Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Rewarding mediocrity
By Bong Lacson

Jan 25, 2018

YOU DESERVE the award – that is great. But greater yet is when it is the award that deserves you.

On both counts, the UST Alumni Association’s Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service handed to presidential communications office Asec Mocha Uson miserably failed.

In practice, as in theory, awards of recognition are still primarily grounded on outstanding, exemplary, if not heroic, deeds not merely presumed or perceived but proven. Documented even.

Uson – as truth-twister, peddler of fakery, purveyor of illogic, not to mention mangler of the English language – has proved herself, beyond the proverbial iota of doubt, everything outside of outstanding. Catholic sense and sensibilities, Uson infamously affronted with the prurient displays of her body in men’s magazines, her public distribution of condoms, her scathing rants on the Church.

Definitely, anathema to the Thomasian values. So, the USTAA issued the sorry excuse of an alibi that one need only be a graduate of UST and in government service to be considered for their recognition.

So, the USTAA thereby perverted the very essence of its award, supplanting meritocracy with mediocrity.

To be fair though, as there is nothing noble, so there is nothing novel too in the USTAA misdeed in its award to Uson. The recognition of mediocrity having long seeped into the Filipino culture. The lamentation here in June 2007 said as much.

THIS COUNTRY is not going to the dogs. It has long gone not just to the groomed de rasas but to the mangy askals.

That is not a Lacson original but a paraphrase of somebody whom I can only remember as having a Ph.D attached to his name.

The state of things Filipino is damaged. Heavily damaged. Someone who said we have hit rock bottom and thus have no other way to go but up is an illusionary idealist if not a delusional optimist with a supreme underestimation of the capacity of the Filipino to burrow even deeper into the shithole he has thrown himself in.

Blame this for our penchant to lower the grade whenever faced with difficulties. Instead of striving for excellence, we seek the easiest way out.

Even if it meant short circuiting processes, circumventing rules or breaking laws. So long inured in such practice, we have adopted the characteristic of water – seeking the lowest levels.

Thus, those congratulatory streamers perfunctorily put up by politicos for passers of just about any examination hereabouts: “Congratulations Iska for passing the CPA Board Exams.”

“We are proud of you Tecla for passing the teachers’ examinations.”

What is so extraordinary in the mere passing of an exam that calls for all those congratulations?

It won’t be long when we would behold something like “Congratulations Jokjok for passing the entrance exams to the Paaralang Elementarya ng T. Tinio.”

During our time – now long bygone, the passing grade in examinations – from the shortest quizzes to the longest periodicals and the dreaded orals in-between – was 75 percent, not a fraction less. Today it is said to be 50.

With bonus points for writing the teacher’s first name and title – two for Attorney and Doctor, three more for Professor, and with a Ph.D after the comma, plus two more.

 Fifty percent, to put it plainly, comprises just half of the total amount of learning required. It does not take an Einstein to understand that half-full means half- empty. Which, by no stretch of the imagination, could ever be deemed exemplary. There is nothing outstanding here. There is everything mediocre here.

During our time, a 75 was a mark of shame. Derisively dismissed as sampay-bakod, if not pasang-awa. Today, it is a cause for celebration proudly heralded in big bold-lettered streamers.

What have become of our sense of honor, indeed, of our sense of shame? Speaking of streamers and shame, I remember one that was put up at the McDonald’s side of the Dolores Junction sometime in 1999, on the very day Governor Lito Lapid reassumed reins at the Capitol after serving the six-month suspension imposed on him by the Ombudsman consequent to the quarry scam.

“Welcome back Gov, we are proud of you.”

Proud of Lapid for earning the dubious distinction as the first ever suspended governor in the history of Pampanga? There is no pride here.

There is only shame here. Congratulatory streamers are by no means purely shameless showcases of inflated unimportance.

The thing here is to make them hew substantially to their very purpose. Only to the best should they be posted, say bar and board topnotchers, winners of international or national contests, really outstanding citizens.

It is excellence that must be rewarded; mediocrity be damned.

That is a sure way to raise the level of national intelligence which at present is but a notch above that of a moron. YEAH, TEN years after this article, that level of national intelligence has sunk even deeper.

Witness the imbeciles in Congress, the idiots in the executive department and the ignoramuses in the bureaucracy parading themselves as the best and the brightest.

No thanks to award-giving bodies like the USTAA for affi rming, aye, enriching their collective delusions. To the sufferance of all of us thinking folks.

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