Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Different Perspective: The Problems of the Philippine Society Part 1

In 2007 and in preparation for the then upcoming senatorial elections, GMA News and Public Affairs discussed in eight consecutive Sundays the eight major problems of the Philippines. Hosted by five of the most respected broadcast journalists in the country, the goal of Philippine Agenda was to serve as an awareness campaign to its viewers of the challenges the new government should face as these officials swear their oath of office. GMA News highlighted these eight problems of the Philippine society:
  1. Education
  2. Health Care
  3. Corruption
  4. Housing
  5. Employment
  6. Hunger
  7. Crime and Justice
  8. Electoral reform
In three years though, none of these have found resolution. So far all of our elected officials have simply provided us patchwork solutions and workarounds without addressing the real deal.

I am no sociologist nor am I a media practitioner. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the problems that ordinary Filipinos face day in and day out. My objective in this series of posts is to present an alternative view of why our country has gone so low and offer a way for our country to get up on its feet once more to future leaders.

But seriously, what do I think are the most important problems our country needs addressed? A quote often attributed to the late great American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson goes, "Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny." The most important problem our country has is ourselves.

True, we can blame Spain and the 333 years of Spanish rule. Or the Americans who continue to dominate our government--our society--even up to this very day. But have we put all biases aside and looked at ourselves for a change?

In the early Philippines, people lived together in a society that promotes sharing not owning. The Filipino word for real estate or property, ari-arian, signifies lack of real ownership as any word in Tagalog derived from repeating the base word and suffixed with an implies untruth. A good example is the word, bahay-bahayan, when translated in English means "playing house" in contrast to the word bahay which means "a real house". Therefore ari-arian implies "I do not really own this property," as the word ari means property, something that is personal. When transliterated, it actually means "someone's privates".

This concept of shared ownership reveals the fact that Filipinos are spaceless individuals. Before the Spanish conquest, a free man who owns a piece of property is entitled to the all fruits produced by his land, but his neighbors may sow seeds on unused land and even harvest from his plants.

Our problem with individuals who illegally setup their residences on the side of roads or on unused but not necessarily unowned lands is caused by this fact. As spaceless individuals, Filipinos also tend to break the rules of traffic by using up a portion of the road for birthday parties, parades and even parking space causing severe congestion in roads normally used by public utility vehicles. But the fact remains that things have changed and the concept of public or shared ownership is no longer a reality in today's world. A piece of land does not mean it is ready to be settled in by illegal settlers if unused or unoccupied.

As we address this issue of spacelessness, another issue of why these illegal settlers have made their homes illegally crops up--that of employment and prosperity in the Metro. But of course, that is for another post.

credits to Shine for the picture.