Bernardo M. Villegas
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Dreaming About the Filipino Family (Part I)

           Let me dream with Pope Francis.  As he said in his talk to the families at the Mall of Asia, on January 16, 2015, “It is important to dream in the family.  All mothers and fathers dream of their sons and daughters in the womb for 9 months.  They dream of how they will be.  It isn’t possible to have a family without such dreams.  When you lose this capacity to dream you lose the capacity to love, the capacity to love is lost.  I recommend that at night when you examine your conscience, ask yourself if you dreamed of the future of your sons and daughters.  Did you dream of your husband or wife?  Did you dream today of your parents, your grandparents who carried forward the family to me?  It is important to dream and especially to dream in the family.”

          I have a dream for the Filipino family twenty years from now, in the year 2035.  One generation from today, there will be some 30 million families with an average of 3 children each. There will still be many families, especially in the middle class, that will have more than three, even five to ten children.  The average of three will guarantee that the Philippines, despite reaching middle income status, will still have a fertility rate like that of France today, i.e. over 2 babies for fertile woman which will spare our country from the curse of the demographic winter from which practically all developed countries today are suffering. These thirty million families will be living in a middle-income country with a per capita income of about $10,000 in today’s prices. I arrived at this figure by assuming that the per capita income of the Philippines, which in 2015 is about $3,000 will grow at 6% annually for the next twenty years.   That would put our country in 2035 at the same standards of living as Malaysia had in 2010 but with six times its current population.  And like Malaysia, the poverty incidence will be less than 5%, much better than it is in the United States today where more than 10% of the population are still living in dire poverty.

          My dream about the economic prosperity that we will be enjoying in the next twenty years is based on my conviction that we will be getting leaders who will be moulded according to the desire expressed by Pope Francis when he spoke to President Benigno Aquino III, the diplomatic corps and government officials at the Malacanang Palace on Friday, January 16, 2015.  He told them:  “As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.  In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country.  Thus will they be able to marshal the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.  Essential to the attainment of these national goals is the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity.”

          I am aware as I dream that the constant increase of per capita incomes at the rate of 6% annually is a necessary but not sufficient condition for attaining the social justice and respect for human dignity to which the Pope refers.  My dream includes a critical mass of leaders in both the public and private sectors, in the government, business and civil society, who will heed the Pope’s exhortation to reject the “absolute autonomy of the market.”   He espouses a truly Christian approach to integral human development in the same speech in Malacanang:  “The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor.  It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.  Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart.  The Bishops of the Philippines have asked that this year be set aside as the ‘Year of the Poor’. “In fact, I dream that the next twenty years be “Decades of the Poor.”

          I dream that in twenty years, our society will get rid of the culture of corruption and will come close to today’s exemplars of good governance such as Singapore and Switzerland.   This means that we will have leaders who will not turn a deaf ear to the Pope’s strong appeal:  “I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.”  I dream that the vast majority of Filipinos will take to heart the definition of the common good that the social doctrine of the Church contributes to political dialogue:  “a social or juridical order which enables every single member of society to attain his or her fullest human development, economically, politically, culturally, socially, morally and spiritually.” (To be continued)