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Monday, March 21, 2005

I don't kow who authored this, but it's something to think about...

Misplaced Priorities can Mislead a Nation

"He who can take no interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great."
John Ruskin

Jasmine Trias visited the Philippines very recently. Everyone was agog waiting to welcome her. The excitement was remarkable as the media and many of our "kababayans"flocked to the airport to see her. This scenario is typical of Filipinos. Sadly, it reflects our country's misplaced priorities.

Contest of the Mind.
Another young girl came back to the country just a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Faye (not her real name for very sensitive reasons). Unknown to her countrymen, this eleven year old girl brought honor to the Philippines. She represented the country in the Intercontinental Science Quiz Net in Australia. Out of 57 countries represented, Faye garnered First Place for the Philippines. Germany came in second while the United States came in third.

In stark contrast to the hooplah extended to Jasmine Trias, Faye's arrival did not make any noise. Not a peep.

In an earlier competition, "Mathematics for the Young Asians" in Indonesia, Faye also came out in the Top Five. But just like the Australian event, this feat did not receive any recognition in our country at all.

Our interests seem to be set on other "priorities." We are more interested in promoting celebrity guests instead of educational and intellectual pursuits. Indirectly and quite obviously we are teaching our children that development of the external image takes priority over educational achievement.

Faye's story is inspiring. She comes from a broken family. Her father falsely claimed that he was unmarried when he married her mom. When her mom found out, she decided to raise up her daughter alone.

Despite the difficulty, Faye in no way used it as an excuse for complacency in her studies. In grade school, she was a consistent honor student. She took every academic requirement as a challenge. And she delivered. At one time, she submitted a project thesis in Australia that won "The Best Physics and Science Award". The award qualified the Philippines to be one of the top 10 countries that would compete in Australia, among the 57 countries that joined.

Considering her family's financial constraints, she and her mom asked help from our government for their trip to Australia to claim the "Best Physics" award and to join the Science competition. They saw this challenge as a rare opportunity offered to Faye and her country, considering that only two Asian countries qualified - Japan and the Philippines. Unfortunately, our government had other priorities.

Mother and daughter then tried to ask help from individual senators and congressmen. All turned them
down except for one who was willing to help, on condition that Faye should give public credit to the senator for supporting her even in the earlier competitions she joined. Out of integrity, the mother could not accede to this arrangement. Thus no outside help was found.

Faced with this situation, Faye and her mom took out all their savings and went out of their way to secure by themselves the additional finances needed. The only driving force behind them was their desire to give honor to God and to the Philippines.

With the little resources they had, they went to Australia on September 17, 2004 for the competition. They claimed the trophy and cash award for the "Best Physics" thesis Faye submitted in Sidney and then flew to Brisbane for the quiz competition.

No kababayan welcomed them in Australia except for a kind Filipina they met in the plane who assisted them. As they were checking in at a hotel, the "kind" Filipina who volunteered to help them disappeared taking with her Faye's and her mother's bags, passports, and plane tickets. At that point, they literally had nothing left except for the few pieces of clothes and their faith in God. They had to sell the extra clothes left to be able to buy food.

In need once again, they sought help from some of the Filipino officials in Australia but to no avail. Oddly, the Filipino officials there were too busy with other priorities, not minding to help a young girl and a mother who had no other desire but to bring honor to our country.

Given a budget for only a one night stay at the hotel, mother and daughter had to check out the following day. Leaving their luggage on deposit and without money for transportation fare, they decided to walk two kilometers to the competition venue on their native Filipino costumes.

If walking a two kilometer distance was bad enough, how much more would be walking the distance on their native costume along the highways of Australia!

Upon arrival at the competition site, Faye and her mom were very surprised when they discovered that the delegates from each of the other countries were well supported by a band, a cheering squad, and a flag, while Faye only had her mother and the anxiety of lost passports and plane tickets. Worse, representatives of each country were required to decorate their booths.

With only the three-piece costume they had on, Faye and her mom were even more surprised when the organizing committee awarded their booth as "The Most Creative" booth.

In the early part of the competition, Japan, Brazil and Spain were eliminated. As the only Asian country left to compete against six Western nations, the Philippines was cheered on by Japan. Faye was
encouraged by her Japanese cheering squad, but in her heart, how she wished that she had her own countrymen to cheer her on.

When Faye finally won first place and Philippines national anthem was being played, she prayed silently thanking God for making her a Filipina. Despite all the painful experiences she had with her country, her priorities did not waver. A Japanese diplomat was the one who helped Faye and her mom to secure temporary pass so they could return to the Philippines. The money they won was just enough for their fare back home and their temporary passport. When Faye was relating this story before a crowd, she said, " Let us love our nation, for nobody else will."

Faye did not allow her painful experiences to tear down her loyalty to her country. She is not a celebrity but a servant out to serve her fellow Filipino.

A Small Way to Greatness.
Our concept of leadership in this country is pitifully skewed. We mistakenly think that leadership is about "lording" it over other people. Christ corrected this distorted thinking when he said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you, instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all - Mark 10:42-44

Sadly, we are far from the precept of this truth. It is no surprise then that we have a dearth of real
leaders in this country-leaders who would set the nation's interests above their own. In the same way, our concept of citizenship is damaged. Those seeking for social good for themselves are never willing to grant the same good to others. Hence it is common for us hear stories of Filipinos who take advantage of their fellow citizens. We want to be served, but we are unwilling to serve.

We dream of becoming like Jasmine Trias. We want our children to be like her. We would rather spend on
things that would make us look good instead of things that would make us grow in character. We prefer stardom glitter over service-oriented endeavors.

Quite the contrary, Faye spend sleepless nights studying to win the competition because she knows her priorities. Unlike Jasmine Trias, Faye did not receive a hero's welcome when she cam back, but, young as she is, she keeps calling on Filipinos to love the Philippines because every Filipino is a valuable gift of God.

Life, really is not a matter of intelligence but a matter of setting our priorities right. The question is, what's our focus on "grand" things that make us superficial or on simple things that lead us to greatness?

Faye's story reminds us all to look within ourselves. This eleven year old girl could have complained to the media, but she did not. She went out of her own small way to bring greatness to this land.

Right priorities grant us wisdom. When properly set, priorities point us to the right people we need to invest in, the right use of our energy, the right resources to draw from, and the right endeavors support.

From the words of Faye's mother, " We all wanted to win, but success is not measured through by merely winning. It is measured through our hearts, if it is truly attuned with God all the time. It is all that really matters for we have only an Audience of One. Whatever we have achieved, big or small, remember one thing: it is for God and God alone.  The King of the Kingdom of a higher world.

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