Corporate Watch


It is Christmas. Not with three exclamation points like before. Not with the tingly feeling inside, of jingle bells calling to gift-giving and partying.

It is a more sedate and serene Christmas — as it should be, for its true meaning as the joyful celebration of the coming of the Christ Jesus to redeem Fallen Man for Eternity. Almost two years in the isolation and restrictions of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic with its fears and anxieties must have coaxed discernment as to what really matters in our fragile and very temporary existence in this world.

Have we really changed?

“The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same. If you get through it, you come out better or worse, but never the same,” Pope Francis said in his Advent book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (Simon & Schuster, 2020). “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of,” Pope Francis says.

To dream. But to focus. And to believe and do.

Pope Francis suggests a new lens through which one views the world from the periphery rather than the center, where the center is “I, me, mine” and the periphery is the “Others.” A self-centered “isolated conscience” does not see the “hidden pandemics” of our world — the hunger, poverty, violence, and environmental degradation. To develop antibodies to these “viruses,” we must counter individualistic worldviews with concrete action that sows hope and works for justice.

We walk in a labyrinth of confused emotions and thinking from the anxieties of COVID-19. Pope Francis distinguishes between “contrapositions,” or opposites that can exist in a harmonious tension, and “contradictions,” which are a matter of good and evil or right and wrong. He suggests helpful ways to distinguish between the voice of the Spirit and the voice of the Enemy: the voice of God, Francis reminds us, is gentle, encouraging, and full of hope. God proposes but Man disposes. The voice of the Enemy, on the other hand, is insistent, accusatory, and contemptuous; it distracts from the present with fears of the future; and it closes us in on ourselves, enslaving us in rigid intolerance. The relentless Evil One insists on overpowering us.

The Pope condemns governments who have “mortgaged their people” in response to the coronavirus and says that we must place human dignity at the very center of our political efforts, with a particular focus on providing all people with “the three Ls of land, lodging, and labor, as well as education and health care.” He admonishes against mere welfarism and instead recommends judicious structural reforms for medium to long term economic sustainability.

For Filipinos (80% of whom are Roman Catholic), Pope Francis’ invitation, “Let us dream” might have more significance and urgency for its nuances and references to the COVID-19 pandemic complicating the sociopolitical fragility and economic vulnerabilities of the country. His exhortations to face reality and not to disregard but to act to change life for the better, particularly for “those in the periphery,” comes as a loud whisper to the collective conscience — today. Now.

Let us dream. To dream the “Impossible Dream”?

Was that not the theme song of the mass protest for change in 1986, to oust the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who shackled and muzzled his own people in 14 years of martial law, and then wanted to extend himself some more in the snap elections of that February — where he cheated Cory, the slain hero Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino’s widow?

The mass action of the peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution of Feb. 22-25, 1986 led by ordinary citizens, with the Church leaders and the military, ended Marcos’ 20-year reign over the country. Not an impossible dream after all.

But hopefully not by overt civil resistance or by revolution must Filipinos today act and rise again, from the similar quagmire of graft and corruption in government by some lying and cheating politicians who want to perpetuate themselves in power.

We have national elections on May 9, 2022. A fearful number of candidates are openly defiling and denying the glory of our EDSA Revolution. Marcos Jr. is even running for president, denying Marcos Sr.’s alleged stolen billions and human rights violations and defying court claims for unpaid taxes and undeclared wealth. History is being revised before our wide open eyes. What about “Never again”? Can dreams be “un-dreamed”?

Why do Filipinos seem to have such short memories? It’s not that, a good friend (a historian) observes. People generally seem to want to appear to be nonchalant and “cool” about being hurt, maligned, bullied, or not in good health, not having enough wealth, or any negative thing that would be happening to her/him. Like, when you ask someone, “Kumusta ka (how are you)?,” the ready answer would be, “OK lang (I’m good).” It’s the negative manifestation of the feudal value of “hiya” (shame, deference), where, in the social hierarchy lines are not crossed by emotional dependence between ranks, but economic ascendancies are strictly observed to maintain clear material responsibility of the higher to the lower (as in feudalism).

That might explain the incomprehensible in politics, where the lingering feudalistic system of deference and dependencies persist, and the so-called “C & D” classes (the poorest strata) tend to vote for the rich, the powerful, and dynastic candidates, and are loyal to them throughout their terms, even though several permitted re-elections and substitution within the political dynasty. It is the gut issue that can decide the majority vote in an election.

That is precisely what Pope Francis stresses when he says, “Let us dream,” but dream for those in the periphery, not only for yourself, because your dreams will happen and become reality only if you dream for All.

“You can’t know poverty from a distance; you have to touch it. To recognize and come close — that’s the first step. The second step consists in responding practically and immediately, because a concrete act of mercy is always an act of justice,” Pope Francis admonishes.

“There is a major disjuncture between the awareness of social rights on the one hand and the distribution of actual opportunities on the other. The stupendous rise in inequality of recent decades is not a stage of growth but a brake on it, and the root of many social ills in the 21st century. Barely more than one percent of the world’s population owns half of its wealth. A market detached from morality, dazzled by its own complex engineering, which privileges profit and competition above all else, means not just spectacular wealth for a few but also poverty and deprivation for many. Millions are robbed of hope,” Pope Francis tells us.

“We need a movement of people who know we need each other, who have a sense of responsibility to others and to the world. We need to proclaim that being kind, having faith, and working for the common good are great life goals that need action.”

Let us dream, and act.


Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.