Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pinoys, let's promise to #ChangefortheBetter as a nation

In a few weeks, it will be 2015. Another year, another chance to change for the better.

As a citizen advocate, I strongly believe that before we can change a nation, we must start from within ourselves. When each one of us does our part, before we know it, those wonderful values emanate out and manifest within our families, then within barangays, within cities and eventually within the country. This is what the Change for the Better campaign is all about.

Actually, I was curious and googled this campaign to learn more about it and found out that the Change for the Better campaign actually launched way back in 2012. Back then, the campaign was a call to personal change. This time, the campaign is a call to be a nation of citizens changing for the better. From a personal, individualistic focus, the spotlight of the Change for the Better campaign is now on the entire nation and what the true Filipino spirit is.

The Change for the Better campaign is one that believes that small changes put together can create a huge impact on a community (I am reminded of the analogy of the strength of a bundle of sticks that no one can break versus a single stick that can easily be snapped in half). We may not realize it but as a nation, we exhibit some values that oftentimes we may not be aware of because it comes naturally to us, but foreigners notice them and appreciate them. Hopefully, when we become aware that these Filipino values indeed set us apart from the rest of the world, and we practice them regularly, it becomes an integral part of us as a nation.

Bloggers give a shoutout showing some of our Filipino values. We can #BidaChanger!

I listened to renowned phenomenological sociologist, Dr. Mina Ramirez of the Asian Social Institute talk about Five Core Values that make up our identity as a Filipino people.

Dr. Mina Ramirez

Based on Dr. Ramirez's study, "The Filipino Worldview and Values" coupled with her insights from decades of practice, these Five Core Values and what they mean to us as a nation are:

#1 - Mapagpasalamat (Thankful)

In spite of the tragedies that befall Filipinos, what amazes foreigners over and over is our ability to see beyond the tragedies and still thank God for the little blessings. I remember so many of these little stories recounted on CNN and other international TV stations last year, just after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Visayas. Families that lost their entire homes to a typhoon would still say thank you that their family was intact and unharmed. Foreign humanitarian aid volunteers who visited Bohol after the earthquake as well as Yolanda-stricken areas were amazed at how adults and children alike could still manage to give them big smiles. They saw children play basketball among the ruins of a basketball court. They say that in other countries where they've gone for humanitarian purposes, people walk around dazed and with glum faces; but not here in the Philippines. Here, we smile. And we are grateful for every little thing that we see as a blessing. "Salamat sa Diyos" is something we hear a lot.

At the same time, we enjoy holidays a lot and find every opportunity to get together and bond with family and give thanks. This Christmas season is just one of them. I also know domestic helpers who save up just to go home during their hometown fiesta. For them, it is a way of giving thanks and being with family and friends. "Pamumuhay" (Life) and "Pananalig sa Diyos at Kapwa" (Faith) are very strong in us.

#2 - Matatag (Strong)

As a nation, we are strong. Our kind of strength is a different kind. Many other nations are financially strong. Most of them are also industrially strong. The Philippines is far from that but our strength lies somewhere else. Our strength is the quiet, resilient kind. Being in a country within the Pacific Ring of Fire, vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruptions and whatever else, we have become a people that is strong for our loved ones. We stand up, remain firm, and fight for our aspirations as well as for our families' well-being. "Kaayusan" (Order) is very important to us. When we are knocked down, we stand up and try to fix things.

Just recently on TV, I saw a man from Eastern Samar featured. He recounted how his house was completely destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. He was just beginning to rebuild when Typhoon Ruby also destroyed his new home. In the face of such tragedy, how could this man cope, I think. But he told the TV reporter he would once again try to rebuild. This is inner strength.

#3 - Masigasig (Hard-Working)

I feel proud every time foreign employers comment that Filipinos are some of the most hardworking foreign citizens they have. We have millions of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) in almost every nook and cranny of the world. Filipinos are masigasig because we have strong aspirations for ourselves and for our families. This value shows even in our own language. Why, for example, do other nations greet each other a Happy New Year while here, we say Masaganang Bagong Taon (Bountiful New Year)? That's because happiness and celebration are equated with abundance. Filipinos dream of a better life, of kaginhawaan (abundant life). In the Visayas (I am Visayan), ginhawa means breath. So having a smooth breath translates also into having a smooth, abundant life for us Filipinos.

#4 - Mapagmalasakit (Compassionate)

The very love for family and friends in our Filipino culture makes us naturally compassionate and maalaga (caring). We don't look out just for family at times. We even care about our neighborhood and the community. Words with "loob" find their way into our vernacular. "Utang na loob" translates into different actions one does to one's kapwa (others). When we are concerned about our kapwa's the "saloobin" (thoughts) or "kalooban" (inner feelings), we show a natural concern beyond our nuclear families. This has really translated many times into the bayanihan spirit of helping each other -- a trait Filipinos are known for anywhere in the world. Even OFWs would reach out and bond with each other and look out for each other's welfare in a strange land. It's no wonder that when we travel, it often delights us to find a kababayan (fellow Filipino). We know that if we ever needed help, someone would be willing to help us out. And guess what. That's the reason the Philippines is the social media capital of the world and one of the top countries whose citizens are mostly on Facebook. We love to connect!

#5 - Magalang (Respectful)

There is no equivalent anywhere in the world for po and opo (two words that are often said as a sign of respect for authority and for elders). Unique to us also is the habit of pagmamano (putting an elder person's back hand to one's forehead, with a slight bow). And maybe even before all these terms like gender equality or gender neutrality that demand no gender bias, our language already upheld these. Just look at how we call our relationships with people. We say kapatid (sibling), asawa (spouse), anak (child), biyenan (parent inlaw) -- all genderless.

These Filipino values and more are timeless. They set us apart from the rest of the world as a people. If we continue to be aware that these are some of the values that others find valuable in us, then all the more we should continue to practice and enhance these. Of course times change. And even our lifestyles have changed from the generations of our lolos and lolas (grandparents). But as a nation, we can bring these timeless and beautiful Filipino traits into the 21st century and make them work for us in our modern lives.

Me? I will strive to be an even better citizen advocate. One way just beyond trying to change ME for the better? I will use my social media tools to make others conscious of these values as well.

When I drink my daily coffee, this mug will serve as my reminder. :-)

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Krem-Top, a non-dairy coffee creamer and a product of Alaska Milk Corporation, is the moving force behind the Change for the Better campaign.

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