The Community

Speech Before Ranger’s Club
Taal Social Court, Taal, Batangas

You mark today your 42nd anniversary. And tonight you celebrate it with this very inspiring anniversary ball. I am grateful for your kind invitation and I am happy to be here with you.Β 

Before I deliver my message, let me first greet all of you in advance a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Come what may, we all are going to celebrate a merry Christmas. We all are going to welcome a happy New Year.

I am not going to talk on current issues. They are too hot to handle. I am here to share in your celebration and not to spoil it.

I do not know if urbanization – and with it, modernity – has buried the salt and soul of the community spirit. I do know we still cherish and treasure the word bayanihan. That we find this more often outside the metropolitan forest, is something that can be had only to the urbanites.

Neighborhood in the cities does not seem to exist. We are just too preoccupied – and sometimes, too insecure – to know who our neighbors are. That is why we erect high walls to isolate and insulate us. We have become afraid to become neighbors to one another.

We call it barracks mentality in the guise of privacy. Others call it peace of mind in a different guise. Under whatever guise, it all boils down to insecurity which only serves to break up even more one’s sense of community or neighborhood.

I was born in the small town of Imus, Cavite. Looking back to my childhood, I can no help but feel an influx of nostalgia. People – there and then – were secure, not at all alienated. And if I may say so, not all atomized. I am sure you have similar remembrances of your birthplaces.

We normally associate community with geography, with places, with territories. But there is something more than what the soil can give. For a community is a community of emotions, of feelings, of joys, and even of sorrows. When somebody in the neighborhood gets sick, the sense of community in us brings us to the sickbed. We do not say β€œit’s none of my business.” We used to say: “our neighbor is our business.”

What is it that nourished and nurtured our sense of community, our sense of soil? It was communication, face-to-face communication. When we woke up in the morning and swept the front yard, we saw neighbors doing the same. Inevitably, we had … common fronts together. We chatted, we communicated about seemingly trivial things. Yet, these are what glued the small town residents together.

This sense of community is assumed to be easier to achieve these days. We now have the giant triad of mass transportation, mass communication, and mass media.

However, it is the opposite that is true. We enclave ourselves inside a heavily tinted car. We text our messages instead of a face-to-face chat. We open radio and all we hear upsets our stomach before we get to take our breakfast.

Negativism, pessimism, and all kinds of isms have become our daily stock and everyday fare. We refuse to be happy. We stop trusting others. And we become victims of the fear of crime.

I strongly suggest we revisit our original sense of community. And also ask if we – Filipinos – are without the core values that constitute a community. This was the question asked by then Senator Leticia Shahani in 1987.

She called for an in-depth investigation into the Filipino character. She was worried alright of the apparent penchant of many for self-bashing or sui-policide. The inquiry was done and the report submitted in May of 1988. It was captioned: “A Moral Recovery Program: Building a People, Building a Nation.”

In the report, the Filipino strengths were listed as: pakikipagkapwa-tao; family orientation; joy and humor; flexibility, adaptability and creativity; hardwork and industry; faith and religiosity; and the ability to survive.

There were weaknesses re-discovered, namely: extreme personalism; extreme family centeredness; lack of discipline; passivity and lack of initiative; colonial mentality; kanya-kanya syndrome; and lack of self-analysis and self-reflection.

If you compare the strengths with the weaknesses, you can sigh with relief at the end of the effort. We are not hopeless after all. We are not a basket case at all.

You and I care about institutions we belong to. We care for organizations that exist in part for our well-being. We care for agencies that dignify us as individuals. We care for a community that makes us feel a sense of our humanity.

We know that nation states which wholly subordinate the person to the state fail to inspire loyalty and dedication. We should now know that organizations that fail to build a sense of community in their people and personnel, are bound to fail, too.

The value of a person transcends his performance. It is his sense of community that makes him valuable. Nothing more, nothing less.

Initiative is where empowerment begins. It begins in the community. Right here, right now. With all of us.

Thank you very much.

*****