Honoring mediocrity

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

    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 being Filipino is damaged. Heavily damaged. Someone who said we have hit rock bottom and thus have no 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 — always seeking the lowest level.

    Thus, those congratulatory streamers perfunctorily put up by politicos for passers of just about any examination hereabouts: “Congratulations Iska Dimagiba for passing the CPA Board Exams.” “We are proud of you Tecla Dimarucut for passing the nursing examinations.”

    What is so extraordinary in the mere passing of an examination — professional one though it may be — that calls for all those congratulations?

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

    In 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 pegged at 50 percent. With bonus points for writing the teacher’s first name and title — two for Attorney or 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 also means half-empty. Which, by any stretch of the imagination, can never be deemed as exemplary. There is nothing outstanding here. There is everything mediocre here.

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

    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 in San Fernando sometime in 1999, on the very day Gov. 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 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 raised, say topnotchers of the bar and board exams, winners in international or national competitions, really outstanding citizens.

    It is excellence that must be rewarded and honored; mediocrity be damned. That is a sure way to raise the level of national intelligence with at present is but a notch above that of a moron.

    (Reprinted from the author’s column Free Zone in the defunct Pampanga News, June 21-27,2007)              


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