Wednesday, May 9, 2007


When I first arrived in Dumaguete, I was approached by a small gaggle of expatriates. They heard I was an ex-Green Beret and wanted me to “check out” a man who claimed not only to have been an ex-Green Beret but a “general with nine tours in Vietnam.” On the face of it they had good reason to suspect he had inflated his resume.

I was introduced to him and his wife at a local restaurant. After a few minutes I excused myself. Outside everybody hovered around trying to get the REAL story. They asked, “Is he a real Green Beret?” My response was simple, “It does not matter. He is dying. Let him have his dignity.”

A few months later he did die from lung cancer brought on by years of smoking. His death was bloody, painful and ugly but he died with his dignity intact. Now it can be told, he was a total fraud. A poor pathetic insecure man who felt he needed to lie to get respect.

In my opinion the vast majority of expatriates and local Filipinos tell the truth. I have met many individuals here that I personally admire and respect. None of them were “generals” or “ex-Green Berets” or captains of industry.

An example of this is a very nice local lady and her husband. She ran a small business that failed. Her husband works in a local business and they live modestly. After hours of long personal talks on a wide variety of subjects; after hours of watching this loving family in action, I grew to respect them to their true character not some false resume. Respect is born in truth and nurtured by reality.

Around the world we give far too much credit to “false” idols. Movie stars, Green Berets or sports athletes who have little to offer except their fame. They are often held in unjustified respect and awe. Many can do little more than throw a ball, kill something or cry for the camera yet we hang on their every word as if they had some brilliant insight. The American Congress even called a movie star to testify on the plight of America’s struggling small farmer. What were her qualifications for this honor? She once played a role as a small struggling farmerin a movie.

Condoleeza Rice got her Masters Degree at prodigious Notre Dame University and her Doctorate Degree at the University of Denver. She holds honors at six other Universities. She has functioned successfully at the highest levels of the American government for over sixteen years. Yet America hangs on every word from her many celebrity critics like Martin Sheen who failed his college entrance exam and Barbara Streisand who merely graduated from high school. Why do we believe them and not Ms Rice? Because they are movie stars and we like them. Hardly qualifications I find reassuring when the future of a nation is at stake.

If you are looking for people to admire; you do not need to go beyond the family breakfast table. I honor and admire hard working parents more than I ever will a “Rambo” wannabe or some pretty face on the movie screen. Their job is far harder and they get less credit. There is no special school for being a parent. They do not always get it right, but they keep trying day and night.

My landlady raised four boys and adopted her sister’s orphaned daughter. She worked long arduous hours in a small shop in the market. There were no frills, no fancy clothes or toys. She gave them values, responsibility, structure and love. Now they are all grown, educated and successful. Sadly she will never get a spot on TV news or be honored at some big banquet. Yet, what she did with over half her life against tremendous odds, deserves much more admiration and respect than someone like me, who just wore a funny green hat and spent a few hours in hell. Take a few minutes today and give our parents a big hug and a bigger thank you. They are your real heroes.

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