What is your role in building a strong, upright, unified nation?


Building a better future [Photo source: asiagreenbuildings.com]

By Joe America

Let’s start with some brief definitions to get on the same line of thought about what a strong, upright, unified nation looks like.

  • Strong means safe and wealthy enough to promote opportunities for citizens and durability for the State.
  • Upright means morally sound, committed to the kind of “right” that helps people while avoiding the kind of “wrong” that hurts people.
  • Unified means that the great majority of citizens agree and support one another rather than disagree and fight one another.

Taking them in reverse order . . .

Saying “unified” is for sure not as easy as getting there.

But I also think it is not always as complicated as we make it.

Take the drug war. (A) Most people want drugs and crime out of their lives. (B) Most people do not want innocent people killed. It is the State’s job to fulfill both of those aspirations. Today, the State is focused on A at the expense of B, and it has divided the nation. When the State figures out how to do both A and B, then unity is possible.

It is not the media or unpatriotic people who are causing today’s lack of unity. It is the choices made by the State.

Getting to ‘upright’ is harder than figuring out unity. 

Historically, the morality of the Philippines is centered on people taking care of themselves. It is “right” to sneak past laws, to take or give bribes or favors, to squeeze in line ahead of someone else, or to blame others and deny accountability. Most people live by that morality and, in the extreme, exhibit the crab behavior of trying to tear down those who have the audacity to get richer or have a better life than they have.

“Upright” for many (most?) Filipinos means proving they are as good as . . . or better than . . . others. The cover of the book . . .  the number of shoes, the shade of white, winning every argument, or the ability to swear at others . . . seems more important than the contents.

The Philippine Constitution overlays this well ingrained “me first” morality with Western (Christian-based) ideals that consider it “right” to follow the rules, to take care of others as the best way to take care of oneself, and to be forthright in accepting accountability and learning from mistakes. Competence is important.

So we have a huge fundamental conflict here that we can see operating every day as we watch our legislators. They say one thing and then do the other. They talk group ideals, then fail to pass an anti-dynasty law. A striking number would (and do) advocate for or enable the murder of innocents in order to get ahead, personally.

Every conversation devolves into winners and losers rather than solutions. It becomes amusing if you can rise up and observe from above what is really going on. That is the trick the great writer Kafka learned, I imagine, to discover the many absurdities in human behavior he wrote about.

But take care when doing it. You laugh a lot, you cry a lot.

Safe and wealthy are goals, a path, not an absolute we can ever achieve.

And we can always do better than where we are today.

The economy is what underpins safety and wealth and the State determines whether its investments are wise or wasteful. Corruption is wasteful. I’d argue that propaganda is wasteful. It leads to bad decisions, garbage in, garbage out. Discretionary expenditures can be wise or wasteful depending on the motives and the achievements of the people having discretionary power. In a culture of self-service, discretionary spending is often done poorly, for self rather than community, and so we see poor and dilapidated services and thinking across the land. In a culture of group well-being, investments and discretionary expenditures are generally done better, problem-solving is better, and more wealth is generated.

Safety is a bit more complicated, so we will set that aside for a different discussion.

So what is YOUR cultural preference, self-advantage or group cooperation?

Mine is group cooperation, and I believe most people who read and contribute here would agree that is the better way to run a nation. It emphasizes values like inclusion and fairness. The culture of self-advantage stacks people one above the other. To achieve unity, you have to agree that you are a lesser person than someone else. It’s demeaning.

In a quirky conundrum, those who voted for President Duterte see the elite as a problem, yet by subordinating themselves to an aspiring dictator, assure that they will always be the lessers in Philippine cultural stacking.

Amusingly or absurdly enough, they were equal under President Aquino, but did not “feel” equal. And the greatest failure of the Administration was not figuring out how to inspire the needful to feel that things were getting better, for them. Not that that is easy to do.

So what is YOUR role in building a strong, upright, unified nation?

Mine is to follow the rules, to work hard to overcome natural biases of liking what I know and distrusting that which is new, to adhere to the belief that the principles of fairness and inclusion will eventually be to my personal best advantage, and to be earnest and honest in dealing with others.

Beyond that, I apply such talents as I may have to writing about the Philippines. I consider myself a content provider, and many of you help immensely in that effort. Thank you. And thanks as well to those of you who share the content as a way to push back against the manipulators. It’s like arithmetic. It adds up. In some cases, it multiplies as other content providers pick up the ideas and recast them.

I also spend generously in the Philippines, and hope my family will be able to see as many opportunities here as they might find in the United States. It is a choice I leave to them.

It is up to Filipinos to decide if you will strive to make opportunities available to all. If you confine opportunities to the entitled, that is sure to create a “values drain”. A values drain is like a brain drain, but not only do smart people leave, upright ones do, too.


46 Responses to “What is your role in building a strong, upright, unified nation?”
  1. shenli1 says:

    Sent from my iPhone

    “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!”


  2. alicia m. kruger says:

    Helping each other for the future, even helping some to recover the past should be the mantra.

  3. Zen says:

    What ain’t broken, you don’t have to fix it. Still if Roxas wasn’t given the chance to make things better for the Philippines, what’s been happening in the Philippines would now give the people idea who would be able to do the job of unification and fostering cooperation. It’s a tough task to undo what Duterte has done and to assure the general public that it could be done following Pnoys legacy.
    I’m an optimist and this is my humble take on the matter.

  4. Oldmaninla says:

    Has the Philippines been unified? When? Who did?

  5. NHerrera says:

    Joe, I may be disrupting the flow here.

    It is early days yet in the US, but the blog question “What is your role in building a strong, upright, unified nation?” may well be asked of the Americans too. Situation and circumstances admittedly are different. (The same note may apply to a lot of countries during this period of world history. May Climate Change have something to do with it as you noted in a note in another blog. A “harbinger” you called it.)

    Reason for my note — I was just reacting here to the item I just read on CNN,


  6. edgar lores says:


    1. I pay taxes – federal, state, and local council – and file my income tax returns responsibly.

    2. I vote intelligently.

    3. I keep my yard and surroundings clean.

    4. I cause no noise pollution.

    5. I recycle waste responsibly.

    6. I follow traffic rules.

    7. I support Change.org petitions on many important issues.

    8. I am a good and upright citizen – I break no laws.

    9. I buy and support domestic products.

    10. I watch the Australian Open.

    • NHerrera says:

      Nice list. On Item 10, to stay physically strong and upright, do some exercise while watching? But Item 3 may already do that for you. 🙂

    • josephivo says:

      11. The important one: you share your knowledge in this blog.

    • Thea says:

      Though I am not yet a Senior Citizen 🙃 , I seconded all except no. 10. My 10th should be: I plant trees , flowers and organic vegetables. More than what we can consume,for give aways. Last year, we had harvested a lot of pechay and the neighbors were happy and “unified”.

      Isn’t this our beautiful culture? We share our food to our neighbors. We offer to help each other. This is “bayanihan” which is still alive in our province.

      • edgar lores says:

        Thea, I must admit I was being facetious on no. 10. I like your substitution. I have four mango trees (that were fruitful last year but not this year), one jackfruit tree (that has borne one fruit), one star-apple tree (that has borne none), and talbos.

        It strikes me though that the Australian Open and sports, in general, are unifiers at the local, national and international levels.

  7. gerverg1885 says:

    I didn’t consider then my unconscious efforts to lead men under me when I was still employed to help build a morally upright nation; I just thought of making my work easier when I imparted to them the best values of being good and honest citizens/employees doing the best work despite the meager salary, being fair to each other in everything and being good children to their parents and responsible family men.

    The turnout was unexpected but I was satisfied that only 1 out of the 25 proved to be a failure. A former drug addict is now into a small thriving business after working abroad for more than 15 years. Another had built a house and started a video/photo business run by the family in a province in the Visayas The others are still working here and abroad but are earning more than I expected.

    And they did not disappoint me as most of them who are in constant contact with me became responsible family men whose children had graduated from college and are also now working mostly abroad.

    One who is now in Canada greeted me on Facebook on my last birthday and told me that he and his family will never forget me as long as they live.

    There was no thought of country then when I was with them. I was only thinking of an easy atmosphere in the workplace.

    • But in fact you taught them win-win, as opposed to the usual zero-sum games.

      I think that is what made the difference and turned them into winners in general.

    • NHerrera says:

      How a leader’s inspired admonitions to subordinates — I imparted to them the best values of being good and honest citizens/employees doing the best work despite the meager salary, being fair to each other in everything and being good children to their parents and responsible family men — makes all the difference.

      As the saying goes — may your tribe increase, gerverg1885. We especially need it at this time.

    • Waray-Waray says:

      Sir their achievement and fulfillment is your achievement and fulfillment too. As in karma everything good comes back to you. What a commendable thing you did out of simply making things easier to do.

      If we apply the multiplier effect the 24 who did well in their lives x 7 assuming their were 7 in their households (parents, spouses, children and other dependents) that would be 168 happy souls. If they continue what you did to them and pass on these good deeds and on and on continue it like a chain – the returns would be unimaginable.

      Kung Hei Fat Choi to all the members of The Society. To the Chinese it is the official start of spring. It heralds the start of a new year and a new beginning. For all the inspiring things you did I remember this song which is very apt for the season;

      Pass It On

      It only takes a spark to get the fire going
      And soon all those around can warm up in the glowing
      That’s how it is with God’s love
      Once you’ve experienced it, you spread His love to everyone
      You want to pass it on.

      What a wondrous time in spring
      When all the trees are budding
      The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming
      That’s how it is with God’s love
      Once you’ve experienced it
      You want to sing it’s fresh like spring
      You want to pass it on.

      I wish for you my friend
      This happiness that I’ve found
      You can depend on Him, it matters not where you’re bound
      I’ll shout it from the mountain top
      I want the world to know
      The Lord of love has come to me
      I want to pass it on.

  8. “It is not the media or unpatriotic people who are causing today’s lack of unity. It is the choices made by the State.”

    Indeed. As the article below describes, the present administration is prone to using government resources to proliferate and disseminate misinformation. This practice unbind the nation’s tie of unity. Thin skin and vengeance are some of the factors driving PRD administrations to wrong choices. PRD and his staff would be better served if they will look at opposing views and criticism as opportunities that could lead to change and progress. They can facilitate a positive mindset by listening, discerning and asking for the citizens’ feedback before shaping the nation’s narratives.

    As the saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Find the weakest link and strengthen it because destroying the weak link or making it weaker will affect the integrity of the whole chain.

    The quoted paragraph below is bothering me. Is it lawful for the PH government to pay bloggers because they write what the government officials want to read?

    “Palace insiders said that, starting September 2016, money was released to “groups” that had maintained an online presence in support of the President. The same insiders said some of these groups are identified with Andanar.”


    • NHerrera says:

      Very good point about unity. Wraps the comment well with the “weakest link” item. And thanks for the “link” — funny how words coincidentally come together.

      (Joseph Goebbels was not successful in the end.)

    • madlanglupa says:

      > the present administration is prone to using government resources to proliferate and disseminate misinformation.

      The latest is the scathingly shameless pro-government propaganda film Across the Crescent Moon.

      > This practice unbind the nation’s tie of unity.

      He and his powerful allies are avowed regional supremacists who came up with the idea of federalism for their own benefit.

  9. I was gonna say buy locally, but Joe’s already said that in this 2nd to last para , so I’d add and clarify locally like your town or island.

    I also just read edgar’s comment, and was reminded that you guys are essentially old, I’m constantly forgetting this fact, since I’m just reacting to words on the screen. So I would add consistent ejaculation (either through actual sex or masturbation) prevents prostate problems.

    My grandfather died of prostate cancer, and I know it’s the most debilitating disease as far as resources and family goes, everything gets affected, translate this in the Philippines and I can only surmise the difficulties magnified.

    So by all means , have more than one , keep everything flowing and the plumbing clear of any blockages (we good here, NHerrera?),

  10. I’d also add these type of schools or organizations to be established in the Philippines preserving local arts, crafts & products (start at the town/barangay level), https://www.folkschool.org/ (related to small batch micro manufacturing 😉 )

    • “That program pictured above would be very good anywhere else it could be implemented because it’s one way to keep people of all ages mentally and physically active while earning even small amounts rather than engaging in idle talks or drinking wine with the barkadas and sometimes creating trouble in the community.”

      We do something similar to a folk school in our libraries here, gerver , where our librarians invite local craftsmen , artisans and performers to share their passions… they don’t get paid for doing this in the library, but they get their exposure via local papers and in the library, wherein private tutoring with tuition happens on top of their pro-bono beginner classes at the library.

      I learned how to make a bullwhip from one of these workshops using 550 cord, it’s great for my shoulder which I threw awhile back (there’s a certain movement to achieve the cracking of the tip of the whip, that begins at the shoulder) , so I totally agree on the health benefits of all this, also you’re making things on your own, not buying stuff Made in China… that’s gotta be good all around 😉 .

  11. gerverg1885 says:

    I just can’t help but wonder why important subjects like industrial arts and gardening are no longer included in elementary school curricula. Gardening instilled in me love of flowers, rare small insects and nature in general which is my way of passing time or a form of meditation.

    That program pictured above would be very good anywhere else it could be implemented because it’s one way to keep people of all ages mentally and physically active while earning even small amounts rather than engaging in idle talks or drinking wine with the barkadas and sometimes creating trouble in the community.

    My dream is to start a library here in our town or a sort of clinic where I can teach reflex massage and natural healing to those who will be interested. Small dreams that could bring huge transformations to the lives of many in the long run.

  12. NHerrera says:

    Off topic

    Lately, I have taken to reading and appreciating the economic “horoscopes” of Cielito Habito. (I did not mean the word in quotes to be unkind to him if you read his opinion piece.)

    He talks of the rarity of the “one-hand” economist and for that matter the equally rare “one-hand” lawyer. With the recent political “tectonic shifts” this kind of economist is rarer still.

    To go further will not do Habito justice. See his opinion piece in Inquirer “Uncertain times, unreliable prophets.”

  13. NHerrera says:

    One item in the current blog is Unity — the nation’s unity.

    DOJ Aguirre’s notion of Unity and logic is strange for a legal mind. According to him, overly criticizing PNP personnel involved in the kidnap for ransom and killing of Korean Jee Ick Joo leads to criticizing General de la Rosa — who is trusted by the President and an important element in the President’s war on illegal drugs — thereby criticizing the President himself and has the effect of destabilizing the Administration.

    This fantasy of Aguirre (my view) leads Senator Lacson, an ally of Duterte on the objective of the war on illegal drugs, to admonish Aguirre to stick to the facts — a kind way of putting down the idea of destabilization through the rightful criticism of the sordid mess made by elements of PNP in the killing of the Korean and the way Bato and his PNP is handling it.

    If we go by the logic of Aquirre, Lacson’s Senate Public Order Committee Investigation itself on the kidnap for ransom — and the way the Senators asked their sharp, probing questions — is part of the destabilization effort.

    We discussed the subject of military honor in the previous blog. I believe a strong sense of Honor should also guide the actions and statements not only of the Chief of the Department of Justice, but the Heads of all the departments especially as they are addressed as Honorable.

    • The totalitarian mind is too insecure to deal with facts. It has a different idea about honor, with a heavy emphasis on loyalty. There is a form of denial to that kind of honor. So it is a tad lunatic. Thanks for making the very pertinent point about the kind of honor we see, not only Aguirre impose, but all on the president’s team, ESPECIALLY the propagandists.

      By opening up Mamasapano, Duterte is trying to make the case that Aquino has the wrong kind of honor, and by extension, all the yellows do, too.

    • gerverg1885 says:

      This loyal minion conveniently forgot his boss’ statement way back September 10, 2016: “Do not hesitate to attack me, criticize me if I do wrong. It is your duty to your country.”

      I understand his overzealousness to defend his boss but he should also have thought of this previous statement that was spoken in front of the media because they are all contradicting. Or he conveniently forgets every time he opens his mouth that the messages coming from all of them are all contradicting.

      PRD and Bato said that the war on drugs had been a success but why are the police still killing small time users but no news on Peter Lim and other bigtime drug lords?

      They are like unscrupulous doctors who are saying the illness is already cured but the patient must keep on drinking maintenance medicines.

  14. Thea says:

    “They say one thing and then do the other”.

    Let me add. They do one thing and then say the other. Like removing all military check points then say there is lawlessness. Opening the wounds of Mamasapano and pointing finger on exPres. Aquino but cuddling the butchers of those SAF44.

    People whom I know who voted for Duterte are not buying anymore. This is positive, in my point of view. Not yet ripe for the picking though. I just hope there will be a unifying figure who can inspire the Filipinos to fight what is “wrong”.

    And yes, this is my role. Be an eye opener among the grass roots.

  15. madlanglupa says:

    In nation building? Start with the small things: Help clean up the front yard, give up a seat to the elderly, pay dues on time, know where NOT to smoke, and obey traffic laws.

    In some other parallel dimension, another version of myself might be a mayor of a small town, having run for office because he was fed up with the dynastic BS.

    • NHerrera says:

      “Give up a seat to the elderly.” I like that note. In my case, there have been many who have offered — which shows caring is still our trait — but I refuse and thank the offerror profusely. As a senior citizen I welcome any exercise which comes my way.

  16. NHerrera says:

    If I were uncharitable, I would attribute PRD’s order to disband or dissolve all the Anti-Illegal Drug Groups due to the killing of the Korean Jee Ick Joo; and the sordid participation of many relatively senior PNP officers as the made-to-order excuse he was waiting for, to appear decisive and correct. But I am not uncharitable. I receive the news as a good action by the President.

  17. NHerrera says:

    Sounds like an eulogy for an admired dead, but is really a recollection of a retired military man who was touched by Barack Obama — a recollection which brings out the elements of national unity so soon and sadly discarded. May be I am writing this too soon too.


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