I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW TO SEE MY HOUSE
I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW
TO SEE MY HOUSE
BY BERTENI "TOTO" CATALUÑA CAUSING
National Press Club
National Press Club
(NOTE: I wrote this article in October of 2008. But I am reposting because of the big problems besetting the Philippines now: THE SENDONG HAVOC and THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE.)
I am glad that there are still Filipinos who care for and hope for their leaders.
At least, we have a common ground: we all love RP. The differences start when each of us begins to express and exercise beliefs in political leaders who, most often, ended up consumed by greed, and when each begins to insist what everyone of us believes to be what should be given us--even without working for it.
Then we have seen groups of Filipinos who cannot be contented with what they have and who would blame other Filipinos for their miseries, which blame is partly true and partly false.
All our woes have run to the extent that I have come to the point of saying there is no change that we can believe in that would ever happen in this nation once called "the banana republic."
I blame this on ourselves--and myself--in the first place and on our leaders who craftily played on our unwillingness to respond accordingly to preserve what is correct and what is right, morally, politically and economically. We have exhibited our hesitance at a chance for patriotism in dozens of occasions. I call it a disillusion that has gripped me and most of us.
Obviously amongst us, there are two major forces that control the action of each: (1) personal attitude; and (2) exploitation by leaders. There may be other factors, but these are the two prominent figures in my mind at this time of writing.
As is true in Christian communities, the bigger mass of Muslim Filipinos are gripped by their attitude on how to react and behave toward their Christian kababayans and this provided a perfect scenario for their leaders to play with them.
We can easily see the formation of attitude in each Muslim Pinoy largely depend on what one learns since childhood. If a Muslim child learns hatred against Christians at a very young age it will linger till eternity; if he learns the values of reading, writing, good behavior and critical thinking it will reign in him in his lifetime. This hatred is taught by the actions and conversations of their parents in the domestic homes. Unfortunately, many Muslim parents now have not gone to school to learn reading non-Arabic letters and figures and the culture of Filipinos who don't pray like them. This is the reason any Muslim Filipino would readily embrace an idea if one is proposed for them to break away from the Philippines with the punctuation line of discrimination.
We can also see the lack of learning among the Christian communities. Ask any Christian in the Visayas or Luzon and many of them do not even know places in Mindanao made popular by Yoyoy Villame. Perhaps, the most that would come to mind to many a non-Mindanaoan are provinces such as Cotabato owing to the song of Asin, Davao, Lanao, Zamboanga, Jolo and Basilan owing to the news headlines. One of our biggest mistakes is the failure to include in the elementary curricula subjects and researches about Muslim Filipinos to promote better understanding of their life and culture--and to teach Christian Filipinos a lifetime lesson that they are not the only Filipinos.
Due to this "sin of ignorance" that we all commit because each of us has done not enough, we can readily see Christian Filipinos' stereotypes at the sight of a Muslim counterpart. In the same manner a Christian Filipino would be discriminated against when he happens to stray in Lanao, Maguindanao or Sulu islands. This should not happen.
Nevertheless, we are thankful that, at least, the corrupt and corrupted system of public education has lifted a sign of hope that at least there is that little understanding that is observable; although the deep-seated hatred and bias against each other is still there. This little progress has seen the rise of Maranao traders now found in almost every town or city across Philippines. Of all Muslim tribes here, it is this Lake People who are most prone to adjust to Christian traditions; I credit this to the success of my alma mater, the Mindanao State University in Marawi and Iligan. MSU has served as a good melting pot for intelligent Muslims and Christians who must have reechoed to their respective homes what they learned from this great institution founded in 1961 by professors and academicians from the UP; the throng was led by Dr. Antonio Isidro. That gambit has proved as an excellent formula for the promotion of understanding between Islam and Christianity, two holy concepts that are seemingly a world apart from each other. And I write this piece in partial payment for the full scholarship it granted me to graduate with a BS Civil Engineering course despite my parents' indigence.
Apparently, education is the only sure solution to create a big potential for a lasting and more permanent peace and prosperity in Muslim Mindanao and in any Christian community.
So that I have harbored a Filipino Dream which I see can only happen in every Pinoy if he or she is given a chance at a good public education system. And the only way to achieve this dream is for us to start this in our kids while they are young. So why not start ’em young?
A matter of education is for a country to do because it is beyond the capacity of any citizen, who can contribute the most by compelling or inspiring their young to go to school, making sure these kids study at home before giving stuff toys or a play station a time, working to give them food so that they would not study with empty stomach, and teach them some supplemental lessons.
This I urge in the belief that it is not enough to ask "what you can do to your country" but to answer readily when asked "what your country can do to you."
Despite this glaring picture of ignorance which is too big to stay unnoticed, our local leaders have not seen that the only solution is a "good public education," one that teaches not only how to read, write and compute but one that also teaches a child to think critically at a young age of seven and opens his mind to the cultures of people who don't look like him and who don't worship like him. This kind of knowledge is far better than the "current events" that show a President saying "I am sorry" over the "Hello Garci Fraud", a Comelec official dangling "Sec, may 200 (million) ka dito", a President who is in prison, thereafter convicted and later pardoned, a "Joc-Joc Bolante making a joke out of fertilizer funds", Court of Appeals justices who would quarrel over one ordinary case, and many others.
If we could only turn back the hands of time and if I would have my way, I would have dangled more than half of the country's wealth in a massive high-standard public education in elementary and secondary levels free for all the kids and would leave them fight for their way to college. This I would do because I believe that the success in admission tests for UP and other excellent schools depend on how much a child learns in his or her lower level education. I also believe that it is enough that our people will be informed, intelligent and critical-thinking high school graduates for them to serve as a very potent force to drive our economy to prosperity and our community to tranquility.
We cannot turn back the time, but we can always start anew and take the correct steps, one at a time. But how when it has become an egg-to-chicken-to-egg story for us courtesy of our politicians?
Honestly, I have become desperate. In all government offices graft and corruption has become the rule of the game; so that when they cry out "rule of law" they actually mean "law of rule". A simple license or permit cannot be obtained without extra fees for the people tasked to perform them. A victim of a crime cannot be assured of justice unless he gives for the law enforcers to move. Nearly every law passed has become a source of income by plenty of public officers who are willing not to implement the law for a price.
A poor man cannot litigate his case even if he has merit. There are countless of obstacles. Before the fiscal's office alone, good evidence and meritorious arguments and without more are not enough to ensure a victory in any preliminary investigation. In the courts, the big bumps are these: (a) prohibitive filing fees and strict-yet-out-of-touch rules in order to avail of indigent's privilege to sue; (b) overly technical court procedures that not even intelligent laymen can understand; (c) free legal aids of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) that are not efficient if a poor client does not give "padulas"; (d) stringent bar prohibiting non-lawyer litigants to sue and defend suit by themselves; and (e) prohibitive requirements put up by the Supreme Court for lawyers to practice, like the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) that consists only of seminars that are not effective in achieving the purpose, which requirements, in effect, force lawyers to spend more for them to be allowed to practice in court, among others.
These, I believe, are still a product of our "sin of ignorance." We know it but we refuse to learn.
Now, let me ask. How may intelligent Muslim Filipino leaders who have passed to be genuine to their own constituencies? Can we count Nur Misuari in? Can we count in the dynastic family of Kiram of the Sultanate of Sulu? Can we count in the Dimaporos? Can we count in the Ampatuans in Maguindanao? Can we count in the Tamano clansmen? Can we count in the Pendatuns? Can we count in the Sinsuats? Can we count in the Mangudadatus of Sultan Kudarat province? Can we count in Sultan Kudarat himself?
Though I have high hopes in Adel Tamano, a Harvard fellow and the current president of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila where I obtained my law degree in 2005, I don't know how to reconcile the riches providing insulting contrasts to the have-nots masses who follow them.
Maguindanaons could have been lucky to have Toto Paglas who succeeded in converting the small town of Buluan into a banana plantation. But the good die young. Allah has just taken him while he was still very young and vibrant. An industrialist like him is what Cotabato needs to power up its wide tract of idle lands.
Now, how many Christian Filipino leaders have passed to genuinely work for their people? They say Magsaysay is one, but the sad truth is that the true good moment is brief because the good die young.
It is these kinds of political leaders that we have that have led me to look out of my window, see the world, and compare where my country lies.
Thus, I enjoy seeing other countries' good politicians and love criticizing those I see as bad guys. The ones who attracted my attention are American politicians Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain and Sarah Palin. The good examples they have shown have led me to dream and wake up one day in the Philippines having the likes of them. Then there is this Pakistan's Musharaff, a dictator that I hated once but now admire more than my President for having the courage to resign when all chips are down. A few weeks back, Japan's prime minister announced he will voluntarily leave after knowing his leadership failing. In the better end of the view, I saw the rise of a Pakistan named Zadari, a man who, for decades, have lived in the shadows of his wife whose death caused his star to shine in a story similar to Cory Aquino benefiting from her spouse’s death.
In looking out the window, I learned the distinctions between my house and the rest; I learned to discover the defects in my own dwelling and I have come to better learn which column or beam to replace and what kind of foundation should I make in order to make the real strong republic. I also learned that Muslim and Christian children can be joined block by block, brick by brick, to form one sturdy house called “Philippines.”
As I close the window for tomorrow, I dream to see my native land singing: “There is no Muslim Filipino, there is no Christian Filipino, there is no mountain Filipino, there is only ONE FILIPINO.”