Where do you find hope in the miserable Philippines?

Oh, misery! [Photo source: fastcompany.com]

By JoeAm

As we often do, we find it is necessary to begin with definitions.

You is every Filipino or other person on the planet who loves the Philippines and wants the best for her diverse, spirited, warm and intelligent people.

Hope is pretty much as Google says: “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

Miserable needs some discussion.

The rich and entitled do not feel miserable, in the main, and that is the single biggest problem in the Philippines. They care so little about the Constitution, the values in that document, and the well-being of people who are not rich and entitled. They have little conscience and little inclination to take risks or sacrifice for the betterment of the nation. Many government officials are rich and entitled, including many senators and House members who display clear signs of populism and self-dealing rather than earnest, or what I would term “moral”, work. And it includes the princes, princesses, and dukes who run the LGU’s . . . the provinces, cities, and municipalities. They engage in “immoral political” work.

Sub-definitions: Moral work is work that is done to fulfill the intent of the Constitution. The Constitution explains what is right and what is wrong. Immoral political work is work that is done to favor an individual or group of individuals without regard for what the Constitution says. It may even damage the Constitution (breakdown of the separation of branches of the State, for instance).

The most miserable Filipinos are the “yellows”. These are the educated, western-leaning, morality based, disciplined, honorable believers in the Constitution, human rights, freedoms with responsibility and accountability attached, and the competitive and fair energies that make honest capitalism work to produce prosperity. The irony is that it is the “yellows” who are miserable while the poverty-stricken masses are not.

The poverty-stricken masses are in miserable straits, as most economists and human rights advocates would agree. But they don’t know it. They don’t know how an economy works, or a government, or human rights. They don’t know what to do about abuses. They accept their miserable lot as the way it has always been. They are the product of disenfranchisement, ignorance, and passions turned inward rather than outward to build a great nation.

So the term miserable as it is used in this article means the kind of living people do when the gap between what the government OUGHT to be providing and what it is ACTUALLY providing is huge, and they are discouraged by that.

With that as background . . . and recognizing that a whole lot of discouragement accompanies misery like a heavy cloud of rancid smoke from burning rubber tires . . . where can you look for hope?

  • One can find hope in the fact that the Constitution is a real document. It exists. It IS the law of the land. And it is hard to change. Citizens have to vote on it. And, although a lot of Filipinos are ignorant (not taught properly), that does not mean they are stupid.
  • The Duterte term ends in 2022.
  • A lot of people in government DO abide by the Constitution as their moral framework for honesty, respect for laws and others, fairness, and hard, earnest work. Most generals, a lot of judges, many educators, a handful of senators, a smattering of congressmen, some priests, imams, and ministers, and a lot of government agency workers respect the Constitution. The nation has a moral core. It may be smallish, but it is strong.
  • Businessmen are neutral. The economic foundation of the nation is sound and its OFWs help anchor that stability. The nation is set to grow fast once the immoral political self-dealers are out of the way and honest capitalism and human ingenuity are put to work. By human ingenuity, I mean applied effort to end instability and attacks on cherished institutions (separation of powers, journalists), attract investors, get rid of red tape, stop corruption, develop manufacturing, expand exports, and actually collect taxes.
  • The chronic immoral political self-dealers . . . the ones who set the tone for the junior corrupt people like LTO officials . . . represent, what, only about 10 percent of the population? The moral core is bigger than that.
  • Strip ignorance from the masses and it sides with the moral core.
  • The AFP remains above politics for the most part. It is a moral force.
  • The tenor in social media is changing from immoral trash and fake news to a clean-up campaign and honest information and opinions. This is huge given that mainstream media tend toward immoral political ethics, bending to the crass commercialism of star power and the force of harassment by the Administration (Ressa persecution, threats on franchise licenses, forced ownership changes, etc.). Social media are becoming a moral watchdog.
  • The universities have awakened and become more outspoken. This has drawn notice from the President who is now starting to list opposition students. This is Marcos redux, for sure.
  • The Catholic Church has awakened and become more outspoken. The Church has not yet moved from complaint to aggressive action, the possibility of which I suspect is what makes the President nervous. The President is striving mightily to attack the moral foundation of the Church. Is it moral, or is it not? That’s up to the bishops, I suppose.

Nothing will ever be as it was. We should recognize that and remove it as a wish. We can’t go back, only forward.

Hope has to be realistic. Over-population, climate change, the descent of mankind into emotionalized divisions on hard lines, new alliances, social media . . . they can’t be reversed to go back in time, spun on a dime. These dysfunctions and changes are the new foundations upon which we all must build to go from hope to work to fulfillment.

The biggest hope, I suppose, comes from the fact that there is so much of the stuff.

If there are other beacons of hope that you recognize, I’m sure readers would appreciate your sharing them in the discussion section of the blog article.


60 Responses to “Where do you find hope in the miserable Philippines?”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    First vote Otso diretso, then leave the rest blank.
    Citizens must continue to be good citizens and be more involved in the legislative and policy making discussions.
    Believers must keep the faith, non-believers must do their thing and believe in something to keep hopeful.
    We already smile a lot just find reasons for that smile not to turn into a frown, and frowns must be turned into smiles.

  2. Lennie says:

    Years ago, the Filipino women were the conscience in the family and mothers, wives, sisters and daughters provided a counterbalance to the men in the family. I hope there are enough women of this country who will provide the moral rectitude to move us forward.

  3. popoy says:

    When did it start and never looked back,
    this malaise in the Filipino psyche?

    I was taking a masteral, the Dean was the professor; there was almost in every discussion venue pervasive and wide spread speculation about the declaration Martial Law. The Dean who became UP System VP for Finance, then Chancellor of UPLB, then Presidential Adviser on Development Administration (to name a few exalted positions) told the class: Declaring and enforcing Martial Law is like rupturing the hymen of a woman, it is like breaking a porcelain glass. Nothing (I think absolutely) can restore their pristine state.

    A Japanese surgeon claims he can stitch the hymen back; any guy can epoxy together the porcelain pieces, but they will not be the same. Martial Law can be spinned endlessly to its evil impact and outcomes to the traits of man. The M Law is impetus and cause of the decay of man, and the slow demise of humaneness. Some might even claim Martial Law is the idiopathy of failed democracy. Martial Law dissociates a country from the Free World.

    And a lot of wise men avoid or dislike to ask: Why and What has happened to the Filipino in the decades after Martial Law? Name the names. And find the answer.

    • Two values got rooted. Fend for myself, and cheat to fend for myself. Marcos seated them. Later names lived those values or paid a heavy price if they did not.

    • Andres 2018. says:

      Martial Law is needed in certain circumstances, that’s why it is still in the 1987 constitution. I do not disdain the concept of Martial Law, its the abuse though.

      • karlgarcia says:

        ML can be abused big time and that s what happened that Enrile and the Marcoses are trying to edit history.
        In Mindanao, I do not get why ML has to be extended, troop deployment from other areas and fighting rebels can be done without ML.

      • popoy says:

        If I may, pray tell me despite the presence of appropriate circumstances needed to declare and enforced Martial, please tell those in TSOH of the names of BENEFITTED countries and people where M Law has been needed and applied. And tell also of the countries and people which were ABUSED by Martial Law.

        Also how many of the UN top twenty countries listed in the Human Development Index have Martial Law Provisions in their unwritten or written constitutions. .

  4. Andres 2018. says:

    I think what make the “yellows” miserable are the facts that things are not going by their way and that they are not in the position of power. I would categorize two parts of yellows, the “yellow political figures” and the “ordinary yellow citizens.” Yellow political figures to include all vocal public figures and citizens that directly or indirectly support a yellow politician by whatever means. Ordinary yellow citizens are yellows who are with the same ideology with that of the other yellow part, yet, maintain restrain in engaging in political matters. Obviously, the most miserable of the two is the yellow political figures for the reasons already stated. The ordinary yellow citizens are quite observing on the sideline, doing their daily things, exercising utmost restrain with the understanding that the world is like a wheel. Ordinary yellow citizens, as long as their personal and basic rights are not step-over and as long as their own stakes remains unspoiled, they would choose to be silent. Remember the slogan “Silent Majority”? they are mainly the ordinary yellow citizens whom the yellow political figures are trying to mobilize. Understanding people and the grounds where they stand are integral part of whatever strategy. The government know this, and that, the moves they are making always consider the stakes of the ordinary yellow citizens.

    • karlgarcia says:

      You are describing a bitter group of people, and that is not Joe meant by miserable Yellows..

    • popoy says:

      I was once a 4th rate wannabe artist who learned about the hot and warm colors against the cool colors. Yellow is always a warm color; if the “yellows” of both described kind are the silent majority, who then are of the COOL colors like BLUE comprising the unperturbed whatever minority? If the “yellows” are the hot big population who then are the “BLUES” the ones comprising the small population? If 80% of the population are the have nots and only 20% owns the wealth of the country. What and how then, the BLUES minority got their wealth and crème de la crème image in the society?

      Comm Prof. Milton Berlo says “Meanings are in People.” But I add most times “Meaning are in WORDS.” Words, words, WORDS. Meanings are not in the bloggers but in the words of their postings.

      To understand to be miserable is to see a baby in a cradle crying for hours LOOKING MISERABLE. Wailing for attention, for some care and affection.
      To understand why people in squatter areas live miserable lives, why the sick in charity wards of public hospitals look MISERABLE IS to understand empathy.

      To use the word miserable is to understand the meaning of the word MISERY. Why and what causes MISERY. The miserable-looking child could be hungry, is ill and in pain and wet in his nappy. People in squatter areas are miserable because of lack of safe domicile, lack of food, lack of jobs, lack of health care and lack of honest and competent government.

      Failed politicians and adherents like the “yellows” should never feel miserable or dejected. Rare that politics can impoverished or make miserable those who temporarily lost their political power. Fighting on preclude the weak feelings of misery. A miserable image undermines a return to political power.

      A philosopher pontificate: “KNOW THYSELF.” As by your written opinion your readers will know you.

      Those at war (sometimes politicians) yell: “KNOW YOUR ENEMIES.” Because as they say: “All is fair in war and in politics.”

  5. edgar lores says:

    1. I do not reside in the Philippines, but to a large extent I live in the country. Live in the sense of mental inhabitation, not physical. My thoughts and feelings center around the country which – if home is where the heart is – is my native land.

    2. To that considerable extent, I am affected by its misery.

    3. In addition, like everyone else, I am afflicted by the Buddhist disease called suffering (dukkha) which is unsatisfactoriness.

    4. There are several ways I maintain my balance and wellbeing, ways that may be either classed as external or internal.

    5. Externally, I resort to books, music, movies, and nature. All know the power of music to relieve stress. In books, I can pass away the time in delights of fantasy and escape the misery of mundane life. And in nature, in the beauty of flowers and trees, and in landscapes of unfathomable mystery, I dwell in wonder.

    6. Internally, I do not rely on religion as many Filipinos do. Introvert that I am, I am deeply aware of my internal states, and find peace in introspection, reflection, and in mindfulness, in what Eckhart Tolle calls Presence.

    7. More than all of these is faith in intrinsic goodness. It is more than a faith. It is a reality that springs from the awareness of my inner character, the better angel. And that reality is projected and reflected from like-armored souls. Just this afternoon, I got into the lift with a cheerful matron who smiled as we entered and who bade me, “Have a good weekend!” as we left. And I agreed, “You too” and “Thank you!”

    8. It is in these small moments and small exchanges that one realizes the possibilities of happiness… a world away from the dreadful misery that pervades my unchosen home.

    9. I realize I haven’t mentioned the word “hope.”

    • I think hope is a projection into the future and if you are fully into the present I suppose it would not arise. Still, I think one must have natural desires for wellbeing that project forward, as with the friendly wish for a nice weekend. Or a favorable election.

    • caliphman says:

      Edgar, like you its easier for me to reframe the question into how to escape the utter alienation from a nativeland so hopelessly headed away from the moral and democratic values one espouses. Were not one outside the fishbowl looking in and not the goldfish mired in their ‘misery’ the degree of despair and alienation would be so much more painful. It does not help that almost all of the goldfish are content or not aware that they should feel alienated or miserable at all. It is the lucky few who get the chance to leave the bowl when the water becomes intolerable. We just among the fortunate few.

    • eduardomaresca says:

      Filipinos who find peace in introspection are not easy to come by. Speaking of Eckart Tolle I think Filipinos have partly made the power of the now their own in that their bahala na attitude keeps them from worrying about the future. On the other hand hinanakit keeps them stuck in the past and past resentments. If Filipinos parted with hinanakit they would probably fit into Eckart Tolle’s picture of an enlightened human being and get to be completely here and now….or maybe not

      • edgar lores says:

        You are right.

        Filipinos live in the now and have little thought of the future in terms of their non-selfish wellbeing and that of their children.

        But living in the now has a different meaning for Filipinos. It is not Tolle’s presence or mindfulness that will invoke planning for the Übermorgen, for the day after tomorrow.

        The “bahala na” attitutde is more a hedonistic carpe diem, a seize the day for we know not what misery the morrow brings. It is an attitude fostered by unpredictable typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and the inevitable dethronement of one’s current political patron.

        And, in the current state, the ever-present threat of random death.

        “Hinanakit” is Tolle’s pain-body, the collection of negative energy from past miseries of abuse and oppression. It is a driver of the “bahala na” attitude, a reckless casting of the dice in the hope that Lady Fortune will smile upon us.

        And, indeed, the Lady does smile on those who have stepped up onto the treadmill of power. But no one notices that it is a crooked smile.

        • eduardomaresca says:

          The meaning of here and now is beautifully illustrated by a story of a monk who was being chased by two tigers. He came to the edge of a cliff and he started lettim himself down by a vine leaning over the cliff. Yet he noticed that at the bottom of the cliff there were two more tigers and that a mice was eating away at the vine. Just then he saw a strawberry within his reach, he picked it and enjoyed it.
          Filipinos are just like that monk: life continually send them tigers, in the forms of typhoons and other setbacks and it continually sends them strawberries and they allow themselves to be fully absorbed in their strawberries. Why plan for the future when life could end tomorrow or a few years from now at best. Maybe Filipinos go about it the right way after all…..

        • eduardomaresca says:

          ….letting himself down…..not lettim (crazy smartphone keyboards)

        • eduardomaresca says:

          Anyway, although I keep reading Tolle and keep trying how to achieve the undercurrent of peace that the author talks about, I cannot help but notice how I keep falling into the trap of judging and labeling my Filipino wife’s bahala na approach to life. Speaking of relationships Tolle also said: “the moment judgement stops through acceptance…you have made room for love, for joy, for peace. The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your (Pinoy) partner the way she is without changing her in any way….”. She is mired in hinanakit while I am mired in labeling. Am I any better? No way

        • eduardomaresca says:

          ….trying to figure out how to…..(cellphone keyboard again….should be more “mindful” while typing: Tolle’s mindfulness keeps eluding me…)

    • popoy says:

      It needs a lot of words, a lot of action
      to bridge hopelessness to hope
      to convert weakness into strength
      to live in humility, honor and piety.
      I see that though others may not
      But the wide world of work appreciates
      And admire that in trueness of OFWs.
      Because Hope is pumped by their hearts
      To flow in their veins. No matter what.
      Foreigners see this with Filipinos
      As Hope-full and not
      Hope half empty.

  6. eduardomaresca says:

    “the term miserable as it is used in this article means the kind of living people do when the gap between what the government OUGHT to be providing and what it is ACTUALLY providing is huge, and they are discouraged by that”.
    On the other hand there are Filipinos who live and work in countries where the government does provide what it ought to be providing but that doesn’t always get Filipinos out of their misery. An example: in my country the government provides free medical care but most Filipinos just don’t take advantage of that and never go to a doctor. They have the money to buy healthy food but they prefer eating plenty of white rice and baboy and drink plenty of alcohol.
    Many have been living and working here for 20-30 years under favorable socio-economic conditions that would have allowed them to save up but they are broke and mired in debt often because they give priority to buying a fancy car and the latest electronic gadgets and neglect other obligations, such as paying their bills on time for example.
    Less corruption, less red tape etc are will certainly create more favorable conditions in the Philippines and I am confident that those changes will indeed take place but how people will manage under those more favorable conditions is yet to be seen…
    Let’s hope for the best

    • There is a ‘get it now while I can’ style of living that I suspect becomes common when you live an entire life, or generations, with precious little. The idea of a better future through careful budgeting does not exist. If people are happy with the nice car, at least they have that for a while. (Me trying to figure it out.)

  7. stpaul says:

    Thank you Sir Joe, gives hope at these very uncertain times. Hope that this too shall pass. Reminds me of PNoy’s reply to a netizen that this is just a phase.

  8. Find this a good share. We are doing pretty much the same thing with the slew of social safety net programs that started during GMA, expanded and continued diligently and with great care by PNoy, and continued haphazardly by the demon.


  9. NHerrera says:

    Where do you find hope in the miserable Philippines?

    It is interesting to me that the “six honest serving men” — what, where, when, who, why and how — is ranged-over in the blog and the comments:

    what — following the Constitution which exists and hard to change

    where — country-wide: immoral political self-dealers … the ones who set the tone for the junior corrupt … [Joe estimates to be] only about 10 percent of the population; the moral core is bigger than that

    when — Duterte’s term ends on 2022

    who — AFP adhering to the Constitution in the main; A lot of people in government DO abide by the Constitution; businessmen; OFWs; social media; the Universities; Catholic [and other] Church[es]

    why [Joeam] — the larger moral core care and are concerned (implied by the blog) but, impliedly, wanting in the appropriate response even from those who are not ignorant

    why not [Irineo] Bahala Na attitude of the moral but relatively ignorant masses, and if I may add: kept that way by the over-feeding of daily, largely inane, TV entertainment shows, including Pacquiao’s training for the next fight, and the PH’s Beauty Contest winnings, etc. rather than helping the masses to be better citizens under the Constitution

    how [giancarloangulo] — the continuance of a slew of social safety net programs which were started pre-Duterte

    how [Joeam] — Strip ignorance from the masses and it sides with the moral core

    how [edgar] — a way, via his experience and technique, to fortify oneself against not losing hope in general [my reading of his notes]

    • Very good! Slick analysis. Seems we have hope surrounded.

      • NHerrera says:

        I missed those old cowboy movies — one side usually the bad guys circling the wagons with the good guys manning the circle of wagons. The good guys winning in the end.

        Our case is similar but also different: the good guys [us] surrounding “hope” but it is shielded or actively undermined by those whose interests are greatly diminished if hope is realized.

        To echo Will or sonny [and others] in such situation: we will prevail.

    • edgar lores says:

      There is another source of hope that I failed to mention: the arc of history.

      From Booktopia, a summary of Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature:”

      “Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ history.

      “In this epic exploration of the human condition, Steven Pinker shows that, despite the constant stream of news about war, crime and terrorism, violence of all kinds has been decreasing. Barbaric practices such as human sacrifice, torture-executions, and chattel slavery have been abolished; rates of death from war and homicide are dramatically down; and brutality towards minorities, women, children and animals is in steady decline.”

      The consciousness of modern man has grown. Right now with the rise of autocrats, we have taken a step backward. There is a receding of the tide, but ineluctably the tide comes back. Autocrats are replaced with true democrats, and the people — the happy fools — become happier and less foolish.

  10. NHerrera says:

    Off topic

    Philippine central bank chief Espenilla dies from cancer.

    MIKHAIL FLORES, Nikkei staff writer
    February 24, 2019 08:21 JST


    MANILA — The Philippine central bank governor, Nestor Espenilla, a career banker who rose through the ranks to reach the top, has died [Saturday] after a battle with cancer. He was 60.

  11. karlgarcia says:

    Anger leads to misery. We must manage our anger to lessen our misery.
    What else grief, depression….we must conquer them.

    Or we could just hope monger in the place where hope springs eternal, TSOH, where everybody knows your name…( Cheers reference j/k).

    • Anger does seem to be the emotion of our times, doesn’t it? It’s why leaders who swear and authors who curse, calling people who disagree ‘fucking morons’, lead us to destruction, not healing. TSOH is or ought to be dedicated to healing and building, I think. Although criticism is important to self-correct, we ought to try to attach pragmatic solutions to problems ourselves rather than throw tantrums and leave the damage to mama for picking up.

  12. madlanglupa says:

    Offtopic: this kind of good humor makes living in such dark times feel a bit more bearable like lighting a candle in a pitch-black cave.

  13. caliphman says:

    For myself, what pains me is my nativeland or motherland may no longer be my homeland. It ceases to be when most of the country and people espouse a culture and values so alien to mine, one that gives a nod to this brutal beast to murder their countrymen and their constitution. Home is not where one returns to become stranger in a strange land.

  14. NHerrera says:

    Off topic

    One of the most Senior Catholic Cardinals, Pell was found guilty of child sex abuse in Melbourne.

    A small step towards the Catholic Church’s recovery — if still possible — from the crisis weighing it?

    • karlgarcia says:

      I am glad it is being addressed.

    • edgar lores says:

      I do not know which is the greater catastrophe — the collapse of Rome or its continued existence.

      o Catholicism makes up for 50.1% of the Christian population of 2.1B. (2010 data)
      o Christianity itself makes up for 33% (2.4B) of the world population of 7.1B. (2012 data)

      I suspect there is a middle way. But this is a great challenge. Not to Christianity itself but to the institution.

      I think the reaction of Kristina Keneally, former New South Wales Premier and a staunch Catholic, accurately describes the quandary:

      “It’s terrible for the victims who had to wait so long for their day in court. It’s terrible for Catholics who place their trust in the institution of the church.

      “It’s a terrible day, I imagine, for many priests who have done the right thing for so many years, who now have this odious conviction of their clerical leader being found guilty of child sexual abuse.

      This fundamentally undercuts the notion of the Catholic church representing God’s grace and mercy on earth. Where is God’s grace and mercy in all of this?”

      • popoy says:

        If meanings are in people what may be
        terrible to Australians could not be
        as terrible to Filipinos.

        If meanings are in the feelings of people
        hate and how to express it could be different
        between former slaves and their former masters.

        Can history eventually eradicate hate?
        Where in the cosmos can hate not exist?

        We can be the “terribles” or be lucky
        just to feel terrible because
        we can be worst to be hateful or
        feel terrible to be hated.

    • sonny says:

      The other side of the Cardinal Pell case:


      “The complainant, who cannot be identified, did not give evidence at the retrial,” he wrote. “The recording from the first trial was admitted as the complainant’s evidence. The recording was available to the public only insofar as it was quoted by the barristers in their examination of other witnesses or in their final ­addresses to the jury and by the judge in his charge to the jury. So, no member of the public has a complete picture of the evidence and no member of the public is able to make an assessment of the complainant’s demeanour.”

      • sonny says:

        A Catholic defense:


        “… the case against Pell has been fraught with implausibility and worse from the outset. The Victoria police went on a fishing expedition against Pell, a year before any complaint had been received from an alleged victim. The committal hearing, which dismissed many of the charges the police brought, ought to have dismissed all of them; but amidst a public atmosphere that bears comparison to Salem, Massachusetts, during the witchcraft hysteria of the seventeenth century, …”

  15. NHerrera says:

    Off topic (not quite)

    Trillanes indicted anew for inciting to sedition.


    At least the Administration has taken this saying to heart:

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

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  1. […] in the game I have left is in my heart and by putting my name out in the open, meaning I can only hope for a modern, innovative and open-minded Philippines in my lifetime. Come what […]

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