Making sense of the changing values in the 21st century

(Part 1 of 2)

 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens

Dear Kuya,

Thanks for all the columns you are sending me. They are wonderful and will serve as an eye opener for our people. But my question is:  how can we elevate our values if the family itself is degrading? Even in our Dominican School, teachers go on strike to force unreasonable demands higher salaries and better benefits that our school much as it wants to, cannot afford to grant.  What values are we inculcating to the minds of the children in their formative years? What kind of society do we have now? What can we do?  What is the solution?.. I am just hoping against hope that better changes or answers will come!

Sister Leticia, O.P.

Manila, Philippines


My dear Sister Letty,

Reading your letter several times challenges and stimulates my mind to ponder and dig into the innermost reservoir of my life’s storage of accumulated knowledge and experiences of the last six decades, just to attempt to pen some answers to your very valid questions, same questions that I also ask myself many times.  I can only answer your questions in the only terms I know, in what I have learned in my short life through personal experience and observations.

You are right when you said that the family unit has changed so much from the years we were young children in the unpolluted farming village in Pangasinan. With such changes, society’s sense of values and priorities also changed.  A generation ago, life seemed so simple in our barrio or barangay. Working diligently in the farms, our people found self-sufficiency and contentment. Peoples’ needs then were few and our basic necessities were very simple and very easy to fulfill. People may be poorer then, but ironically they were happier and contented human beings.

Without a doubt, the world was safer then, but Letty, it was not as exciting as it is now.  Today, we enjoy so many opportunities and have so many choices that our own parents never had imagined nor experienced. I am sure you can still remember, for instance, that some marriages in the barrio were even arranged by the parents and elders of the bride and groom, a practice that we used to laugh and make fun of.  Now, that tradition is just a part of history.

Considered very revolutionary, you decided to become a Dominican nun after obtaining your college degree from the University of Santo Tomas, despite the initial disapproval of our parents, especially our mother, simply because the older sisters and brother were “expected” to help out the family financially after college. But it’s very pleasant to remember now that after a few years, they were the proudest and happiest parents in town because they have a daughter who became a nun.

I also became a CPA but then decided to leave that accounting field to be a businessman-entrepreneur, a path that is less traveled for any one in our town, as there was no security of a weekly or monthly paycheck.  Living outside the norms of our farming culture, I also pursued writing as a regular activity since college that provided priceless non-monetary compensation where my mind can soar without limits!  Just look at what you and I have done like many people around us who came from parallel circumstances and you will be convinced that our forefathers’ dreams and fantasies have become a part of our own reality now!

But this broadening of opportunities entails trade-offs.  We pay for everything in this life and in so doing we often surrender the simple pleasures in order to discover the unknown that also brings excitement in our lives.  Unfortunately, in this metamorphosis of our cultural values and traditions, many get lost even as only a few of us succeed in reaching our optimum potential.  We often ask ourselves:  “Is it worth the work and sacrifice?”

We reminisce the past and evaluate and discern the purpose and meaning of our earthly life, especially when newspapers and TV news bring us more bad news of chaos, war, hate and killings around the world.  But if we are grounded by the principles of a good life, we can always draw strength from our past to overcome the seemingly bleak future of our planet.

Every day, we write some lines in each chapter of our Book of Life while our faculties are intact.  Along that unchartered path, however, like you, I also become impatient to get on the business of living to accomplish all that I dream to do.  I am somewhat scared and flummoxed that at the twilight years of my life, there are still many boxes of talents given by God that remained unopened or unutilized!

(To be continued next week)

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