To My President Madame Miriam

To my president, Madame Miriam.

Less than two weeks before the elections, I have made my decision. I will vote for no less than you.

My decision has not been an easy one. It took me awhile to think it over. It’s not that I have second thoughts about your qualifications, Madame. God knows how you passionately served the three branches of government in your decades of experience in public service.

Yet, issues like your health and your choice of Vice-President made me re-consider my option. Having known and respected you from afar, I wasn’t also able to delve deeper into your motivations for running. Surely, an esteemed, hard-working lady such as you deserves a happy and peaceful retirement with your loved ones, not the unpleasant duty of carrying all the problems of the country on your shoulders.

You are a cancer survivor, Madame. This job may prove to be more exhausting and draining to your health, and with the added frustration of the people, frankly I felt you wouldn’t handle it. When I watched the last presidential debate, I couldn’t help but to notice your lapses of silence, awkward pauses and moments to catch your breath. Truly, you weren’t as feisty as you were once been. Some friends who have been rooting for the other side remarked how disappointed they are in your performance. “Miriam isn’t up for it”, they say. “She’s not strong as she is before.”

But it was on the last debate, I was suddenly overwhelmed by emotions of how unfair it all is. There she is, the most qualified candidate of them all – standing on a podium after keeping an illness at bay, ready to serve once again. Offering herself for the people. I simply couldn’t understand why you decided to run  – you have already made your mark in governance, most people admire and respect you and you will be forever remembered as the Iron Lady – the feisty senator from Iloilo.

Then it struck me how simple it all is. Instead of spending your retirement days with your loved ones, instead of spending your energy with the people closest to you, instead of doing things you want to do and relishing the fruits of your labor, you chose to sacrifice your life for the country once again.

By declaring to run, you allowed yourself to receive some unnecessary stress from other people. You opened yourself once more to the public, to black propaganda and insensitive rumors. To hurtful statements of you dying or for your lack of mental soundness. To people actually calling you a hypocrite after you declared BBM as your running mate.

Yet, you still continued. You still plow on. Despite what the “surveys” say. I wouldn’t be gushing about your achievements or how qualified you are (Goodness knows how many of your supporters have done this already) I wouldn’t be gushing about the bills you authored – or your brilliant moments during Corona’s trial.

In the end, you eventually won my vote with your drive – your relentless passion.

Back in 2010, most Filipinos chose PNOY as the leader, brought out by the emotion of Cory’s loss and EDSA Nostalgia. I often criticized the reason for that vote – a baseless emotion and nothing more. My friends and I lamented for six years how most Filipinos vote due to emotion – not reason, and that explains why we’re still here.

Personally, my vote for you is more of an emotional one, and I like to think of it as a good one. I can tell you are sincere and you’re as equally as frustrated of this country’s cancer just as I am, but your way of doing things is rooted on the law and Constitution. You are not serving anyone’s interest apart from the youth’s, you are a ‘green-minded’ individual and you have always been a consistent advocate of women’s rights.

Heh, my vote doesn’t sound emotionally stupid now, is it?

Back in 1992, the year I was born, I heard you also ran for president but was ‘cheated’ by your opponents. You were branded as a lunatic due to your high intellect and temperament. I couldn’t help but to wonder if you won that year and how it must have turned out for the country.

On May 09, I will vote according to my conscience. Not because of cold logic. Not purely out of emotion. It’s because for me, you are the right person to lead us out of this misery.

Even if you lose or if the candidate/s I’m not fond with eventually win, I won’t leave the country. After all, this is what you fought so hard for, isn’t it? To never give up fighting for your country.

And this is what you inspire me to do, Madame President.  What you inspire all of us to do.

Fight the good fight.

Yours sincerely,

A random Millenial

 

 

Election Musings: Dissecting Duterte’s Popularity

So if you haven’t been living under a rock these past few days, you already know that Mayor Duterte has apparently surpassed former frontrunner Grace Poe in the latest SWS and Pulse Asia presidential survey. With less than four weeks before the May 09 elections, are we finally going to have a president coming from Mindanao?

Duterte’s soar to fame came hardly as a surprise. First, he’s got this tough-talking, no-nonsense bravado going on. For most, he acts and sounds like your typical Filipino father figure in movies and TV shows with his fearless banters, crude quips and frank one-liners. His leadership in Davao City and his simple lifestyle endeared him to the masses in a way traditional politicians didn’t quite expect.

He’s not my candidate, though he supports Federalism which I’m a firm advocate of and I also grew up in a city where discipline is part of the city’s tagline. I have decided to vote Miriam and that’s it. Still, that didn’t stop me from speculating how and why Mayor Duterte seemed to be this election’s choice of the masses. Here’s my tw0-centavos:

Back in 2010, Filipinos were tired of countless corruption cases hounding ex-President GMA’s term which is a whirlwind of electoral scandal, shady helicopter dealings and basically her family’s questionable acts (especially that of her husband’s) When PNOY came along, looking pristine and fresh, with his ‘Tuwid na Daan’ platform where he promised to get rid of corrupt officials from the government, many of us bought it. I, myself admit it was promising, and if PNOY had have an illustrious political experience and achievements as Mar Roxas have, I would have voted for him too.

But when Tuwid na Daan failed to answer the problems regarding transportation, traffic, sub-standard Yolanda rehabilitation shacks, the massacre of 44 SAF in Mamasapano and the latest Kidapawan massacre of farmers, the Filipinos now want a leader who embodies all the traits PNOY don’t have, do all things PNOY couldn’t or wouldn’t.

And that’s what Duterte apparently represents. Decisiveness. Experience. Unafraid to get his hands dirty. If this is a comic book universe and if Philippines is Gotham City, Filipinos view Duterte as the frickin Batman and elect him as their mayor despite how grossly “unsuitable” Batman is for the job.

I guess that’s my take with Duterte. While his critics talk and rave about the extrajudicial killings he masterminded in Davao, how immoral he is, how his crude speech and lack of tact can be a source of national embarrassment later on, how he views Marcos as the best president of the Philippines, etc., I’m all past that. What I’m most concerned about his brand of leadership most Filipinos aren’t prepared of, one I will talk about more about in a separate post.

I’m not judging his supporters though. In fact, most of my relatives and friends are voting for him in this coming elections and even after I try to convince them to vote for Miriam, them sticking to their original choice is fine with me. I just remind them that you can’t expect Duterte to be this messianic figure who will suddenly uproot the ‘system’ and make our country a better place to live. Change is a process that requires the cooperation of all entities and if you remain as an irresponsible, undisciplined citizen you are, even the great Duterte himself can’t change anything.

 

Election Musings: “Judge me for my candidate” 

As election time draws near, never have I felt political tension and drama in my Facebook and Twitter feed than  what is happening right now. Yes, it is actually happening. We are judging the intellect, ethics and sanity of one another simply because of one’s choice of a presidential candidate. 
A sign of a vibrant democracy? Maybe. This goes to show that we aren’t at least operating under a mob rule and we give each other different perspectives on viewing a certain issue or a candidate. At least, it shows our maturity in how we value and practice democracy. 

But some of us may have taken it a little overboard. As election draws near, social media increasingly becomes toxic, dare I say, a frightening place in expressing one’s political opinion. 

Recently, I’ve read an article of how a climate change advocate received cyber threats simply because she criticized Mayor Duterte, the candidate I believe to be one of the masses’ favorite choices due to his tough-talking stance against crime. 

I sympathized with her plight and I admired the way she never backed down on her political opinion. Some of the so-called threats are even amusing to read, some are really pathetic, and some…well let’s just say they shouldn’t have been introduced to Facebook in the first place. The comments of each photo are understandably unkind: “Dutertard” “Dudirty” etc. 

There is no excuse in the way how a certain candidate’s followers are acting. Who wouldn’t be angry if someone, a complete stranger at best, wishes you to be raped? Who wouldn’t be frightened if someone pushes a candidate in your face and calls you a complete moron just because you don’t want to vote for the same person? 

And then we generalized. How we Filipinos just love to generalize! Like how a certain group of supporters generalized all UP students for being disrespectful all because one of its students cut in one candidate’s speech because “they are running out of time” in an academic forum. We generalize Binay supporters as “Binayarans”, Mar suppprters as “Yellow Zombies” and Poe supporters as “un-Filipino enough for supporting a candidate with American citizenship” 

We never thought for a moment the reason why. Provided of course that vote-buying, personality-over-platform mentality and “hakot” crowd are still rampant, I believe (desperately hoping so) that for this coming elections, most of us will be more conscious with our votes. Most of us are aware that the leader we will choose on May will be a defining moment of what our future is going to be. 

Filipinos are emotional voters, but for this 2016 elections, our emotions will be closely intertwined with our priorities. Some of us wanted the Tuwid na Daan continuity, we vote for Mar. Some of us wanted a fresh beginning and an advocate of a transparent government, we vote for Grace. Some of us wanted a system overhaul through Federalism and ease the crime rate in our country, we go for Duterte.

These priorities have different factors in them and you cannot simplify that these people don’t think as well as you do just because they don’t share the same views. It’s a matter of how these people think differently from you. It may be that they came from this particular social class, or they live on a certain region, or this candidate did something in their lives on the past and the experience still has an ability to affect their choices now. 

We can campaign for our presidential candidate all we want, in Facebook, Twitter, heck even on the streets, but we can do it without stooping down to the level of our critics who would resort to petty name-calling, threats or pathetic insults. At the very least, what we can do is to engage them in a conversation on who they are voting for and why. We can discuss platforms and compare the priorities of our candidates. We can still debate and argue without disrespecting one another. This is the heart of a healthy discussion. We can make statements attacking the issue, not the moral code or the intellect of a person who do not believe the same things we do. 

To top it all of, I’m just going to leave this status of my friend here for you to think about. 

   
   “Me waiting for the presidential elections to be over”

BALAng Araw…

Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, medyo nag lay-low na din ako sa pagiging critical sa gobyerno, tutal two months na lang naman si PNoy. He’ll be out of our hair soon and we’ll be out of his hair na din (pardon the pun) Na-realize ko, nakaka-stressed lang maging reklamador. Balewala din naman sa mga taong tinitira mo.

Medyo positive na nga ako ngayon. Nageeffort na ako maging optimistic at hopeful sa magiging future ng ating bansa. Alam kong mapupunta din tayo doon. BALAng araw…

Pero pagbigyan ninyo na ako. Tutal two months na lang. Pagbigyan ninyo ako, kahit isang hirit lang.

Isa lang naman ang  masasabi ko tungkol sa administrasyong ito: BALA.

Nitong huling taon ng 2015, Nobyembre. Lumantad ang isyu sa publiko na may nagtatanim ng BALA sa NAIA. BALA sa NAIA. Only in the Philippines! Sadyang may mapaglaro lang talagang engkanto sa airport na nagtatanim ng bala sa bagahe mo. Ang nakakatuwa pa, malalaman mo lang yun pagkalabas ng bagahe mo sa X-ray machine. MAGIC! May bala ka palang souvenir mula sa pinanggalingan mo?!

Hindi lang ikaw ang biktima e. Pati mga turista galing pang ibang bansa, hindi sinasanto. Na-feature na din tayo sa CNN, Fox news at iba pang international news dahil dito. May Amerikano pa ngang nag-publish ng blog post on “4 Effective Tips to Curb Laglag Bala in NAIA”

Collective shame natin ‘to. Kahit Ninoy Aquino International Airport ang pangalan niyan in honor of our president’s late father na namatay dahil sa bala sa ulo, pero para sa ibang bansa, ito pa din ay kilala bilang airport na nasa Pilipinas.

Ano’ng nangyari? Pakinggan mo na lang ang mga salitang ang sarap pakinggan. Probe. Investigate. “Watch the Watchers”. Pero hanggang doon lang tayo. Di na siya mainit. Di na siya trending. Siguro dahil lagi tayong sawi sa ating mga lovelife at madalas nating pinipilit ang sarili na mag-move on, mas mabilis na din tayong mag move-on mula sa mga isyung pa-tungkol sa lipunan.

April 01, 2016. Kidapawan. Nag-protesta ang mga magsasaka, ang mga magtatanim ng ating bigas, dahil wala na silang pangkain sa kanilang mga pamilya. Ano ba ang laban nila sa Kalikasan? Ano ba ang naging paghahanda natin sa El Nino? Sa halip na pakinggan ang kanilang hinaing, BALA at dahas ang sumalubong sa kanila.

April 01. Nakakalokong isipin. Ang mga “nagtatanim” ng BALA sa NAIA, sindikato o opisyales, hindi man lang nakasuhan. Walang nasibak. Wala man lang pray-over kung engkanto ba yan o ano.

Pero ang mga totoong nagtatanim ng bigas na nagiging kanin na kinakain mo ngayon,  pinaulanan naman ng BALA.

Kidapawan. Hacienda Luisita. Lupao. Mendiola.

Ani ng iba, komunista ang nasa likod ng mga yan. Etong mga NPA na ‘to. Mga balakid sa pagbabago. Hindi ninyo sana sila makukumbinse magprotesta kung wala silang hinaing at pangangailangan sa simula pa lang. Hindi ninyo sana sila ‘maloloko’ na ibuwis ang kanilang buhay sa pagpoprotesta kung sila ay ‘kuntento’ na sa kanilang pamumuhay. Bakit ba kasi kayo mga sawsawero’t sawsawera?

Anim na taon. Simula pa lang daw ang Tuwid na Daan. Madami pa tayong kakaining bigas para makamit ang tunay na ginhawa. Sana hindi lang pinagpapapatay ang ating mga magsasaka.

Mr. President, narerecognize ko naman na mabuti ang iyong intensyon *hindi na ako sarcastic at this point on* Pinilit ka nilang tumakbo, kahit ayaw mo naman sa simula, at ginawa mo naman ang iyong makakaya. Na-appreciate ko yun at kinikilala ko naman ang iba sa mga magaganda mong ginawa, ang pagiging masipag at mahusay ng ibang kawani ng iyong gobyerno.

Nakakalungkot isipin na nabalewala ang competence nila dahil sa gross incompetence ng iba. Dahil malambot ang iyong puso, kahit alam mong may pagkukulang sila, hinahayaan mo lang na sila na ang bumitiw. One More Chance, nga diba?

BALAng araw, sana ma-realize mo…hindi lahat makakamove-on sa mga isyu na ‘to. BALAng araw, sana hindi maabutan ng mga magiging anak ko ang ganitong klase ng pamumuno.

hindi bala

ASEAN: Building a sense of community

ASEAN-Member-map-Frank-Talk-07022013

How do we fit the concept of ASEAN identity in our warped sense of nationalism?

We Pinoys have the strangest sense of nationalism there is. It’s quite a study, really. We display pride over our history, heroes, resources, food, culture and even talented individuals with even the slightest pint of Filipino blood in them. Our sense of tribalism (or regionalism) is so great that when a foreigner shows even a slightest sign of disdain over our glorious land or to even one of us, we grew collectively angered as if we are the ones who are offended in the first place. It’s literally us against them.

That was my prevailing mindset too, minus the whole bordering-to-stupid Pinoy pride thing. I love my country, I recognize its milestones in history as well as its failures. Needless to say, I relate more to my fellow Filipinos. I dreamed of becoming part of a change to help my less-privileged countrymen. It’s like I live in this dilapidated house filled with different kinds of people – though some of them I can’t stand, but they still remain as part of a family – and I dreamed of a mansion for all of us.

But when you open the windows of your house and sneak a peek outside, you’d realize that you are surrounded with other houses, all roughly the same size, its occupants as boisterous and vigorous as your own.Though strong fences were erected throughout the years, there is a subtle sense of community – a fact that you belong in the same neighborhood battling the same elements. Suddenly, it’s not about just your house anymore. Whatever happens in the neighborhood will affect you in some extent, whether you like it or not.

Back in 2012, I joined the ASEAN Community Facebook page, the largest Facebook community for ASEAN back then. Because I don’t have resources for travel back then, I gained knowledge and perspective about my southeast Asian neighbors only from snippets of trivia and photos shared by the moderators who took turns on posting information each day. (Monday is Malaysian-related info and photos, Thursday is Philippines). As a student who had nothing better to do that time, I spent countless hours scrolling the page, reading the comments and conversations (sometimes, flame wars), and noting with great amusement how similar we are. Joining the community expanded my view of what ASEAN really is and like many others, I look forward on the future where we can form a sustainable economic community.

But we all have to open our eyes to the reality. The Facebook page celebrates the idea of oneness and shared culture, but it also highlights the overwhelming differences. There’s still some degree of distrust and suspicion hinted between countries (or governments of that countries) and many even resort to racist remarks. I have seen my fellow Filipinos commenting about our ‘superiority’, like how we are the only Christian country in the whole region, or how we stand as a landmark of democracy, or even how ‘blessed’ with talent and diligence our race is. Some of us don’t mean it at all or are expressed in jest, but our remarks are on a public site, free to be interpreted by anyone with a smartphone and a high-speed internet connection (one thing most of our Southeast Asian counterparts enjoy now but one we don’t presently have)

In addition to that, we are focused in our own tracks of growth and development. We view the future from our side and we are only concerned of our own statistics and figures – what is our latest GDP, how are we faring versus the dollar, are we receiving more tourists per year, etc. Of course, it’s only natural to be happy for your own progress but if we only focus in that aspect, we’re missing the big picture. Competition with each other is healthy but our myopic sense of nationalism would never prepare us to handle future problems in the long run, much less, help us recognize opportunities along the way.

So far, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are currently doubling its efforts to increase the awareness of a southeast Asian community. Conferences are organized, various international exchange programs are amplified, and even the country’s respective governments are providing their support. Youth leaders and youth organizations were also quite involved and with the social media as a powerful tool, the call for an integrated regional cooperation would spread like wildfire.

Having spent the last two years working for a non-government organization, I would always imagine how an ordinary Filipino from a farming village could receive the idea of an integrated regional community. No doubt, the information will reach him. Someone would enlighten him about the other countries. He would be informed of how the integration can affect agriculture, in particular, and the opportunities he may get as a farmer. The farmer would be pleased of this, but at the end of the day, he knew words from actions. Until tangible efforts were made, he would just return to the field and focus on more important matters of his work. Life goes on.

The monumental shift of ASEAN from a body of policy-makers discussing issues behind locked doors to an acting, living organism of concrete actions and plans recognized by all its member-states is an important factor in instilling a sense of community. Civic organizations, community leaders, youth organizations, the local government, schools and the media can make ASEAN relevant, but not for a long time. ASEAN is founded in the principle of non-interference and this allowed its member-states to focus on its own national growth and development, but if it can implement action plans that would encompass every sector – from an ordinary farmer, student, historian, academician or doctor –  regardless of which country he/she is from, then you would be exploiting one thing these people have in common with for good use. You are enticing them to be part of a community that transcends beyond cultural and historical differences. If you present a unifying goal shared by all, people would look beyond their own differences and hopefully work together for that goal.

And what goals are those? Plenty to choose from.

sdgs-list-en

You can only build a sense of community if you involve everyone, every country and sector, to a cause that would benefit all, not just for a specific few. The concept of ASEAN identity may be too hard to grasp for others now, but if you utilize a Goal, a vision, and share it with others who care enough for it, you are off to a good start.

And slowly, over the passage of time, you’d realize that the fences separating you from your neighbor’s weren’t that high anymore.

____________

Last December, I joined the Association of ASEAN Youth Leaders – a band of bright-eyed folks, students and young professionals, movers and dreamers, who envisioned a future of regional integration for sustainable development. It was one of my highlights for 2015. I learned so much from my fellow youth and felt so inspired to join the movement for regional collaboration. You can find more information in our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AYLA.Philippines

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Cheers to us: the ones left behind

 

OFW-4

For the most part of my life, I’ve always watched people come and go…and there’s nothing I can say or do about it. I don’t want to sound like I’ve been abandoned many times in my life and being whiny about it, but I often pause and wonder how it would feel if it’s the other way around. What does it feel to be the one who’s leaving, instead of the one left behind? What does it feel like to be the one pushing the luggage cart to the terminal reserved for international flight instead of the one waving goodbye through glass doors?

Last January 18, a dear friend of mine left for the States for greener pasture. She wasn’t the first one in our immediate circle to leave the country for a job. Another friend also left the country two years ago, but she’s in contract and she’s going to return every four years. Now this one, she left for good. She’s going to apply for an American citizenship. She’s the good, hardworking daughter who wants her parents to grow old in the States. And frankly, her decision has left me questioning my own life choices at this point.

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Yours truly and my friend

My life choices are determined by what I want, not what I should do. I know there’s no problem with this. What’s wrong with pursuing what you love? Still, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m the first born of the family. I graduated college first. My grades were okay. I’m burdened by the knowledge that my mother placed all her hopes and aspirations, all these expectations of being the future breadwinner, on me. Better pay, better job security, and definitely a better life for my mom and two brothers.

To be fair to my mother, she has always supported me in whatever I want, despite the shortcomings and failures. I guess she is just worried I haven’t decided a proper course of my life yet. Perhaps, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m making her worry. She has supported my decision to stay here and not go abroad. She is now supporting my decision to go back to school.

I wish I can give her a better life in just a snap of a finger, especially after what she had gone through in the past years. The thought of going abroad crossed my mind many times and even my aunt overseas offered to take me in. In the end, I decided to stay to pursue law school but the feeling of guilt remained. It would take another four years for me to have a proper job, and I would have to endure another four years of watching my peers build their career, go overseas, get married, have a family or just travel around the world for fun.

Making a decision is like popping a gum into your mouth. Sticking by it is chewing it for many years to come (gross – but it depends on how long you should chew it) and NOT wondering about the flavors of gum the others are chewing, then spitting it out before you can taste the real flavor of what you chose. If you can have one gum or more, that’s alright but remember that you cannot just bite off more than you can chew.

I made a decision and that is to stay in this beleaguered country of ours. I’m open to studying abroad but I will always go back here. You may be thinking, ‘You’re still young. Your decisions may change’ and I guess I’m a fool to declare avowals of love of country at the prime of my youth, where I’m unabashedly thinking I can grace the world with my passion and drive for social change.

And that’s the point: I’m still young. I’m still in the intersection of choosing what path should I take to serve my country. I still have the energy to do what I can and I’m still brimming with the prospect and ideas of contributing to the change. It might not be amount to much, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

A day before my friend left, I told her that our country isn’t as hopeless as she think it is. That when day, when she decided to come back for vacations in-between applying for her immigration status, she will see the change, eventually. It’s not about having foolish expectations or having blind hope, but being optimistic to what lies ahead, to what this generation can do. And yes, the ones left behind, the ones ‘foolish’ enough to stay despite the system, the burden of making it possible falls mostly on our shoulders.

While our modern heroes are working hard on other countries, ploughing through the loneliness, homesickness and discrimination just to send money here, it’s up to us, the ones left behind, to make their sacrifice worth it.

 

Because we ourselves have sacrificed comfort and security, the pleasure of having turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day as snowflakes dance outside our windows, the efficiency of medical services provided by other countries we cannot afford here, and the overwhelming difference of earning dollars instead of pesos, we might as well be all-out in making this country worth returning to.

If we’re going to stay here for good, we might as well change this country for the better.

Some Year-End Musings

Kindly allow me to join the bandwagon of netizens self-analyzing and self-assessing themselves at the last day of 2015. I mean, it’s better than writing on a crummy list of New Year’s Resolutions that never found themselves beyond the paper.

I don’t consider 2015 as the best or worst year for me. In fact, I don’t consider a year as a bad or a good year. 2015 started out as horrible in a sense that I didn’t get the scholarship I want and I’m basically back to Ground Zero of what I ought to do in my life, but the last few months are filled with wonderful experiences and learning that I couldn’t simply count it as a ‘bad year’ for me.

I developed a strange sense of calmness and peace of mind in this year. I found myself as more patient than I had been before, and I don’t stress on things too much. Just like in climbing a mountain, I learned to find my own pace and not force myself to catch up on others just because. On the other hand, I learned to focus my energy and time on things that matter, including people. I learned to be more forgiving, especially to myself.

I already have a clear focus on what I’m going to be in the coming years. What I really need to focus on is getting there. 

Hopefully, when I welcome 2017, after all the miscalculations and wrong turns, unexpected storms and devastating waves, I can finally say that I’m on my way. 

 

 

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