Small Acts of Heroism for Our Country

A Speech by
Alexander  L  Lacson
at the launching of Human Capital Club
of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines
Mandarin Hotel, Makati City
10 October 2007


According to our history, the decline of Philippines as a country happened only in the last 40 years or so. In the 1960s, some 40 years ago, our Philippines ranked as one of the best countries in the whole of Asia. It was second only to Japan in terms of economic performance. At that time, our Philippines was considered as the best country in the whole region of Southeast Asia, a group of eleven (11) countries today. At that time, Manila was the destination for tourists, foreign students and Asian conventions. At that time too, the Filipino was considered as one of the most admired, one of the most talented, one of the most respected and adored persons in the whole of Asia.

Then sometime in the late 1960s, our Philippines started to decline, and a number of our neighbour countries began to overtake us. Our history shows that from late 1960s upto 1986, at least 4 of our neighbor countries overtook our Philippines– first by Hongkong (which was separate from China at that time), followed by Singapore, then by South Korea, and then by Taiwan.

After the First People Power Revolution in 1986, four (4) more presidents led our country — Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today. But mind you, my dear countrymen, from the first People Power Revolution in 1986 up to today, 2007, it has been another 21 years for our country. And according to our history, during this 21-year period, our Philippines continued to decline. At least 3 more of our neighbor countries in Southeast Asia surpassed our country – Brunei, Malaysia, and Thailand.

As of this very moment, most of our economists and businessmen agree that maybe in the next 3 to 5 years, Vietnam will also overtake the Philippines in terms of economic performance. According to them, the signs and indicators are there already for Vietnam to surpass our Philippines. These signs are clear, irreversible and unmistakable.

So we need to ask ourselves these questions – Where will our Philippines be 20 years from now? Will our Philippines progress in the next 20 years? Or will our country’s situation worsen?

If we want our country to progress, the questions that we must ask of ourselves are these – What is the solution to our country’s problems? How can the corporate citizens be part of that solution? I firmly believe that it is important that we all know the solution, so that we can adjust ourselves to be part of that solution.

 It is in this context that I am truly glad to be here today. Because I came here today to share with you 2 ideas – 2 ideas that, I firmly believe, are the 2 most essential ingredients of the solution to our country’s problems. These 2 ideas are all based in history. You may therefore easily access them to verify their validity.



If we look at history, practically every country in the world that has attained progress and prosperity was able to do so only by virtue of righteous or good leadership. In fact, to my knowledge, there is no country in history that was able to achieve high levels of progress and prosperity by any other mode of leadership. It was good leadership that propelled countries to heights of progress.

If we look at the Bible and the Koran, the holy books of Christians and Muslims respectively, both of these holy books speak of righteous leadership from cover to cover. In particular, the Bible that I use, it is full of stories of leaders on righteous leadership. In the Book of Proverbs, for instance, it is stated there, in very clear words, that only righteousness exalts a nation.

Rick Warren – author of The Purpose-Driven Life, the third most published book in the world today (third only to the Bible and Harry Potter books) – was here in the Philippines last year. He spoke in 4 different large groups. I followed him in all these 4 groups as I wanted to listen to every word he wanted to share. In all his 4 speeches, he started each one with this statement – “The root cause of all the major problems in every country in the world today is corrupt leadership. It is the root cause of poverty, hunger, injustice, immorality and illiteracy.” According to Rick Warren, the only answer to that is righteous leadership, which Warren defined as Servant Leadership, one which is based on genuine love of the people being served.

At this point, let me share with you the story of Park Chung Hee of South Korea.

Let me also share with you the story of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.

John Maxwell – author of the Leadership Bible and other bestseller books on leadership – said that “everything rises and falls with leadership”. Practically everything in this world rises and falls with leadership. If you see a person rising from a low level to a high level of success, it is because that person was able to lead himself personally to that high level of success. It is personal leadership that propelled him to reach that height of success. If you see a family that is prosperous and happy, it is because there are 2 good leaders inside that family – the father and the mother. But if one of them violates and trust of the family, believe me, that family will eventually experience pain and sorrow, and will eventually suffer.

Righteous or good leadership – The Bible, the Koran, as well as world history, all of these tell us that righteous or good leadership is a crucial ingredient of the formula for a country to attain progress and prosperity.

The second idea that I would to share with you today is the idea of GOOD CITIZENSHIP.

There are essentially 2 reasons why I believe that Good Citizenship is a crucial ingredient to our success as a nation.

                The first reason is this – that there is a pattern in history, especially among the developed countries in the world today, countries like United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, America, among others. History shows that the peoples in these developed countries learned first to become good citizens before their countries attained high levels of progress and development. We also see this pattern in the countries around us in Asia, such as Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand.  In these developed countries, there is a culture of discipline among the people. I firmly believe that this is also what we truly need in our country today – a culture of discipline, a culture of good citizenship among the Filipinos.

                At this point, let me cite the experience of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. It was in 1959 when Lee Kuan Yew became the leader of Singapore. At that time, Singapore was considered as one of the poorest countries in the whole of Asia. In fact, in 1963 (?), Singapore was kicked out from the Federation of Malaya (name of Malaysia at that time) because of poverty and the unruly character of the Singaporean people in general. When Lee Kuan Yew heard of Malaysia’s decision to kick out Singapore, he and many other government officials cried openly in full public view. In particular, Lee Kuan Yew was caught on TV crying openly in full public view. He was worried about the future of Singapore and its people. He was deeply worried that his people will go hungry. Apparently, it was at this point that the great leader in the person of Lee Kuan Yew started to emerge. In a number of speeches, Lee Kuan Yew told his countrymen that Singapore, as a country, is a very small island. They have no forests nor mountains to speak of. They have no gold deposits, or nickel or chromite or other mineral deposits. They do not have beautiful beaches or rich marine resources. So how could Singapore become a rich and prosperous country, Lee Kuan Yew asked? There is only one way, he told his people. And that is through discipline. Lee Kuan Yew challenged his people that if they learn to become a disciplined people, Singapore will become rich and prosperous. If they become better and more disciplined than the other peoples in Asia, Singapore will become richer and more prosperous than the other countries in Asia. When Lee Kuan Yew stepped down from power as prime minister of Singapore in 1990, almost 31 years since he rose to power, Singapore was already the second richest and most prosperous country in the whole of Asia, second only to Japan. He proved to the whole world that a country, through discipline, even without natural resources, could become rich and prosperous.  At that time in 1990, the Singaporeans also emerged as one of the most disciplined peoples in the world, according to a number of international surveys.

                The second reason that convinces why Good Citizenship is crucial is because of this principle – that it is the good citizens who choose good leaders, while good leaders are the ones who build a good government, and a good government is the one that builds a good society for all of us, the people. If you don’t have good citizens, there will be no good leaders. If there are no good leaders, there will be no good government. If we do not have a good government, we will never have a good society for ourselves and our children. Clearly, it all begins with the people becoming good citizens. Therefore, our quest for a better Philippines must begin with us, the people, becoming better Filipinos, becoming better citizens of our country.

                In essence, good citizenship is really about love of country. It is patriotism. It is heroism.

                This is the message of the book that I wrote last year entitled – “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.” The heart and soul of that book is really patriotism, love of our country, and good citizenship.

                This book shows how we Filipinos can love our country and help our country by doing the 12 little things discussed in this book. Most of the 12 little things in this book will not even cost us money. They would only need a change of attitude, a change of heart whenever we do these 12 little things.

                Please let me now discuss with you some of the little things in my book.

  1. 1st Little Thing: Follow Traffic Rules. Follow the law

Follow traffic rules. Follow the law. This is the first little thing in the book. And some of you may be wondering – why was this made the first of the 12 little things in the book? For me, the answer to that is really simple. I believe that one of the most important things we need to develop in our country today, is a culture of discipline among our people. But to develop a culture of discipline among our people would take a long process, a long journey. Where do we start? Fortunately, there is this old Chinese saying which goes – “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” The question that we must really ask ourselves is this, what is that first step that we must take, so that we can start our journey to developing that culture of discipline among our people? If you will ask me, why don’t we start with our traffic rules? Traffic rules are simplest of our country’s laws. If we learn to follow them, it could become the lowest form of national discipline we could learn as a people. That could be a good start for us.

A culture of discipline among our people is essential for our country to progress. This culture of discipline is the essential ingredient that brought progress and prosperity to countries without natural resources, or without much of them, countries like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Switzerland, New Zealand, among others.

In particular, Japan’s country is 80% mountainous, inadequate for agriculture and animal raising. It does not have as much of the natural wealth and resources of the Philippines. It is visited by earthquakes every year in number higher than earthquakes in our country. But Japan today, and for so long a time, stands as the second best economy in the world. The country is like an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from every part of the world, and exporting manufactured products. As a people, the Japanese have an attitude of perfecting things, from the smallest to the biggest.

Another example is Switzerland, which does not plant cocoa. But Switzerland is acknowledged to have the best chocolate in the world. As a country, Switzerland has a very small territory, which the people use primarily to raise animals, especially cattle. But by the cattle they raise, the country is also known today for the best quality of dairy products. Switzerland is a small country, but it transmits to the world an image of security and stability, making it as one of the world’s strongest economies and safest places to live in.

Please let me say it again – We need to develop a culture of discipline among our people, especially among our leaders.

Benjamin Franklin, considered today as one of the great Americans in American history, said that “our people’s habits could determine the destiny of our nation.”

  • 2nd Little Thing: Adopt a scholar or a poor child

Of the 12 little things in the book, this is one of my favorites. It captures the culture of familihood or the sense of brotherhood that we need in our country. It also captures the second greatest commandment of God according to Jesus Christ, which is love your neighbour as yourself.

Let me tell you the story of more than 2 million Vietnamese in America. During the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1975, America joined that war and supported the South Vietnamese, the Vietmihns against the Vietcongs from North Vietnam, which were supported by Mao Zedong’s Red Army from China. America lost in that war and in 1975, America had to pull out from Vietnam. When the US pulled out from Vietnam, the Vietminhs and other South Vietnamese who were suspected as allies, friends and sympathizers of America were persecuted, tortured and killed by the Vietcongs. To avoid the persecution and torture from North Vietnamese, so many South Vietnamese chose to live in the seas – as boat people. Many of these boat people died in the seas, while some reached our shores in Palawan.

America rescued hundreds of thousands of these Vietnamese boat people, and brought them to the US mainland. America built villages and communities for them. Today, these Vietnamese in America have become rich and prosperous. And they have a beautiful program – a program that encourages every Vietnamese family in America to adopt as scholar one poor Vietnamese child in Vietnam. This means that if there are 1 million Vietnemese individuals or families adopting 1 scholar each, there are 1 million poor children being adopted as scholars in Vietnam. Clearly, there is so much love coming from overseas Vietnamese pouring into mainland Vietnam, helping its children go to school.

This is familihood among the Vietnamese. This is brotherhood in action, through adoption of poor children.

Today, the state of education for the youth in Vietnam is so much better than our own in the Philippines. Today, Vietnam has only around 5 million out-of-school youth, while our Philippines has more than 12 million out-of-school youth.

Why can’t we do the same to our 12 million out-of-school youth? Why don’t we find a way to send back to school these 12 million kids?

At this point, let me introduce to you World Vision, an international foundation operating in more than 100 countries in the world. It is also operating in the Philippines. Today, around 125,000 poor Filipino children are being sent to school as scholars by World Vision, thru its donors.

Under World Vision, a person or his family can adopt 1 scholar for only P450 a month, or for only P5,400 a year.

There are almost 22 million families in the Philippines. We are more than 88 million Filipinos in our country, with around 3 million in the US. If we can convince 2 million families to adopt 1 scholar each (yes, 1 scholar for the whole family), 2 million of our out-of-school youth will go back to school so they could be better prepared for the future. If we are able to convince 5 million Filipinos out of our 88 million Filipinos today, each one willing to adopt 1 scholar each, 5 million of our out-of-school youth could go back to school tomorrow.

This is Bayanihan in true form. This is Damayan in action. This is familihood. This is brotherhood. This loving our neighbour.

We should do this as a people. We should take care of our poor children. We should not leave them behind in poverty, in the streets.

I firmly believe that what will make our country beautiful is not economics, but love for one another, in the concept of one family as a people, one family as a nation.

                Adoption of poor children as scholars should become part of our culture as a people. Because it is about love and compassion, which is the essence of Christianity, as brotherhood is the advocated by Islam. I really believe that the moment it becomes part of our culture as a people, we will become a great and beautiful people.

  • 3rd Little Thing: Be a good parent. Teach your kids to love our country

One of beauties of being a parent is the fact that you, as a father or a mother, have the opportunity to become a leader. How you raise your children will reflect on the kind of leader that you are. You have the chance to become a shepherd, like all the leaders in the Bible. To what direction, to what path you bring your children, your family, will definitely reflect on the kind of leader that you are.

Let me ask you a question? What is it very difficult for Filipinos to work with one another as a people, either here or abroad? What is it very difficult for Filipinos to be united for the country?

It is very important that we know the root cause of our disunity as a people, so we may find and work out a solution to it. It is important that we find a solution to it because, I firmly believe, unless we learn to work in unity, we will never attain the greatness and prosperity we dream for our country.

So what is the root cause of our disunity as a people?

Let me answer with a story. Our ancestors were ruled by the Spaniards for 333 years. There were only a few thousands Spaniards in our country, but they ruled the millions of Filipinos. To prevent the millions of Filipinos from uniting and staging a revolution against them, the leaders of the few thousand Spaniards in our country sowed the seeds of disunity among the Filipino people. The Spaniards sowed intrigue, envy and hatred among Filipinos, against their fellow Filipinos. As a result, Filipino families became jealous and envious of fellow Filipino families. Filipino villages and communities became envious of other Filipino communities and villages. Our historians say that this was made a policy of the Spaniards in the Philippines to prevent the Filipinos from becoming united as a people.

This is one of the worst things the Spaniards did to us as a people. They killed our faith in each other. They killed our respect for one other. They killed the spirit of unity in our hearts.

If you ask me, this is the root cause of the damage to our culture, if there is any, as claimed by James Fallows in 1987 in the Atlantic Magazine in the US.

How do we cure this?

I firmly believe that the best starting point to heal it, to heal our nation, is the family. Every Filipino family has the chance to cure it. In particular, every parent, every father or mother, has the opportunity to heal the wound, to cure the damage.

How? As parents, we must teach our kids at least 4 things:

First, we must teach our kids that Philippines is not only our country, but the HOME of the Filipino. It is the birthplace of our race. It is important for us to look at our Philippines as our home as people, because when the moment we consider Philippines as our home, and not only as a country, we bring it closer to our hearts as a people.

Second, we must teach our kids that the Filipino people are just one family – the Filipino family. It is important that we view Philippines as our home, and the Filipino people as our one big family, outside of our small family in our respective homes.

Third, we must teach our kids that, when our country calls for it, we must put aside our personal interests and ambitions for the greater good of our home Philippines, for the greater welfare of our big family, the Filipino family.


The 12 Little Things in the book contain the values of discipline, integrity, love for family, concern for the environment, love for fellowmen, and patriotism, among other things. I am sure that these are the values that you want to see from your people in your companies. These are the values too that we need to cultivate among our people in the country.

Let me share with you the story of one of our country’s great heroes – Gregorio del Pilar. He is known in Philippine history as the boy general or the youngest general of Emilio Aguinaldo, who became the first president of the Philippine Republic in 1899. Del Pilar was only 22 years old when he died. He died in the hands of the American soldiers during the battle of the Tirad Pass.

What amazes with his story is the fact that when he went to that battle, with only 60 Filipino soldiers, only a few of whom  had rifles and bullets, as against the more than 300 American soldiers who were fully armed with cannons, rifles and pistols – Del Pilar already knew that he would die in that battle field.

But still, he accepted the assignment given to him by President Aguinaldo, the assignment for him to engage the pursuing American soldiers in a battle, so President Aguinaldo and the rest of the Filipino soldiers could retreat and escape far and away, so President Aguinaldo could build a free government for our people, the first Philippine Republic of the Filipino people who, just 6 months earlier, declared their independence from Spain and America.

Del Pilar, when he went to that battle, knew already that he would die in that battle. Still he faced and accepted his death, valiantly, as a great soldier, as a great Filipino.

For me, that is heroism most pure. That is heroism most sublime. That is heroism at its best. That is heroism at its highest.

Why do I share his story with you? Because what is being asked if us Filipinos today is not to die for country like Del Pilar. What is being asked of our people today is so much less than that. Today, our country asks only a little from each one of us. We are only being asked to give a little of ourselves, a little from ourselves, a little more from our pockets, a little more from our treasures, a little more of our talent, a little more of our time.

What is being asked of us today is to become good Filipinos, to become good citizens through small acts everyday. Good citizenship is performing small acts of heroism for our country. I firmly believe that this is the kind of heroism our country needs today. If our people learn to do this, we could become the greatest generation of Filipinos in our history. We could bring out the best in ourselves as a people. We could bring out the very best in our nation. We could turn around the situation in our country. We could usher in a new country, a new Philippines for ourselves and our children.

The product that I promote in this book and through this book – is small acts of heroism for our country. This is heroism in bite-size. This is heroism that every Filipino can chew and swallow. This is heroism in small packages. This is heroism that each one of us can handle. This is heroism that every person in our country, Filipino or foreigner, can do or perform to help our Philippines. This is the kind of heroism our country needs today.

I believe that the Human Capital Club of ECCP can play a crucial role in spreading this type of heroism among the Filipino people in the companies affiliated with ECCP. But more than that, I believe that the HCC of ECCP can also play an important role in bringing this type of heroism to the level of the families of the officers and personnel of companies affiliated with ECCP.

We need to bring this culture of heroism to the level of the Filipino families. Only by doing so that it could become part of our culture as a people.

And if you do so, you will not only help in making this country great and beautiful, you will also be helpe in making our world in general, a better one for all of us.

Og Mandino, author of several bestseller books in the world, said that – “you have already within you all the essentials that you need to succeed in this world.” I am firm believer of that statement. I believe that, as a people, we have already within us all the essentials that we need to succeed to make our country great and beautiful.

I am also a firm believer of Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said that – “what lies before you, and what lies behind you, are tiny matters compared to what lies with you.”

I firmly believe that we, as a people, have within us the power to change our nation. In fact, I firmly believe that the real solution to our country’s problems is within us. It is in our hearts. It is not theories or economics that will make our country great and beautiful. It is our love for our country by and through our love for our fellow Filipinos and fellowmen. I firmly believe that only love can create true greatness and beauty. I believe that love remains the most powerful force in this universe.

In 1977, Ninoy Aquino – “In this age of darkness, there are two way of spreading light. You may either be a candle, or a mirror which can reflect the light of that candle.” I wish that when you leave this ball room, you will leave it with a fire in your heart and a candle in your hand. May you bring the message of this book as a candle in your hand to share to other Filipinos.

May God bless you all, my dear countrymen. May God bless your respective families too. And may God bless our big family also, the Filipino Family.

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