POSTSCRIPT / February 15, 2004 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Nobody asks about platforms anymore

LIFE’S PRIORITIES: We swear that the Sunday piece below is not from San Miguel brewery, but from our pile of old email. The source, unfortunately lost when we archived the item, deserves two cans of cold beer from us anytime he/she comes forward.

WHEN things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar… and the beer.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things — your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions, God — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

“The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal.

“Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked,” he said. “It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

* * *

WHAT PLATFORM?: Scanning newspapers and watching TV, you will note that the presidential candidates, their teammates in tow, have plunged into barnstorming in the provinces.

That was mostly waving to the crowd from a vehicle, blowing kisses and shaking a few outstretched hands and occasionally mounting a stage to sing, dance and say a few words.

As it goes, it seems everybody has forgotten about party platforms. In such provincial sorties, nobody asks and nobody talks about platforms.

And we can’t blame the candidates. The people are not interested in platforms. Instead, they want entertainment.

This means that Fernando Poe Jr. is getting away with running for the highest post in the land without having to discuss a well-thought out program of government.

* * *

THRIVING BUSINESS: The writing of platforms or programs of government is a thriving business when elections come around.

It is much like an essay-writing contest. The candidate who can round up the best team of specialists and writers, and pay them handsomely, is likely to come up with the best platform in town.

It does not matter if the candidate does not understand, or appreciate, the program of government that he bought. Likely lurking in his mind is the thought, probably valid, that nobody bothers with platforms except the nitpickers.

Besides, if we may follow their cynical line of thought, a platform is thrown out once it has served its purpose of getting a candidate elected.

In this light, we begin to understand why the “covenant” embodying the program of Poe was not presented by the candidate himself but by his media bureau.

Actually, the problem of Poe is not the writing of his program (no candidate ever writes his own platform), but his explaining and defending it.

This is akin to writing a thesis in graduate school. A student can go to C. M. Recto Ave. in downtown Manila and buy a thesis of his choice. But defending it is altogether another matter.

No wonder Poe is scared to death about being asked about his platform or program of government.

* * *

UNDIPLOMATIC TALK: We were startled to hear about Consul General Akio Igawa’s admitting to some newshen that foreign investors, including those from Japan, are a bit uneasy about the prospects of a Poe presidency.

Granting it is true that Japanese investors, and we presume the Japanese government itself, are not sure the Philippines would remain a good investment area under Poe, a foreign diplomat is not to be caught saying it.

Such talk is sometimes taken for meddling in local affairs. In this case, however, the consul — who happens to be the deputy chief of mission at the Japanese embassy — was pressed to comment and he simply did.

* * *

KISS OF DEATH: The open endorsement by the NDF/NPA of the candidacy of Poe may be welcomed by his partisans as a positive sign that could lead to the end of the decades-old insurgency.

On the contrary, we see communist endorsement as a kiss of death.

We doubt if our major allies and trading partners, the United States and Japan for instance, would feel comfortable seeing our president being cozy with the communists.

With the US having tagged the National Democratic Front/New People’s Army as a terrorist group, how can Washington bring itself to supporting a Poe presidency seen as somewhat inclined to the Left?

The actor, by the way, also disturbed the sensibilities of American businessmen recently when he told a UP forum in Diliman that he was against globalization and trade liberalization, two important pillars of American foreign policy.

* * *

DEBT CYCLE: “So what?” the street crowd might ask as it rallies around its idol dishing out brave rhetoric.

Somebody should tell them that this country cannot recover within a six-year presidency from the economic mess by using only its own resources that even now are dwindling at an alarming rate.

To put it bluntly, we are caught in a debt-vs-development spiral that forces us to keep borrowing to raise new money for development — after using part of that debt to pay off just the interest of our ballooning public debt.

The revenues that the finance department is able to extract from the anemic economy are not enough to carry us over the budget deficit of about P200 billion, the public debt of some P2.3 trillion, and other urgent expenditures.

To recover, we have no choice but to borrow some more.

It is in this context, plus the widespread doubt that Poe may not be able to manage the economy well, that we see a possible hesitation of major allies in case the actor is cast as president.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 15, 2004)

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