Fr. Jett Villarin, President of the Ateneo de Manila University was quite embarrassed when we described his opening remarks as the “Word from the Chair”. He was afraid that the audience may think that the Almighty was going to speak. It turned out however that his message was all mighty. In a poetic language, he spoke about how our life in the country has become a ferris wheel. I share parts of his message that kept the audience glued to their seat. Although his thoughts were painful, they were equally inspiring.
Tsubibo is our word for carousel, merry-go-round, or ferris wheel. “Tsubibo. Pabalik-balik na parang walang pagbabago.”When things keep returning, despite the change of people, despite the changes over time, over generations, we wonder about the role of systems.
Systems or structures or institutions have a lot of staying power. They have a way of surviving changes. Conditions like poverty and its stickiness over the generations make us wonder about how poverty itself is institutionalized.
Malnutrition is systemic, even discrimination or corruption, or mis- and under-education. Culture itself is systemic. It is important for us to reflect on these tsubibo systems, on the conditions that keep returning because they are systemic.
Anong nga ba ang institusyon? Ang bahay po ay isang institusyon. Ang pamilya na nananáhan sa bahay na ito, institusyon. Ang tahanan po, institusyon. (What are institutions? A family is an institution.) Tahanan in Filipino means a place where things stop or subside. When a child cries, we say, “Tahan na.” The home is where the rain stops, where the tears subside, a place of safety and security and love. Ang eskwela po, institusyon. Ang guro, institusyon. Ang LSB o Local School Board, ang School Governing Council o SGC, ang mga ito ay mahahalagang institusyon. (Schools, Local School Boards and School Governing Councils are institutions). These institutions require rituals, such as regular meetings that make us come together, and rules (such as policies) to govern our tasks and responsibilities, so that our good work becomes a matter of habit. Democracy is another example of an institution. The rule of people, the rule of law cannot rule if institutions are not present or if these are weak.
Isa po sa sakit ng ating lipunan ay ang kahinaan ng ating mga institusyon. Our institutions are weak. Just look at the current issue or institution of the GCTA (or Good Conduct Time Allowance), which is like GMRC (or Good Manners and Right Conduct) but for those in our prisons. We know that institutions such as the GCTA are weak because they can be manipulated and easily bought. Depende kung sino ang malakas, kung sino ang may yaman. How do we build our institutions so that these are not readily bent by those with wealth and power?
Magsimula tayo sa edukasyon. First, we need to educate ourselves more than anyone else. We need to teach ourselves. What do we need to learn? We need to learn to see our weaknesses and blindnesses. We need to see again what is important to us, our values. We need to learn about and institute accountability. Ang dali po nating magturuan sa isa’t isa. (We can teach each other how to be accountable).
Let us teach our children what is right. Turuan natin sila ng tama. Turuan natin sila ng magandang asal at ugali at tamang salita. Turuan po natin silang magalit sa mali. Ituwid ang mali at huwag maging manhid sa katiwalian. Huwag magbulag-bulagan sa dilim at kasinungalingan. At huwag tumawa sa mga biro na masakit lalung-lalo na sa kababaihan. Turuan silang magpasalamat at tumanaw ng utang na loob sa kapwa. Maging magalang at tuwinang bumaling sa Diyos. (Let us teach our children what is right, to discern what is right from what is wrong, not to laugh at jokes especially those that are offensive to women. Let us teach them to appreciate the kindness of others, to be polite and to always seek God in their life).
Alagaan po natin ang mga paslit. (Let us take care of our children.) To do this, we need to take care of their persons, yes, but we also need to take care of institutions. As leaders, institutions are also our responsibility.
Sana po itayó at pagtibayin natin ang mga institusyon na kailangang itayo alangalang sa ating mga musmos. Balang-araw, sila rin ang magpapaikot at paiikutan ng tsubibo; itong tsubibo ng kahirapang walang pagbabago, ng kahirapang paulit-ulit, ang tsubibong hapis na pabalik-balik. (Let us build strong institutions for the sake of our children. They will one day be in charge of running our ferris wheel — where poverty seems never ending.)