Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Magkaisa, Huwag Mang-isa

Valedictory Address of
Joseph Jeeben R. Segui
BS Mathematics, Summa Cum Laude 2009
UP Diliman

Three contractors are bidding to do some minor repairs on the White House fence. One is an American, the other, a Mexican, and the last is of course a Filipino. They go with a White House official to examine the fence. The American contractor takes out his tape measure, does some measuring, and then works out some figures. “Well, “ he says, “I figure this will cost about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew, and $100 profit for me. “ The Mexican then does his measuring and says, “I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew, and $100 profit for me.” The Filipino scratches his chin, leans over to the White House official and whispers “$2700.” The official, incredulous, says, “What?! How do you expect me to consider your service with that kind of figure? Plus, you didn’t even measure anything.” “It’s simple,” the Pinoy explains, “$1000 for you, $1000 for me, and we hire the Mexican.” The next day, the Filipino and the Mexican are both working on the fence.

I first heard that joke more than three years ago. Fresh out of high school, a wide-eyed first year college student, I found the joke hilarious. It even made me more proud to be a Filipino. I thought to myself, “Hanep talaga ang mga Pinoy! Magaling na mag-add, ma-utak pa!” But four years of UP college life and an innumerable number of slaps from reality changes one’s perspective of things. When I read the joke again recently, I still found it funny but instead of pride, I felt frustration and shame. This kind of dishonesty really happens in our country and it happens on a much larger scale.

The joke alludes to an adverse yet prevalent attitude that we Filipinos have. My mother calls it the “mang-iisa-kung-magkaka-isa” attitude. We see it in the high-ranking politicians who give out grandiose promises of a brighter future and a better leadership but once elected in office, place their interests above the welfare of the people, to your run-of-the-mill traffic enforcer who capitalizes on ambiguous traffic signs to exact their “pangmeryenda.” Or to what we Bicolanos call the libong libong pabor. “Pare,” a guy says to his friend, “may utang ka sa akin diba?” “Hindi ko maalala. Magkano?” the other asks. “Hindi ba 100? Sabi mo babayaran mo ngayonng linggo.” “Oo nga,” the other affirms, “100 nga pala yun,” even though he knows it was really 150. Biro mo, magkaibigan na iyon; lalo na siguro kung hindi.

Manifestations of this Pinoy trait can be seen even in UP, especially during the enrollment period. I once had lunch with this girl I really liked. She was a registration assistant for most of her college life and we inevitably talked about her experiences during enrollment in UP. She shared with me the different strategies UP students would use to try to get the slots that they want. Basically there are four strategies; she got everything down to a science. The first is ‘persuasion.’ The student tries to be charming and funny in an attempt to befriend the RA and then possibly find a soft spot and persuade the RA to give him or her priority; nakiki-flirt ba. The second is ‘commiseration’. Here the student simply appeals to the pity of the RA; nagmamakaawa. The third is ‘intimidation’. Here the student tries to force his or her will onto the RA; nagtataray. The last is ‘tactics’. Two people who’ve struck a deal coordinate the timing of one’s cancellation of his slot to the other’s request for a slot. Just to let you guys know, this crafty scheme usually works.

Just from this story, it’s pretty clear how clever and resourceful we Filipinos are. Biruin mo ‘yun, enrollment na nga lang, may mga nalalaman pa tayong mga strategy. There is no doubt in my mind of how capable Filipinos are in achieving their goals. From sports: boxing, billiards, wushu, patintero agawan base;_to music and to the sciences, we continue to exhibit our prowess despite the tough economic conditions plaguing our country. Filipino kids who migrate to the US and anywhere abroad really, almost always find themselves at the top of their class. And often, we hear news of some Filipino making waves abroad. Time and again, we Filipinos have shown our capacity to do good work. Hindi talaga matatawaran ang galing ng mga Pinoy.

Some of you may be thinking, ‘If Filipinos are so competent, why then are we this ditch-of-a-situation?” I don’t have the absolute answer but what I do know for sure is that a big part of the problem has to do with the Pinoy’s “mapang-lamang” attitude.

It may not seem so serious, but this Pinoy quality is cancer to our society. It goes unnoticed but it is terribly damaging. This kind of self-centered mentality is precisely the root of corruption and dishonesty. Personal wellbeing outweighs communal, even national benefit. It pits Filipinos against each other in a struggle to get at an advantage over another.

As we prepare to leave the University and go on our own ways, we, the soon to be leaders of this nation, should be free of this detrimental quality. If we are to effect positive changes that would bring this nation to a better tomorrow, we should first start over with ourselves.

We must change our self-centered mindset. Let us refrain from engaging in ‘tactics’ that elevate our own status at the expense of others. We must change the way we view our fellow Filipinos. See them not as hurdles to our individual advancement; rather, as comrades in the struggle towards national progress. And we must constantly remind ourselves that our personal gain picayune compared to the nation’s interest.

Look at the person seated next to you. Look them in the eyes and reassure them that you have their back. Kahit mukhang kontrbida yan, Pilipino yan, komrad mo yan.

Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

Lifted from: http://www.upd.edu.ph/~updinfo/octnovdec08/articles/magkaisa.html


Mr.Z said...

Ok poh.. high school poh ba nagsulat niyan o college.. I bet highschool sya... and I was really ashamed of myself that I did not become a good writer as he was when i was at his age. Shameful yet inspiring.., di rin magtatagal at makakasulat din aq ng maipagmamalaking obra(yeah! call it fighting spirit jaja).. padayon TH..

The Harrow said...

College, BS Math Summa Cum Laude. Valedictorian is a term used not only for high school but also for College graduate.

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