(Reprinted in its original, unabridged, unedited form since 2003)
FILIPINOS always complain about corruption in the Philippines. Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines.
Let me first talk about my country, Korea. It might help you to understand my point. After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Koreans had to start from scratch because the country was destroyed completely during the war, and we had no natural resources.
Koreans used to talk about the Philippines, for Filipinos were very rich in Asia. We envied Filipinos. Koreans really wanted to be well off like Filipinos. Many Koreans died of famine. My father’s brother died because of famine. Korean government was awfully corrupt — and is still very corrupt beyond your imagination — but Korea was able to develop dramatically because Koreans really did their best for the common good with their heart burning with patriotism. Koreans did not work just for themselves but also for their neighborhood and country. Education inspired young men with the spirit of patriotism.
Forty years ago, President Park took over the government to reform Korea. He tried to borrow money from other countries, but it was not possible to get a loan or attract a foreign investment because the economy of South Korea was so bad. Korea had only three factories. So, President Park sent many mine workers and nurses to Germany so they could send money to Korea to build a factory. They had to go through a horrible experience.
In 1964, President Park visited Germany to borrow money. Hundreds of Koreans in Germany came to the airport to welcome him and cried there as they saw the President Park. They asked him, “President, when can we be well off?” That was the only question everyone asked to him. President Park cried with them and promised them that Korea would be well off if everyone worked hard for Korea. The president of Germany got the strong impression on them and lent money to Korea. So, President Park was able to build many factories in Korea. He always asked Koreans to love their country from their heart.
Many Korean scientists and engineers in the US came back to Korea to help in developing the country because they wanted their country to be well off. Though they received very small salaries, they did their best for Korea. They always hoped that their children would live well off country.
My parents always brought me to the places where poor and physically handicapped people lived. They wanted me to understand their life and help them. I also worked for the Catholic Church when I was in the army. The only thing I learned from the Catholic Church was that we have to love our neighborhood. And I have loved my neighborhood.
Have you cried for the Philippines? I have cried for my country several times. I have also cried for the Philippines because of so many poor people.
I have been to the New Bilibid Prison. What made me sad in the prison were the prisoners who do not have any love for their country. They go to Mass and work for the church. They pray every day. However, they do not love the Philippines. I talked to two prisoners in the maximum-security compound, and both of them said that they would leave the Philippines right after they were released from the prison. They said they would start a new life in other countries and never come back to the Philippines.
Many Koreans have a great love for Korea so we can share our wealth with our neighborhood. The owners of factories and corporations distributed their profits to their employees fairly so that the employees could buy what they needed and saved money for the future and their children.
When I was in Korea, I had a very strong faith and wanted to be a priest. However, when I came to the Philippines, I completely lost my faith. I was very confused when I saw many unbelievable situations in the Philippines. Street kids always make me sad, and I saw them every day in the Philippines.
The Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia, but there are too many people here. People go to church every Sunday to pray, but nothing has changed. My parents came to the Philippines last week and saw this situation. They told me that Korea was much poorer than the present Philippines when they were young. They are so sorry that there are so many beggars and street kids.
When we went to Pagsanjan, I forced my parents to take a boat because it would fun. However, they were not happy after taking the boat. They said they would take the boat again because they sympathized with the boatmen, who were very poor and had a small frame. Most of people just took a boat and enjoyed it. But my parents did not enjoy it because of love for the boatmen.
My mother who has been working for Catholic Church since I was very young told me that if we just went to Mass without changing ourselves, we are not Catholic in deed. Faith should come with action. She added that I have to love Filipinos and do good things for them because all of us are same and have received great love from God.
I want Filipinos to love their neighborhood and country as much as they love God so that the Philippines will be well off. I am sure that love is the keyword that Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once; it should start from the person. Love must start in everybody on a small scale and have to grow. A lot of things happen if we open up to love.
Let’s put away our prejudices and look at our worries with our new eyes. I discover that every person is worthy to be loved. Trust in love because it makes changes possible. Love changes you and me. It changes people, contexts and relationships. It changes the world.
Please love your neighborhood and country. Jesus Christ said that whatever we do to others we do to Him. In the Philippines, there is God for people who are abused and abandoned. There is God who is crying for love.
If you have children, teach them to love the Philippines. Teach them why they have to love their neighborhood and country. You know that God also will be very happy if you love others. That’s all I really want to ask you Filipinos.