A couple of weeks ago, I got caught for a traffic violation (I turned left at a “No Left Turn Sign.”) The Cebu City Traffic Enforcer asked me to stop, wished me a good morning and calmly told me my violation. Hoping that he would let this one slide, I attempted to say sorry and he just smiled. He then proceeded to ask me for my license and promptly reassured me that he was only getting it for the purpose of writing my ticket. He promised to return the license immediately after, which he did. I asked him where I had to pay for my fine; he told me I could pay in the main office by the south bus terminal. He bid me a pleasant goodbye. In retrospect, I should have gotten his name so I could give him a commendation to his superior but I was too ashamed of getting my first ticket to think of anything else.

Almost about a week later, I was driving along the same road. I saw a government issued car exit from the regional office of the Department of Education. The same car turned left where I had been caught the week before. There was no traffic enforcer then so the driver drove off without a ticket. On the other hand, I continued to turn right. I had learned my lesson.

Incidents of the first kind give me hope for our country and incidents of the second throw cold water on my face. There are many law-abiding citizens in our country and there are many who are not. I get the feeling, though, that as a whole, the Philippines is still very much in its toddler years. Toddlers only think of the now, only of the present, without thought for what happens to the next generation. Toddlers are self-centered, too; their only concern is what happens to them and no one else.

Likewise, Filipinos often behave as if discipline is an external force not an internal one. We follow rules only when we fear getting caught. Many times, we find ways of looking for the shortest, easiest path even if it sometimes means playing against the rules. More often than not, we place our individual needs ahead of the needs of others. And the needs of our family over the needs of the country.

Whenever I visit other countries, I feel a pang of jealousy when I see how carefully they preserve their history, how they take pains to ensure that buildings of historical significance are well kept. I also feel jealous when I see clean streets and when people speak well of their country. I wonder if that day will ever come for us. Oh, I know, there are many good things about the Philippines (and I’m not saying that sarcastically at all). But I do wonder if we’ll ever grow up as a nation and what’s in store for our future when we do… or don’t.

In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just have to work on the areas I can control: pay my taxes, follow traffic rules, segregate trash, vote wisely and cling on the hope that in a nation of 100 million, there are many more men like that honest and efficient traffic enforcer.

[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]

nancy toledoAbout Nancy Unchuan Toledo
When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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