By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Cheese, PBA and salt

September 21, 2022, 3:19 pm

One of my favorite books is a 1998 motivational business fable written by Spencer Johnson entitled, “Who Moved My Cheese?”. It is a simple treatise on how people react to changes in situations and life. In the book, there are four characters who live in a maze. These characters were two mice and two little people named Hem and Haw. The characters in the book represent attitudes to changes in environment, the maze was the environment and the cheese represent happiness and success which is always temporary. The characters all lived in a section of the maze with a large supply of cheese. As in all things, the cheese slowly dwindled. The mice anticipating the situation already, had left their section and scouted the surrounding areas looking for cheese and when the cheese ran out they simply moved. The little people, however, true to their names, took a long time to react or make a decision. Instead of acting, they initially just stayed and became angry at the unfairness of the situation. They became so comfortable with the situation that they did not want to change the way they did things.

The story illustrates that when there is bountiful cheese some people become complacent and resistant to change. When the cheese disappears, some people adapt while others react negatively and just shout “Who moved my cheese?” Those who are able to anticipate the loss of the cheese and prepare and adapt are the ones who survive and thrive.

I remembered the book when I read about the situation involving the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and to some extent, our nation’s problem with salt. When the PBA started so many decades ago, it was something new and exciting. The best players would flock to PBA to display their wares. Everyone watched the games. The cheese was firmly inside the playing courts of the PBA. Unfortunately, it slowly became stale. Then the player exodus began. Slowly but surely the PBA felt that their cheese was growing smaller. Rather than adapt and survive by innovating, the PBA is ranting and complaining at the unfairness of the situation.

Our small scale salt industry also suffered a movement of its cheese when the ASIN LAW or RA 8172 was enacted making it mandatory to iodize all salt produced, manufactured, traded, imported or distributed. When the ASIN law was enacted and set the said requirement, the small scale and traditional salt producers were unable to adapt to the new requirement. Today, the ASIN law is being blamed as partially responsible for the low salt supply in the country. There are calls to scrap the ASIN law to revive the local salt industry. The ASIN law, however, was enacted to address iodine deficiency in the country. Perhaps the solution is not that simple?

When the “cheese” moves, other than complaining, the affected persons normally find someone or something to blame for their situation. Unfortunately ranting, raving, complaining, and blaming others rarely bring about the desired outcome.

In my last piece, we discussed the concept of “Go out. Shut the door. Listen from the outside”. In times of “cheese movement or depletion”, perhaps it is time to look at the situation from another angle and listen to other people. In the case of the PBA perhaps it is best to innovate anew or make players want to stay. Perhaps instead of focusing on individual players and their talents it is time to focus on team play and system so that exodus will not unduly hamper performance. Perhaps it is time to look for new sources of “cheese”?

In the case of our salt industry, perhaps the industry and our policy makers should look at other solutions to improve salt production. Perhaps the law can be amended or modified so that both problems can be addressed. BFAR, DA and DOST have programs that promote new technology to address salt production. Perhaps local governments can also be tapped to implement these technologies already so that these technologies can be made readily available to the salt producers. Cooperation, coordination, and information dissemination can vastly contribute to development on the ground and finding new sources of “cheese”.

This is just my oblique observation.


Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.