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From Where We Sit

Incoherently coherent

Anton Ng

When I write, I normally do so within the bounds of a certain theme that is rooted in what is currently happening in my life, may it be with my family, work, friends (whether in real life or in social media) or country. This week, it will still be the same, except that my last few days—rather, our last few days—have been very volatile. With a deluge of information, some are true, but most are unreliable, that affects the numerous decisions we need to make, we are sometimes left with the feeling of being lost and of allowing ourselves to be carried by the day-to-day current of life.

As I write this, there is a lot going on inside my head; hence, this warning: this piece might be incoherent blabbering better suited for a late night drinking session rather than the business section of a daily newspaper.

Over the weekend, I attended the wedding of a college buddy, a wonderful occasion that would have been a no-brainer of a decision if not for what was announced a day before.

The Philippines had its first case of local transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). The number of infected cases in the country rose from three to 10. Attending the wedding was still an easy decision to make, but I had to admit: I had to pause and think it through. These days, with the threat of Covid-19, decisions that are easy to make in normal circumstances now require a deliberate analysis of the consequences of our actions.

Should we still attend our Sunday worship service in a big church? Should my girls continue their skating lessons? What about their summer activities, should they continue? Though nothing might drastically change in our day-to-day living, this new level of deliberateness in making decisions is messing with our daily decision-making routines. From simply deciding on the route you would take in the morning to avoid heavy traffic, you would also think if it would be best to work at home.

(Speaking of the wedding and deliberateness, please forgive me if I will sidetrack a bit. I delivered the best man speech at the wedding reception. I deliberately inserted a joke to end my speech. I knew that there is a risk that it would bomb, but I was determined to try it out. To increase the success rate of this particular joke, I tried to set it up in my opening spiel. It did not help. Nobody laughed. Nobody even got the joke. It was totally embarrassing. Interestingly, however, I felt relieved. That was the first time I took a risk in terms of deliberately trying out new material in a public speaking exercise. It was liberating. And because it was deliberate on my part, I knew right away why it did not generate the laughter I was hoping for. I had to set it up differently and more frequently. On a personal growth aspect, it was not a total failure.)

Different people will react differently in the face of this threat. Two people getting the same set of facts may appreciate them differently, always biased toward our own experiences and convictions. This can result in one criticizing the other in terms of how we individually respond to this threat.

(Speaking of criticizing one another, have you ever felt that you were being judged by somebody who chose a different career path from you? For instance, you chose to leave your corporate job to have more quality time for yourself and your family, and you are being criticized for wasting your career and the opportunity it was supposed to bring; or you opted to fight it out and stay in the corporate world, and you are criticized for spending too much time on your work at the expense of your health and family.)

When making decisions in the face of this threat, may we not only think about ourselves or our families. Think about the more vulnerable members of our community, our workplace, and our society. Think about those without sufficient resources if they get sick for weeks. Think about those whose livelihood depends on the general good health of the population.
Consider all these things before deciding on what you should do and what you should say. Hopefully, this will also make us realize that we do not have the right to look down on other people for the choices they make. We can only reason out; but never reason out while perched on our self-made pedestal.

Leadership, during times such as this, is vital. People are looking for someone to trust, someone who can inspire, and someone who can unite people. There are times, however, when no such leadership satisfies this need. In the absence of such, we should fill the leadership vacuum in our own lives. Be a leader of your own self. It could require you to make hard choices. It can force you to think beyond yourself. Be disciplined to exercise proper hygiene. Be disciplined to impose self-quarantine if you think you have been exposed. Be disciplined to withhold hoarding so that the next person can buy what they need. Be disciplined to not make this situation an excuse to renege on your commitments and responsibilities. Most importantly, being a servant-leader, make decisions with other people’s well-being in mind.

Anton Ng is a partner in the audit and assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you. Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our website at


As published in The Manila Times, dated 12 March 2020