Change from within
By Mila Glodava
Editor's note: I sent the article below to the CBCP Monitor in response to an article "Change from within, culture of trust. I thought it's worth revisiting as we start a brand new year.
I could not agree more regarding the editorial (May 13, 2008) issue of the community paper of the Archdiocese of Cebu that said, "the biggest failure of this country's political history is its inability to establish a culture of trust and sincere leadership. Hence, the success in government programs and projects is dependent on the transformation of the Filipinos to be a good steward." I was very happy to see that the Archdiocese of Cebu is promoting good stewardship.
In my mind, corruption in government is where our failure as a people lies. We take pride in our country as the only Catholic or Christian country in Asia, yet we also are among the most corrupt countries in the world. This reality is one of two issues about the Philippines that make me hide in shame when it makes the headlines in the United States. Let me point out here that the Philippines, or any other Third World country, often does not make the headlines in the United States unless it's about something negative -- calamities, poverty or the two issues that bug me -- the dirtiest and the most corrupt lists.
I often bring up these issues at workshops I conduct on stewardship, including several for dioceses in the Philippines (the first national conference in the Archdiocese of Cebu in 2003 and another for the entire Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in 2005). There's not much we can do about natural disasters, other than to assist in emergency efforts and to bring a sense of hope after a calamity.
On poverty, I often say that it doesn't bother me (or other people for that matter), that the Philippines is a poor country. There's nothing shameful about being poor. As Jesus in the Gospel, "The poor will always be with us." The government, church and non-government organizations try to address this issue in many different ways. The Pondo ng Pinoy of Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales is certainly making a dent in addressing the feeding and housing projects and educational initiatives for the poor. Filipinos also can be proud of Gawad Kalinga and its desire to eliminate Philippine ghettos in dumpsites. And there are many hometown and national organizations in the Philippines and abroad doing great things to address poverty. We know, however, there's only so much we can do, and that we cannot eliminate poverty completely in our midst. We must continue our efforts nonetheless.
Poverty is no excuse, however, for being dirty or being corrupt.
On the climate of graft and corruption, I have often lamented on the apparent disconnect between the faith and behavior of corrupt Filipinos, who take pride in the Philippines being a Catholic or Christian country in Asia. What went wrong? We as a people have fallen short in our responsibility to teach about morality! The Church, the Catholic schools, as well as the public schools and the government, have all failed the people. We must teach our children about right and wrong! We must teach them that corruption does not jibe with our faith! Corruption is not Christian; it is not Christ-like!
In stewardship spirituality, we teach not only about trusting that God will provide us with everything we need, but also about being trustworthy, about being honest in all our everyday dealings and not just think about it on Sundays in church. We must become a people of integrity. Corruption, therefore, has no place in stewardship spirituality.
A friend of mine once said in frustration "The more I think it (the Philippines) can’t get any more corrupt, current leadership always proves me grievously wrong."
Yet we cannot give up hope! As they say, "it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." That’s why I applaud the Archdiocese of Cebu and the many bishops who are fighting hard to end graft and corruption in the Philippines, even at great expense to them personally (as in the case of Bishop Oscar Cruz). Individually, we can light a candle in our own way. Professionally and personally I like to promote the good things about certain subjects (that's why I am in the public relations field to counteract the negative issues that plague our country). Collectively, we -- Filipinos, the government, the Catholic Church, the schools and non-profit organizations -- can do more. Some people have the gift of saving the whole world, but thinking in such a grandiose manner usually is an exercise in futility. What I advocate is our own personal conversion -- "change from within" -- to a true Christian living – the good steward, who, conscious that he or she is a child of a loving God, will give honestly his time, talent and treasure back to God in thanksgiving for all the blessings he or she has received, trusting that God will take care of all his or her needs. As the Bible says, "God cannot be outdone in generosity.