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We need a cultural revolution

Posted on September 13, 2010 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 12, 2010 12:00 AM

Illustration by REY RIVERA

The only positive thing I can say about the hostage- taking crisis is that it has made it clear to us that much of our way of life and governance is severely dysfunctional. For many years now, we have been getting the feeling that there is a new social order waiting to be born but, for some reason, it hasn’t been delivered. This recent international incident has made it clear that the old order is almost beyond repair and we must put the new one that we have been yearning for, into being. And it should be done now.

Changes in our society have come way too slowly and in increments. It’s time to speed things up. Many are still hopeful that P-Noy’s ascendancy will change things. At least, we are assured that he is personally not corrupt. But that alone will not change a lot of things. A whole lot more needs to be done, quickly and decisively, if we are to see drastic changes in our country within our lifetime.

Although EDSA happened 24 years ago, I believe that it is still playing out. EDSA has many themes: good versus evil, dictatorship vs. democracy, old vs. new, etc. But its meaning and intensity is different for everyone who speaks for it. Clearly there is a great divide between the impressions of a trapo, a sitting politician and the governed.

I belong to a group called Artists’ Revolution that is calling for a cultural revolution. We are calling for a change not only in the personalities who govern our country but also in the very structure of our society and the paradigms that run our lives (with the latter being the most important).

A cultural revolution will require a radical change of values and mindset that will result in a realignment of priorities at all levels of society, in government and in the way we live our lives. To simplify, here are a few key points that define what we mean by a cultural revolution.

1. Modernization. We need to take many big steps to become a fully modern state. To continue with the present inept and inefficient ways of governance is unsustainable. The system is clearly breaking at the seams. Our people need to be served efficiently. Life in our country, most especially in the urban areas, can get disrupted so easily by floods, traffic and police matters. The system is so fragile that even Baclaran Day or a midnight madness sale in a big mall can cause vehicular gridlock in the city for hours, wasting hundreds of thousands of hours of productivity.

Our people are ready for the introduction of, say, a national ID system like they have in Singapore that will facilitate citizens’ transactions not just with government but with banks and other private sector businesses. We responded quite well to commuter trains and automated elections. Many ordinary Filipinos are quite tech savvy and already are living modern lifestyles. But we certainly need a better-trained police force. And yes, we need the Reproductive Health law to manage our population. So much needs to be done. We should be able to adapt quickly to a more systematized way of doing things.

Modernization and innovation should be key policies of this government. Modernization is the next big wave as more and more people articulate their desire for greater efficiency, productivity, affluence and comfort.

2. Excellence. As I watched in horror at the bungled attempts by the police to end the hostage crisis, this mantra kept playing in my mind: “Casualness produces casualties.” There was obviously a lack of seriousness in dealing with the situation. Strategies were not well thought out and so the event was not managed properly and it ended tragically.

Hindi na pwede ang pwede na. Let us put an end to this culture of mediocrity. Years of a mindset content in delivering (and receiving) the minimum or merely passable quality of goods and services have caught up with us. We have not studied or learned to keep up with the latest in technology, systems and governance. Thus, we discovered to our horror that our so-called SWAT teams are unprepared to deal with an emergency. They have no gas masks, no bulletproof vests, no guidelines, no discipline, no real training. The list is endless.

If we begin, each one of us, to personally adopt the discipline of doing our best to deliver world-class services and goods to our countrymen, would certainly put us in a much better place as a nation. For too long we have been content to live with things that are below par, like media content and government services. We have tolerated inaction and even corruption and the general decline in governance. And when we try to explain this to ourselves, we get mired in excuses that no self-respecting people should be using.

I particularly hate the phrase, “Only in the Philippines.” It is a patently racist remark, ironically heaped by Filipinos upon themselves. Also, I believe we have long gone past the expiry date of using our colonial past as an excuse. Other countries have had it worse and they are moving past us and progressing towards a quality of life we can only dream of.

3. Pride in being Filipino. This is not the usual platitude we like to hear to feel good about ourselves. This is a survival skill we need if we are to make it in the world. It is important for a people to be grounded in who they are and be comfortable with themselves. Our present damaged culture sends so many wrong signals to our people. I particularly despise those ads that espouse white skin as desirable and a mark of beauty. I also look down on people who laugh at our countrymen when they cannot speak English well. We are Filipinos. It is not only regrettable but a great injustice that many from the educated classes cannot communicate well with a great number of our countrymen in our lingua franca. P-Noy’s frequent use of Pilipino in his public statements will go a long way in changing this anomalous situation.

I also have a problem praising, without qualification, Filipino artists who make it big abroad on pure talent alone. Sure, I applaud them for their accomplishments. They certainly deserve the adulation since they are among the world’s best.

What I am ranting about is our inability to see the treasure within ourselves. The truth is, we hardly noticed Charice and Arnel and even Lea Salonga when they were singing their lungs out here. Only when America and the UK took notice did we, as a people, give them a second look.

Even having said that, I must point out that I believe that if we are to contribute to world culture, we must go in there as ourselves, promoting our own culture. The Brazilians, Jamaicans, Africans and other peoples gave their music to the world in their own languages. We still have to duplicate Freddie Aguilar’s singular success with his song Anak which made it big in Asia and the rest of the world.

We already know that the Filipino hardware (talent, ability) is something to crow about. Let us begin to also take pride in our cultural software — our cuisine, our songs, dances, paintings, sculpture, movies, fiestas and cultural themes that comprise who we are.

These are just some of the elements that we need in order to fast track our coming into our own as a self-respecting nation and people. It is already beginning to happen in little ways in some areas. But we need a conflagration that will burn down our old paradigms and structures and securely build these new ones. We need a cultural revolution.

* * *

I will be holding four workshops. Two are in Cebu and two are in Manila.

1) “Creative for Life Workshop” (one-day run) is a cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity. It will be held this Sept. 17 (Friday) 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Convention Center of Cebu. Registration
fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks and lunch.

2) “Basic Photography Workshop (The Second Run)” on Sept. 18 (Saturday) from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Mountain View Nature Park. Registration fee is P1,000 (non-refundable). Workshop fee is P4,000 inclusive of handouts, snacks, shuttle back and forth from JY Square. Call (032) 415-8056 or cell number 0909-1112111. Or write me at for reservations or queries.

3) “Creative For Life workshop” at the Fort (six session run). Sept 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27 at 7 to 9 p.m. Venue is at Meridian International College, 1030 Campus Ave., 2F CIP Bldg, McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio. Call 223-6468/ 426-5375. Also call 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie or write me at for inquiries.

4) Glamour Photography—25 September 2010 at 1PM, Bulb Studios, Molave Compound 2231 Pasong Tamo ext. near Nissan and Allied Bank. Call 0917-8974865 and 0918-8121967. Models Jean Harn and Che Ram.

3 to “We need a cultural revolution”

  1. BalikPinoy says:

    Hi Jim,

    I very much agree with your assessment and your call to action but how do we translate this into concrete solutions that the masses will buy into. The majority of the population just do not have the sophistication or experience to comprehend or even imagine a society that has an efficient system of governance.

    Let’s just take one common problem of traffic caused by tricycles due to their sheer numbers in the provinces. If I were in charge in fixing the traffic mess, all tricycles would be banned from major thoroughfares and highways. Tricycles will be relegated to plying short distances within a barangay. Main highways will be serviced by Jeepneys. By implementing a mass transport system that compliments one another, trips can multiply thus increasing fare revenue instead of hours spent stuck in traffic daily for every trip.

    But the reality is that tricycles are a means of income for many and getting rid of them will result in massive protests and even violence.

    Another example is this:

    Have you ever had an argument with a guard/cashier/waiter out of frustration? The end result will be the following response: “trabaho lang po”. These daily workers/laborers are just merely following orders regardless of how stupid the rules are. They usually are not empowered to make any sort of decision because any mistake they make means direct deduction from their pay.

    Any change in our society must include the majority of the population who live in poverty and they must be made aware that this difficult task will disrupt their lives and may make things more miserable but in the end, only such sacrifices from all can lead to the transformation you advocate for.

    Its hard to talk about modernization and efficiency when millions of us are mainly concerned about where to get the money for our next meal.

  2. Much of what you have written I have pondered often on over the years, though perhaps in the case of Lea Salonga and others you mentioned who have made it big overseas then the country took a second look, is more a reflection of humanity generally rather than a specific cultural one. I believe people generally never realise what they have until it’s gone. I also think that a cultural revolution is a worthy exercise to again rediscover what it is to be filipino.

    I once went to school with a guy in 1982 whose name was Jose. in the years of school that i knew him he never once described himself as a filipino, he in fact said he was from Mexico. Yet after spending a few years in the Philippines I had a chance meeting with him again and asked him why he never told us of where he was from. I could see he was embarrassed, and as I described my love and admiration for his country of origin, I could physically see a pride come out in him I had never seen before. It puzzles me to this day why he was ever embarrassed or ashamed in the first place.

    I have proffered some reasoning internally as to why, but I always come back to feeling sad that he felt the way he did in the first place. I can see it in the eyes of many sometimes when they refer to the suburb we live in, or the job we do when in the company of “higher” or more prestigious suburbs or occupations.

    Essentially, the cultural revolution call needs to be targeted at the individual, we need somehow to reach people to say you have every right to feel proud for your very contribution to life, irrespective of your educational, social or financial standing. Though I accept that might be particularly hard for some who feel downtrodden or oppressed economically. This is not an easy call to the masses, but certainly one worth pursuing, there will many who will join, I add my voice of enthusiasm and support.

    I would be interested to see how the Philippines is portrayed by the Philippines itself at the World Expo in Shanghai later this week.

  3. Miguel Ramirez says:

    “I particularly hate the phrase, “Only in the Philippines.” It is a patently racist remark, ironically heaped by Filipinos upon themselves.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    As a country, we have a lot to work ok but we’re definitely far from being the worst.

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