Jose Antonio Cangco

"The longest epic in the world is the Mahabharata and it is from Asia", Mrs. Tomas said, trying to interest us fifth graders in a literature totally alien to us. She was a very dedicated public school teacher and we liked her a lot.

Later, finishing my studies in Manila in the '70's, and about to embark on a job finding mission, I happened to read a part of the epic better known in English as the "Song of God" or in Sanskrit the Bhagavad Gita. It helped me open my eyes to the meaning of the word work. During this time I did not even know one Asian-Indian personally, but I resolved to read this classic or portions of it and understand it in terms of my culture.

It is the story of a prince who was fighting to reclaim his kingdom from his uncle. Both sides were preparing to do battle. The two armies were about to begin fighting on the flat plains of the land, when the prince saw grandfathers and fathers, brothers and sons, cousins, teachers, friends and relatives on the other side, he started to have doubts about the purpose of war. So, he refused to fight.

It is my frank opinion that in this modern times, the Filipino people is not classed as one of the most hardworking people in the world. There are exceptions but generally a lot of Filipinos feel that the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against them, that society is unfair, and that the government has abandoned them personally. For many, the government is the next best thing to holding a winning lottery ticket. This feeling of dependence, helplessness and isolation, together with the undeniable fact that the Philippines has a very large population jostling in a very small country, is a hindrance to accomplishing the Filipino's true worth.

How necessary is work and to get things done? Well, for one thing Filipinos are a fun loving people. They take things nonchalantly. They can easily sneak in a few minutes of leisure and fun during work time. They also love to talk. This would be very admirable outside a work environment; but if done during office hours, the probability of engaging in long conversations and doing less work is not remote.

This is also noticeable if you watch news on television. While an issue is hot, it has so many sides to be discussed; every point to be examined and rebutted until the last ounce of comment is threshed out. When each interviewee has given his penny's worth of thought, everybody then feels smart and smug. He has just forwarded a brilliant idea nationwide, broadcast on the biggest network of the country. Everybody is then waiting and panting for the next issue to crop up.

Perhaps, the values being perpetrated today by our society are not conducive to action and to the control of population growth of the country. Parents and educators are teaching children to emulate polished talkers in public; they clamor for more talk shows, look at the two sides of every issue then they drop them. Filipinos love to talk, are good listeners but so they can refute what they just heard. But when it comes to translating these ideas into work and action, nobody wants to get calluses on his hands and sweat on his back. Everybody wants to be a hero and get awards and citations. When work comes, nobody wants to be a martyr.

It is the same with the issue of overpopulation. Filipinos study all the sides of the issue, have debates, form commissions and make recommendations. But there is no iron will to pursue it. A politician standing for his views to curb population growth will be told sooner or later by a sector of society, "Please sit down, you're stepping on my toes!"

This is a sad fact of Philippine society. Either implementation is weak or distraction to finishing the job is very strong. We have compiled a large roster of heroes and heroines from our past which we teach our children to emulate. We are training them to be thinkers, speakers, debaters, orators, devil's advocates, and philosophers that they grow up holding onto the bullhorn, not the oar. If nobody wants to row, we cannot catch up with our neighboring countries.

In spite of what many nationalists and educators say, I don't believe that we have an intelligent society because if it were so, then we should also have enough common sense to know when the idea ends and work begins. We should have had enough brains going around to translate brilliant and illuminating ideas into action.

On the other hand, we have sensible leadership who converts laws and policies into action. Then, there are the detractors, who have a mission of their own in this part of the world. They are on the opposite side of the battle and prevent things from being done. If I propose, to improve the peace and order situation of the country, by bringing back the Philippine Constabulary under a separate command, to fight syndicated crimes, and the Philippine National Police to handle street and petty crimes, some opposition will always cry out and say no. The standard procedure to make a topic interesting always is to say no. To become known and appear learned, without much cerebral effort, is to say no and go against the common accepted beliefs and ideas.

When the prince was in the battlefield and the two warring armies were facing each other, ready to do battle, and he had had second thoughts about fighting, what advice did he receive? He was told to fight because, as a prince, it was his duty.

Today, we don't have that kind of battle to fight anymore. We have progressed and live in peace, where the threat of war is not an imminent danger; but we still have our little battlefields where we try to settle our conflicts and differences. We still have our little battles to win: Will I be able to close the sale? Will I get that promotion? Will I graduate magna cum laude? Will I be able to submit my homework on time? Whoever we are, whatever we do, our work is our battle to be won and to work honestly is our duty.

Is anybody exempted from doing his duty? A father's duty is to earn a living to support his family. A mother's task is to raise upright and righteous children. Kids are supposed to go school and stay out of trouble. This can be answered by the story of the tyrant king.

In a far away land there was a tyrant king. He ruled over a kingdom where his subjects were unhappy and constantly rebelling. One day he formed a commission and summoned 500 of the best experts in the land to find out the cause of the problem. After one month, the experts gave him a 20 volume report. The king wanted a shorter report and had half of the experts executed. After one month, the 250 experts submitted a 10 volume report. The king wanted a shorter report so he had 150 of the experts killed. After another month the 100 experts submitted a five volume report. Again this angered the king; he wanted a shorter report and had 90 of them executed. When the remaining 10 experts submitted to the king a one volume report of what they thought was troubling the kingdom, the king wanted a shorter analysis so he had all of them executed , except for one man. After one month had passed, the last expert reported to the king. He said, "There is no such thing as a free lunch."

That one guy must have been an economist. Basically, he said that for a community to succeed, everybody must work and do his share and duty. Dole outs should be minimal. But an economist, businessman or a politician alone can not propel the country toward the twenty first century. The country comprises so many islands and too many traditions. For example, Mindoro Island is just a few hours south of Manila yet it seems to have been grounded in the past. The Mangyans are a tribes people who live off from hunting and a slash and burn agriculture.. The Aetas who live on the mountains a few hours north of Manila are no different from them. Then back into the cities and big towns: a surprising number of residents want to become American, Australian, or European citizens. In other words, because of the wide diversity of Philippine society, nationalism is not a common denominator among the people.

It is the collective will of the people to engage in honest and productive pursuits that will be the guiding light for the country for many years to come. It is society, the church, civic organizations, the parents and older generation teaching the youth, as its future generation, to value diligence, industry, honesty and hard work as the means to achieve self-sufficiency. The older generations are to be the examples of hard toil and sweat. Because it is they who have authority and responsibility of the country at present, programs should be composed and adopted into the public sector to teach, show, educate, and reward students and out of school youths for diligence and industry.

Do we need another hero for the country to change and succeed? Not necessarily. What is needed is a government program of population control in place and an agenda to start teaching the next generation, who will be the leaders of the country soon enough, the value of honest work and industry. Richard Whately said, "A man who gives his children habits of industry provides for them better than by giving them fortune."

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