I am writing a series of articles on my analysis of Philippines Inc., and hopefully this will be compiled in a book at a later date. Here is one of my observations on Philippine social norms and practices.
If you are a single parent with small children whose kids may need to spend a few hours with the other parent, or a parent who brings children to stay with their grandparents for a couple of hours, you will understand what I mean…. The kids come back stuffed with chocolate, chips ,ice cream, and toys.
You understand that the long term cost of doing such is that the children becomes fat, unhealthy, undisciplined, and refuses to eat wholesome food. Their teeth will rot, and their education ignored. Worse, you know you cannot push them too hard to work or study ( things that are good for them) , because they will tell ‘ lolo’ about it, the lolo who seem to have endless supplies of candies and soda, and who never says its bad for you. In the eyes of the child, he is his knight on shining armor.
Such can be your dilemma in managing corporations and being a leader. There are interim leaders who don’t subscribe to long term thinking, but in short term popularity. I feel the tragedy of Philippines politics as it was developed, is that there are too many well meaning lolos and padrinos. They don’t do much when there is work to do ( but you like them, because they don’t ask much from you either, unlike your parents!) , but do come by occasionally to show that they care by donating to fiestas, giving a small stipend if somebody dies in the family, shakes your hands, and brings in your favorite stars during elections. And predictably, they continue to get our votes.
Evidently, the grandparents know what they are doing may not be good for the children, but they are with them only for a few hours. And doing what they do – and seeing the delighted smiles, grateful kisses, and compliant silence of the kids is more than enough rewards for them. For politicians, it is enough to get your vote. Unfortunately, it is also more than enough to screw up a kids thinking as well.
The Philippines situation can be partly caused by well intentioned ‘grandparents’. We know people are suffering, and yet unlike other countries, we are conditioned not to push them too hard. We are asked to help in little ways. Knowing we cannot help street children have a decent education or a regular nutritious meal, we do our good deeds by visiting them once every Christmas and giving them a school bag, and a party – ice cream, fried chicken, and candies, as our way of showing we care.
We tell them to study hard, but they know it really does not matter. The earliest they will see you again is probably next Christmas, or in the case of politicians, next elections. But once in a while, in their mind, is better than nothing.
We businessmen are as guilty as politicians doing this. Very few actually ask their constituents to sacrifice, or work hard or do something for our country other than the slap in the wrist ‘vote wisely’ or euphemistically, ‘vote me’. It is easy to do something for your country – just vote for me during elections! They make you believe that they can do something about your situation without you having to ‘grow’ up or ‘shape’ up, and we all play our parts most convincingly.
The hidden pact seems to be – be happy with these candies and don’t’ ask for more, or where the other candies are, otherwise, I’ll get back to you by asking you to study harder, which I know you don’t want to do!
Lolo never asked the kids to ‘grow’ up. They are happy if they will be children forever. They know the kids will stop idolizing or visiting once they grow up. Our politicians also wished the same, because as long as they are children, you only need candies and toys to get them smiling. And we all go to hell together happily in a road paved with good ‘intentions’ for each other.