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Opinion

20 national holidays a year

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

The Bongbong Marcos administration started the New Year on the wrong foot.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. declared the second day of 2023 a holiday. Offices and banks were closed; some shops didn’t open to their customers.

A four-day vacation started on Dec. 30, 2022, Rizal Day, a national holiday, until Jan. 2, 2023, declared an “additional special non-working day.”

Junior’s reason for declaring the second day of the year a holiday is “in consideration of the Filipino tradition of visiting relatives and spending time with their families in celebration of New Year’s Day, which falls on a Sunday.”

Were the non-working three days – from Dec. 30, 2022 till Jan. 1, 2023 – not enough?

Many Filipinos started not going to their offices or cutting short their office hours on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, because the following day was a holiday anyway. That made four days of slacking off.

Most people were stricken with sloth because the following day was a holiday, anyway. It was “Friday sickness” a day in advance.

The President promoted indolence by making yesterday, Jan. 2, a holiday.

To paraphrase a saying from indolent people: A vacation is needed from a long vacation.

The country has 20 national holidays in a year. This excludes the founding anniversaries or fiestas of towns or cities that are declared holidays by the local government units.

In short, one month in a year is wasted on holidays. There are 20 working days in a month because Saturdays and Sundays are not working days.

If we keep on with our “fiesta habit” we will never progress as a nation.

I remember what a Korean friend told me about why his country progressed by leaps and bounds after the end of the war that divided Korea into the South and the North in the 1950s.

South Korea had hardly recovered from World War II when the Korean war broke out.

The country was devastated, and its people were starving.

But the South Koreans rallied despite the despair.

“We worked day and night. We didn’t have holidays,” said my Korean friend, “that’s why we became a very progressive country years later.”

The Philippines, which sent troops to South Korea to help in pacifying its northern neighbor, was already far more advanced than Korea and other countries in Asia.

We were second to Japan in economic progress. Our country’s foreign exchange was two pesos to a US dollar (P2 to $1).

The Philippines was so awash in cash in the 1950s until the early 60s that Filipino playboys could afford to make neighboring countries their sex playgrounds.

One neighboring country (I won’t mention the name) was so poor that office girls would go to bed with Filipino men in exchange for a bar of bath soap.

“That’s how far advanced we were, Mon, over our neighbors,” said an old-timer.

Why has the situation been reversed, so that the Philippines has become destitute while most of its neighbors have become wealthy?

This columnist can only venture a wild guess: corruption in the government and in the private sector, and laziness among its people.

Let’s hope Junior comes to his senses. The Senior’s ouster in 1986 has not changed the country’s economic landscape. The country is as poor as ever.

Bongbong has been given a chance by the Filipino people to salvage the Marcos name with a resounding vote in the last election.

He should not waste that political capital.

*      *      *

Junior needs all the help he can get.

He needs bright and young minds in his government.

For example, he should ask his elder sibling Imee to help him in governance.

Like Ferdinand Jr., Imelda Josefa Remedios Romualdez Marcos has been governor and legislator ever since the Marcoses made a comeback. She would make an excellent adviser to her brother.

Bongbong won’t go wrong with Imee covering his back. Blood is thicker than water.

The people don’t care about the feud within the Marcos family; all they care about is for Bongbong’s government to become successful.

*      *      *

Newly appointed Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin should have advised the President against going to Singapore to watch the F-1 Grand Prix while the country was still in a state of flux after the ouster of Vic Rodriguez as executive secretary.

That was a big point against Bongbong. And there are more, it seems.

The President should not employ “yes” men in his Cabinet if he wants his administration to succeed.

Sen. Imee Marcos, if she were an adviser to her brother, would have advised against the Singapore trip.

*      *      *

Bersamin doesn’t seem to have the energy that a Cabinet member that is primus inter pares (first among equals) should have.

It’s probably because of his advanced age (73). Bersamin exhausted all his energy as a magistrate, retiring as a Supreme Court justice.

The executive secretary should be as vibrant as – if not more energetic than – his boss.

Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was a mediocre president and yet his government seemed to have worked because his executive secretary, Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, was a busybody.

*      *      *

Brig. Gen. Edgar M. Capinoza of the Philippine Air Force is the first commanding general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Health Service Command who is not a doctor.

All of Capinoza’s predecessors were doctors who carried military ranks.

Before his appointment to his present position – and concurrent chief of the V. Luna Medical Center – Capinoza was in logistics and finance.

Why a finance or logistics officer has been appointed to a position supposedly a doctor’s domain is a mystery.

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