Faith in the Filipino

Alex Lacson
Rotary Zamboanga Induction Ceremonies
16 June 2012

Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.

I am truly honoured to be with you tonight because, like you, I am a believer of the spirit and ideals of Rotary. I joined Rotary in Ortigas, Pasig City 5 years ago. Some of the great Filipinos I know who passionately help our country and people are members of Rotary, my good friend Anton Lim being one of them. And I wish that many young businessmen and professionals would join the ranks of Rotary.

My brothers and sisters in Rotary, I speak before you tonight with so much faith in the Filipino. I believe that we as a people have, within us and around us, all the essentials we need to succeed and prosper as a nation. I believe that we Filipinos possess the same great spirit that moved and inspired the Japanese, the South Koreans and the Singaporeans 50 years ago for them to build the kind of countries they have for their peoples today. I believe that we Filipinos, as a people, are no less great than all the peoples of our prosperous neighbor countries in Asia and in the world.

Tonight, I wish to talk about the importance of having faith in oneself, the importance of having faith in ourselves as a people, of having faith in the Filipino.


Let me start a sharing with you a short story.

In 1994, Lee Kuan Yew, the father and the builder of modern Singapore, was interviewed by Time Magazine. In one portion of the interview, Lee Kuan Yew was asked about the importance of culture.

Lee Kuan Yew said “culture is destiny”. Your culture is your destiny. Your culture will determine your destiny. Your set of beliefs will determine how far you will go in life. If you believe you are a failure, you will be a failure. If you believe you are great, you will be great. If you want to excel, you must build a culture of excellence. If you want to become great, you must build a culture of greatness.

Lee Kuan Yew said that this applies not only to an individual person. It also applies to a people. A people’s culture will determine the destiny of that people.

It is in this context that I wish to talk to you briefly about our story as a people.

We were a colony of Spain for 333 years, which ended only in December 1898. For 333 years, the Spaniards in our country did not treat our people kindly. In fact, they treated our people harshly, violently. At the height of its power in our country, there were just around 40,000 Spanish soldiers in our country, controlling and subjugating more than 7 million Filipinos. The Spaniards conquered and subjugated our people physically, thru superior weapons. But more importantly, they conquered and subjugated the spirit of our people.

The Spaniards called our people many bad and demeaning names. They called us Juan Tamad, or lazy Joe, and made us believe that we are a lazy people. Even inside the churches, in the pulpits, the Spanish Friars or priests called us – tanga, bobo, at tamad. They ridiculed the Filipino as dumb, dull and stupid. This they did continuously, often with violence, on our people, for 333 years. Until it killed the spirit of many of our people – the spirit to fight, the spirit to aspire, the spirit to excel, the spirit to aim high and dream big.

Napoleon Bonaparte said – the best conquest is the conquest of the mind and the heart.

To ensure that the almost 7 million Filipinos will not be united in a revolution against the 40,000 Spanish soldiers, the Spaniards sowed disunity and division among our people. This they did as a policy. They made Filipino families and clans fight among each other, by sowing intrigues among them. This the Spaniards did also for more than 300 years. As a result, many Filipinos did no trust one another, did not help one another, did not work with one another.

When the Spaniards left our country in 1898, after it sold our country to the United States, the 2 most serious problems they left the Filipino people were these – first, the Filipino lost his faith in himself, his self-respect and self-confidence. The Filipino had a very low and negative self-image of himself. Second, the Filipino people did not trust one another and could not work with each other.

The American rule of our country for the next 42 years aggravated these problems. The Japanese occupation of our country from 1941 to 1945 worsened the problems. The Japanese soldiers raped our daughters and sisters and enslaved our men.

We became a free people only in 1946 – that is 63 years ago. If you deduct 14 years of Martial Law from there, we are just 49 years old as a free people.

As you can see, we are still a young nation, a people that is still in search for itself, a nation that is still trying to find its own place under the sun.

But today, our Philippines is considered one of the poorest countries in Asia despite the fact that it is the 5th richest in gold deposits and the 12th richest in mineral deposits out of the 249 countries in the world, notwithstanding the fact that it has one of the richest natural resources in the world, despite the fact that it is the richest in marine life biodiversity in all the world.

Today, according to a Time Magazine article dated 24 November 2008, almost 10 million of our youth are growing up without a father or a mother by their side because the father or the mother has to find work abroad because our country could not provide the jobs to their fathers and mothers.

Today, almost 7 million of our youth are classified as out-of-school youth. They are school aged and should be at school, but they are not at school. They are out there in the streets or in the squatters or in the mountains of poverty.

Today, out of 20 million families in our country, 5 million families are homeless, living in the slums of poverty as squatters.

Today, the problems created and caused by foreign invaders and rulers of our country still exist in the hearts and minds of many of our people. Today, many of our people still have no faith in the Filipino and consider our Philippines a hopeless country. Many among us still bash the Filipino in front of foreigners and speak negatively about our country. Today, many of our people just think and live only for themselves and their families, but never for the whole Filipino people. A number of our political and government leaders, while in public office, just serve themselves and their families, and not the public interest. Many business people only think much of themselves and their families, but not much of their employees and their employees’ families.

Kanya-kanya at pamilya-pamilya pa rin lang ang marami sa atin. As a people, we still have difficulty attaining national unity in our acts for our country.

Our culture is our destiny. Our culture as a people will determine our destiny as a nation.

In 1987, American writer James Fallows called us a people with a damaged culture because, according to him, we do not have a sense of community as a people. We do not care for one another.

Today, one of the major challenges we face today as a people is this – How do we heal ourselves as a people? How do we repair the damage in our culture that was deeply inflicted in us as a people for almost 400 years? How do we build the spirit of our people, the greatness of the Filipino? How do we make the Filipino truly great and respectable in the eyes of the world?

Truly, we need to rebuild the spirit of our people, the greatness of ourselves as a people, and this we can do and we must do piece by piece, block by block, group by group, town by town, city by city – until such time that our archipelago of 7,107 islands truly believe in one fundamental thing – that we Filipinos are one people. And that as one people, we are also just one family.

Like James Fallows who believed that our damaged culture is the root cause of all our nation’s problems, another American by the name of Barth Suretsky, who is married to a Filipino, has a very simple yet valid theory why we as a people do not achieve progress and prosperity.

Barth Suretsky’s analysis is this – We as a country do not achieve progress and prosperity because lack unity as a people. We lack unity because we do not support each other. We do not support each other because we do not trust and respect each other. We do not trust and respect each other because, from early childhood to adulthood, we are made to believe that the Filipino is no good.

Barth Suretsky’s theory is very simple – Our lack of faith in the Filipino affects the way we treat our fellow Filipinos. Because we do not have faith in the Filipino, we do not support his ideas, his talents, his skills, his products. We would prefer foreign consultants and imported products. Because we do not have faith in the Filipino, we prefer to work with anyone else rather than our fellow Filipinos. Since we do not work with our fellow Filipinos, we do not achieve unity. And since we do not have unity, we do not progress and prosper as a people and as a nation.

My brothers and sisters, I believe in the theory of Barth Suretsky.

I believe in having faith in oneself. I believe in building the faith in ourselves as a people.

How important is faith?

Lack of faith can sink you, or it can lift you to great heights. It is the difference between the average and the great. It is what separates the few extraordinary from the many ordinary. Faith can make possible what seems impossible in the eyes of men.

How important is it to have faith in oneself, to have faith in ourselves as a people? How important is it for us to view ourselves the way our Creator wants us to view ourselves as a people?

It is very important. A person who does not believe in himself, will not go far in life.

A people who does not see its own strengths and beauty, will not be able to reach its destiny.

Vince Lombardi, one the greatest coaches in sports of all time, said this “Winning does not always go the person who is stronger, or faster, but to the one who believes deep within himself that he can.”

My brothers and sisters, I firmly believe that there is a crucial need to build the faith in the Filipino in the hearts and minds of our people, esp our youth.

It is for this reason that I wrote my book “12 Wonderful Things about the Filipino & our Motherland”. I truly want our people, especially our children and our youth, to believe that they are a great and wonderful people. I really want them to believe their fellow Filipinos, to have a healthy respect and trust for each other, to work with their fellow Filipinos.

At this point in time, please let me share with you some of the Wonderful Things about the Filipino & our Motherland that I listed in this book.

1st Wonderful Thing: The Filipino has a home, a country so naturally rich and beautiful

2nd Wonderful Thing: The Filipino is one of the best hopes of humanity

3rd Wonderful Thing: The Filipino is one of the most creative, talented & skilful persons in the world.

4th Wonderful Thing: The Filipino brings life to the world.

Unfortunately, due to limited time, I cannot discuss with you tonight all the 12 Wonderful Things I listed in this book. But that is also good, because I still want you to buy this book and share it with your children, or give it as gifts to your relatives and friends, especially your friends in the academe, or those who lead bog organizations or companies with employees.

In 1977, Ninoy Aquino said “In this age of darkness, there are 2 ways to spread light. We can either be a candle or a mirror that can reflect its light in the darkness.”

A negative spirit is an evil spirit. It will destroy our people and ruin our nation. It must be conquered. It must be defeated.

We are the builders of our greatness. We are the architects of our success. We are the writers of our story as a people and as a nation.

We must build the faith in the Filipino in the hearts and minds of our people, esp our youth.

Let us build a new generation of Filipino who truly believe in the beauty and the greatness of our being as a people.

There is no doubt that the Filipinos today are among the most preferred in the Middle East and in Europe especially in the hospitality industry area, where talent and skills in customer relations are crucial.

There is no doubt also that the Filipino doctors, nurses and caregivers, along with Filipino engineers and architects, are among the most preferred in the world today.

Sixty percent of all the seafarers in the world today are Filipinos. There is no doubt that our Filipino seafarers are the most in-demand group in the international shipping and maritime industry.

Filipinos have been voted as the best communicators in the world, having been voted by ___ as best in business English in the whole world, beating even USA, UK and Canada. Philippines just recently surpassed India as the BPO capital of the world, even if the Philippine population of 100 million is only 1/10 of the Indian population of 1 Billion. My brothers and sisters, listen to this – the Filipino has become the pound-for-pound champion in the world as the best communicators in English all over the world.

Truly, the Filipino today is one of the most talented and skilful person in the world. Filipinos are among the best managers and best employees in the world.

According to the Expats Survey conducted by HSBC in 100 countries in 2011, the Filipinos were also considered among the most wonderful peoples in the world.

Truly, the Filipino is one of the best there is in the world today.

During World War II, Gen Douglas McArthur saw how the Filipino soldiers fought the Japanese, with very little food, with very limited weapons and ammunitions. McArthur said “If I have a million Filipino soldiers, I can conquer the whole world.” The Filipino was a world-class soldier 70 years ago, even with limited resources.

There is no doubt that the Filipino is truly world-class in the eyes of many in the world.

Sad to say, the Filipino is only not world-class in eyes of some of his own people, in the eyes of his fellow Filipinos.

One of our worst habits as a people is our tendency to bash each other, our inclination to speak negatively of the Filipino and our Motherland. We see this habit not only among Filipinos in the Philippines, but also among Filipinos overseas.

Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga is so correct in saying that we have become our own biggest enemy. By the words that we use and speak about ourselves, we have become the destroyers of the beauty and great potential of the Filipino and our Motherland.

The words that we call and describe ourselves could become our reality, as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So tonight, in the occasion of your club’s induction of new officers, I join Tony Meloto in asking all Filipinos in our country and overseas, let us stop bashing ourselves. Let us stop bashing the Filipino. Let us make it a crime to speak ill and negatively of the Filipino and each other.

Instead, let us be the ambassadors of the beauty and greatness of the Filipino and our Motherland.

Let us build our faith in ourselves as a people. Let us build our faith in the Filipino.

Let us speak of the beauty and all the wonderful things about the Filipino.

Let us speak of the blessings that we have received as a people and as a nation.

When we learn to do this, when we learn to appreciate the beauty and the greatness that God has endowed in us as a people, when we learn to be grateful for all the wonderful things given to us as a nation, when we learn to speak of blessings, I believe that God will give us more. He will grant us and bless us with so much more.

I believe that we will reach our highest potential as a people. We shall become the great and wonderful people that God truly wants us to be.

For I believe, it shall be done only according to our faith.

I thank the Lord for making all of you Filipinos.

And I thank the Lord for all of you, my brothers and sisters, all great dreamers for our people, all great believers of Rotary.

The Filipino is so much better and greater because of all of you.

It is great to be a Filipino.

God bless all of you.

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