How far will patience get us?
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - November 10, 2015 - 9:00am

Patience is supposed to be a virtue. But as far as the Filipino people are concerned, it has long been proven patience is a vice. Patience never got us anywhere through three centuries of Spanish rule, half a century of the Americans and some 60 years with our home grown tyrants.

I am not sure if the pre-Spanish people in these islands that became the Philippines were naturally patient. But I am almost sure the kind of patience we have today has colonial roots. It was nurtured by the Spaniards and later, the Americans and our Ilustrados to subdue our masa for easier exploitation.

Religion is partly or largely to blame. And it is not just us. Look at Latin America. We have more in common with Latin Americans, culturally, than with our fellow Southeast Asians. We are a Latin American country that drifted too far from the South American coastline.

We share Roman Catholicism with the Latin Americans who taught the masa the holiness of poverty while allowing the ruling elite to amass a disproportionate share of the national wealth. No wonder some of the Latin American clergy, who were more sensitive to poverty came up with Liberation Theology – a concept rejected by mainline Catholic theologians until Pope Francis came along.

Look at the appalling poverty in Latin American countries and their dysfunctional political systems and you can see what has happened to our country as well. The common threads are Catholicism and colonial Spain. Like us, they can’t seem to fix a culture where poverty is taken for granted and may even be seen as a punishment for generations of sinners.

How much more patience must our people show before a strong drive for change happens? I suspect we will exhibit a lot more patience in the foreseeable future. That’s because if you remove patience and hope, what else will the people have?

Our politicians seem to be sure they have time on their side to further exploit and abuse our people before patience runs out. They may be right.

The new SWS hunger figures from a September survey found: “Net Personal Optimism at Very High +33; Net Optimism about the Economy at Very High +18; Net Gainers at High +4”).

In the country as a whole, 38 percent felt their personal quality of life would improve in the next 12 months, while only five percent felt it would worsen, hence the net personal optimism of +33. Personal optimism has been Very High (i.e., at least +30) for six consecutive quarters.

A special tabulation shows that, in September, net personal optimism was +34 among adults from non-hungry families, +28 among the moderately hungry, and +39 among the severely hungry. There is no sign hunger dampened personal optimism.

The September SWS survey also found: “Families rating themselves as mahirap or poor at 50 percent; Families rating their food as poor at 35 percent”. Compared to June, self-rated poverty (SRP) was down by one point, and self-rated food poverty (SRFP) was down by two points. Compared to the average of 2014, SRP was down by four points, and SRFP was down by six points.

Another tabulation shows that in September, net personal optimism was +47 among adults from non-poor families, versus +30 among those from poor families, using the self-ratings to identify the poor. It was +45 among the non-food-poor, versus +26 among the food-poor, also using the self-ratings.

SWS classifies net personal optimism from +20 to +29 as high. These figures show poverty only reduces personal optimism a bit; it does not destroy it.

So, SWS concludes the current big pictures of both hunger and poverty are encouraging.

Encouraging? I would like to see more dire results to shock our leaders in and out of government into some action, some sense of urgency. I appreciate incremental improvement in the hunger rate, but if even one family goes to sleep hungry, it is a problem that concerns the rest of us.

Perhaps our poor are resigned to the realities of their miserable existence. They live by the day and are ready to vote for the source of their next meal.

This should be embarrassing to all of us who take pride in being the only Christian nation in our region. But it isn’t. We, too, are resigned to this fact of life. Hunger and poverty are in the realm of background noise for most of us.

I am hoping that with some 10 million Pinoys abroad, there must be an equal number who were formerly OFWs. They have seen how life is in other countries. They have seen how governments are run. They have been to a lot of airports and it is only here where citizens enter an airport with a lot of fear and anxiety of being framed and extorted. Maybe OFWs will be the nucleus for change.

I heard I had been called too impatient in Cabinet circles. But there is a reason for the impatience. Even a minute that a poor Pinoy suffers hunger and poverty is a minute too long. This is specially true in the light of an economy P-Noy and his chorus claim is the best performing in the region.

Patience is probably a good virtue, but impatience will spur development. If there was more impatience around, the ruling elite will have no choice but to share the fruits of new found wealth through better governance, better infrastructure, a more equitable tax system.

Like all things, patience will run out eventually. As more people realize we are being exploited through incompetence and greed, change will come somehow. Better for change to come in the usual course of events rather than for change to come like a volcano exploding with all the violence it entails.

A glass should never be seen as half full. It should always be seen as half empty and spur us to do what we must to fill it quickly to the brim.


A reader, Jim J, sent this e-mail with his reaction on our column last Monday.

Hi Boo,

If you want Roxas to learn more about empathy, I suggest he goes on sabbatical in the next two months and live among the Lumads in Surigao, the Aetas in Sierra Madre, the farmers in Sumilao and the Sagadas in Benguet. This is what my daughters, who took up nursing and pharmacy did during one of their semesters.

This is called immersion. My daughters were not allowed to bring any cell phones, gadgets, jewelries, and even the clothes they have to wear have to be modest. The only food they were allowed to bring were biscuits and simple canned goods like sardines and local corned beef, no imported canned goods.

The school bus brought my daughters to the immersion site and the parents were not even allowed to visit during the immersion period. They have to eat the food cooked by their adopted families during the two month stay. After this period, my daughters learned to love more of what they have by studying hard and learned why their profession is a blessing to everyone.

You are right, empathy cannot be faked. But this can be learned and can easily be adopted if practiced daily.

Go ask your friends in the BPO companies, empathy training is provided to all agents on their first few days of employment and always emphasized during the rest of their working life in the BPO companies.

Mar should have a private training from the top trainors of IBM or Convergys. These companies will surely provide a free training since he is considered the father of the BPO industry.

Mar can also ask for training on how to arrive at a politically correct answer by using various techniques already perfected by our BPO companies. We cannot be the number 1 Call Center Hub of the world if we did not have a near perfect training program for customer and technical representatives.

But then again, there is a saying “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.”

Mar should change his belief the presidency is his right because of his pedigree. He should instead think being a president is a privilege to serve a people long suffering from failed leadership since the EDSA revolution.

Dumping P-Noy and his Liberal friends (with friends like these, who needs enemies) and running on his own vision will be a step in the right direction.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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