La Salle lost by trying to win at all cost
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2005-10-31
It was a big blow to De La Salle’s pride when media gave De La Salle’s assistant team manager Manuel Salgado a dressing down for smacking the nape of Arwind Santos, the star player of the winning FEU Tamaraws. This now infamous ‘batok’ incident was followed by the big scandal about fraudulent De La Salle players who presented falsified high school papers with the connivance of La Salle team officials – in effect making them non-eligible to play in the seniors. But what proved most mortifying for De La Salle were the articles written by their very own Tommy Manotoc, a highly respected sports icon, in which he castigated the wrongdoers of his beloved alma mater for their blind allegiance to the cause of “winning at all cost.”

In his October 12 and 26 columns (headlined “Winning at all Cost – Part I and II”) in the Philippine STAR, Manotoc recalled the admirable honesty of intent and sense of sportsmanship of players in his time when he and his brothers used to play for La Salle. In contrast to today’s highly commercialized collegiate cagefests, players then were home-grown and played for the sheer love of the sport, pride of the colors and the team kinship that came with it. They needed no incentives, no special privileges, and no ego-boosting slap on the back.

Manotoc faulted the current team management philosophy of the La Salle community which practiced the “win at all cost” battle cry. He wrote on October 12: “Theirs (La Salle’s) is a “Win At All Cost” motto. This is made evident from how its basketball players are recruited or chosen to how they are treated by the school once they make it to the team. Being a true La Sallite myself, it pains me to see what my alma mater has developed into.”
“It frightens me that a school known to educate the country’s future leaders has developed an attitude such as this which is passed down to its players, students and all who watch the UAAP games.” Manotoc added.

Because of the double-whammy of an embarrassment that La Salle suffered from the ‘batok’ incident and the fraudulent players, all their five UAAP championships which were won over the past seven years have now become questionable. Even the brilliant bench job achieved by Coach Franz Pumaren to win those five titles has been obscured by the resulting stigma. What makes it more tragic is that this happened to one of the country’s most esteemed Catholic educational institutions. And having come not very long after La Salle President Bro. Armin Luistro joined the ranks of militant Filipinos asking for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the scandal gives a discrediting effect on the righteous and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Like its arch-rival Ateneo, La Salle is regarded as one of the top producers of the country’s captains of industries and leading citizens. When you are elevated to such a high pedestal, people also expect much from you. The “batok” incident and the falsified credentials issue are simply not acceptable conduct of behavior for La Sallians.

Of course, all this unfortunate turn of events that has unraveled in La Salle is not something that should be seen in isolation, as an odd-man-out of the bigger setting. The moral slide that had been going on since the 1960s has swept the entire Philippine landscape like Hurricane Katrina inundating New Orleans in slow motion.

I am a baby boomer and I have heard the stories of my parents and maternal grandmother about how peaceful and uncomplicated things were before the Second World War disrupted life in this virtual paradise of islands. Our younger generation will find the contrast to today’s realities hard to visualize, more so the fact that we, at one time, were second to Japan in prosperity in the Asian region.

Before World War II, the peso was P2 to US$1. One centavo could even buy you a couple of items at the Sari Sari store. My mother used to tell me that my Scottish grandfather received an executive’s salary of P500 a month in the 1930s. When she compared that to the P3, 500 monthly salary of my Dad in the 1960s when he was president of the Philippine Education Company (then the biggest book wholesaler and retail shop in the country), she said my grandfather’s P500 bought them more things. Today, I cannot avail of the services of a driver with a monthly salary offer of P3, 500, much less one for P500!

But more than living standards, it is the moral values of the people then that make the difference between our honorable past and our miserable and confused present. Before World War II, Filipinos were honest, polite, and respectful of authorities, their elders and even of each other. The custom of leaving footwear outside other people’s homes is one manifestation of this respect and extended even to the abodes of friends and kin. Distrust, suspicion and ill-will towards another had once been non-existent and a door left unlocked at night was testimony to this.

In the past, the term “buen familia” was used to describe a really good family and it had nothing to do with the content of one’s treasure cache. When someone was described to be of buen familia, it was a tribute to his or her family’s integrity and positive contributions to country and community.

Today’s yardstick for buen familia however has assumed a materialistic and superficial connotation. A buen familia in today’s Filipino contextual social dictionary would mean a family of wealth and political advantage, regardless if this is in a positive or negative context. Under those terms, should a survey be conducted among parents to see who they would prefer to have as a father-in-law for their son or daughter, without doubt Mike Arroyo would top it. In our pre-war milieu, Mike would not even make it in the guest lists of noteworthy occasions. Folks then shunned the company of controversial people. Stature then was measured more by what you are and not by what you have in the bank. In the pre-war era, professors and doctors were among the most esteemed. Today, it is the BIR Commissioner, Customs Collector, Provincial Commander, Taipans who don’t pay correct taxes and crooked elected public officials.

The Japanese are a people who remain loyal to their values. Japan’s prosperity and ability to bounce back from the most extreme situations as a nation are a reflection of the fortifying effects of living with deeply rooted values. The very first time I visited Japan – that was in 1977 when I was then advertising head of SEIKO in the Philippines – I was surprised at the way my Japanese hosts made a big deal of my stint as a college teacher of advertising. They would highlight my teaching career rather than other aspects of my background relevant to the ongoing series of SEIKO conferences that required my presence. Considering that young executives like me – I was a 28 year old vice president then – were a rarity in seniority-oriented Japan, it puzzled me why they chose to proudly introduce me as a teacher of advertising. Understanding the Japanese culture more, it dawned on me that the Japanese honor teachers with the term ‘sensei’, literally meaning one born before you, and is therefore senior to you. In Shakespearean terms, your “better.”

Such respect for teachers certainly denotes a culture that honors higher values and one’s origins much more than the wealth and circumstance of a big business top honcho. Japan’s prosperity did not come from each person’s selfish desire to be rich – it came from each person’s gentle act of sacrifice and humility to serve the common good.

If you’re still wondering why Japan, a country without natural resources, can be so advanced and progressive whereas the Philippines, with all the natural resources that we are blessed with, has remained stagnant – a good starting point would be to review the values that we have vis-à-vis those of the Japanese.

This is why the La Salle affair is very disturbing. If a respected educational institution like La Salle can be involved in conduct grossly untypical and even opposed to the teachings and precepts of Catholic education, it is certainly time to sound the alarms against a very serious moral degeneration seeping throughout our national fiber.

If this can happen in a university that is in the wish list of most parents wanting the best education for their children, what hope is there left for this country? If a university that postures to be one of the best and is, in fact, seen as one of the best – second only to Ateneo of course, (that is the Blue Eagle in me speaking) – who should we turn to (other than Ateneo) to show us the light? This happened to one of two Catholic universities which are expected to produce the leaders of the land, the role models of society, the captains of our industries and the movers of our economy.

Fake collegiate basketball players who do not have the eligibility to play in the seniors can only reflect the fake president who insists on staying in Malacanang. Win at all costs could well be the same motto of our politicians who steal, lie, and cheat – just to ensure victory during elections. Win at all costs, even if that meant subverting the truth, could well be the ‘guiding light’ of Joe de Venecia and his ilk when they massacred the impeachment case against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

La Salle is lucky that it had nothing to do with the education of Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In the one-upmanship with Ateneo, with all the mobile text brick bats that La Sallians have been getting, they can always take comfort that Ateneo has Jose Velarde and Jose Pidal to account for.

It is a sad time for La Sallians but sadder still for the Filipinos.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

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