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It’s time to take back our future

Posted on February 21, 2009 by jimparedes


I imagine there are a lot of you thinking the way I am thinking about the presidential elections in 2010. A number of would-be candidates have stated their intentions. I ask myself why I am not excited about any of them, except maybe for one who I am still very remotely considering. We are less than 15 months away from an election that is so important and we appear not to be concerned.

These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the next administration because I see it as our last chance at moving forward as a nation or else fall into an irreversible drift and deteriorate into a pathetic failed state. Maybe I feel this way because my generation, which produced the First Quarter Storm, burned with so much passion for this country. I had classmates who joined the NPA and other rebel movements. We demonstrated, attended teach-ins and worried about the country.

We were at EDSA and we thought then that change had come at last. But we learned soon enough that the dark forces were more adept at seizing power than we were. They have made a solid comeback and their hold is greater than ever. That’s why I look at the situation today and break into a cold sweat. For me, and a lot of people in my age group, this is our last chance to change things.

Sadly, I hear of friends who have advised their children to move out of this country and go anywhere in the world to pursue a future that will not bear fruit in the Philippines. I felt the same way when I moved to Australia three years ago with my kids. Although I had every intention to return and stake my remaining future on this country, I wanted them to see how a functioning system and society worked and how it could serve a great number of people.

I don’t know if I am the only one who has noticed but I feel our strongest coping mechanism as a people, which is our humor, is fast losing its potency. I have lost the capacity to laugh at the political shenanigans, scandals and embarrassments that our officials continue to get into. I have become angry, and want to do something about it. I do not want to expend this anger on laughter just to feel better, or mindlessly cast the fate of this nation to the winds, or continue to hold the cynical view that nothing will change or that we have no hope to live better lives here. I want to act.

I am constantly thinking of how to awaken people, build a critical mass and affect, in a big way, the future agenda of this country. I know that the constituency for change is there. How can it not be? Everyone is complaining about the same corruption, misguided policies, the deterioration of values and of the country in all aspects.

But the problem is that very few people are convinced that good people can do something about it. Instead, many believe and are cynically betting that: a) there are not enough good men and women out there who can effect the needed changes, b) that even if people present themselves, there are not enough voters who will respond to the call of real change, c) that even if there are people who want to challenge the system, they will not win because they will be cheated and so the electorate will not even vote for them.

I believe that this kind of thinking held by many has been very toxic for the nation. We have, time and again, punished ourselves with such deep cynicism. Look at what happened to the few good men of Kapatiran Party who ran on a platform of change in the last elections. Our collective cynicism became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Remember what it was like during martial law when Marcos held all the cards? Most of us felt the same way then. Yet, Cory Aquino ran against the most powerful political machinery in Philippine history and won. The opposition then had no money or machinery. There were no cell phones, Internet, free press or texting. All it took was a ragtag media and a message that was loud and clear which Ninoy expressed with his life.

Today, I believe any real movement for change has potentially more power in its hands than ever before. But the problem still lies in the defeatist attitude that change cannot be achieved.

Can a movement that will choose a leader and win the 2010 elections be organized in time? I believe it can.

But it has to be done differently from the way regular political parties organize themselves, or even the way it has been attempted before. The idea is to launch a movement with the aim of changing not just the political arena but all other facets of life in the Philippines. In other words, the leaders of the movement must sound an all-encompassing call to change the political, cultural, economic, educational, attitudinal and moral beliefs of our society. This change can only bring new and better structures on which to build our nation’s future.

In short, it will take a revolution to effect the necessary changes, but hopefully without the mayhem, death and destruction that are usually associated with it. Other societies have done it and are continuing to do so. Why can’t we?

With this approach, we can shake things up and open the future to new leaders, ideas and concepts that could take us to a better place.

Recently, I was dismayed to hear all the election frontrunners agree that the economy is the priority issue. With all due respect, that has been the mantra of every leader since World War II. It’s the same old thinking expressing itself. I would have been happy if any one of them had said that as much as the economy needed special attention, justice and education are of equal importance. People would be able to tolerate economic hardships better if they lived in a society that jails its big and small thieves. And I don’t see how any future can be sustained if our youth continue to be uneducated, undereducated, or worse, mis-educated.

The movement we need must speak in a new, bold language and must come from a mindset that aims at practical modernization and further democratization of opportunities. I remember how befuddled the politicos were during the First Quarter Storm in the 70s when kids were brandishing socio-political-cultural jargon from Joma Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution. While, in hindsight, the book was shallow and wanting analysis, it created excitement among the youth and it opened their eyes to new possibilities for the nation. We need to expand the socio-political conversation in this country with new input that does not come from the usual suspects.

I believe it is time for our artists, intellectuals, media and educators to help us focus on possibilities that can redefine us as a nation, to dangle before us a better version and future of what we can be.

We have run out of excuses on why we are still mired in such a terrible state. Every country on our side of the world is on the rise. We have two options left: to move forward and proactively create a future where we can live decently and reach our potential as a nation, or allow the momentum of the past with its wrong policies, toxic attitudes and bad habits to run us off the cliff.

Let us build creatively on what Kapatiran and others have started. We have witnessed how some good people have won local elections. It can be done. Let’s do it on a big scale in 2010. If you subscribe to what I am writing about, please write me, and do let other people know how you feel. Express it loud and clear. I know there are a lot of us just waiting to hear from others, and to be heard.

It’s time to take back our future.

25 to “It’s time to take back our future”

  1. ronald tolentino says:


    I am just a nobody but a proud participant of the first EDSA and then the other against Erap Estrada. You knew what happened after those two events.

    We were nothing but pawns in those political games. We will not be used again. My entire family are now here in Australia.

    It’s hopeless I am afraid.

  2. luCkY says:

    Hey Ronald, you’ve given up hope because your ‘entire’ family are in Oz. Well, that’s great! It’s the selfish and defeatist mentality of people like you that perpetuate the belief that the Philippines is a ‘basket case’. There’s no such thing as hopeless. Learn the lessons of your experiences in the past, rather than give up entirely. For as long as one is living and breathing, there is hope.

    Hey Jim, This has been on my mind, as well – what you wrote. It’s time for action – but I’m not just talking about the 2010 election.

  3. kenji says:

    “Every country on our side of the world is on the rise. We have two options left: to move forward and proactively create a future where we can live decently and reach our potential as a nation, or allow the momentum of the past with its wrong policies, toxic attitudes and bad habits to run us off the cliff.”

    Count me in, and I will do whatever I can even I here in Saudi with my family. Just let me know what are your plans Kuya Jim, I will reach out to my network and community if ever you need it.

    We just want somebody decent and honest and humble to lead. Its not without hope, the future is still bright…

    Just like the Lord of the rings story, we need to take that one thing that darkens our clouds, and let go of that mist once and for all.

  4. ronaldo says:

    I have exactly the same sentiments as you Jim. Unfortunately, most of the people who are honest have migrated already just like you.

  5. prof says:

    I believe that the change we all look forward to will be sparked by Pinoys oveseas. Isn’t that what happened in the case of our “real revolutionaries.” Rizal et all conspired whilst they were away looking at the Philippines from the outside. I have a feeling that the amount of lies the politicians bombard our countrymen on a daily basis has actually made our people believe them. That’s why some of us have to get out, compare and conspire.

    Sad to say I no longer believe in peaceful revolution. Other countries actually hang corrupt leaders. But we hang our ordinary crooks and forgive leaders that plunder our nation.

  6. ronald tolentino says:


    I do admire Jim and his views. If not, why do I even bother reading everything he ever writes? I believe him because he is consistent. Am already 46 and grew up with his music. I was there first night of 1986 Edsa until the end at Malacanang.

    It’s two decades since then and me and my wife worked as OFWs and in local employ trying to contribute to the right cause as much as possible. We were there to be counted in rallies and demonstration. Nothing dramatic. We didn’t expect much from our country because it’s poor but when you see the replacement leaders plundering and stealing after one another then poor men like me just have to surrender. I had gone thru five Presidents! Do I have to live under the same number of horrible governments with my family?

    I am sorry if I am being selfish in trying to give our children a better option. We had one chance of a better life and we took it. Maybe younger people like you can make a difference.

  7. george c says:

    “developing country” was how the philippines was described when i was in grade school. i’m now in my 40′s and i’m sorry to say that i’m one of the many who have given up hope and left for overseas. i didn’t come from a wealthy family and enjoyed being driven around by a driver or had a yaya. i had no reason for hanging on until the country got better. it’s not fair for my family.

  8. Tony Garudo says:

    We can all talk about it, the most brilliant of our editorial writers can come up with the brightest solution to the country’s biggest problems using the biggest words you could find in the dictionary. But sad to say, that’s the only thing that we’re good at. If anyone disagrees, hope you can prove us wrong.

  9. jimparedes says:

    Thank you everyone for your reactions. It is good to know that many Filipinos everywhere still think of our country often and quite seriously. We all have our reasons for migrating or staying and no one can pass judgment on that. It’s an individual decision best done and answered for by the individual. We all have our pains anf longings about our country, as well.

    But one thing is sure: wherever we are, if we continue to be negative about change in our country, it will continue to get nowhere. We have tried that and nothing good has come out of it.

    In turn, I suggest we feel the anger that will light up the passion for action. the real enemies are apathy, laziness and cynicism.

    We need passion, optimism and a commitment to work for what it is we wish to see in the Philippines. And the honesty of our efforts will be judged on an individual basis.

  10. John Santiago says:


    I think its great to think about ways we can inspire Pinoys to change their attitudes toward the country’s future. However its too late for 2010. You are, afterall, going against a system. I was 8 years old and my dad marched against Marcos. I was working at Makati and marched to Ortigas to protest against Erap. Now I see the Marcos family back in their respective stronghold and are actually a power block again. Now tell me, sino ang puwedeng gawing leader??? Jim,…sabihin mo kay Rudd balato naman sa stimulus package by sending Costello here to fix my beloved Pinas because it ain’t happening with our Politicos here!

    Teaching the masses to vote wisely while millions are starving will not be an easy task. Its simple math really. Being optimistic in this (basket)case simply doesn’t jive with realistic. If the majority of uneducated Pinoys or the so-called “masa” can easily be bribed for a days meal, how can the dwindling educated middle class and a few artists and educated celebrities rally the cause against the mighty corrupt vault of our Trapos? You do not change ingrained behavior in 15 months.

    With the type of voting system we have, its the system of canvassing as well as the highly organized Thuggery with the dagdag-bawas system that is hard to police.

    I like to be optimistic talaga but 15 months??? Get real! Maybe 2016 pa pero next year its really too late for any heroics.

    If I am proven wrong, I would be the happiest man on earth!

    Please prove me wrong!

  11. Dear Sir Jim,

    I read this article the other day in STAR. Lately, I’ve been feeling a sense of helplessness with the deplorable state of our country. I felt the same anger, enough to motivate me to write a song called “Southern Tagalog Bulldozer” that expresses my sentiments.If you have the time, you can listen to it here:

    I was never a fan of APO, but I have become a fan of your column in the Philippine Star. Besides Sir Butch Dalisay (my former prof in UP) you are the one that makes a lot of sense in that broadsheet.

    I am also a parent to a 6-year-old boy, and I don’t want him to see our country at the state it is in. Thank you for being instrumental in re-awakening the revolutionary flames in me.

  12. pat says:

    I do not believe the fight for moral recovery is hopeless. I am among the many Filipinos who have decided to stay put in the Philippines and claim my stake, for my daughter’s sake and future. I’m 49 years old and have gone through EDSA 1 and 2. I believe the key is NOT to take on a defeatist attitude but instead accomplish things one small step at a time. My work with disadvantaged sectors (women in particular) has convinced me that we shouldn’t write off the masses as easily swayed with money. They only need to see a leader who is honest and is hard-working. I want to be part of this group that will, as you said, “move forward and proactively create a future where we can live decently and reach our potential as a nation”.

  13. k. sy says:

    as someone who is voting for the first time, i want my vote to count for something and to elect someone not just because he or she isn’t the worst but because he or she is the most capable for the job.
    recently in ateneo, someone introduced a website called youth 2.0 that will hopefully act as a medium for those fresh voters such as myself to make an informed decision. I hope that we make this website one of the vehicles to bring such change, and log on as frequently as we do in Facebook or Multiply for this coming 2010 elections.

  14. sir jim,

    may sinulat din ako about edsa people power, sabi ko nga sa ilan sa mga huling linya ko…

    Asan na nga ang Edsa? Nasa Edsa pa rin. Nagsisimula sa Monumento ni Bonifacio at nagtatapos sa Pasay Rotonda!

    Kumusta na ba ang Edsa? Edsa pa rin. Isang mahabang kalsada na dinadaanan ng mga rumaragasang sasakyan. Bawal nang tumawid sa Edsa kaya ang malalakas ang loob, parang nakikipagpatintero kay kamatayan.

    Haaaay Edsa! Isa kang mahabang kalsada…at mananatili ka na lang sigurong kalsada!

  15. frances says:

    mr. paredes is right..our enemies are apathy, laziness and cynicism..if and only if, people change within theirselves and achieve the eradication of apathy,laziness and cynicism, then our country can be to its “long over due” greatness..

    i am a product of a Catholic School, Specifically ateneo de naga, but i am Saddened with the students apathetic state. the school and its organizations has finding means to be able to awaken the students consciousness and from that apathetic state but sadly all those efforts are almost useless. the students wont react and couldnt careless to whatever efforts and oppurtunities given to them..

    sometimes, doing good and changing for the better isnt enough for those people. but i am not losing hope, we can find a way to mobilized those sleeping soulness and conciousness..we will find ways..

  16. Vic says:

    The only solution is burn down City Hall… not literally, of course. The thing is, we’ve generations of traditions looking us in the face. Fathers or mothers passing down to sons or daughters dubious legacies, designed more to protect their family’s interests rather than promote the rights of our everyday man…

    And the masses composed of everyday man is fragmented, each group having their own self interest as well. Thus, whoever can provide benefits for such interests will emerge on top.

    We’ve seen the downfall of the sleaziest, crookiest politician in our midst, all because of his son. Who only blew the whistle because he has lost his ZTE pot to the powers-that-be. And this same politician has, time and again, threatened to tell all with the biggest bomb thus far. Fortunately for us, the bomb is now turning out to be a dud! Why fortunately? Because if ever he was allowed his privilege, we would now be looking at committee meetings (in aid of legislation) looking into the bomb while the same masses who voted these comittees members into office continue to starve and wistfully stare at the LCD TV displayed in the appliance store window, watching the committee meetings unfold…

    This is a never ending cycle as long as the same surnames occupy the roster of our Legislative Offices. It will always be the same problems staring us, yet somehow compounded as the years progress, because of the same dubious legacies promoted.

    On hindsight, our EDSA People Power that ousted Marcos was somehow a good start, yet failed us, most specially Mr. Jim, along the way because traditions were allowed to stay. And whatever we’re seeing now is the result of those missteps 23 years ago…

    I will never recognize the 2nd gathering as a version People Power. Though Erap was ousted, the son of one of those who helped oust him ran in his ticket in the last elections! Irony? Not! Dubious legacies? SURE!

  17. thomas f says:

    mr. paredes, as patriotic as he is, still left the philippines to find a better life overseas. i just wonder if those claiming to “choose” to stay in the country was only because they could not get a visa for abroad.

  18. Pepe says:

    Sa tingin ko, yung mga lumang henerasyon na lang ang nag-iisip na meron pa silang magagawa o ginagawa para baguhin ang sistema (tabi-tabi po). Marami nga’y hanggang sa isip na lang o hanggang sa pagsagot na lang sa mga “blogs” o “forum”. Tanong – me direkta ba silang ginagawa? o talaga bang meron pa silang naiisip na pwedeng gawin? Napakadali lang minsan na sabihing tayo’y makabayan. Maipaliwanag lang sa ingles ang opinyon e makabayan na – at nagiisip na ng solusyon para sa problema ng bayan.

    Sa tingin ko nga maraming kabataan ngayon ang wala ng pakialam kung magkaroon man ng eleksiyon o wala e. Marami sa amin ang nagiisip na hindi na ito ang panahon na kung saan ang pakikibaka ay dinadaan sa pagmamartsa sa edsa o sa kahit saang kalsada. Hindi na din sapat ang armadong pag-aaklas. Nakita at naranasan na natin ang lahat ng iyan ngunit wala pa rin ang pagbabago.

    Marami sa aming mga kabataan ngayon ang hindi na umaasa sa gobyerno o sa mga nanunungkulan na ihain sa kanila ang pagbabago. Hindi na din kami umaasa sa mga tao o sa mga grupo o kilusang nagsasabi na kaya nilang maghatid ng pagbabago. Marami ng ganyan pero lahat ay ningas kugon lang. Pag nakarating na sa itaas, nawawala na ang lahat ng ipinaglalaban. Masisisi nyo ba kami kung ganito kami magisip? Itatanong nyo – ano na lang ang ginagawa namin para sa ating bayan? Nagtatrabaho kami ng tama – ke sa Pilipinas man yan o sa ibang bansa. Namumuhay ng walang inaabalang ibang tao. Itinutuon ang isip, lakas at talino para iahon ang sarili at ng sa gayon ay matulungan ang pamilya. Ito ba’y pagiging makasarili? Ito lang ang bagay na kaya naming kontrolin at alam naming kayang mapagtagumpayan ng hindi umaasa sa iba. Ito ba’y sapat na? Kung lahat ng Pilipino’y ganito mag-isip, marahil ito’y sapat na nga.

  19. jimparedes says:

    During the 60′s, the World Bank came out with an assessment of Korea saying it was hopelessly corrupt and would never get out of the rut it was in. At about the same time, Singapore was run by drug and gambling lords like the film maker Run Run Shaw and Lee Kwan Yu was a wanted ‘outlaw’.

    The world does change and I do not think the Philippines is immune to it. It will come. Better yet, we CAN make it happen provided we all REALLY want it. And it will happen not with more cynicism and pessimism but with hope and boldness and daring.

    Let us not be afraid to try and try till we get it right. Failure only means we have given up.

  20. “I believe that this kind of thinking held by many has been very toxic for the nation. We have, time and again, punished ourselves with such deep cynicism.”

    I refuse to give up hope. I still believe a better future will dawn in our country. And I do not come from an older generation.

    I believe that for change to have its dawn, we should start with the young. And to effect that change, I have taken part in the succeeding part – ACT. I am sending a child to school through World Vision and I am active in Gawad Kalinga.

    While I believe that the government in the near future may not offer us the change we all long for, instead of cynicism as a response we should respond by asking ourselves about what we can do and act on it…

    We should take the matter of our country’s future into our hands. Act now.

  21. A says:

    23 years had past since Edsa 1 and the only change that i could think of is things has gotten worst. People who doesn’t want to be involved in some idealistic cause are oftentimes being branded as either cynical, pessimist or even jaded. But are we really? Maybe I am cynical but it’s bred from realism. The problem that we have in the Philippines is systemic and to think that we can take it in our own hands is delusional.

    Truth is stranger than fiction, so they say, and I say let’s just try to be good human beings. Change may come but only time will tell.

  22. kix says:

    I think meron pa din talagang tayong magagawa para mabago ang Pinas. I feel technology can be utilized to organize a movement and connect to other groups out there who share the same dreams. Sa tanong na kung may panahon pa ba to do somtehing for 2010. I think kaya pa. Kailangan lang talagang kumilos at mag-organize.

  23. benign0 says:

    Funny I just published a piece on…

    Leaping into the Void

    … where I assert that the Pinoy’s sense of civic duty has not been diminished. The collective psyche has merely become desensitised to a ‘national debate’ that has become a mere series of tired old platitudes.

    I go further and assert that:

    There is no “battle”/laban to be “won”; only a system to implement.

    The old tagline of “Laban” is so worn out that it no longer inspires. The reality is that there is a more real job at hand, and that is to make the democracy in its CURRENT form work.

  24. James says:

    i can’t believe what i saw in the first post. such exact thinking IS what causes our country to keep falling down. man, i too am in the 40s, been at EDSA 1, and still kickin’ it. i don’t run away from Philippines and give up hope.

    there is a saying that “the Filipinos need to be told” among the foreigners and i believe that that telling has to be now!

    if we can’t beat the snake at it’s head let’s do the tail. the people who would gladly sell their votes for a bag of groceries need to be “told” what they’re actions have and will have on our present and future generations. we’ll start there and let’s see if the vote buyers will have a public seat.

    get your digicams, cellphone cams, blog ‘em, tweet ‘em, text ‘em. all those vote buying that WILL happen in 2010.

    by god be active and SHOUT Filipinos!!! don’t let your children suffer the same fates as we have! damn you if you do!!

  25. Aw, this was a genuinely nice post. An idea I would like to put in publishing like this additionally, taking time and actual effort to create a very beneficial article, but what can I say? I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get anything done.

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