28 January 2009


Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Mt 23:8-12

Knowledge and wisdom are related but not the same. Knowledge is aptitude. Wisdom is attitude. Knowledge is aptitude because it speaks about a person’s capacity to absorb data. Wisdom is attitude because it shows a person’s higher faculty to link what he knows to how he acts. Knowledge measures an individual’s intelligence. Wisdom forms an individual’s character.

Unfortunately, in Philippine society, wisdom is colloquially translated as wais. Even more unfortunate, while wisdom is deeply related to good behavior, decent character, and moral living, wais has no immediate relationship with goodness, decency, and morality. If ever it has, it is often a relationship of negation. A person is wais if he can go around or even bend the law. A person is wais if he can take advantage of a situation commonly at the expense of others. A person is wais if he knows the truth but has the talent to twist it. Being truthful is not necessarily a trait of the knowledgeable. But being wise, in the truest sense of the word, demands that he who knows the truth is truthful as well.

This is one of the main problems in Philippine society: many know the truth but they are not at all truthful. Take, for example, the case of yesterday’s hearing at the Philippine senate, by the committee headed by the much-feared Senator Mirriam Defensor-Santiago. A private corporation was blacklisted from making any transaction for which the Philippine government may request funding from the World Bank. According to the reliable investigation conducted by the World Bank, the said corporation engaged in collusion, a crime of conspiring for an anomalous transaction. It is the World Bank’s standard procedure to provide the requesting government results of its investigation, which it did in this case. The World Bank gave the Philippine government a copy of the results of its investigation on the controversial deal as early as November 2007. The Department of Public Works and Highways, the Finance Department, as well as the Office of the Ombudsman were aware of the humiliating refusal of the World Bank to finance a road project of the Philippine government due to the crime of collusion. But not even one of the agencies of the government mentioned earlier lifted a finger to make its own investigation, bring to justice whoever was culpable, and correct this proven shameful practice in doing business with the Philippine government. Those who faced the senate inquiry, not to mention the ire of the Ilongga senator, knew the truth but they really appeared untruthful.

One irony in Philippine society is that despite the fact that many of our national leaders studied in the best Catholic universities in the land – Ateneo, La Salle, San Beda, UST, and, yes, Assumption included – still our country figures among the most corrupt countries in the world. Of course, we do not throw the blame to our leaders only. We all have a share in this seemingly national scourge. We deserve the government we get. But leaders are leaders. And Catholic leaders – or Christian leaders in general – should be both practitioners and vanguards of morality in governance. Indeed, in the Philippines, many of those who know the truth are not at all truthful. They have knowledge but they do not have real wisdom. They are wais but not wise.

According to Proverbs 9:10 and 111:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Clearly, it is not knowledge that gives wisdom. Wisdom is the child of the holy fear of the Lord. Without fear of the Lord, a person may be the most knowledgeable person in the entire universe. But, still, he is not wise, only wais.

As we celebrate, today, the blessed memory of St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest mind ever produced by the Church, let us pray that we – leaders and plain citizens of this nation alike – may be granted wisdom, not only knowledge. May whatever fear of the Lord we – all of us, but most especially those entrusted with public office – still have be preserved and grow until it consumes us, for, without it, knowledge is not wisdom. May we know how to live and live wisely. May the holy fear of the Lord help us know the truth and keep us truthful.


At 9:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the longest time, I was wondering why some of our brilliant senators chose to be wais rather than wise. Now I know...


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