The unrevisable truth
AS EASY AS ABC - Atty. Alex B. Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2018 - 12:00am

“They say noisy cans are empty. I hope I am wrong,” remarked my psychology teacher about me on my first day, in my first year of college. I seldom won good points on first impressions from my teachers then. But each time I got a reminder, or was scolded, I behaved. During my behaved moments, in my mind I paid a tribute to those who engaged in this labor of love.

Oct. 5 is the global day of tribute for teachers, but teachers’ pay would not reflect that tribute. Whether full-time or part-time, for teachers and professors alike, psychic income is what fuels the efforts behind all their unpaid research and preparations, test question formulations, and checking of examination papers.

When I was much younger, once upon a time, I thought my teacher with a “sideline” was evil. She would assign us projects, and she would be ready with her pre-packed supplies to sell to us, her students – her captive customers. I complained about it to our school principal (yes, I was already like that when I was a little boy). The principal apparently talked to my teacher because her sideline stopped.

I was proud to report to my parents about what I did but they surprisingly took the side of my teacher. My parents said my teacher also had children to feed, and her pay as teacher was insufficient. I felt super sorry and dumb, except that I heard even more comical things about some teachers selling longganisa (local sausage) and tocino (sweet cured pork) in public schools. I now fully appreciate that sometimes, it is about survival.

And sometimes, it is even about helping pupils and students survive, literally. Such was the case in point for these teachers in an Aeta community that I wrote about in my column “Sleep Hungry” a couple of years ago. These teachers pooled even their own salaries to prepare lunch for the poor children in their class to keep them in school. Many of the kids missed breakfast and if they didn’t eat lunch, they would skip school to find food, or else they would sleep hungry.

There are many iterations of the cross that everyone in the teaching profession willingly bears. So it will seem ungrateful that instead of purely paying tribute to them , we further ask all our teachers, to whom we are already in great debt, one more demand – to use their power over our children to champion fact over fiction. We ask them to teach our children the discipline of getting the facts and be analytical about it before being passionate in giving a reaction or response.

There are scary studies today about how social media is making younger people dumber. There is science; and there is the sad truth that sometimes, it’s the older people who are deliberately making our younger people dumber through the expediency of social media. To cite a couple of examples from our local scene:

“Ninoy is the cause of Martial Law.” Today, the murdered martyr, helpless for seven years in solitary confinement during the Martial Law years, is cast in social media as the evil villain.

“Martial Law then was good for the country because there was peace and order.” So if a part of the body is pretty, is it unimportant that the rest of that body is eaten up by cancer?

“Fake news is good. Without it, we will not know what real news is.” So a plastic apple is important for us to learn what a real apple is? Finally, a justification for swindling.

“No one was jailed during Martial Law.” Everyone deserves to leave this Earth with some honor brought with him to the afterlife. Even he who made this sweeping lie can still find redemption by just uttering the truth before his last breath.

The role that teachers play on indoctrination is real. In high school, a teacher I very much respected because of his skills said that if we watched Marcos defend himself against foreign journalists the other night, we would feel proud to be Filipinos. We took it in and believed him. Of course, when we got to college, because of the First Quarter Storm and follow-on activist movements, I realized that Marcos was always lying, and my high school teacher was nothing but BS.

The concept of attaching hope to the youth is not automatic. Hope comes from the ability to bring meaningful change. Only an enlightened youth can bring life to that hope.

The relevance of teachers’ instructions is not only to protect actual history. It’s also to protect today’s factual narrative. If people are muddying historical facts, we should not forget that people are also muddying current events, more easily and more brazen now through social media. Student protesters and teachers who advocate for the truth are bullied in our democracy today. In the battle between “alternative facts” vs. the unrevisable truth, the latter needs courageous, outspoken allies in order to win.

That the anniversary of Martial Law is closely followed, as if guarded by the globally coordinated National Teachers’ Day, may be coincidental. Now we know its national purpose can be monumental.

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Alexander B. Cabrera is the chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. He is the chairman of the Tax Committee, and the vice chairman of EMERGE (Educated Marginalized Entrepreneurs Resource Generation) program, of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). Email your comments and questions to This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

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