The Thor Hammer

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Muscular hydrostats are animal organs that are composed almost entirely of muscle, examples of which include the mammalian tongue, octopus tentacles, elephant trunks and the medicinal leech. The human tongue has eight muscles, which are supposedly some of the strongest ones due to constant use and “exercise.”

I met Benny Antiporda years before he became undersecretary of DENR. Being in the media industry before, Benny usually talks with a combination of wit and gab in a manner that can be humorous and entertaining at times. With his boyish and toothy grin coupled with his well-exercised tongue, Benny can be very amiable and engaging to most, while outright offensive or obnoxious to others. As such, when Benny uttered the phrase “Bayaran Kayo,” it was like the Hammer of Thor in the Avengers movie that hit the University of the Philippines last week. Practically berating the entire institution, the phrase operated like a thunder weapon—fast and furious! The Thor Hammer, “Bayaran Kayo,” was in response to the suggestion proffered by the UP Institute of Biology to place mangroves instead of crushed dolomite in Manila Bay.

Some friends were behooved to watch the full televised footage of Antiporda’s interview as he uttered a tirade that went past the naiveté of a simple remark: “Hindi nyo karapatang batikusin ito dahil bayaran kayo. ’Yun lang po ang masasabi ko sa UP. Uulitin ko, bayaran kayo.” To intensify the Thor Hammer effect, he further ranted about the half-a-billion-peso fees being paid by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the University experts since the year 2016 for mere consultation, no infrastructure, “no nothing” (“walang lahat”). Driven more by his gift of gab rather than wit, Antiporda chastised the university’s scholars and even called on the Commission on Audit to conduct an assessment against UP, especially its Marine Science Institute, in reaction to the somewhat polite proposition anent putting mangroves in place of dolomite.

Such utterances, said impulsively, can be a natural muscular hydrostatic exercise. I too had my share of reckless statements during my stressful moments in public service. Understandably, Antiporda apologized by ratiocinating that he was just “carried away” by his emotions. We all somehow make mistakes in the heat of passion and make tantrums in the process. In contrast, Director Laura David of the UP MSI was magnanimous enough to accept Antiporda’s act of contrition. Dra. David explained that Antiporda must have misunderstood the contract between UP and the DENR by stating that UP-MSI is under a service contract and not a mere consultancy agreement. Dra. David defended the bulk of the funds from the Department as being employed for research, field work and laboratory undertakings so the Institute can best address environmental concerns.

In deference to Benny Antiporda, who used to be the president of the National Press Club, as well as to others who made impolite commentaries and unnecessary public outbursts, he must have overlooked one important principle in communication that says “words are containers.” The speech that we deliver with our tongues holds either positive or negative implications, hence the adage “your tongue has power, be careful what you say.” Otherwise stated, what we verbalize has the Thor Hammer effect—it builds/creates or destroys—be it encouragement or discord, profit or loss, death and life. Perhaps in a state of obfuscation, Antiporda neglected to first reflect and analyze before “building” his supposed responsible comment to the interview question. I can only surmise that minutes after he threw his Thor Hammer, Antiporda must have realized that the words he used created unnecessary friction.

It has been said that a wise man must sit down and calculate first before building anything. In the Bible, Luke 14:28-31 tells us, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” This biblical principle simply reminds us that we need to plan out before we unleash our Thor Hammer—in words or in action. Before we utter any word, particularly bold ones, we have to carefully assess first whether we shall use the power of our tongues to build or destroy. Remember, the tongue is a muscular hydrostatic organ like the octopus tentacles. Meaning, it is a strong, flexible biological structure that contains a horde of muscle fibers. We must think first before we speak, lest we stir a war we cannot win.

Most public servants variably utilize the power of speech in the discharge of their functions. In their zeal, some can go overboard—positively or negatively. As seen in his campaign to demand justice for those in media who were killed in the so-called Maguindanao massacre, Antiporda managed to produce positive results as his noise barrage in media kept the justice system on its toes.

Whenever we exercise prudence for indulgent sympathies with a deliberate thought process, we end up winning the relationship instead of winning the verbal war. In the Bible, Proverbs 18: 21 tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death, those who love it will eat its fruit.” So instead of using our tongue to cause offense or hatred, let’s use it to bring forth a vibrant and positive energy for those around us. In her response to a careless remark, David did her part. In his subsequent apology, and after some reflection, Antiporda did just the same.

A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.

For questions and comments, please e-mail me at [email protected]

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