There was a time in Philippine history when the words “sa awa ng Diyos” could come out of anyone’s mouth at any given moment. Trust in God’s grace, mercy and love, was a basic but significant part of the Filipino psyche. We used to be able to see God’s hand in all things, both joy and suffering. This profound abandonment to Divine Providence gave us comfort, and allowed us to take risks, armed with the courage that we could leave whatever needs leaving in God’s capable hands.
I know that’s how my mother and her nine siblings were raised. Their parents started out without much, but due to hard work and this characteristic reliance on God, “sa awa ng Diyos”, all ten kids finished college degrees, raised families of their own, and as far as I know are still eating three meals a day. Some have even achieved a certain degree of success by this world’s standards.
I saw this same spirit of trust repeatedly lived out in other large families that I grew up with. Even as they struggled with day to day needs and other life challenges, the Godly focus and dependence remained evident and rarely wavered. It’s a huge contrast to today’s prevailing attitudes, when the old confidence in God’s loving provision has been exchanged with an often-unjustified belief in material goods and government assistance. Like a frog set in cold water and slowly brought to a boil, the change wasn’t instantaneous, but we observe that even Filipinos who used to see children as gifts, now quantify them. Babies are now set on invisible scales, and the determination of whether they’re blessing or burden falls to him who operates the scales.
Pro-RH folks argue that mandating a two-child policy in the Philippines is a stop-gap measure, meant to be implemented only for a short while “until things get better”. What these folks must not realize is that ideas and attitudes can take hold not only of the individual but entire countries, and that’s exactly what happened to those who took this disastrous route: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Greece, Canada, and even the USA. There are numerous signs that show this contraceptive mentality to be wrong and incompatible with long-term, sustained progress. Once an abhorrence of marriage, family, or childbirth becomes “normal”, we are left with a void that cannot be filled with the snap of a finger. An instant paradigm shift cannot be created, as these countries experiencing a birth dearth are finding. They offer incentives, but few are biting. The thinking that babies can be quantified isn’t connected to a switch that can be clicked off at will. Once material wealth is given a greater value than the human person, it becomes easier to simply keep going down that road and not even look back. “It’s not going to happen here” is a foolish pronouncement when there is evidence to the contrary.
Once a upon a time, the formula was simple. People fell in love, got married, reproduced. Children grew up, became consumers and producers, their parents aged and died. Cycle repeated. Somewhere along the line we decided simple wasn’t a good thing. So we invented complications: people can fall in love but not get married, or get married but not be in love, or get married but not reproduce, or reproduce without getting married, aging can be optional because now we either have miracle drugs and cosmetics or surgery, or if those don’t work, and if aging starts becoming a real drag, there’s always euthanasia. Forget about people becoming consumers and producers and keeping the economy stable, we’ll just pretend that part of the equation doesn’t exist.
What people seem to forget is that when discussing matters of population and economics, we are dealing with HUMAN BEINGS here. I’m not an expert on the economy, but I do have a good understanding of people. And in the above formula, the main ingredients are PEOPLE. People want happiness. But governments have gotten adept at selling the lie that happiness is determined more by material wealth than anything else. See Exhibit A from a Filipina who has bought the lie:
In this case, notice how happiness seems to have been equated to remaining childless. From the point of view of someone who has borne children, the reasoning sounds empty and heartless and cold. Poverty of the heart is much, much worse than poverty of the pocket. If this person remains childless by choice, I can’t imagine the scene at her deathbed, when no offspring is there to hold her hand and pray her into heaven.
In the natural order of things, men and women fall in love, get married, and bear children, not so much because a child will bring material wealth, though that certainly could happen, as it has in the families I know. Most people have babies only for one reason, even against impossible odds: because LOVE.
When we forget that babies are tangible proof of our love for each other, that God is the ultimate Provider, and that each new life is a gift we are given to embrace, we begin to walk the slow road to extinction.