During the so-called "new society" of the late
President Ferdinand Marcos, one of the most
often-quoted lines is: "Sa ikauunlad ng bayan,
disiplina ang kailangan." Literally, it means that if
we want this country to improve, we need discipline.
If only, at that time, Filipinos followed this mantra,
the Philippines would have been out there already!
Look at Singapore now! In a speech delivered during a
recent graduation at Silliman University in Dumaguete,
Menardo G. Jimenez Jr. informed that during a
leadership conference in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee
Kuan Yew shared how he built Singapore from nothing to
where it is today.
Right now, Singapore is a showcase of Asia without
poverty, without the overcrowding, or space. It is
certainly Asia without dirt. "In many ways, Singapore
is the perfect place for the newcomer to Asia," wrote
one travel author. "It is like an Asian showhouse."
In his speech, Jimenez said: "He shared that
Singapore, barely a generation ago, was far worse than
many of its peers. But today, it is an economic
superpower. When he first started to lead Singapore,
he asked his think tank to visit neighboring (Asian)
countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam,
Laos, and Cambodia, and figure out what they don't
have. He said they all came back with one conclusion:
These countries lacked discipline. So to differentiate
Singapore from its neighbors, he decided to build his
country on discipline."
Jimenez, senior vice-president of the retail business
group of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone,
explained what discipline really meant: "This meant
that if Singapore promised something to its people, to
its foreign investors, and to other countries, it will
be fulfilled. A disciplined country and a disciplined
people-that's what he built Singapore on."
"He who lives without discipline dies without honor,"
said an Icelandic proverb. George Washington, the
first American president, noted: "Discipline is the
soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable,
procures success to the weak, and esteem to all."
David Campbell pointed out: "Discipline is remembering
what you want."
"Nothing of importance is ever achieved without
discipline," comments Bertrand Russell. "I feel
myself sometimes not wholly in sympathy with some
modern educational theorists, because I think that
they underestimate the part that discipline plays. But
the discipline you have in your life should be one
determined by your own desires and your own needs, not
put upon you by society or authority."
Film actor Clint Eastwood knows to well: "It takes
tremendous discipline to control the influence, the
power you have over other people's lives." Immanuel
Kant believes: "Man must be disciplined, for he is by
nature raw and wild."
An unknown author once penned: "Discipline, like the
bridle in the hand of a good rider, should exercise
its influence without appearing, to do so; should be
ever active, both as a support and as a restraint, yet
seem to lie easily in hand. It must always be ready to
check or to pull up, as occasion may require; and only
when the horse is a runaway should the action of the
curb be perceptible."
If you want to be successful in life, practice
discipline. "If you want to reach your goals and
dreams, you cannot do it without discipline," Jimenez
said in his speech. He cited the case of one of his
god friends, Fred Uytengsu, president of Alaska milk.
"I used to see him on the baseball field when he used
to coach his son's team and I was an assistant for my
son's team. One day, I saw him wearing a shirt that
said, 'If you don't have discipline, you don't deserve
to dream.' No matter how harsh it may seem, the point
"If you're 350 pounds overweight and you're dreaming
to become the next big hunk, but you don't have the
discipline to watch what you eat, to exercise, and to
make it happen, it isn't going to happen. Don't even
bother dreaming, if you don't have the discipline to
make it a reality. You'll just get frustrated. That's
how important discipline is in achieving success."
Discipline is defined in the world of business as
"work ethic." To drive his point, Jimenez shared an
anecdote from Thomas Alva Edison, a great man who
epitomized what work ethic is all about. "At the age
of 82, the President of the United States said it was
about time he was honored with an award for his
lifetime work. So they put together a huge event in
honor of the inventor.
"Being 82, he felt a bit sick that night and fainted.
Good thing they were able to revive him and he was
still able to go up on stage. Edison upon accepting
the award simply said, 'I am tired of all this glory.
I want to get back to work.' Eighty-two years old,
and all he can think of is going back to work. That is
work ethic. That is discipline,'" Jimenez said.
But are Filipinos disciplined people? Let me give you
an idea. In 2000, when I went to the United States
for the first time, I was surprised to see people
forming a queue when the attendant told us that they
were already boarding passengers from numbers 51 to
65. Sure enough, only those with seats being called
were in the line. The same thing happened when other
numbers were called. I observed that most of the
passengers were foreigners - either Japanese or
Americans. There were some few Filipinos, too.
It was a different story when I returned home. I was
at the airport in Detroit and there were many
passengers. Most of us were bound for Manila. When
one of the attendants announced that boarding would be
started - most of the passengers rushed toward the two
assigned attendants. "Sir, we are boarding only those
from 51 to 65," the attendant explained. "And yours is
24C." The male passenger replied, "I am first here.
So, allow me to board first!"
The scene looked like I was in Davao boarding a flight
going to Manila. To think of, we were still in the
United States and those Filipinos who rushed thought
they were already in the Philippines. How rude and
how uneducated of them. And the foreigners? Well,
they were at the far back, waiting for their numbers
to be called!
I learned later on that Filipinos wanted to go first
because they had so many hand carries. Instead of the
accepted two hand carries per person, they had four or
more. If they went first, they could put them in the
compartment allowed for hand carries. With such kind
of traits, do you think Filipinos are disciplined
If you drive, don't drink. If you drink, don't drive.
So goes a familiar adage. But I know a lot of
Filipinos who do both. If they are caught, they don't
give their driver's license. Instead, they pay the
cops money. That's bribery but I know also of some
policemen who want to be bribed. Except for a few of
Why Filipinos are not disciplined people? The reason
is that most parents don't teach their children this
trait. The Bible urged: "Chasten thy son while there
is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying"
(Proverb 19:18). Here's another: "Do no withhold
discipline from a child; if you punish him with the
rod, he will not die" (Proverb 23:13).
A Chinese philosopher said, "Parents who are afraid to
put their foot down usually have children who step on
And yes, if we want to move as a country to greater
heights, we have to have discipline. We lack
discipline and that's what we need.