Pinoy Best Practices at Christmas

Simbang Gabi!

This is a Catholic tradition among Filipinos which has spanned centuries and continues to sustain the integrity of a united community that respects the family as the center of spiritual growth.

Every 16th of December before dawn breaks, fathers and mothers wake the children from their deep slumber to prepare for the 9-day novena masses which will culminate on  December 24th, Christmas eve. With everyone awake in toe, they walk through a cold breeze and a line of barking dogs to the community chapel. At the church, friends nod at one another as they await the Entrance, when the officiating priest enters and walks the aisle with his entourage. During the sermon, the priest sees to it that he keeps the audience from the desire to sleep by cracking a local joke or two before enjoining the community to pray for one another. After the mass, the priest waits at the door to give individual blessings to churchgoers along with handshakes from the adults and Mano Po! from the children. Out in the churchyard after the mass, people gather for breakfast, generously prepared by the assigned sponsors of the day. Here, children look for their ninongs and ninangs for another bout of  Mano Po! to remind them of their obligations,   fathers plan for a special activity, mothers gather for updates,  and foes try to reconcile. The walk home with  neighbors is enjoyed with shared memories of the past year: the disasters, the surprises, the losses as well as the triumphs. Finally, an outburst of laughter over an old joke or an observation at the occasion binds the community spirit before the group breaks for their respective abodes.

Noche Buena


This tradition puts the Filipino family at the center of everyone’s life. The person is nurtured, developed and sustained within the physical, psychological, social and spiritual resources of the family as society’s basic unit of survival.

Cooking the Christmas Eve supper and the meal after the Christmas Mass offers an enjoyable opportunity for family members to stay home, do things together, and eat their favorite food that usually include ham, keso de bola, fruit salad, bread or native cakes. Also, there’s lechon, fried chicken, beef caldereta, and all other favorite meat recipes. And, yes, the wine! If the family resources allow, gift-giving occurs after the grand meal. Otherwise, it’s a long night of just telling stories about one another outside the home.

The rule is: Family First. This could be one of the major reasons why other nationalities wonder at the Filipino’s sense of helping one another through thick and thin, through generations of relatives. And it does sustain the Filipino family in more ways than we could all ponder.


Bagong Taon!

This tradition highlights the community spirit as they welcome another year through a barrage of  celebratory sounds from firecrackers, bells, gongs, and all other possible objects for the purpose.


In celebration of the New Year, neighbors bring out the festive meals and put them on the common table. Again, stories are told of the past year and of plans for the coming year as food is taken any time each one desires. At twelve o’clock midnight, the welcome sounds culminate and everyone takes time to enjoy fireworks in the sky. The human spirit soars to another recharging in preparation for the challenges of another year. Meanwhile, there’s the family and the community to depend on.

Being Poor at Christmas


Thirty million Filipinos were poor three years ago. Now, little children still roam the streets, but this time they take with them their smaller and younger siblings to gather food remnants from a big eatery garbage drum. The adolescents go after pockets or slash bags of the uncanny passers-by. They go home to a shanty that offers nothing but a floor where they all together sleep on. Mothers with infants and pregnant women peddle, if not beg, for the day’s sustenance. Men gather for the early shots of gin.

Poverty is a vicious cycle of deprivation, loss of self-esteem and desperation that sometimes lead to inaction and self-destruction. It is a social malady that, left unattended, corrodes the moral fiber of the community. With international assistance coming in billions of dollars, why was the poor Juan de la Cruz never reached, now that he is poorer and in more need?  When before he had a roof above his head, he now lost it from the floods, or an outburst of fire caused by a faulty wiring, or a demolition team. When before he was overseas and able to earn for his family’s needs, he is now forced to come home jobless and empty-handed, to a household that waits for his remittances in order to eat everyday. When before he had a little, now he has nothing but the clothes on his back.

In this December month, Filipinos look forward to a grand celebration and merry-making, to great family reunions and gift-giving. These things should happen, whether or not one has everything or nothing. One Juan could get friends together to stage a bank robbery. Another could just be content with what will come from the kind- hearted. Yet another thinks the community Christmas party is just fine. Nothing beats Juan when he has nothing but a smile and kind words to give to friends and acquaintances. At this instant, he shares the charity of the poor.

Juan looks at the bright mansions glittering with multi-colored lights and animation. He couldn’t fathom how much riches the owners possess. More often than not, the owners don’t have time for happiness as they watch over their wealth either grow or gradually vanish. Juan doesn’t understand the poverty of the rich.

And Juan looks at the friendly worker who helps him gain other skills that could give him employment, and wonders at how meager the worker’s resources are while the worker has the heart to have much more in order to help a lot more like himself. Juan unknowingly hopes that someday the frozen middle class will be able to have more and move further while taking his hands and the hands of millions more up the ladder of comfort and humane living.

Hear! Hear! The carols are in the air, as we sing “Merry Christmas!”, no matter what.



Maguindanao Martial Law


After the November 23, 2009 election-related violence in Maguindanao where at least fifty seven (57) people were massacred, clocks started ticking to assess how long it would take for the Arroyo administration to bring forth the perpetrators and give justice to the victims. Media is more upfront and aggressive, considering that 15 among the dead were colleagues in the industry. From a state of emergency since the gruesome incident, Martial Law was declared December 4 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1959.

The ensuing arrests without warrants as a result of the suspension of habeas corpus created an instant scenario of relief, since it is a known fact that the Ampatuans as primary suspects could easily evade procedures with their enforced influence among the police and the military in the province. However, some political observers think that for the law enforcers to have been shoved to the side as ineffective in performing their duties is another government miscalculation and means of issue evasion.  Another facet of the national reaction is the fear for a forthcoming expansion of martial rule in all areas of the country. Senator Miriam Santiago poses that with escalating incidents of violence in Mindanao, Martial Law covering the entire nation could be possible with government having the least difficulty in making a justification. The Marcos Martial Law regime spanning twenty years is still a fresh, horrific memory for the present generation.

Through the legal process, joint session of Congress has been called to assess the need for the declaration of martial rule in Maguindanao. In spite of surfacing irrelevant side issues, Speaker Prospero Nograles tells reporters the verdict of the votes will be announced publicly by Tuesday, December 15, 2009.

In the mean time, poor Juan de la Cruz, with a grumbling stomach in a personal corner of an evacuation center awaits Christmas Day.


(Picture credits: www.monstersandcritics.com and www.saigon-gpdaily.com.vn. Thanks!) 

If PGMA Went to Congress

The community of speculative Filipinos roar at President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, picturing her in Congress making every effort to swing the vote to hold a Constitutional Convention in order to change the form of government from Presidential to one that is Parliamentary. Presently, coming down from being President to seeking to become a Congresswoman in her home province in Pampanga is taken with a “What is that?” attitude. People think that to slowly make hey way up till she becomes Prime Minister is sustaining power in bad taste. Worst, public opinion now holds that the President is doing all these to seek immunity from the corruption charges that are sure to be hurled at her once she ends her term as President.

The Filipinos are a singular critique and a “plural action” people. After this phase of united emotion, we break down into different involvement or non-involvement. One might be in a political position and goes on with a “small time” bribery and justifies: “Don’t worry, it’s just small change compared to what the big names get for favours.” Another might go back to honest work and patiently allots his salary to just the very basic needs of his family. Still another might sit down from morning till night and drink his disappointments away with alcohol till he drops dead.

Yet we cannot erase what PGMA has done in the past and how she symbolized for us women empowerment, economic progress, political reform, and national renewal. For every president that we elect, we put on her/his shoulders all our hopes and dreams for a better life in our own land. She/he has no other good choice than to deliver. However, after disappointments over unmet expectations over time and the corruption allegations, we STOP at supporting and helping to make things turn in the right direction. Our handy alternative is for her/him to STEP DOWN.

Have we made the right choices as a people with these responses to our recurring problems? If yes, why do we still long for the right leaders, why do we keep this form of democracy knowing it doesn’t satisfy our needs? Why can’t we afford to think of the idea of change?

Who knows, things might turn out well if PGMA went to Congress. Or do we really care to be better off?

Wanted: Our Paradigm to National Development

Beleaguered by the repercussions of the Maguindanao Massacre, the national government now faces tremendous public pressure to deliver justice to the victims and to prove that the government is worth the public trust. The six month-away automated national elections in May 2010 is under scrutiny and creates fear of confusion in stead of order. Government perceives all other issues directly involving the national leadership in big deal corruption as media speculation and baseless paranoia. However, the public persists in making government admit its flaws and give all Filipinos another chance.

To end warlord-ism in the country is the greatest call of the day. How do we do it?

As in all great endeavors, we need a paradigm within which we all can locate the significance of this cause and point its benefits for the greater good. Since the issue is a concern of arms, we need our great military thinkers and strategists- those who are independent in their expertise and philosophies of national development regardless of their current positions in the social and economic order. We need historians to give us the highlights of our national achievements and make us see the parallelism with other governments, which have transcended similar public discontent and reinstated public morale. We need to introspect and seek counsel with our respective religious and social groups and define what we mean by being Christians or Muslims.

We all need to gather other facts essential to our existence as families, as communities, and as a nation. Then we all need to get together and create our common grounds for peace and harmony.

These are ideas, which might help us create our paradigm to national development. These are our givens; these are our realities. What do we do next?

Maguindanao Massacre: Condemn the Culture of Violence!


The recent gruesome and merciless killings of fifty seven (57) Filipinos-political family members, lawyers, mediamen, and ordinary travellers- hits all of us personally and collectively. Unarmed and defenseless, trusting and hopeful they treaded, like we all do, the daily road of life. However, we forget that our time is not the easiest of times; it is the hardest and the harshest yet.

Violence is the means of the desperate. Desperate that once the political clout is destroyed, all influence is lost. Influence is gained through control of resources, both economic and social. In the Maguindanao area, control has become the privilege of a few, and control means violence.

This sub-culture of violence is perpetrated by those who lust for power, goods, and money. It cannot thrive, however, when people refuse to be imprisoned in this way of life. If those who join the greedy murderers will have access to a decent life, we believe they will choose to be free. One thing we can do is give them examples of how this could be done, as the examples shown by Efren Penaflorida and Manny Pacquiao, and by the millions of Filipinos who have reacted strongly against the massacre.

It is uplifting to know that most of us still believe in the essence of democracy and of freedom. However, we do not stop here. Wherever we are, let us create our own communities that will mean human development and moral progress. Let us become the people who not only think intelligently but also wise and prepared for the worst, who not only hope but also act, people who not only pray but also serve.

Condemn the culture of violence! Justice to the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre!


(Photo used in this post credited to www.worldbulletin.net)




The Filipino is CNN Hero

Efren “Kuya Ef” Peñaflorida gives the Filipino integrity beyond reasonable doubt. He gives justice to all those who work honestly in impossible circumstances, those who persevere to remake the fabric of our degenerating corner of this earth, both literally and figuratively. He puts shame on those who generalize that Filipinos are “beggars.”

Let us ponder on what made Kuya Ef sensational. First, he makes the opportunity for himself and does not wait that it be given. Most of us, like the unemployed, tend to point the finger at the government for their insufficiencies in life. Let us remember that the final decision and action rest on us. Ultimately, we are responsible for ourselves.

Second, Efren Peñaflorida is patient and persevering. While we all agree that the level of corruption has gone worst from worse, this should not stop us from taking the high road. We experience in daily life that when we do, people around us reciprocate in the same manner. Be kind and others will most probably be kind to you. Be patient, and most probably, you will find something worthwhile in due time. Be smart and don’t stop educating yourself, and for sure, you won’t end up disliking and being disappointed at yourself at the end of the day.

Third, our hero continues to give the fruits of honest labor. It is right to give what is due to anyone, but to give away what is due to one’s self is heroic.

I pray that all political leaders elected in 2010 will have the qualities of our hero. Then we will all call it a DAY!
(The image in this post is from cnn.com)

Pacquaio and Politics

When boxer Manny Pacquiao made history with his seventh WBO win in different weight categories, he made most of us joyous and proud, albeit momentarily. Even criminality held its axe. As a young man, this folk hero from General Santos City trained with discipline and hard work, even when finances were insufficient with loans drawn out. He has become a greatly skilled player inside the ring, and his recent win made him a billionaire in his 30s. A brilliant example of a hard-earned success.

With his present affluence, he wants to serve Saranggani Province by running as its Congressman in 2010. He has the money to do it, and the popularity that most probably makes a political candidate win. However, will he be a successful public servant?

Becoming a public servant means considering the welfare of the greater majority. It goes beyond self, family, relatives, friends, and kababayan or katribo. It could mean a number of people could get hurt for the sake of a greater number. In addition, those hurt could be one’s self, family, relatives, and friends.

It demands a personality that is more other-directed than individualistic. It is teamwork rather than a personal triumph. It is more of building a community of winners than making someone distinct from the rest.

It requires the mental skills of observation, analysis, discernment, and a moral sense of justice and equality. It becomes difficult when personal values conflict with those held by most.

At times, it entails sacrificing one’s resources for the public’s welfare, including money and property.

It is modeling on how to live life.

Would wishing Manny good luck make a difference?

GOOD LUCK MANNY!

Ang Wakas sa 2012

Ang prologo sa nobela ng sangkatauhan ay isang milagro ng paglikha. Kamangha-mangha ang mundo: sa lupa, dagat at himpapawid ay sari-sari ang namumukadkad at patuloy na ginagampanan ang siklo ng buhay. Ang tao ang pinakatanging obra, dahil siya ay marunong mag-isip ng tungkol sa lahat ng nasa mundo, pati ng tungkol sa kanyang sarili.

Sa isang yugto, kataka-taka na sa talinong taglay, ang tao ay nakakapamili pang maging makasarili na pa bagang siya lamang ang may karapatan sa mundo. Kahit nakikita niya na sobra ang lahat ng bagay para sa kanya lamang, kahit nararamdaman niya na naghihirap ang nakararami sa kadahilanang hindi nakapag-aral at walang oportunidad, kahit nakikita niya ang buong pamayanan na nagkakanda-kumahog sa paghanap ng solusyon maipantay lamang para sa lahat ang bansang yaman. Ang masakit, madami na ang mga salot ng lipunan.

Sa kabilang yugto, bakit may mga taong marunong kumilala ng hirap ng iba? Mga taong handang magtrabaho at magpunyagi kahit gaano kalayo at kahirap, hindi lamang para sa sarili kung hindi para rin sa asawa, pamilya, komunidad, at bayan? Sila ang mga taong may konsiyensiya: mga taong may pahalaga sa tama at nararapat at isinasantabi ang mali at hindi makatarungan. Ang kabutihan, may mga natitira pa ring mga bayani ng lahi.

Sa huling yugto, mukhang nakararami nga ang mga walang pakundangan sa pagputol ng mga puno sa gubat, pagtapon ng kemikal, plastik at iba pang basura sa ilog at dagat. Mas marami na ang mga walang pakialam na gumagamit ng sasakyang nagbubuga ng libreng lason sa hangin; naglipana ang mga taong pilit at walang paalam na nagpapatayo ng kabahayan at istraktura sa mga lugar na sensitibo at kailangan sa pagdaloy ng ilog o sa pagpapanatili ng kakahuyan at kabundukan.

Kaya magtataka ka pa ba kung sabihing ang lahat ay magwawakas na? Dumating ang mga ga-higanteng bagyo na kumitil at sumira ng maraming buhay at nanalasa sa mga patanim at paghahayupan. Gumuho ang mga bundok, nabunot ang mga puno at umapaw ang mga dagat at ilog. Narito na ang mga delubyo, pagkalat ng nakamamatay na mga sakit, at tumindi pang paghihirap ng mga mahihirap.

Ang wakas ay eksakto raw sa taong 2012. Nanlulumo na ang mundo sa pang-aabuso ng tao at nag-kaka-edad na. Kasabay ng tumatanda na ring mga ibang planeta sa kalawakan, ang ating mundo ay mawawalan ng liwanag galing sa haring araw. Mamamaalam ang mga korona nito at tuluyang maglalaho. Sa paglaho ng ating araw, tayo’y susunod din.

Hindi natin maisasantabi ang sinasabi ng siyensiya. Ito ay ang pinakamagaling na napag-aralan ng ating mga utak bilang tao. Hindi rin tayo maaaring magpakabingi sa sinasabi ng Bibliya o anu pa mang Banal na Kasulatan. Hindi ba’t sa unang yugto ay kinikilala natin na may banal na May Akda ng mundo? Ang mga kasulatang ito ay nagpapatotoo rin sa wakas ng panahon. Kung kailan, hindi bumabanggit ng eksaktong petsa.

Sa epilogo ng iyong buhay, mas gugustuhin mo ba na nasa mala-purgatoryo kang lugar kung saan tapos na ang oras at wala ka nang magagawa? Wala nang halaga ang pagsisisi dahil huli na ang lahat? Na sinayang mo ang iyong utak, kamay, paa, mata, taynga at iba mo pang regalo dahil tapos na ang mundong ginalawan mo? Nguni’t naroon ka pa rin, habang panahon na nakadarama nang lahat ng dati’y naramdaman mo sa iyong pagiging tao.

Wakas sa 2012? Dalawang taon na lang? Magmuni-muni ka. Ang nobela ay maaari pang magkaroon ng pag-asa sa wakas. Pagbibigyan ka pa NIYA. Ikaw ba’y magiging bayani o salot?

Ikaw ang aakda nito.

Your Choices of Leaders in 2010

Choosing your President in 2010 could be the influence of your own individual processing, of your immediate family, your peers, the community where you belong, of what most Filipinos think as the better choice or by a combination of all of the above. Yet we often find ourselves unprepared to choose as the election draws near. We still await the media circus and the campaign extravaganza. No matter what your strategy and pace are, let us share some thoughts to guide you in making the final choice.

The past three decades saw an unprecedented election of two women to serve at the peak of our executive hierarchy: Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Cory Aquino was undoubtedly the symbol of renewed democracy, and as such, has already done her part. Surprisingly, she has surpassed expectations and rates as having been professional and efficient in her Presidential role. Gloria Arroyo with a former President-father and a post-graduate education in economics was to bring the country into yet another economic miracle. Now facing great criticism left and right, she remains certain to complete her term in 2010 and insinuates running for another political post by then. Loren Legarda now stands out as the only woman candidate for the next highest-ranking position, the Vice-Presidency. Having been in the media as well as in government service as two-time Senator, many think that she would have been ready for the Presidency. Her most significant contribution remains to be her authored legislation benefiting women and children, such as the Anti-Domestic Violence Act and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and her environmental protection and preservation advocacy through the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law and the Climate Change Act of October 2009. With the Luntiang Pilipinas program, two million trees were planted all over the archipelago. The 10@10: The Ten Million Trees Campaign foresees planting of 10 million trees by the year 2011 as our contribution to the UNEP, which aims to reach the seven billion-tree mark by 2009. Undoubtedly, her contributions are necessary and relevant to the challenges of our time.

For the Presidency, the males dominate. The spectrum of their experiences range from being film actors, religious leaders, traditional politicians, to the popular “tao ng masa.” The nuisance candidates make their scene, too. We as a people often rate those in office during and after their term and less frequently before they were catapulted as hierarchical winners. Could this be one reason why we end up regretting? How do we truly know any candidate? Since the mind is boggled by the impossibility of personally seeing and living with all “__-ables” in order to gauge their suitability to public office, we mostly depend on what they will say in their media campaign. Notice that the media is now multi-dimensional and is capable of making everyone look like “Bro,” or any self-made super hero.

Those with better information and experience dealing with the subject personalities are in a great way responsible to their community of voters, too. The NGOs (non-government organizations) are reachable through the technological miracle of the internet. Their blogs and websites may post information you have wanted to know. Better still, talk to your local officials, initiate community discussions, and participate in local events, which could help surface your ever-significant decision.
In the end, it all boils down to how honest and sincere the candidates are in promoting their public image. The greatest fall comes from spiralling public expectations bloated by falsehoods and inability to deliver, and the deathly outcome is borne by our poverty-weakened social and economic backbone.

Government Leaders as Crisis Managers

The onslaught of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng was proof that we need leaders and officials in government to become crisis managers. The unpredictable happened, but it was not really and totally unknown. Why? First, we know for the past half a century most of us have lived that population will grow much faster than it will reduce. Common understanding tells us it means more people will need earth space to build houses, more people will need food, more people will need clothes, etc. Second, our past decades have seen the brightest of minds we could ever recall, whether they ended up as tragic heroes and heroines or made history as icons, they did give a thought or two that became TRUTHS and serve as guideposts to our modern cum hazardous living. Lastly, this common knowledge and the historical legacy give us reason enough to ACT responsibly and become wise inhabitants of this human planet.

The responsibility of looking after the welfare of the community especially during time of crisis falls on the shoulders of government leaders, specifically those in the executive branch. As planning is an essential element of governance, its breadth and scope ideally include planning for natural crisis such as the super typhoons that hit the country. Yet we hear of people in the calamity areas commenting about late rescue efforts, absence of government leaders, untimely and insufficient relief goods, etc. Whether these are valid or not, the gaps are evident in community mobilization and information, crisis resource distribution and management, formulation of contingency plans, etc.

In retrospect, government leaders as crisis managers will prove a great advantage in our efforts as a people to cooperate, unite and contribute to making real, humane communities we all need.

Typhoons

Typhoon Ondoy left Metro Manila and nearby provinces wasted and waste-full. It was heartbreaking it should sensitize all of us to the murderous extent we have damaged mother earth. Reports say this volume of rainfall has never happened in Manila and the amount that fell in all of Luzon in two days was equivalent to the regular annual volume for the entire nation. Ondoy left 300 deaths in Metro Manila alone and Pepeng caused more or less the same number of casualties in the Cordillera region. Scientists and environmentalists warn that we only have TEN YEARS to try to REVERSE the effects of climate change. It's shocking as much as it's REAL.

Experts advise that in developing countries such as ours, adaptive measures may be adopted to face the adverse effects of climate change. Communities in low-lying areas and have experienced flooding and/or mudslides are now mandated to leave for relocation areas days before the incoming storm. Local government units prepare rescue vehicles and equipment; food rations are packed for those who will be housed in relocation centers. Immediate as well as long-term solutions are now being taken seriously. Residents of houses in areas where they should not have been constructed in the first place are discouraged from returning. The Laguna de Bay area has shown to heve been abused by illegal structures which resricted the flow of water from the bay to tributaries, and on to Manila Bay. This caused the great flooding in the areas of Pasig, Pateros, Marikina and the rest of Rizal. Aggravating cirucumstances cited were the denudation of forests in the Rizal provinces and the improper and careless disposal of wastes from industrial and commercial establishments as much as from individual homes. Evidently, we have gone too far in abusing the environment and it looks like payback time has come. We can only pray that this time we will act together and concertedly meet the challenges of our seasons.

Governance 'Takes Two to Tango’

During and after the deluge brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the avalanche of complaints and concomitant issues on how the government responded to the disaster took its turn. We tend to blame those in office and forget we, as citizens, have our own share of the responsibility. I was in government service for some nine years and I have seen how the government tried, through the decades, to give opportunities for people to participate as much as what a progressive democracy demands. That corruption has become inbred only proves that we all corroborated to make it so. When the government becomes inept and dysfunctional, we have ourselves to blame, too. Yet we have a mass base which still needs to be helped in seeing and understanding these realities before they could even act. Those of us who could lead should continue to teach self help no matter how painstaking the process is. And, there is no mistaking, it is very difficult.

In my stint with the National Housing Authority and Human Settlements Regulatory Commission, I observed that a good way to make people participate is by making them realize they make their future whether or not they act on it and acting on it will make a viable and reliable future most probable. (I do not mean to lecture and only stay confident because of a Meritorious Service Award I happily got from NHA as Sociologist/Community Relations Specialist). Delivering the message or the government goal in simple language and in one of their usage, listening to what they have to say about it and feeling for the community would help a service provider so much it could bring her mission to START. Communication is basic and crucial; planning with the people assures an agreed-upon and feasible product no matter how meagre finances and other resources are. When two parties agree in all aspects to do something, its success is almost guaranteed. We are Filipinos and we could try to do things right for ourselves and for the rest of our race.

Voting for the First-Time? Things to Think About

Our Presidential elections next year gives me the shivers, like anticipating the onslaught of another typhoon never knowing how much disaster it will bring. Why we have come to this point of uncertainty should really send us thinking about what we did with our votes the past election years. I had high regard for Marcos but was disappointed he had to exit ungraciously. I believe “Tita Cory” did her best and made good in spite of her limitations. She had integrity. FVR and GMA were sophisticated in their own ways. But poverty is still amongst us and it feels like no President could ever be spared from bearing the blame for it. The future looks gloomy if we don’t act on making it good. The best thing about still being here, alive and kicking, is that we can always TRY. Uncertainty is always disturbing but one good way of coping with it is to talk about it. Come to think of it, the subject is interesting. So let’s talk about it!

I don’t remember any period in our national history when young people and the first time voters have been given real significance more than now. To be able to swing the vote to the best choice of candidates is an effort that indicates the making of a united electorate. Mass media is now coupled with high technology, reaching and touching the hardest population sector to please – the youth. Example, ABS-CBN’s “Boto Mo-Patrol Mo” does not only encourage eligible voters to register, it reinforces vigilance so one’s vote would be counted, and stands for one’s vote to make THE DIFFERENCE.

But what do the first time, youthful voters look for in a leader? Here are some elements you may want to think about and some of my thoughts as starters:

A Gentleman or another Lady President?

With Cory and GMA the idea of the woman good only with house chores swung to both sides of the extreme: “the woman is equal to a man” and “the woman can be a man, too.”

In both instances, they reflect how we as a people has transcended traditional perceptions about being a woman; how the Filipina has “actualized” herself as a working individual, as a single parent, as what I call the rice winner, as an overseas adventurer and risk-taker, as a partner to another female, etcetera, etcetera.

Does gender matter when it comes to being the president of a nation?

Is a candidate’s religious affiliation important?

Catholics, Protestants, Muslims. We are a mix of religious beliefs and those beliefs do intersect at some points so we all value life, family, peace within and outside. Our individual beliefs somehow mirror those of our society and if one would be faithful, then this country would be a better place for all. Didn’t the prayers make People Power 1986?
What about educational attainment?

The Erap jokes exaggerated the criticism on former President Estrada’s academic achievement, and it made his limelight brighter. He turned out smart and outwitted even himself. But how and where should a President’s intellectual capacity be demonstrated?

***
This article is continued here.

Voting for the First-Time? Things to Think About part 2

What values would you look for in a candidate?

Purity of intent to do good. This quality could be found in any individual, rich or poor, in any profession, anywhere. Aside from the internal control of the value, the lure of empowering one’s self in one’s political position could be overweighed if not eradicated.

Would you like a President who has excellent communication skills?

Nobody comes close to former President Marcos. Next to Ninoy. But somebody has yet to give messages in Filipino, make the ordinary Juan understand, and make him feel involved so he would be motivated to act and help make a better future for himself and the country. We have to seriously consider that our mass base speak the native tongue.
What about having a sense of humor?

Just read the Erap jokes while you keep the chamberlane on. But it will not make you think of Erap as having been a good President.

Should a presidential candidate be rich?

Campaign is expensive and if a candidate could afford to run for presidency, maybe he/she could refund after he wins. Wherefrom? It depends.

What about track record?

If we look at the long list most candidates place in their flyers, we could be overwhelmed. With how much they know, they could go around the system without being detected. But I hope they would just summarize and emphasize the significant contributions to family and community building and whatever else is relevant to the position they are seeking.
Could a President give a cure for or prevent corruption in the government?
I sure hope there’s a chamber of secrets for this and that we could all walk through the wall to find out. It looks like we need magic to destroy the rot. It’s hard since the root cause lies in the individual. Which means everybody has to do it, ideally at the same time.

“ Ninoy-Gerry: Noynoy-Mar”

George Bernard Shaw said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

But man is capable of learning from experience. This, I believe, is what makes man a very special creation. And history does not repeat itself, unless it is interpreted twice. But I hope not as a tragedy first, and second, as a farce.

As their fathers Ninoy Aquino and Gerry Roxas had visions of how our country could be great,
Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas have their own. I find them both sincere. Mar gives up his plan to run for President in 2010 to give way to Noynoy’s candidacy. The latter is now on retreat which shows how seriously he’s taking on the torch. Noynoy as President and Mar as Vice-President could be the stimulus we’ve been waiting for. Let’s all do our share. Sacrifice should not be the sole obligation of the leaders, but also of those being led.

What About Capital Punishment?

I viewed Larry King Live on CNN about the Manson Murders in the ‘60s. The murder of actress Sharon Tate and her unborn son by a group of psychopaths, Manson followers, is proof that some people could be driven to devilish and gruesome acts against others who are innocent and helpless. Making the relatives suffer a lifetime of pain and loss aggravates the crime. All accused are still behind bars, and not one has been given parole in spite of numerous pleas, even from the woman who lies dying of brain cancer.

Some people may agree that capital punishment would have been a better method to deal with the unpardonable crime. When crime is committed, it is a crime against an agreed-upon way of life of most people; it is a grave threat against what most people have painstakingly built for themselves and their families. When criminals believe in an exactly opposite way of life, believing even that killing innocent people is okay, then they become incorrigible from the normal perspective. Punishment like life imprisonment is imposed. At times, capital punishment is adhered to. Or better and just.

Remember the Maggie de la Riva rape case? Everyone felt the criminals deserved to be punished with death on the electric chair. The whole nation watched silently on the day of the persecution, and nobody wanted the phone from the President’s side to ring and stop it. I just don’t know how much impact this had on the rate and frequency of commission of heinous crimes. But it sure did silence them for a while.

The Ninoy and Cory in Us

I’ve known some outstanding people in my life - people who made things possible in the direst of circumstances, people who showed others how life could be lived fully just by being themselves. I believe that the only way we can be grateful to them is by doing something in our life that will bring greatness to others, too.

They were men of decision. Both twenty, they ran to safety in his hometown in Pangasinan, away from the war-torn city of Manila where they were both studying for a university education. The young lady had her family in far away Cebu in the islands of the Visayas. Soon after, they married and started a family with gun shots all over the archipelago. During the war, he worked with some Americans to secure a food warehouse for the affected citizens and so they could have food at home, too. She played the piano to the folks delight, and they forgot the horrors of war momentarily. There was a time a group of Japanese soldiers listened to her play as they became friendly. After the war they decided to go back to the city. He was the first to do this among his folks, and they thought he was risking too much and would find his family impoverished. But they were determined and believed that things would turn out well. Soon, they were both working as clerks in separate government national offices. Education or at least a college degree was required for promotion, so they decided to go back to school one at a time, while the other worked for the family sustenance. They soon rose up the organizational ladder and became middle management decision-makers. Then the temptations started coming. They had to contend with the emerging favour-for-favour transactions, the use of who-do-you-know inside so you win the bid, the offers for the legal 10% from purchases. They both got tired of bearing with it all, so they decided to avail of the optional retirement package of the government and left at the same time. Both retired, they went into business and bought a farm. You wouldn’t imagine them doing all these with nine children to feed, clothe, and educate. Yet they did it. They had a beautiful life together, sharing nothing and everything. They have served their government well and they meant well. They were a Filipino couple who dreamt of a prosperous life for themselves, their children and their countrymen. One that is happy. One that is noble.

I happen to be fortunate that I am one of their daughters. I thank God for them, the couples like my parents, who trekked the road of life sure of themselves, and in so doing, gave themselves to us. They make the families the country needs.

The Change We Need: From Within

Do you believe that we could unite to fight corruption in our government and social system?

Since I started voting, working, and having my family I often come across people who would take the easy road no matter what the cost. Whether it meant they would have to hurt someone important in their life, or deprive some other people of what is due them, or simply just to have more for themselves. At some points in our lives, we all are guilty of these things to a certain degree. But every time we have to accept our mistake and act on not repeating it. But what happens when we don’t, and things are done to a degree that will erode the very values upon which we build our daily living, hopes, and dreams? Do we need to wait for this time to come? Or are we feeling this threat now?

In our life experiences, we know that change should come from within. We know it for a fact, we know how much it could make us become better persons, we know what happiness this brings. Where, then, does the problem lie? We forget to make an effort, or we pretend to forget.

Face-to-face With My Government

My first job was in 1975 as a Social Services Specialist in a newly reorganized national office. The Civil Service Commission referred me to the agency. They were efficient! Having graduated college from the UST with a major in Sociology, I never knew what kind of a job I could apply to, except that I could be a research encoder just like when I worked part time during senior year. For me, my first work was momentous - it gave me a wider perspective of the world that used to be just my room and our home in Project 6. Much more, or rather much less, than our snacks of cakes and meals of lechon kawali –cum- pinakbet. Bigger issues than what to wear on Sundays or where to hold my 18th birthday. I was thrown out into the world of the urban poor who barely make it to survive everyday. Into the reality that they can only choose to be hard headed because they can’t find the words to rebut and maybe fight for their rights to come to a compromise with a demolition team. And perhaps come to terms with life and its entirety. It was a major learning experience for me.

Later I was sent to a special project in Ilocos Norte. Hundreds of houses in five sitios (districts) were to be relocated initially to provide a security fence and preservation measures for the lake. Incidentally, the then President used to play in the area as a boy, and later as a place where he liked to spend his holidays. In the series of consultation among the local folks, we were first treated politely and asked the great question why. Next, the old fathers came and knelt before us and begged us to stop the project with tears on their faces. In the succeeding attempts, we were stoned in our vehicle on our way to community meetings. What to do? Our team leader had direct access to the President so after a consensus, she told him it had to be upgrading and not relocation, or he loses out team. We won. This time it was an eye-opener as much as a heart-breaker.

In another instance, I was sent with a multi disciplinary team to a big project, an international and much funded one. But truckloads of food for the beneficiaries didn’t turn out enough at times, and when they did they were not the foodstuff originally intended for consumption. There were talks of highway robbery and interception, though we never heard any official inquiry on them. There was a time when the recipients got tired of eating sardines they went out and bartered the stuff with the local people. One embarrassing incident was when a group head accidentally opened his briefcase during an inter agency meeting and revealed bundles of ripe bananas that looked exactly like those in the rations.

Since then I transferred from one agency to another, from government to non-government. I felt I had to find the reason to stay put and maybe make life easier for me. Why does one leave a good paying job? First I thought I wanted to pursue graduate education. Then maybe a better occupation could be waiting. Or I could do something else and be good at it, too. But it always boiled down to frustration at the thought that it would take great effort and a long time to change things that have become pervasive in our culture and have become part of what we are as a people – corruption. How do we fight it?