The will to change

Dr. Conchita L. ManabatChange will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. —Barack Obama

If one were to give a brief on the Philippines and its people to a foreigner who knows nothing about the country, one can cite the many foreign powers who “ruled” us and their legacies— trading “know-how” from the Chinese; religion, gambling  and siesta from the Spaniards; cars, coke, education, English language and democracy from the Americans; and, probably, discipline and concept of coprosperity from the Japanese. Factually, we are very proud of our democracy. We are the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, educated under the American system with tax laws and system of government mirroring more or less those of the United States. Due to our free press, foreign media correspondents assigned here can readily report to the world promptly and with ease, for most of our media reports and all news conferences are usually done in English.

Candidly, we oftentimes make it in the international news only for the bad news—extrajudicial killings, drugs, disasters, corruption, kidnappings, etc. The world’s perception of the Philippines is not good, for only the bad things are internationally reported or highlighted. This is, however, not a good excuse to do nothing. What can each one of us do to lift up our country?

I am reminded of a speech given sometime ago by Harvard Prof. Clayton Christiansen to the MBA graduates before they took their MBA Oath, maybe six years ago. The entire speech was rather a long read. I quote an important portion of the speech:

“It’s not a coincidence that the countries that have transitioned from poverty to prosperity in the last 40 years—including Korea, Chile, Taiwan, Singapore, Portugal and the Dominican Republic—were all led by relatively honest but iron-fisted dictators, who had the instinct and ability to wield power quite ruthlessly, in some instances, to break the vested interests of those that profited from the corruption that had trapped those nations in poverty. Impoverished countries with democratic governments, such as the Philippines and India, in contrast, struggle to prosper because imposition of democracy has simply democratized corruption to the point that capitalism won’t work: The investments that would stimulate economic growth simply cannot be made, because you can’t bribe enough people to make anything happen.”

Just before the speech ended, the following was also said:

“Could I suggest that you take time tomorrow to ask some questions of yourself that are awfully important? The first is, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’ Another would be, ‘Does my behavior reflect the instincts of honesty, integrity, respect and consideration for others that must be my contributions to our nation? If not, what changes must I resolve to make?’  And a third might be: ‘How can I do for others the things that bring me enduring happiness?’”

To my dear countrymen, shall we ask ourselves the above questions?


Dr. Conchita L. Manabat is the president of the Development Center for Finance, a joint undertaking of the Finex Research & Development Foundation Inc. and the Virata School of Business at the University of the Philippines.

She is a trustee of the Finex Development & Research Foundation. A past chairman of the International Association of Financial Executives Institutes, she now serves as the chairman of the Advisory Council of the said organization. She can be reached at


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