MANY times, it pays to look at the view from the outside in order to have a better appreciation of how things really are inside. It is often good to see ourselves from the eyes and perspective of someone who has the advantage of more detachment and distance from our problems. One of the major reasons why we Filipinos were left behind by our ASEAN neighbors is because we were too focused on our political intramurals that we lost sight of the great opportunities that abound outside our national boundaries.
With his permission, I am reproducing an emailed letter that was sent by Eustaquio “Boy” Abay II, MD, MS, who is a member of our Ateneo de Manila University Alumni egroup. Being someone who has seen the country during better times, Boy’s perspectives allow us to take a fresh look at ourselves as a people and as a nation.
(Dr. Boy Abay’s letter)
I have just come back from a visit to the Philippines. I landed
in Manila, stayed a while in Sampaloc, flew to Bacolod, took a ferry
to Iloilo, then back to Bacolod for 4 days. I went back to Manila,
went straight to Cavite for a couple of days then returned to Manila
for 2 more days, before returning to the US.
I went home to attend my high school reunion in Bacolod. About
two-thirds of my classmates could not afford to pay for the nominal
registration fees, much less contribute to the alma mater's many needed projects. Many opted to just stay away.
One of the evenings was dedicated to a family get-together that
included close family members and friends. It is sad to note that
much of the conversations dealt with how tight money was, how was
one to connect with this or that persona in position so that they might
get some project approved and somehow share in the booty.
Yes, the graft and corruption, the kurakot system, has gone
beyond the government agencies. It has permeated into the private
sector; in fact it is ingrained in the Filipino way of life. Even more sad
to think that children grow up to see this as the way of life.
In Bacolod, as it was in Iloilo, driving was as much a nightmare
as driving in Manila. The road rule was: Ako muna. Bahala ka na sa
buhay mo (Me first. Fend for yourself)! In fact that was the rule of life
in the entire country.
I met with old and new friends from Ateneo on an evening at
Mezze, Greenbelt II, in Makati. That was refreshing.
I was in the company of Ateneans; many of course are exceptions
to the rule. Jun Alvendia brought me to a beautiful facility that
housed "chosen children", with Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy and
other handicaps, from a few months to 18 years of age. I was awed by
their discipline and courtesy, towards me and to each other. More so,
if one realizes these are children mostly 6 to 12 years of age and
are mentally/physically handicapped.
I visited a Gawad Kalinga village in Murcia, a municipality in
Negros Occidental, about 30 miles northeast of Bacolod. I had the
opportunity to visit with some of the GK village residents, some CFC
volunteers, and the town mayor.
In transit to the airport, I asked the taxi driver, a clean cut,
neatly dressed gentleman in his late 50's, “Ano po ang palagay mo sa
nangyayari sa Pilipinas? (What do you think of what’s happening in the Philippines?)” He replied: "Kung hindi mapa-alis si GMA sa paraan ng impeachment, assassination na lang. (If Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not be ousted by impeachment, then only assassination will do it.)", and he was dead serious.
I had dreamt of perhaps starting a graduate school of medicine
in the Philippines, maybe a world-class medical care and medical
training center. But unless the economic situation and the
fundamental moral fiber of the Filipino improve, anything we
undertake is futile and empty.
I boarded PAL flight 102 to LA on September 8. As soon as I
settled in my seat aboard the Boeing 747, I wept.
Where is the Filipino’s love of country? (End of the Letter)
To let you know where he is coming from, allow me to give you a brief background on Dr. Boy Abay. Dr. Abay attained his medical degree at the Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Santo Tomas. He went to the US for further studies and completed residency in neurosurgery at the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota with a Master of Science degree in Neurosurgery from the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Abay then founded and headed the Abay Neuroscience Center as its president. The Center’s exemplary pool of six neurosurgeons gave it the recognition as the largest private neurosurgical group in Kansas. He also founded the Kansas Spine Hospital – a 40-bed hospital equipped with state of the art, fully computerized and digital equipment and facilities – and is its current CEO. Try searching Google for the Abay Neuroscience Center and the Kansas Spine Hospital and you will be impressed by what this fellow-Filipino has accomplished. Dr. Abay is another living proof that we are a great nation that is badly led.
There is no doubt about Dr. Boy Abay’s capability to realize his vision of spearheading the establishment of a graduate school for medicine as well as a world-class medical care and medical training center in the Philippines. But having had a first-hand glimpse of evidences that reveal our pathetic culture of corruption and decadence, I can understand why Dr. Abay has decided to backtrack.
Like a world-class doctor, Boy Abay realizes that there can be no relief for the Filipino unless the most serious ailment of Philippine society is first addressed – the corruption that has already permeated the private sector and is now ingrained in the Filipino way of life, as he himself put it. Noble as his plan was to establish the medical facility that he hoped would address one of the biggest problems of Filipinos today – he knew that it would be no better than a pain killer which cannot cure the real problem of our society, the cancer of corruption and moral decadence.
Our situation cries for heroes. The rot has gotten to such an extent that no less than a heroic effort will deliver us from the hell where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her ilk brought us. But, alas, the problem has mutated to such a degree – like a computer virus that neutralizes an anti-virus program – that even heroism is now prevented. One wonders where all our heroes and would-be heroes have all gone even as the virus of a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration is proving to be more widespread and debilitating.
It must be extremely frustrating and devastating for someone as accomplished and so obviously nationalistic as Dr. Boy Abay to find himself in a situation where all he can do is ask: “Where is the Filipino’s love of country?” Why don’t the leaders who brought us into this abyss ask themselves this question? Why don’t the entrenched elite who have lived off the blood and sweat of exploited Filipino labor for too long ask themselves this question?
Why don’t the Filipino bishops of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) ask themselves this question? Love of country – more so if over 40 million Filipinos count among what Jesus Christ referred to as the ‘least of our brethren’ – is among the highest expression of love of God. Yet the CBCP continues to shirk from its duty to inspire Filipinos to actively fight the evil in our society and lead the struggle to ensure that truth prevails.
Why don’t we ask it ourselves? It will take nothing less than our collective heroism to reverse our miserable situation. It is our country. It is the future of our children that is on the line. If we will not take the initiative to secure it, who will?
We, not Dr. Abay, should be the ones weeping.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org