Honesty is best practiced.

To easify honesty, each of us needs practice!

13 months ago, White Knight Jun Lozada started his rambunctious crusade all over the Philippines campaigning for more people in lower places to compel more people in higher places to be more honest. He didn’t get far. Because honesty is a lonely road with a trap? Because he was assuming that dishonesty resided with pomp and pageantry only. Did the CBCP, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, share the view of Lozada? Well, you limit your own view.

5 months ago the BCBP, Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen & Professionals, and the DepEd, Department of Education, started a joint campaign for more honesty in all places all over the country. In the project, the DepEd was represented by the Secretary of Education Jesli Lapus; the BCBP was represented by its President Lorenzo Veloso and Chair Roberto Atendido. Along the way, they picked up the support of the CBCP. They can’t give up on honesty.

Time for comparison: The Jun Lozada crusade was off-center, while the BCBP-DepEd-CBCP project was right on target. In public or private, in all media, if the adults aren’t listening, seniors included, education starts with the youth anyway – in the classroom.

Austere and sincere are two words to describe the BCBP-DepEd-CBCP campaign, made visible with the launching in October 2008 of The 1st Philippine ‘Be Honest’ Oratorical Contest among junior and senior year high school students. As stated in DepEd Memorandum 336, dated 18 July 2008, the two objectives of the oratorical contest were (deped.gov.ph):

a) inspire and encourage the youth to live the virtue of honesty in their daily life, and
b) heighten public awareness on the immediate need to dismantle and denounce corruption and dishonesty in Philippine society.

Not so fast! On one hand, Objective a) is desirable, doable, measurable; on the other hand, Objective b) is too radical even to this Senior Non-Conformist. I don’t know about any ‘immediate need to dismantle and denounce corruption and dishonesty in Philippine society’ – too much, too soon. No one can change the world overnight. Jesus Christ! But I am certain the practice of honesty is for everyone and for everyday. Let us practice what we preach, and let God take care of the rest of those we cannot teach.

The theme of the speech contest was ‘How to Live the Virtue of Honesty as a Filipino Youth and Student.’ In fact, the BCBP adds a 3rd objective to the national Be Honest project (bcbp-oratorical.org):
c) evangelize the entire Filipino nation through the Christian call to a life of honesty and truth. Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14: 6).

That’s more like it!

The National Finals were held end of last month, Saturday, 28 February, at the Mini Theatre of the University of Makati along JP Rizal Extension in West Rembo, Makati City. The very austere, Xeroxed, black & white single-sheet, letter-size, 3-fold invitation-program listed these as sponsors of the competition: PCSO, National Power Corp, Banco De Oro, Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster sa Pilipinas, Metrobank Foundation, Security Bank, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. With such formidable advocates, the Be Honest Campaign must be doing something good.

Friends Jerry & Linda Quibilan invited me to the finals. Young and pretty Lara Maigue sang an intermission number; she is a soprano. Her no-less-good-looking brother Franco Maigue played a classical piece on his guitar. Sorry, I didn’t catch the titles of their pieces; they were good at what they did, but the pieces were a little too classical for this senior fan of Charlotte Church and George Harrison. Boy Alina and Beth Ginete co-emceed the program; I liked their tandem, their style.

I was glad to be there, a witness to history being made, but I couldn’t concentrate. The theatre wasn’t cold enough to be comfortable – too many warm bodies at one time in too few square meters of horizontal space; it was past two in the afternoon. And the room wasn’t quiet enough, and the acoustics left much to be desired. I asked but there was no list of contestants to be distributed to media. While I took notes, the emcees were announcing the names too fast for me to be certain I jotted them all down right, so I stand corrected when I report that:

Ady Mike Cuenco won 1st Prize. He is from the Sacred Heart School of Cebu City. His coach is Ms Nancy Toledo.

Jessica Mariel Clemente won 2nd Prize. She is from Miriam College of Quezon City. Her coach is Ms Serrano.

Jairus Cris La Vega won 3rd Prize. He is from the Zarraga National High School in Iloilo Province. His coach is Ms Evelyn Noriega.

The criteria for judging the winners were as follows (Rodrigo S Victoria, pia.gov.ph):
40% concept (organization, mechanics and originality)
30% delivery (platform behavior, gestures and mastery)
30% voice (pronunciation, diction, voice projection and voice quality). The rewards offered were substantial:
P100,000, 1st prize
P50,000, 2nd prize
P30,000, 3rd prize.

(The candidate I had in mind to win 1st prize didn’t win at all. It was only later that I learned she happened to be from the Dagupan City National High School in Pangasinan: Evelyn Aurelio, coached by Ms Lisa Casuga. What a pleasant feeling it would have been if she won! Well, it looks like this teacher from Asingan, Pangasinan, I am a poor judge of oratory.)

It was open to 3rd and 4th year high school students from public and private schools where a BCBP chapter operated and would then sponsor the contestant. The oratorical piece was to be ‘conceptualized from the perspective of the Filipino youth’ and to cover the following:

1. What is honesty to me?
2. How do I perceive the culture of dishonesty in our society?
3. How will it affect our future if not addressed properly?
4. How can I live the virtue of honesty as a Filipino youth and as a student?
5. What can I do to address this vacuum in honesty (ie, advocacy)?
6. A call to honesty addressed to all Filipino youth and citizens.

According to Victoria (cited), the mechanics of the contest called for the BCBP slogan

BE HONEST
Even if others are not
Even if others will not
Even if others cannot.

to be mentioned at least once during the delivery and that ‘the oratorical piece should have no political undertones, no finger-pointing, and no malicious color’ whatsoever.

That would be just right, because if dishonesty is rampant in our society as many claim, then if you insist on finger-pointing people anyway, when will you stop? (Now you know why Jun Lozada can’t stop.)

What brought the Brotherhood, the Educators (not to mention the Preachers) together in a project such as this?

It comes with the Vision of the BCBP, which is briefly this: ‘Full life in Christ for all,’ and which its website says is derived from John 10: 10 (bcbp.info). The exact verse is this: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (NRSV). To bring about the Vision, the Mission is ‘to bring Christ and His values to the marketplace.’ The Core Values of the Brotherhood are: Love for God, Love for Community, Love for Country, and Commitment to the Lord’s Work. Good work.

The BCBP has 51 full chapters and 62 outreaches nationwide and 2 outreaches in California, USA. I understand the BCBP launched its Be Honest Campaign 4 years ago yet. In the 2007 Philippine elections, the Brotherhood campaigned for clean and honest elections through prayer rallies, posting of streamers in polling places and distribution of Be Honest leaflets. Beautiful.

The BCBP is celebrating its 29th anniversary 17-19 April 2009 in Baguio City. I hope they will invite all 11 finalists to speak before them. I hope it will attract more media attention this time. About the actual National Finals, not even sponsor Inquirer wrote about it – what’s the matter: honesty doesn’t have enough value as news?

In the meantime, the campaign for honesty continues, whether the Inquirer reports of it or not. Truth to tell, the practice of honesty is not for the faint of heart. If you were a student and forget your homework until the early morning of the day of submission, will you not copy text almost verbatim from some obscure source in the Internet and pass it to your teacher as your own? If you were a taxi driver and a passenger left behind $1,000 by mistake, would you report it? If you were someone in position and had control over a proposed $100 M project, would you refuse a $1 M bribe to accept it, no questions asked?

In the song by American Billy Joel, the singer finds that honesty ‘always seems to be so hard to give.’ That is because ‘everyone is so untrue.’ Everyone. ‘Honesty is hardly ever heard.’ Here, there, everywhere, including the United States of America.

Honesty
by Billy Joel

If you search for tenderness
It isn't hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
Mostly what I need from you.

I can always find someone
To say they sympathize.
If I wear my heart out on my sleeve.
But I don't want some pretty face
To tell me pretty lies.
All I want is someone to believe.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
Mostly what I need from you.

I can find a lover.
I can find a friend.
I can have security until the bitter end.
Anyone can comfort me
With promises again.
I know, I know.

When I'm deep inside of me
Don't be too concerned.
I won't ask for nuthin' while I'm gone.
But when I want sincerity
Tell me where else can I turn?
You're the one I depend upon!

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
Mostly what I need from you.

The poet-singer is not simply talking about his lover; he is simply talking about you, the other person.

‘When I’m deep inside of me / Don’t be too concerned. / I won’t ask for nuthin’ while I’m gone.’ I interpret that to mean that even if I’m selfish, I’m not necessarily dishonest. You can be selfish too with me, but not dishonest.

What strikes me most is the line that is repeated that says that honesty is ‘mostly what I need from you.’ You. I take it that honesty begins with the individual, you and me. No finger-pointing necessary – otherwise, 3 fingers point to you and me.

‘Do not pretend to be a White Knight,’ Secretary of Education Jesli Lapus said at the National Finals where he was the guest speaker. The Philippines has not been wanting in many a White Knight in Shining Armor, and they know who they are; we know who they are. White Knight or not, ‘We will have to look in the mirror to see what’s wrong.’ Speak for yourself, Jun!

‘Honesty must be taught in the MBA,’ Jesli Lapus also said in the same occasion. I know Lapus is also a graduate of AIM, Asian Institute of Management, with an MBA, Master of Business Administration. He must have been referring to the scandalously dishonest Legacy Scholarship Pension Plan of financial wizard Celso De Los Angeles, an MBA graduate of AIM. Legacy is now under Senate investigation in aid of legislation. Since the Inquirer reported on Legacy (Philip Tubeza, 10 March, newsinfo.inquirer.net) but not on the oratorical contest on honesty, I take it that dishonesty is news, honesty is not.

In the meantime, the BCBP website (cited earlier) explains that its vision is to be realized more specifically by (with my editing):
* Creating an atmosphere where love, compassion and justice prevail in the marketplace
* Overcoming situations of injustice, inequality and abuse
* Providing a more equitable distribution of profits and benefits to labor
* Being fair and honest to the consumer.

That’s theory. Each one of us can all learn from all that, whether we are in the higher places, in the middle places, or in the lower places.

The BCBP mission is specified as a combined, threefold effort to bring about the fulfilment of the vision (also with my editing):
* Conversion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
* Commitment to values espoused by Him, and
* Commissioning as disciples and advocating the Good News in the marketplace.

That’s practice. Honesty is in the details. Honesty is a habit; you acquire a habit only with practice. Practice makes perfect? Practice makes easy. Honesty becomes easy when it becomes a habit. When it comes to honesty, each one of us needs practice. You cannot pass the practice to somebody else!

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