Drive for excellence
HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala () - January 26, 2007 - 12:00am
My eldest sister, a former mayor now working for a government agency, dropped by recently. It's not often that we see each other. She's in Imperial Manila, while I'm here in far-flung Cebu.

We move in different circles, swim in different seas. With the cell phone, there's even less reason for us to meet. I suppose she came to check on how I was.

Whenever she's around, I have to gird myself for a marathon talk. She's really not a teacher, but she likes to "lecture" to her little brother. I'm afraid I will always be that to her sisterly heart, which happens to be just fine with me.

I understand her well. With her children and grandchildren, she's very sweet and likes to play the problem-solver and redeemer. With her constituents, she is a mother who likes to make sacrifices. And she does all these so well that I think she can qualify for sainthood.

It's when she's with us, her siblings, that her dominating self just can't be contained. Her natural character is to lead. She was born a boss, a genuine genetic phenomenon.

Now with our parents gone, she likes playing father and mother to us. We follow her orders without question. Woe to any of us who dares to challenge her!

And since I'm trained to look interested to any talker, all the more she talks. A spitfire, she never runs out of ideas. She has no problem verbalizing her thoughts. I have to listen double-time.

I know her too well to ever dare to disagree. Silence, smiling, dancing attendance on her are definitely more advantageous than otherwise. I admit I both enjoy and suffer her company. But I'm game.

Truth is, in spite of her strong character, I always manage to pick some interesting tidbits, pearls cast before swines. So if you wonder where I get some of my ideas for my columns, I think I can point to her as one of my sources.

In her last visit, she was raving about her pet project, a so-called Festival of Excellence. She complained why some of us could be so afflicted with crab mentality that we cannot see anything good in others.

We, as a people, she said, should have an abiding sense of national identity and dignity, built upon our rich culture and beautiful traditions that certainly need to be purified, improved and developed as we go along.

We should always highlight those traits where we excel. She mentioned things like hospitality, a 'bayanihan' spirit, willingness to make sacrifices, our strong family values, etc.

She said that we should develop these traits until they become self-perpetuating and self-renewing, self-improving and able to branch out to other good traits.

At this point, I wondered where she had been these past years. Isn't this woman my sister? Where did she get all these? I corrected myself when I realized I was thinking like the unbelieving town mates of Jesus.

And as if to show that she was still in touch with the real world, she also talked about what she considered as our weaknesses as a people. But she hastened to say that these weaknesses are actually parasites.

They don't have an existence of their own, she said. They always live and feed on a host that is not healthy and strong. They are notoriously opportunistic that should not be allowed to harden in our way of life.

Thus, she happily concluded, we should always stress our sources of pride and excellence. We should know who we are and what we want to be without getting lost in today's confused world, she said.

Well, not bad, I thought. So I told her that if she pursues that project wholeheartedly without being stained by partisan politics, it might be a success one day. She agreed vigorously, and ordered me to pray for it.

Even in requesting for prayers, she commands. That's my sister. In the end, she never fails me to give candies and chocolates and a hug. And all is well once again.
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