In a speech at the Asian Writers Conference in 1962, the late Senator Raul S. Manglapus (1918-1999) said that broad social change in the Philippines and the rest of Asia “is not possible unless we are willing to retrace the steps of our development…to determine the sources of our traditions, to re-examine their worth so that we might decide to keep those which are needed to maintain us united in nationhood and do away with those which retard the process of change.”
For Manglapus, the real revolution of the age would arise not from the struggle of class against class but from “the rebellion against self, against those things in tradition that weigh us down, slow our pace, and blur our vision.” He railed against the penchant of many citizens for fatalism, the wheel of fortune, and childish dependence on traditional politicians.
Here is his description of the attitude of the politician who does not dare to exercise authentic leadership and empower the poor: “He must not shed the indulgent ‘father’ image. He must treat the people like children. If they cry, he must give them sweets to calm them—a little money to resume work on an unfinished road, or a few canned goods and cheap rice on the proper occasion.”
Four decades after the publication of the Manglapus book of speeches, “Revolt against Tradition,” edited by Rodolfo Severino Jr., we still see many of our politicians acting like traditional parents rather than accountable managers and genuine leaders, while majority of our people remain poor and ill-educated. What is to be done, and who will lead?
Manglapus expressed hope in the writer, “for it is the writer who is not afraid of truth and, more important, who is not afraid to tell it to the people.”
How far have our writers lived up to this hope? I believe that our country needs more writers and publications that offer both truth and hope to citizens and officials in various persuasive ways.