or mother is certainly one of the best acts, yet the simplest, that one can do to make this country of ours a little better.

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