Sunday, June 20, 2010

Past Presidents Help

Below are excerpts from inaugural addresses of some past Philippine presidents. Perhaps they can help incoming Pres. Noynoy Aquino, his advisers, and conscientious citizens in forging a consensus on the vision and policies our nation needs. The excerpts are taken from "...So Help Us God: The Presidents of the Philippines and Their Inaugural Addresses" by J. Eduardo Malaya and Jonathan Malaya (Manila: Anvil, 2004).
"Democracy becomes meaningless if it fails to satisfy the primary needs of the common man, if it cannot give him freedom from fear and freedom from want. His happiness and security are the only foundations on which a strong republic can be built. His happiness and security will be foremost among ths goals of my administration.
"We must develop the national economy so that it may better satisfy the material needs of our people. The benefits of any economic or industrial program shall be channeled first to our common people, so that their living standards shall be raised." (Ramon Magsaysay, 30 December 1953)
"The Government will continue its low-cost housing projects and its land redistribution and resettlement program. We shall exert greater effort so that more of our people will eventually acquire homes and lands that they can call their own. Home- and land-owning citizens possess not only a sense of stability and contentment but also the practical patriotism to live for, and if necessary, die for home and country. For upon the face of the patriot must have shone first the firelight of home." (Carlos P. Garcia, 30 December 1957)
"We assume leadership at a time when our nation is in the throes of a moral degeneration unprecedented in our national history. Never within the span of human memory has graft permeated every level of government. The solution of this problem shall call for the exercise of the tremendous persuasive power of the presidency. I shall consider it, therefore, my duty to set a personal example in honesty and uprightness. We must prove that ours is not a nation of hopeless grafters but a race of good and decent men and women." (Diosdado Macapagal, 30 December 1961)
"We must discard complacency without embracing panic; rely on our efforts alone without rejecting the support of others. Let not the future observe that being virile in body we multiplied in number, without increasing in spirit. I do not demand of you more than I shall demand of myself and of government. So seek not from government what you cannot find in yourself.
"In the solution of our problems, the government will lead. But the first duty that confronts us all is how to continue to grow in this nation now a new heart, a new spirit that springs out of the belief that while our dangers be many, and our resources few, there is no problem that cannot be surmounted given but the will and courage. Let every man be his own master, but let him first, and above all, be his own charge." (Ferdinand Marcos, 2nd inaugural, 30 December 1969)
"I would like to appeal to everyone to work for national reconciliation, which is what Ninoy came back home for. I would like to repeat that I am very magnanimous in victory. So I call on all those countrymen of ours who are not yet with us to join us at the earliest possible time so that together we can rebuild our beautiful country." (Corazon Aquino, 25 February 1986)
"Our people spoke of their faith that we Filipinos can be greater than the sum of all the problems that confront us; that we can climb higher than any summit we have already scaled.
"We cannot but interpret the vote as a summons for us to unite and face the future together. The people are not looking for scapegoats, but for the basic things to get done--and get done quickly." (Fidel V. Ramos, 30 June 1992)
"Ngayon pa lamang, ang mga kamag-anak ko ay nilalapitan na ng kung sinu-sino. Kung anu-anong deal at kickback ang ipinapangako.
"Binabalaan ko sila. Walang kaibigan, walang kumpare, walang kamag-anak o anak na maaaring magsamantala sa ngayon. At ngayon pa lamang sinasabi ko sa inyo, nag-aaksaya lamang kayo ng panahon. Huwag ninyo akong subukan." (Joseph Estrada, 30 June 1998)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Enlightened & the Meek

It is rewarding to read and reflect on the award-winning novel, "Ilustrado," which won a Palanca and the Man Asian Literary Prize as an unpublished manuscript in 2008. Published in New York this year, its soft-bound Philippine edition (ISBN 978-0-374-94103-1) is already a best-seller in the local bookstores. The novel is a complex and difficult work written with much cleverness by Miguel Syjuco, a young overseas Filipino writer who was born and raised in Manila and lives in Montreal, Canada.

Miguel is an Ateneo alumnus whose parents, ex-TESDA chief Augusto 'Boboy' and Cong. Judy Syjuco, have taken turns in getting elected as Member of the House of Representatives for the 2nd district of Iloilo province since 1998.
"Ilustrado" hints at the hope for inner peace for members of the Philippine ruling and intellectual elite who want to be enlightened bearers of light but are tormented by a mixture of private failures and their “shared guilt” for the arrogance, narcissism, hedonism, and mediocrity that have turned the country into an anarchy of clans and classes.

The novel achieves what one minor character comments: it speaks truth to power without boring the readers but making them laugh periodically and hopefully at themselves. This is achieved through a rich and sometimes dizzying combination of classic and contemporary literary styles and forms such as jokes, blog comments, email, and fragments of songs, poems, essays, interviews, short stories, and biographies.
Like all brilliant works, this novel contains a few minor mistakes (besides the wrong spelling of Juan Luna’s 1884 masterpiece, the Spoliarium, which Syjuco acknowledged during a book launch organized by the National Book Development Board last April 14).

In one section, the protagonist appropriately or provocatively named Miguel Syjuco switches on the cable tv and does channel surfing like the way the novel shifts from one literary form to another. After changing channels 14 times, “a Portuguese nun discusses the beatitudes, quoting from the Gospel of St. John. Blessed are the meek, she says.” He changes channel 6 more times.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” can be found in the Gospel of Matthew (5:5) and in no other Gospel. For many of his believers and non-believers, the beatitudes of Jesus are absurd or unrealistic teachings, as these seem to glorify weakness, poverty, and misfortune. Like what the apostle Paul would say about the Crucified Christ, the beatitudes represent, for many, either a scandal or folly in practice.
Among the evils that another protagonist, Syjuco’s mentor Crispin Salvador, wants to expose is “the sin of omission” of members of the elite who, in their despair over the persistent eruptive state of the nation, “shuttered their homes, huddled inside, read scripture, and waited” for God to act. Similarly in Philippine fiction writing, there is “an underlying cultural faith in deus ex machina: God coming from the sky to make things right or more wrong.”
We should curse the meekness that means mere submissiveness or passivity, denies persons their right to protest injustice, and stems really from cowardice.
Another kind of meekness, however, is noble. It stems from wisdom and courage such as what Jesus of Nazareth showed, for though he went around in Galilee speaking powerful and wise words to both the lowly and the mighty, he was known to be “meek and humble in heart” even as he publicly denounced the hypocrisy of persons in authority who did not practice what they preached (Matthew 11:29; 23:3).
If Jesus' meekness was weakness and submissiveness, the authorities would not have bothered to have him arrested and killed in a shameful manner.
Every educated or intelligent citizen who wants to see radical change in society will come closer to pure enlightenment and inner peace when he examines himself humbly, honestly and regularly, and does this at least as often as he corrects others for their unethical behavior. “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).