My own State of the Nation Address (SONA)

James Ryan Jonas

A few minutes ago, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo finished delivering her ninth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA).
I don’t see the need to report what was said since the dailies, TV channels, and other blogs have already covered it. More importantly, I don’t see why one would take more than an hour to talk about the current state of the Philippines.
Because as for me, the current state of the nation is simply these three things.
1. The Philippines remains poor.
Twenty years and four presidents after the country broke free from the bondage of dictatorship, we remain a poor nation. A lot of Filipinos lack access to proper food, water and education. A majority earn wages barely enough to sustain an acceptable quality of life. Because domestic opportunities are scarce, millions opt to work abroad  — many of them with no desire of coming back. Poverty seems to be a way of life in our country.
2. We still are a divided country.
Filipinos we may all be but we loathe each other or, more appropriately, the people who are not “like us.” The poor hate the rich people for being corrupt and selfish, while the rich despise the poor for being ignorant and lazy. The opposition does not want to support the administration for the sake of opposing, while the administration denies the opposition voice for not joining the team. Political bickering here, social status division there. How can we achieve a common goal if we, as a nation, are not united as one?
3. Filipinos are hopeful but uncertain of the future ahead.
We have always been a country of optimistic people. We know there is hope but we are not sure how to translate it to reality.
What then must we do?
Understanding the current state of the nation is just the first step. The next thing to do is create a common goal then plan how to achieve it. The government, however, cannot be tasked to do this alone. Everyone must contribute his share.
How exactly? We can start with the following simple but useful ways.
Do a good thing everyday. Stop littering. Don’t waste water. Obey traffic rules. How wonderful would the world be if each one of us does a good thing everyday, no matter how trivial?
Vote in the 2010 elections. The world is run by those who show up so make our voices heard by voting in the elections next year.
Choose leaders wisely. We deserve the leaders we elect, they say. Thus, if we want change, we must elect people who have a vision for the country and the willpower to effect change.
Be successful in whatever we do. An individual’s success adds to the collective success of our nation. If we all work towards achieving personal success, there is no doubt a successful Philippines will follow.
The state of a nation depends entirely on its citizens. Yes, the current state of the Philippines is bleak and awful but is this how we really want it to be?
It’s time to change the state of our nation.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.