This article was originally published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer (Young Blood section) in February 1, 2005.
I have attended a number of seminars and workshops. Each of which aimed to instill in me the values of unity and leadership. But sometimes, in the process, igniting a sense of competition, of rivalry, and conflict. Because in the end, only one should emerge as the victor, the one leader in the pack. And then, the main goals of unity and solidarity are slowly broken into sub-groups, into smaller teams, and eventually just one “I” or “me”.
Great people have said that there is no more for two people at the top. Others even go to an extreme extent of saying, “It is not enough that I succeed, others must fail.” One workshop taught me otherwise.
Like everything, it started with a story, a challenge for 47 eager students. We were divided into three teams with each team given 12 golden bricks. Our mission: to let everyone cross the “river of crocodiles” using the 12 golden bricks, unharmed and at the shortest time possible. By the time my team used up all our 12 bricks, we were still halfway down the river, hungry “crocodiles” at our feet, and time ticking away fast. It got us thinking, “Who are we kidding? Unless we started growing gills and fins, there was no way everyone was going to cross this river.” Everyone shared the same dilemma. We were left scratching our heads with uncertainty. One facilitator, Mr. Jojo Alino, boldly asked, “How many golden bricks do you have?”
“Twelve,” came the chorus.
It took a quick manual count, a number of prudent questions, and a few arguments before someone braved, “Thirty-six?”
Yes, three 12’s made 36. It was unfair that the instructions were not clear, and the fact that we were grouped into three teams had us assuming that we were competing against each other. But then again, it did say that “the team that crosses the river first, wins.” In this case, we were ONE team.
From 47 students, 16 universities, and 10 undergraduate courses, we became ONE team.
It’s surprising how differences can be compromised between so-called enemies and archrivals when the right occasion calls for it. I never imagined myself working (and read: harmoniously, albeit the periodic bickering) with whom we have fondly called “mga taga-Katipunan,”and the “mga aktibista.” Yes, (to my fellow Lasallians) I now appropriately call them by their first names.
One amusing conversation comes to mind. I had daringly and proudly told an Atenean fellow delegate about my newly-discovered “talent” of easily picking out an Atenean from a crowd. Not to be outsmarted, my Atenean friend said, “To be honest, I can easily tell if someone is from La Salle too.” Overheard by a delegate from UP-Diliman, the butt-in came as, “Really? I can’t tell a Lasallian or Atenean apart.” Now, that came as a big blow. But I can’t help but laugh at the frank comment. There we were, boasting about one’s “edge” over the other (whether who’s got the best basketball team, the biggest school grounds, or the hardest subjects), when in reality it’s the “same difference.” This coined term (“same difference”), no matter how paradoxically absurd can’t possibly describe the situation better.
No matter how better or more advantaged we feel over another (especially a long-loathed archrival), one person will always see both parties as equal, as one. This ludicrousness of course, has a deeper implication. Let’s take for instance, our pitiful country. If one may have noticed, we are more than a financially unstable nation. In fact, we are one unstable, divided nation. We fail to realize that people will not see Imelda Marcos (Guinness World of Records’ only woman with 3,400 pairs of shoes); National artist Levi Celerio (Ginness’ only man who could play beautiful music with a leaf); Ferdinand Marcos (the man who allegedly took away the largest loot in history); or Joseph Estrada (allegedly amassed $82 million in kickbacks and payoffs in his 31-month stint as President) as who and what they are. In a stranger’s eyes, they see ONE poor country, ONE desolate nation, ONE wretched people. And in a desperate time when all that’s left for people to cling on to is prayer, there is no room for mere competition.
This story is simple. It’s simpler than most parables, a whole lot simpler than your 800-peso Rich Dad Series but it is something most (if not all) of us forget or perhaps deem unnecessary. Why indeed should one share his glory to 46 others? Why can’t one be solitary in basking under the blinding limelight of fame, success, or wealth? Simple. Because it takes more than 12 golden bricks to build ONE lasting empire.
To the Unilever Business Week 2004 Committee and to my ONE TEAM family, thank you for teaching me life’s better lessons.