I want to talk about one of our values which gets a lot of “airtime” especially during Independence Day (June 12) and National Heroes Day (last Monday of August): nationalism. I talk about nationalism tonight in memory of my late father, Eugenio Lopez, Sr., who demonstrated to us, his children, by his action what it meant to truly love our country.
It is my father’s birth month (born July 20, 1901), and it is also his death anniversary on Sunday (died July 6, 1975). We can learn so much from a patriot like him.
Even before I was born, he was very active in the movement encouraging Filipinos to start supporting local industries by buying Philippine-made products. He even wrote in Tagalog (c1937), to reach out to more of our countrymen, which was quite a feat considering that his language of birth was Ilonggo…and Spanish.
When he organized a group of Filipino businessmen to buy out the Americans from Meralco, he was driven by a burning desire to prove that Filipino managers could be world-class. He wanted to show that Filipinos could manage a huge enterprise like Meralco as well as, if not even better, than the Americans that started Meralco. What followed was the golden age of Meralco, when electricity rates fell to historical lows. This was achieved through proper planning of power plants, facilities maintenance, and capacity building for both people and networks. He was the darling of the employees because of all his breakthrough initiatives. He was a legend at the time.
In my work in Japan, I have seen with my own eyes the deep patriotism of the Japanese people. They love their country so selflessly that they will sacrifice their own safety, their own convenience, and their own families, for the benefit of country and fellow Japanese.
Can you imagine those nuclear engineers in the power plants in Fukushima that suffered a meltdown during the tsunami in 2011? They knew they would be affected by radiation poisoning, but even with the warnings, they refused to leave their posts, they refused to evacuate to safety, just so they could keep monitoring the plant and still do whatever they could to minimize the fallout of deadly radiation.
And there was this boy who was queueing for relief supplies. He was given by a group of donors some water bottles so he didn’t have to stay in line anymore. He brought the water bottles to the front of the line, acknowledging that there were those who had been in queue longer than he, and that they should be served first, and that eventually, his turn would come.
And this I witnessed with my own eyes: In a grocery store, the earthquake toppled the goods on the shelves. The people, customers, who were caught inside the store on account of the earthquake, started putting the goods that fell to the floor back on the shelves, and helped in restoring order in the store. Can you imagine that happening here?
It is amazing how deeply ingrained this sense of nation is in the Japanese, and we can only dream that one day, we Filipinos will learn to love our country in the same way. It is so easy to say I love my country, but how do we show it?
Displaying our flag with pride in our homes and offices, standing at attention when the national anthem is played, these are some of the expressions of nationalism, small acts that I hope we can teach our children and our grandchildren. But there are other ways, mostly I think having to do with just choosing to be decent human beings and Filipinos.
There is this book by Atty. Alexander Lacson called “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help our Country.” It was published in 2005 and it is based on the belief in the “power of little things.”
His premise is that if enough people paid attention to the little things, then masses of people choosing to do the right “little thing” can and will help change the country. I believe Mr. Lacson has had some success, because although he did not get elected to the Senate a few years ago, his party-mate President Benigno S Aquino III was elected and put the country on this journey to progress using “tuwid na daan”.
I will not anymore go over these 12 little things listed in the book. I think everyone wants this program to proceed already, so you can just read it on your own.
But if you think 12 little things are too many, start with the first one: “Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.” Just keep in mind that one little thing, and the rest will follow.
If we do not love our country in the little things, how can we aspire to love our country with the bigger things? How can we aspire to “serve the Filipinos worldwide”? It will be a hollow mission statement, not supported by the many little acts that show real love of country.
I am proud of my late father’s legacy: his example of being a selfless patriot. We all owe it to him to make him proud. In all the things we do, let us remember our country always and how to make it a better place for our children and grandchildren.
Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat. Maraming salamat.