February 2018
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Learning from Mistakes

Lessons learned after dive training (9040575723)is not a Filipino strength. They are covered up if one’s own (camp) – and punished severely if someone else(‘s camp), at least in politics. Yet skills need time to develop, one has to accept that one botches up things the first (two, three) times and improves if one pays attention to avoiding the old error or doing something successively better. This has been my experience with all kinds of skills in life – yet there are Filipinos who say “you don’t have any talent” if you don’t get it the first time you try. Those who do have talent in things in the Philippines tend to stagnate because of lack of true competition, being big fishes in a small pond – while often refusing to be good teachers to those who have less talent. Some sports teachers in the Philippines just told me to watch how others played basketball instead of teaching the basics. Funny that I learned the basics quickly when a sports teacher in German senior high took the time to correct a few errors instead of letting me persist in them – like in swimming.

Swimming I indeed had learned well in the Philippines, mostly thanks to a Japanese guest teacher at UP Swimming pool. He did push us boys to our limits, often I feared drowning and swallowed I wonder how much water as he kept raising the bar for accomplishment by a few more laps. But in the end he knew how far he could go with us. My feeling was one of growing with each challenge mastered – the only small mistake my German sports teacher corrected was my somewhat hasty breathing technique. That is sports. It can be the same in any sort of domain – even in those domains that seem more theoretical. Science for example thrives on peer review, on errors being found and corrected to hopefully lead to a better result. Each major review of my draft for my master’s degree brought forth a major error – which I corrected to proceed. My career in the software industry showed me a lot of lessons learned – which is the term for mistakes made and analyzed to avoid repeating them (in the same way). 🙂

In a country where blame is given to the one caught holding the wrong end of the stick, the culture becomes avoidance of admitting errors from denial to downright lying. From President Aquino’s evasive stance on his role in Mamasapano down to Foreign Secretary Cayetano’s absurd sophistry on the definition of extrajudicial killings. There are no lessons learned through this. The lowest ranks probably learn the least, because they are in my observation the most exposed to blame games by the higher ups. Usually Filipino higher-ups will come from families with servants, will hardly have any exposure to the kind of work that shapes true grit and character – or the criticism that helps shape true character, that tells you what you are doing wrong, while telling you how to do it right – or at least do better. But those who rise up from below are often just as unforgiving or worse with those they leave behind – witness the recently observed behavior of many new Filipino middle class toward drug addicts and users.

The educational system is in many ways at fault – it is semi-feudal, sneering at practical pursuits while focusing mainly on the status one gets when one graduates, on the school and on the rank in the bar exam for example if one is a lawyer – as if the bar exam was the antiquated exam that the Chinese mandarins of old took – while failed mandarins as they were called sometimes became troublemakers and rebels, the most famous one being the one who started the Taiping rebellion in the 19th century. One person with a positive attitude in general, writing very balanced and good articles in the Inquirer and on Facebook – Gideon Lasco – turns out to have been in a high school (link) where we were assigned a piece of land to till – and you were graded according to the quality and quantity of your harvest. We learned how to use the plow and other farm tools.. Could it be that such experiences shape better attitudes than the school system segmented by “pedigree” which the Philippines now effectively has?

Making Filipinos plow the soil in school – probably a better idea to build character than going back to ROTC, which often degenerated into bullying during martial law. Doesn’t just have to be plowing the soil, it could be fishing – or even arnis. Or civic service, as long as it is led by the right people and not by thuggish barangay captains. You stumble, but you learn to get up. And those who have stumbled and gotten up again are more likely to help someone who stumbles – and not laugh like so very often.  Yes, there was YCAP or Youth Civic Action Program during Marcos times or maybe even before – but that often became a joke, just like Rural Service for professionals. Or Marcos taking off his shirt for photo-ops “working” on the ricefield, effectively predating Putin’s macho posing by decades. So in the end it all boils down to really doing it. Not laughing in the sidelines when serious people try to get things done. Not trying to feel higher and better by blaming addicts and users. Not grabbing credit from others.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

MĂĽnchen, 12 May 2017

15 comments to Learning from Mistakes


    MANILA, Philippines (Updated 8:25 p.m.) — Accepting only 103 out of 257 recommendations, the Philippines rejected 44 United Nations member-states’ positions on extrajudicial killings despite thousands of questionable deaths over the past year.

    At the 36th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday (Manila time), Ambassador Evan Garcia relayed the Duterte-led government’s denial of the existence of extrajudicial killings in connection with the brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

    The recommendations were made by member-states in May this year at the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva where then Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, now Foreign Affairs secretary, faced the international body in defense of Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign.

    Garcia, at the session on Friday, explained that the non-acceptance of the recommendations—99 of which were marked in the Philippines’ report as merely “noted” while 55 were outrightly “rejected”—was anchored on “national circumstances.”

    “The State (Philippines) had sufficiently explained that deaths, which occurred in the course of the implementation of the [anti-illegal drug campaign], are not EJK,” the report read.

    “These are deaths arising from legitimate law enforcement operations or deaths that require further investigation following the established rules of engagement by the country’s law enforcers,” it continued.

    The Duterte government’s reiteration of its position affirmed its previous statements putting forward what was seen as a limited definition of extrajudicial killings and falling short of recognizing the universal characteristic of human rights before the same international forum.

    The Philippines’ response was a letdown to some member-states, including the country’s longstanding ally, the United States, and partner, the United Kingdom, whose representatives expressed disapproval..


    Dear Duterte Administration,

    Pansin ko po lagi kayong nawawalan ng mga importanteng documents. Kahapon sabi ng LTFRB nawala daw po ang accreditation paper ng Uber and Grab.

    Sabi ni Aileen Lazada pagpasok nila daw wala na ang papers. So wala man lang nag inform sa Uber at Grab na wala na pala silang papel for approval na hinihintay. At naghintay kayo ng isang taon bago niyo ipaalam sa publiko? Magandang script po yan. Puwede niyo pong mapaniwala diyan ang less than 16 million na DDS, pero po yung mga taong nag-iisip hindi po kayo paniwalaan. Wag niyo po sanang gawing tanga ang taumbayan. Ano po ba ang kinakagalit niyo sa Uber at Grab? Ngayon imbes mapadali ang proceso uulit na naman sila kasi sabi niyo nga “nawala”. Either niloloko niyo kami or burara po kayo.

    Kanina naman, ang PNP naman ang nagkalat.

    Winala ang paper request ng Liberal International President. Minoves, kaya hindi pinapasok para dumalaw kay Senator Leila. Hanggang kailan niyo po papaikutin ang mga Pilipino? Hanggang kailan niyo po kami bibigyan ng kahihiyan sa buong mundo?..

    • karlgarcia

      Nice article, indeed there are a lots lessons to be learned.
      As for rebuilding, some may cringe( me included)on not repeating the mistakes of Yolanda rehab,but if there are lessons to be learned and not repeated, then very good, we must learn from it and not repeat it.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      There are many books, scholarly pieces on how to wage war from Sun Tzu to Rommel and Montgomery and their debacle in North Africa. What are these PMAyers reading? Adarna? Nothing is new in Marawi. All they need are intelligence-from-the-ground which they do not have, intelligence-up-here which, again, they do not have, bad .. bad … bad leadership, inherently faulty military strategy, and all comedy of errors.

      KKK failed Spanish insurrection …
      Aguinaldo’s failed attempt on Americans …
      Surrendered to Japanese …
      Surrendered to Americans again …
      They failed in Marawi.
      They failed in Marwan.
      They seem to fail on everything.

      350 years under Spain …
      50 years under Americans …
      5 years under Japanese …
      Another year under Americans again
      Now, Filipinos are under Filipinos

      Never won a single war except in Philippine textbooks.
      Americans picked Filipino hero, Rizal. Polished his credentials and made him looked good.
      Filipinos made all-time traitor General Emilio Aguinaldo as their first president.

      Nothing seems to be going right with Filipinos. Their economy is run by former colonists while Filipino is still in Sari-Sari business to this day.

      Plenty of Filipinos forced their way to Europe and the Americas to surrender to their former colonists so their lives can be run like heaven by colonists than run by liberated Filipinos like hell.

      Philippines should be run under the auspices of United Nations.

      • maybe your ancestor Lapu-Lapu was the only one to win, against Magellan..

        But then again I heard he only wanted to shorten Magellan’s nose. Magellan slipped and got beheaded..

        The Philippines and United States held coordinated patrol in Sulu Sea in a bid to detect and deter threats to maritime security, the US Embassy in Manila said.

        The littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) completed the patrol in Sulu Sea, the tri-border area between southern Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, on Saturday.

        “These patrols enhance regional peace and stability,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, Commander, Task Force 73.


    Yes, we were colonized by Spain and the US, occupied by Japan, and for the most part of our nation’s existence, exploited by foreign nations and corporations.

    Rightfully, we should not forget our troubled history.

    But at the same time, we should not allow others to capitalize on our postcolonial condition and drag us along with their simplistic view of history.

    In the first place, our attitude as a nation should be that of dignity. Having been disrespected in the past should not lead us to feel entitled to disrespect others. Let us bear in mind that Jose Rizal’s response to the racism of his time was not to fight it, but to use his own life to contradict it.

    In the second place, we should accord nuance to our view of other nations. When we think of Europe, for instance, we should realize that many Europeans were colonized by their own kings, just in some ways as we continue to be colonized by our own people. When we think of America, we shouldn’t just think of Donald Trump, but also its multiplicity of peoples – including Filipino-Americans – each with their own struggles. When we think of China we should not just think of Xi Jinping but also the Tibetans and the Uighurs. A proper view of history should not lead us to a misguided thinking of “us against them”; if our nation is so complicated, how can we view other nations otherwise?

    Thirdly, we should recognize that victimhood is not the only possibility with respect to our relationship with other nations. Kowtowing is not the only choice. Our nation has the agency to engage with other nations. Even if we don’t have military might, we can make use of diplomacy -and the fact that we are not alone in our resistance against the hegemony of bigger nations.

    Finally, our attitude should be that of empathy. Our sufferings in the past should make us acutely aware of the suffering of others today. We need a heart for the world, at the heart of our engagements with it.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      Filipinos just droll and love to accuse their being colonized as the reason why they became to be. I digress. The last remaining left-over descendants of colonists are extremely honest, hardworking and incorruptible. The Philippine Press can attest to that, I for one. I have never ever read in any newspapers in the Philippines that the descendants of colonists wee engaged in shenanigans, therefore, the Spanish colonists were are and forever will be honest and straight arrows.

      What the Spaniards failed to colonized are the brains of the Filipinos because if it were the Filipinos would have been extremely honest, hardworking and incorruptible like the last remaining colonists in the Filipinos midst.

      Colonial Mentality is good but the Filipinos resisted colonial Mentality, instead, this mentality is being accused as what caused the toxicity of the Filipinos into morass of corruption.

      (or, is it that brown skin Filipino U.P.-graduate journalists are just afraid to dig for corruption in the last remaining colonists?)

  • sonny

    (memo to me: a teacher once upon a time; seed to ersatz; TB/cont’d)

  • Mariano Renato Pacifico

    Filipinos are incredible people. They do not go to Japanese restaurant until they have mastered chopsticks. Americans go to Japanese restaurant eat with chopsticks awkwardly without them laughing and teasing. But when Filipinos try their hand on chopsticks they are ridiculed by Filipinos. This I do not get.

    Another example, Filipinos must know the menu at a restaurant and how large is the portion. The idea is to make it appear they frequent the place even though it is their first. They do not have the gall to ask how large the portion of the order and how many it can feed. I ask. I do not care about those Filipinos next to our table. And they do not care, too! Maybe because I am white and I have the right to ask? I do not know.

    Asking is not a mistake. Using chopsticks is a learning process. I wonder if this is colonial mentality or Filipino mentality. I have dined with colonists in the most expensive restaurants in Metro Manila they never laughed at me when I asked them what I am eating. Mama Mia. It was scallop. I have never seen a scallop in a shell. So what? They never laughed. They never teased. I did not get a ribbing.

    Filipinos should learn from their mistakes because they are always wrong. Experience is the most expensive school. More expensive than Ateneo+la Salle combined.

  • Andreas Krönert

    Thanks for this good information makes me understand many problems here in the Philippines better. Danke schön. Einen schönen tag!

    • Welcome Mr. Krönert – I see your name from time to time on the Facebook page. It isn’t always easy for someone from outside to understand the peculiarities of the unique Filipino culture.

      On the other side, the centuries of foreign domination make for a lot of insecurity towards especially white people, more so among those Filipinos who are poorer and less educated.

  • Edgar Lores

    1. Most Filipinos “learn” and play by ear (oido). Either you have natural skills or not. And if you have them, the tendency is not to stretch them due to ill-discipline and laziness.

    2. Your primary observation that we do not learn from our mistakes is proved, time and again, by our voting patterns. Do we learn that strong men, corrupt men, dynasties are bad? No!

    3. But there are certain areas where we learn fast — fooling others, fooling ourselves, and taking advantage. These are areas where we do not need to extend ourselves much. Like taking candy from a baby.

    4. And that point about not owning our mistakes strikes a chord. I am guilty of it. But I won’t tell you what. :-p

    • oido I have heard as “widow” – the Spanish origins of playing by ear lost in translation. The trouble with that is that I have seen people who didn’t get things just by looking at them or listening can turn out to do things very well after a while – it is a waste of “secondary” talent which may not be as brillant as “primary” or “natural” talent not to train people properly – in fact it is downright stupid.

      Sometimes those who are not too talented are more productive in daily life because they exert themselves more – the cogs in the wheel of a machinery, which every modern nation-state today is.

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