Of the SONA and (Apparent) Common Sense

Of the SONA and (Apparent) Common Sense

July 12, 2012 Diary 0

I was on the Recto platform of the LRT today, as I would be on any ordinary Monday. I had a bad headache, which I tried to stave off with music in my ears and a slow shimmy on my hips. I stood within the lines that marked where the train’s doors would be, in front of someone in a gray shirt, with a large bag at his feet.

I was happily shimmying, when I noticed the said someone open up a foil packet of crackers, munch on the crackers, and throw the foil wrapper right onto the tracks.

Now mind you, you can’t eat or drink anything at train stations or trains over here. People might sneak in the usual candies, sodas, even a burger, but it’s against the rules. Food rots when it’s dropped, or the whole train smells if it’s too savory, or you can simply stain the floor, walls, or someone’s shirt if you’re not careful. In short, DON’T EAT.

But what really irked me was this person throwing the foil wrapper onto the tracks. He even did it casually, with a flick of his wrist, as some people looked on. There might not have been signs that you shouldn’t throw trash onto the tracks, but I believe that it’s a sign of:

* common sense
* breeding
* brains


No one else was doing anything.

So I did.

I approached one of the station managers, a man in a blue barong.

“Boss?” I began, “Bawal po ba magtapon ng basura sa riles?” (Sir, is it bad to throw trash onto the tracks?)

“Oo naman,” he replied, “Bad yun.” (Of course. That’s bad.)

“Ah,” I smiled, then directed him to where the man was, “Ayun po o, nakikita nyo yung naka-gray? Nagtapon po sya ng wrapper sa riles. Yun po o, yung ngumunguya.” (Ah. Well, there – do you see that person in gray? He threw a wrapper onto the tracks. That’s him, the guy who’s chewing something.)

The station manager called a security guard over, then asked him to talk to the person in gray. The security guard approached the person, talked to him, pointed to the tracks, shook his head, said something – I don’t know the particulars. I simply walked to the markings for the next set of doors and started listening to music and shimmying again as people watched the security guard.

The train came soon enough, and who should come walking my way but Mr. Person in Gray Who Throws Stuff and Breaks Rules?

He drew his hand upward, pointed at me, and shouted, “Ikaw! Gaga ka! Chismosa ka talaga!” (You! You b*tch! You’re really a gossip!)

The ire and acridity are lost in translation, but suffice it to say that everyone else looked on as he confronted me. He did no more than shout, as he boarded the train and took a seat.

I backed away, shook my head, and told the station manager, “I’m not going to board that train if he’s on it.”

I can’t stomach being on the same train as someone who accuses me of being a b*tch and gossip, when I was simply reporting something that everyone else had already seen.

I can’t even fathom how I was the one at fault.

The station manager and I waved at Mr. Person Who Doesn’t Know the Rules and Chews Like a Mindless Goat as the train sped away.

As I waited for the next train, the station manager and I had a little chat. He told me that he and his guards had a hard time confronting rule breakers. The guards ended up receiving all sorts of silly reasons from people who brought in food and drinks, or turned the station into a dishevelled crap hole. If people didn’t provide excuses, they spewed vitriol and asked to see LRT authorities because they felt that they were being harassed.

Harassed – because they had been told that they had broken the law?

Is this the sort of society that we have become?

Is this the Philippines that I came home to?

It seems that you can do whatever you want – throw trash anywhere, kill people, steal millions of pesos from public funds – as long as you don’t get caught. I don’t care about the magnitude of the sin. True, throwing trash isn’t as bad as murder and plunder, but the concept still remains the same.

It seems that you can do anything you want as long as you don’t get caught.

And, in my case, you’re the bad guy/girl if you point out someone’s wrongdoing. Because they got caught. Because you did something right. So woe to you.

Today, our president delivered the State of the Nation Address. For weeks, journalists and reporters have been speculating on the things he’d say. People asked if the government did anything for the economy, if the government did anything for public health, if the government did anything for the country –

But all I hear about is the implication that the government – i.e. public officials – should be in charge of everything.

But what about the people? Have we asked ourselves if we’ve done anything for the economy? Have we asked ourselves if we’ve contributed to raising the standards of public health, making our country cleaner, helping our countrymen learn, helping the less fortunate, and being better people?

Before we start criticizing our government for doing nothing, have we ever asked if we’ve ever done SOMETHING for the country?

The government isn’t just the president. It isn’t just the law makers and the Supreme Court. It’s us: the people, the nation, the ones who voted leaders to represent us.

Have we ever asked what WE have done?

I can hear the whining already: but I’ve done everything I can, and all I see is hopelessness in the government – so why bother trying?

Really? Is that the best excuse we can come up with? That we just decided to give up?

A friend of mine once said that nationalism and love for country should extend far beyond teaching our children to speak in their Mother Tongues. It should go beyond making sure that our flag is well displayed. It should go beyond teaching history or making more local films or buying only local products.

Love for country should be reflected in everything that we do, and the products of what we do.

Love your country? Then love where your country makes its territory. Stop throwing trash everywhere. When reprimanded for throwing your trash where it isn’t supposed to be thrown, apologize, pick up your trash, place it in the right trashcan, and don’t ever throw trash anywhere again.

Love your country? Then discover its culture. Save your money so that you can travel and drink in the beauty of our islands. Leave only footprints, take only pictures. Don’t leave your trash, and don’t step on the grass.

Love your country? Then respect its language. Respect people for the languages that they speak. Don’t look down on those who can’t speak your language well.

Love your country? Then help people follow its laws. Educate your fellow countrymen by actually following laws, setting a good example, and doing something GOOD. It doesn’t have to just be about trash. It can be lining up in front of train doors instead of engaging in a mass stampede to fill up a train until people inside it are squashed up against the windows. It can actually be about falling in line instead of pushing your way to the front.

Love your country? Follow its laws. You can question the validity and logic of some laws, but there really are some laws THAT MAKE SENSE. Don’t do drugs. Don’t kill people. Don’t steal money. Oh, and yes, don’t throw your trash just about anywhere.

Love your country? Sure, go ahead: criticize it. Talk about what frustrates you, what makes your blood boil, what makes your skin crawl. But when someone breaks the law or doesn’t follow the rules, don’t just stand there and shake your head and complain about the culture or the people. DO SOMETHING.

And when someone confronts you about something wrong that you did, OWN UP TO IT. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. Stop saying that you didn’t think what you did was wrong. Stop saying that you only committed a small fault and shouldn’t be punished. Stop saying that you didn’t know about so-and-so law. Ignorance of the law excuses no one.

Sometimes, it’s not even about following a law. Sometimes, it’s just common sense.

Love your country? Then clean it up, know its culture, respect its language, follow its laws, AND BE PROUD OF IT.

The government is only as good as its people because the government IS the people.

I know that I sound as though I’m shouting from a creaky soap box, but I can’t help it. I’ve been bottling up my frustration for nearly a year. I’ve been railed at and laughed at, called a b*tch and gossiped about. And all because I’m proud of my country and what it can become.

All because I dare to hope that there’s something more to us than a mess of crabs and crocodiles all scrambling to reach the top while breaking the backs of everyone else.

No amount of rallies, executive orders, and State of the Nation Addresses will ever compensate for our lack of discipline as individuals, and lack of unity as a people.

Let’s give some depth to our patriotism. Let’s give some breath to our nationalism. Let’s give some life to our love for our country.

Because surely, we’re all worth more than a certain Mr. Gray Shirt who decided that he was doing something right when he set the worst example and broke the rules.