The Greatest Want of Our Nation

By Eleazar M. Famorcan

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

My editor and I once interviewed a man whose noteworthy features include his being short in height but long in wisdom.

You probably know who I'm talking about -- the popular former health secretary and now senator Juan Flavier, who once attempted to kiss a pretty lady on the cheek on the halls of the old Senate and found that all he could reach was her bellybutton.

Our visit with him in his government office was made years ago, and the details as well as the highlights of our hour-long conversation -- except those that found their way on the pages of our publication -- have blurred from memory.

During the quick interview I didn't have the chance to see much of his inner person. I didn't even have the occasion to catch his lower limbs dangle from his office chair as had been my amusing privilege with many other diminutive individuals whose feet, when they sit, don't reach the floor.

But I remember something I learned from this fellow who can straightforwardly claim he is a wee bit taller than 4 feet 11 inches. And who also is -- I must say -- short on earthly possessions (which some people find odd for one so well-positioned) but long on virtue. [Recently he was reported to be among the poorest of the present batch of solons.]

There is this interesting parable he wrote for a Manila broadsheet ["Barrio Breeze", Philippine Star]. The parable -- which could be about you and me--told of a person known throughout his locality and beyond for his honesty. He was extremely honest that people trusted him more than any other person, and even more than the bank and the church. People monikered him "the saint".

In time, as tribute to his integrity, this incorruptible man was handpicked by the governor to guard a roadside checkpoint which is famous -- rather, infamous -- for rampant bribery. The only way to clean up corruption was to put an honest person at the helm.

On his first day on the job, someone offered him a bribe of several thousand pesos to allow some cargo to pass without examination. A secret bank account would be established in his assumed name. He refused.

The next day and beyond, people visited his home in an attempt to corrupt him. He stood his ground. He rejected under-the-table money, and returned small token gifts because he didn't want to be influenced. Soon a new moniker was given to him: "walang lagay, walang lakad, walang lusot".

But the bribers would not give up. As months passed by, the bribe bait multiplied. Grease money doubled, tripled, quadrupled. The honest man, true to himself, consistently refused any and all offers.

Then one day, he appeared before the governor with a handwritten letter. He handed it to him saying, "I'm tendering my irrevocable resignation."

"How can you do that?" the surprised governor said. "You are doing well. Integrity and honesty have come back to our place. You are my most honest man. No one could buy you for a price. Why?"

With bowed head, the man replied, "They are about to reach my price!"

Many years ago, a man who made his life a protest against what he thought of as a corrupt society, went about Athens with a lantern in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man -- but never found one.

I'm no Greek philosopher like Diogenes, and I prefer to live in a house rather than in a large tub, but I like to think there are still honest persons hereabouts.

In my book, there are two kinds of honest people.

One, those who know when to flee from temptation, to get away before they get bought -- or caught in its clutches. They are those honest enough to accept that in certain situations, they may not be honest.

Then, there are those who resist temptation. According to a lady with extraordinary insights [Ellen G. White, Education], they are men and women

who will not be bought or sold,...
who in their inmost souls are true and honest,...
who do not fear to call sin by its right name,...
whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole,...
who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.

The want of such men and women, she said, is "the greatest want of the world."

So be it.

Eleazar M. Famorcan is the associate editor of Health & Home magazine, "the national journal for better living", a monthly publication in the Philippines.