Rizal quotation for 2021

CROSSROADS TOWARD PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PROGRESS - Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) - January 6, 2021 - 12:00am

In my column of Oct. 19, 2019, I gave examples of many problems that continue to afflict and negate the economy’s forward motion. Then I quoted extensively a passage from Jose Rizal’s essay on “The Indolence of Filipinos.”

The searing, strong passage from Rizal went as follows:

“The great difficulty that every enterprise encountered in dealing with the administration contributed not a little to kill off all commercial and industrial movement. All the Filipinos and all those in the Philippines who have wished to engage in business know how many documents, how many comings and goings, how many stamped papers, and how much patience are necessary to secure from the government a permit for an enterprise. One must count on the goodwill of this one, on the influence of that one, on a good bribe to another so that he would not pigeon-hole that application, a gift to the one further on so that he may pass it on to his chief. One must pray to God to give him good humor and time to look it over; to give another enough talent to see its expediency; to one further away sufficient stupidity not to scent a revolutionary purpose behind the enterprise …. And above all, much patience, a great knowledge of how to get along, plenty of money, much politics, many bows, complete resignation!

“…The most commercial and most industrious countries have been the freest countries. France, England, and the United States prove this. Hong Kong, which is not worth the most insignificant island of the Philippines, has more commercial activity than all our islands put together because it is free and well-governed.” (Jose Rizal, Political and Historical Writngs, vol. VII, Centennial Edition, National Historical Commission, 1961, pp. 249-250.)

On New Year’s day, I received a greeting from former NEDA secretary Ernesto Pernia that quoted the above, stating that it was from one of my columns. He had meant to make the point that as a nation, we lack the virtue of waiting for good results that follow from reforms that appear to cause sacrifice in the beginning.

I called him up to know how he got the quotation. He told me that Romeo Bernardo of the Foundation for Economic Freedom had sent the quote around to economic-reform-minded friends for their Christmas season thoughts.

Now I know why Romy asked me just before Christmas time to give him the details of the quotation. Thank you, Romy!!

* * *

My New Year’s noisemaker connects me to Vienna!

For at least three decades, my noise maker at the point of midnight to drive out the old and to welcome the new year was a lively aria from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. It went like, ‘Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la, la la! …. Di qualita! Di qualita!” …

I would play it at loudest possible volume with my hi-fi around 10 minutes before the clock was to strike 12. The noise was loud inside the house, but could not be heard beyond its confines. Neighbors could not be bothered because of competition from the booms and rat-tat-tats of fireworks-and-what-else at that moment! It was my very own noise-making to the wonderment of my family, especially the young, growing children!

In the morning of the first day of 2021 which was a deafeningly quiet New Year’s eve by comparison because of the pandemic, I felt I might have dreamed about my past merriment.

So, I searched my Spotify for Rossini’s Barber of Seville and got the opera in which James Levine conducted the London Symphony. This led me to a memorable incident in Vienna, at its famous State Opera.

In the mid 1970s, I visited Austria to familiarize myself with the UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Organization) and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) to learn more about their relevance to the national economic program. The Philippine ambassador in Vienna, Domingo Siason Jr., (who became Philippine foreign secretary under former presidents Ramos and Estrada) guided me during those visits and discussions. I asked former Ambassador Siason to help me buy a single concert ticket for a night at the Vienna Opera.

His office was resourceful for I was sold a uniquely good seat. Think of an unsold seat on a transcontinental flight just before departure time. There is a waitlisted chance passenger willing to buy passage. Before the plane’s door is closed, the airline check-in officer sells a premium vacant seat at heavy discount to the chance passenger to enable the airline to earn any revenue whatever.

My opera concert ticket must have been similar to that empty seat! I was in first row-at-center, just behind the conductor’ platform. In an opera performance, the drama and singing is on the stage, the music is from the orchestral pit.

The music produced by the Vienna Symphony was excellent, although the opera program that evening was not along my ideal preference, which should have been Mozart, Puccini, Verdi in that order.

James Levine was a fine conductor. He was then at mid-career and already highly established on the international circuit. Since an opera is drama set to music and singing, the orchestral conductor led the pace of drama. Levine, whose conducting style was subdued and not theatrical, could not help being drawn into the required drastic swings of the baton when called for. In such moments and especially toward the end of the spectacle, when the musicians were near the point of exhaustion, bits of perspiration could fly off from the conductor’s head or hand. With his back just two meters away from my seat, I almost felt that drops of perspiration had flown toward me.

That was the mid-1970s. Those droplets were part of an awe-inspiring experience. In today’s COVID-19 pandemic year, they would mean potential virus transmission!

For archives of previous Crossroads essays, go to: https://www.philstar.com/authors/1336383/gerardo-p-sicat. Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.ph/gpsicat/

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