With the Corona impeachment trial, the drama played out is an uncomfortable reflection of how the average Filipino regards the nation’s laws and the principle of
due process. The court hearings and related events are - in a way - a macrocosm of Filipino social life. Some of the essential Filipino values are exercised there – unfortunately, they were applied in a negative fashion (that is, what one must not do). What’s worrying is that, one’s actions become an example for all – that’s the common Filipino excuse to point that out, to justify an act. Then again, the excuse itself is not the issue but of how legal that act is. In a whole, that affair (the trial) reinforces the view that any current Filipino administration is indeed a reflection of the voting public. The article that follows – written in four parts - is inspired by the ongoing trial, not so much in criticizing how it is handled but in how it relates to the common citizen. Besides, any criticism against our leaders is really a criticism against the very citizens who ennobled him with the public mandate.
As the impeachment story unfolds the more that this society’s reflection is laid bare. It is what the eminent American classical scholar, Frank Bourne, considers as “de nobis fabula narratur” – their story is our story.
Virtue from Vanity
2011 saw Japan in a state of tragedy. The double whammy of an earthquake and a tsunami struck its northeast region. Lives were lost and survivors forcibly faced the ruin and uncertainty. By far, this was worst since that of Kobe and the 1923 Kanto quake. Somehow, one observation served as the nation’s praise-worthy glimmer: though stores and homes were abandoned, no one ever attempted to loot them.
A far cry from New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina onslaught in the US – the locals looted stores and homes at will, in spite of help they received from relief agencies. They were far more deserving of the “un-Christian” tirades unfairly thrown at the stricken Japanese. They may not be Christian, but they had the sense to exercise the “Christian” 7th and 10th commandments. Arguing voices debate the Japanese immaculateness, as well as asserting the Christian’s virtuousness - but what’s the use if one doesn’t practice its precepts? Many Christian Filipinos are guilty of the self-righteousness they exercise – as can be reflected in the following story (from Chin-Ning Chu’s, “Thick Face, Black Heart”)
A Holy Man’s Sacred Vow
A holy man was meditating beneath a tree at the crossing of two roads. His meditation was interrupted by a young man running frantically down the road toward him.
“Help me,” the young man pleaded. “A man has wrongly accused me of stealing. He is pursuing me with a great crowd of people. If they catch me, they will chop off my hands.”
The young man climbed the tree beneath which the sage had been meditating and hid himself in the branches. “Please don’t tell them where I am hiding,” he begged.
The holy man saw with the clear vision of a saint that the young man was telling him the truth. The lad was not a thief.
A few moments later, the crowd of villagers approached, and the leader asked, “Have you seen a young man run by here?”
Many years earlier, the holy man had taken a vow to always speak the truth, so he said that he had.
“Where did he go?” the leader asked.
The holy man did not want to betray the innocent young man, but his vow was sacred to him. He pointed up into the tree. The villagers dragged the young man out of the tree and chopped off his hands.
When the holy man died and stood before Judgment, he was condemned for his behavior in regard to the unfortunate young man.
“But,” he protested, “I had made a holy vow to speak only the truth. I was bound to act as I did.”
“On that day,” came the reply, “you loved vanity more than virtue. It was not for virtue’s sake that you delivered the innocent man over to his persecutors, but to preserve a vain image of yourself as a virtuous person.”
She ends it by saying, “The limited human wisdom that guides our concept of virtue often becomes our compelling force for evil. Our false concept of virtue often is nothing but vanity – an attempt to gain praise or to be self-righteous about how virtuous we are.”
Such is apt observation of how Filipinos regard virtue – the Ms. Chu sums it up in the phrase, “virtue from vanity”.
Fr. Jaime Bulatao, a Jesuit priest, loathes the Filipino’s “split-level Christianity” and Bob Garon would write of the “Sunday morning Christian” attitude they exercise – being pious only on Sundays and unscrupulous for the rest of the week. Filipinos should admit that God and Jesus are merely doormats for them, citing “human frailty” as an excuse to commit sin. It is also with that schizophrenic attitude that motivates them to not only exercise social values as a front, but TO ALSO USE THOSE VERY VALUES AS MEANS FOR NEFARIOUS ENDS. Like the holy man in the story, some would do anything to preserve a vain image of righteousness. Mr. Garon would emphasize being worried with Filipinos “coming to terms with this contradictory attitude and remain unbothered by it.”
Eventually, one’s unscrupulous act becomes the virtuous benchmark that elders would exhort the youth to emulate. What Filipino society is today can be partly blamed on the present generation, but the greater burden of guilt must fall on the majority of elders who indoctrinated them with the maxim, “virtue over vanity”.
Again, that even means resorting to manipulate noble Filipino values…
Chin-Ning Chu, “Thick Face, Black Heart” – Warner Business Books
Bob Garon, “A Spiritually Bankrupt People” – Manila Standard, Aug. 26, 1993
T.R. Reid, “The Power and Glory of the Roman Empire” – National Geographic, July 1997, Vol. 192, No. 1