13 October 2016
Message at Institute for Solidarity in Asia’s Good Filipinos, Kalayaan Hall, Club Filipino, San Juan
delivered on 12 October 2016
Thank you very much for inviting me to speak before you today. We don’t have enough conversations about being good Filipinos, about the very JFK-ish thought of what we can do for our country rather than what this country can do for us.
To deepen such a conversation before a bright, diverse, and deeply patriotic group is a pleasure. As we do, I am sure we will create more ripples of change in the area of good governance and public service.
One of the greatest things that man is capable of doing is to dream. Throughout the course of history, dreaming has led him to explore his limits and test his boundaries. It has pushed him to discover unchartered reefs and conquer the farthest corners of the universe.
But how to do it? To inspire ourselves to dream of greater things when violence and wars polarize communities, when indifference is mistaken for resilience, and when hopelessness slowly seeps even into the brightest of our young minds? Who do we turn to during these desperate times?
Just a few days ago, we saw the power of hope come alive. Last Monday, my office conducted a summit, which we call Angat Buhay.
It was a Summit, which was actually a Partnerships Against Poverty. Last Monday, we had the wonderful opportunity of bringing together more than 400 donor agencies and 50 of our poorest LGUs to engage in what I call “development speed dating.”
Mayors and local officials had five opportunities to have a bit of face time with the development community and the private sector, to discuss the needs of their municipalities and find partners who are willing to collaborate with them in uplifting the lives of their people.
These simple exchanges proved one thing: that governance should and will always be a shared task and responsibility. Last Monday’s summit is proof that we are each other’s best hope. While many of our poor only dream of gaining access to their officials, there they were, revolutionizing the way public service has traditionally been practiced.
Who would have thought mayors would know the most personal stories of their constituents – narrating them with fervor and passion, as if it were their own? Where have we seen international and non-government organizations pledging to build classrooms, bridges, and roads in areas they have never even heard of?
Believe me: it was definitely a most beautiful sight to behold.
Local leaders literally serving as the voice of their people.
One of the many inspiring stories we heard was that of Mayor Joselito Guyguyon from the municipality of Kiangan, Ifugao. Giving up his comfortable life in the United Kingdom, he decided to come back to his small town in the mountains and heed the call to serve.
During the campaign period, he ran against a more popular and well-established candidate whose sphere of influence was far larger than his. Not losing hope, he visited the farthest of barangays in his municipalities – engaging the people in face-to-face conversations, asking about their concerns, and going through the challenges of their everyday lives.
He would sometimes go alone during these visits, just to make sure that he does his regular rounds. He hoped to build farm-to-market roads so that farmers from Kiangan would earn more regularly and be adequately sustained by their work. It was his dream to finally see his constituents living abundantly, and free from the pains of poverty.
At a time where officials are oftentimes depicted as selfish, corrupt, power-hungry beings – Mayor Guyguyon’s story shines as a beacon of hope that the spirit of true and honest governance still thrives in the most unfamiliar of places.
He showed us that there are still many good souls who walk amongst our midst. His everyday acts of patriotism and leadership have inspired those who live in his town to do the same.
Kiangan will go far in securing the resources that will spark progress and transform lives. And it started with one person’s decision to put his country before himself.
Tomorrow, I will personally visit Kiangan to check for myself the situation of the farmers and the indigenous peoples there, and assess how our government can help. And today, ISA is launching its Good Filipinos movement.
When our values as a people are constantly being shaken and questioned, where do we start changing how things have always been run? Where do we draw strength and inspiration in introducing change in our own communities?
Perhaps, just like our good mayor, we can begin by being a little bit more patriotic and a little less focused on self. It is only through service that we can be champions for change.
Think about what you can do. Today. Think about the ways that you can promote transparency and accountability. Just look around us. You don’t need to enter politics to create spaces for effective dialogue and discussion. When you reach out and build bridges, partnerships bloom.
Time and again, we have stressed the importance of creating fruitful partnerships with the private sector. Indeed, it is always easier to solve our worries when we work with willing hands and open hearts. As soon as I assumed office, I made sure to travel to the farthest of barrios and most secluded of barangays on a listening journey. These short but meaningful visits gave us a glimpse of the magnitude of work that needs to be accomplished in the next six years. My dear ladies and gentlemen, you play an important role in this fulfilling this mandate.
The Office of the Vice President is committed to changing the face of poverty in the next six years. We will be focusing on five key areas: hunger and food security, universal health care, rural development, education, and women empowerment.
The path laid down before us is full of hope and full of promise. I am optimistic that we can get you on board in imagining bigger things for our country.
As you continue to dream of a better Philippines, do not forget to serve those who have long been relegated to the margins of our society. And as you touch base with them, remind yourself that in every problem lies an opportunity waiting to be seized and explored.
Remember that being a good Filipino need not unfold in grand and majestic projects.
Goodness flows even in the simplest of our gestures.
Maraming salamat po, magandang hapon po muli sa inyong lahat.