Category Archives: Politics, History, and Current Events

An Open Letter to Congressman Angara of Aurora

Dear Congressman Angara,

I wrote to you last June 9, appealing for assistance so that an ambulance can bring your indigent constituent to Ospital ng Makati (OsMak). The Office of VP (and then Makati Mayor) Binay has already kindly offered to accept and treat the patient, as a charity case. All that is needed is an ambulance ride from Diarabasin, Aurora to Makati City (roughly a 6.5-hour drive).

Because I was in Manila, I thought that the best way is to seek your help. I then sent you an email via the HOR’s “Contact Us” system. I also asked another congressman to relay my message to you and he said, he already did.

Yesterday, as I was in mass, I remembered that you have not even replied to my email. Not a single word from your camp. I prayed for the patient and started figuring out how much will I spend if I just pay for an ambulance service myself. I also prayed for funds for it as I began to worry…is she still strong enough for the ride to Manila? I worried, too, because it was months since I have written to you.

Today, I received a message from my Mom. She said that the patient already passed on. You can imagine my mixed emotions of frustration, anger, sadness, and admittedly, some guilt. I felt guilty because I did not make some more follow-ups to your office. However, I ask now, isn’t it enough that someone from Aurora, a kababayan, wrote to you? Isn’t it enough that one of your colleagues also sent the message to you? Aren’t all these enough, Representative Angara? More importantly, how can this happen when you yourself is an advocate of health care for all? (I know that you have recently filed a House Bill pertaining to mandatory universal health care coverage.)

It is not your fault that she died already. However, I am pretty sure she will still be alive now had someone in your office (you?) been kind and attentive enough to lend one of the province’s ambulances to her. June to November was a long time for someone to recover. Even if she will eventually die because of her deteriorating condition, it will still make a difference that someone in your office (you?) has sent out for an ambulance for her. Your thought and concern could have really mattered.

I do not know you and I have no right to judge you. However, I want to ask you these questions: Did you receive my email? If so, what did you do about it? Did you get the messages that I relayed through another Congressman? What did you do after that? What could have possibly prevented you from helping out your constituent, a person who must have been voting for you and the others in your family so that you can all enjoy your seats in government? Where were you when someone badly needed your help? And how many more will die like this? How many more will hope that they can use your province’s ambulances when they needed them most? I already have a direct access to you and yet, you never bothered answering my email. What more for someone who has no access to the right persons?

I wish I have the answers for you.

As I type this, a family in Diarabasin grieves over a lost loved one. It may not matter to you. She is just among your many voters. But for this family, she is a nurturing mother, a caring sister,  and a loyal friend. And she once needed your help so she can continue to love and nurture. Alas, her knocks on your door went unanswered, and she had to leave with nary a smile on her face.

I grieve, too, not just for her, but for the rest of this country who continue to hope that somewhere, somehow, there are still strong and compassionate leaders who have a good head over their shoulders and a kind heart that knows no bound and limits.

I end this letter with the hope that this will not happen again to any person in Aurora.

Sincerely,

Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

P.s. Below are the exact text of what I sent you and the auto-reply which was generated by the HOR contact system.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <info-tech@congress.gov.ph>
Date: Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Subject: Your email to the Office of Rep. Angara, Juan Edgardo M.
To: velas.mei@gmail.comDear MARY ANNE VELAS-SUARIN:This email has been automatically generated. We have forwarded your message to the Office of Rep. Angara, Juan Edgardo M. and they will get in touch with you as soon as possible if you have requested them to.Yours Sincerely,The Webteam
House of RepresentativesFor committee affairs, CMSD: +63 2 931 5001 local 7122
For technical info and other concerns, ICTS: +63 2 931 5001local 7616– Original Message –HREP Website Visitor: Urgent help for an indigent in Diarabasin, Aurora (request for ambulance)
Name: Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
Email: velas.mei@gmail.com
Comment:
Dear Congressman Angara,Greetings of peace and hope! Sir, I am writing this letter with deepest hopes for your kind help. I have also sent urgent SMS through Rep. xxx (name deleted to protect the Congressman’s privacy). Sir, there is someone who needs urgent hospitalization but who is so hard up that she seems to have given up all hope and simply waiting for death in a dark and impoverished hut in Brgy. Diarabasin, Aurora, Province.Sir, I wrote to the Office of Vice President Jojo Binay and they just called me up to say that they are willing to help in ensuring admission to the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak). However, they cannot provide an ambulance as Aurora is very far.In this regard, Sir, can your kind office assist in sending an ambulance to Brgy. Diarabasin so that the patient can be brought to OsMak?

The patient that I am referring to is Mrs. xxxx (she is known in the neighborhood as xxx). (Name deleted to protect her family’s privacy.) According to relatives, she met an accident some 3-4 years ago when a container of gasoline accidentally hit her and she was near a burning stove. I am not privy to the complete details but all I know is that she suffered a serious burn. She was brought to a hospital but due to her extreme poverty, she was not able to afford the long-term medical treatment that she needed. Her condition deteriorated over the years. Right now, she can no longer stand up so she is just lying in bed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even the sheer act of urinating is a difficult task for her and her husband who assists her (he is also old and perhaps, deteriorating, too). She is so thin (and I think partly blind) now. Looking at her brought so much pain. She is in a very bad condition but I also think that she can still recover and become productive/partly-productive again if she can get a decent and loving care in a good hospital such as the OsMak.

Sir, may I humbly appeal for your assistance so that she can get the treatment that she needs? An ambulance ride from Diarabasin to OsMak is urgently needed at this point.

Sir, I do appeal for your touch of kindness. In the right time, and with God’s graces, your kind help, Sir, will be returned. No specific promises but I do believe in “paying forward” so please do be assured that somehow, in the future, I will help someone, too, and maybe more of our kababayans who may need my help in the future.  I end this letter with hopes and prayers. I wish you and your family all the best. God bless you and your family, Rep. Angara!

Kind regards,
Mei


Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
url
http://www.suite101.com/writer_articles.cfm/mei_velas

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UPDATE: Through a friend, Rep. Angara was able to read this blog. I have posted his reply below (see comments field). Here is my reply to his private letter to me (which is basically the same with what he sent here):

Dear Rep. Angara,

Thanks for your email. I appreciate your time and the fact that you have helped Ms. (name withheld to protect her family’s privacy) previously. It is very much appreciated.

However, with all due respect, Sir, I think that the serious flaw was in how you/your staff had never checked with the House ICT about the email address assigned to you/your office. What if hundreds of people have written to you through that email address, too? The HoR’s website was the only available “public” access to Congressmen and people expected those “contact us” page to work. That address existed and even the ICT cannot be blamed. They did their job to assign those addresses to all the Congressmen. The next question that comes to mind is on whether many Congressmen also do not use those email addresses assigned to them? Is the HoR wasting such a valuable resource?

This is a very sad episode Sir. Alarming even. Another life could have been saved only if that email had reached you.

Nevertheless, I understand that we can no longer undo what had already transpired and we can only do our best to ensure that this does not happen again. Let me also check with your Colleague as he assured me that he relayed my message to you.

Thank you once again for your time and efforts in reaching me.

Sincerely,
Mei

(By the way, I have checked with my Congressman-friend and he reiterated that he passed on my message to Rep. Angara. So it makes me wonder who is saying the truth…)

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Religion and beauty pageants: Why our Shamcey did not win the title

This is my first time to write about beauty pageants. I have nothing against this type of competition but I also think that the pageants can be a lot wiser and more gender-sensitive if the contestants are not required to wear skimpy bikinis. After all, women are beautiful creatures (and even men, for that matter) and they do not have to reveal too much skin to prove that. :)

Shamcey: Truly an honor to this country. (Photo credits: Binibining Pilipinas website)

However, I will not dwell on this sensitive issue because that is not really the reason for this post. Let me share my two-cents’ worth on why I think our Ms. Shamcey Supsup did  not covet the Ms. Universe 2011 title. Let this be clear though: I really liked her and have high hopes for her. In fact, I was already predicting that she will be Ms. Universe. My No. 2 choice was Ms. Angola, Leila Lopes (who was eventually crowned). However, I started to have some doubts when Shamcey began responding to the question during the final round. The question for her went something like this,  “If you were asked to change your religion first before getting married, would you agree?”

On an intellectual point of view, her answer was a very intelligent and clear one. She explained that she will not do that because her God, being her Creator, is her priority, and if her boyfriend loves her enough, he should also love her God. Biases aside, I think her answer was the best among the five finalists’. The others’ responses were either too ‘generic’ or ‘played safe.’

However, if we will scrutinize closely (and I think many of the judges did this), her answer–without intending to–may have sounded like it was bordering on being discriminatory vis-a-vis religious freedom. (Again, Shamcey may have not intended to make it sound that way… we won’t know for sure and we have no right to judge her.) On the philosophical (or even spiritual) point of view, it sounded like her religion (I suppose that she is a Catholic or Christian believer although that is not even important in this discourse) is a “better” religion than the others’ (e.g., in the hypothetical question, her boyfriend’s) or that her God is better than the God of others (or her boyfriend’s). It may be quite disconcerting to many people. She did not really say it outright but the message that got through was clear enough. She–again, without intending to–sort of debased other people’s religion. I would choose to assume that she was simply nervous to choose the right words. (Who wouldn’t be, anyway, in a moment like that?) We are not in the position to judge her or anyone, for that matter, but I think this question reminds us that we also have to be careful when affirming our faith, beliefs, or religion (although they are not the same concepts…but that is another long post so I will refrain from discussing this either).

We only have one God and He is not a discriminating God. No matter what our religions are, there is only one God. And your God, Shamcey’s God, and my God are the same. We call him in different names and we go to different churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, but for sure, we all believe in the same God. There is only one God who is the source of the Truth. [As we think about this, we also need to remember that some people do not believe in "God" or the presence of divinity or  deities so we also have to accept and embrace this reality as a part of a very diverse world and no matter what a person believes or holds on to, it should not deter us from treating him as an equal.]

Anyway, you may find it interesting that I am of different Church from my other immediate family members’ congregations. Nevertheless, I find the same peace and comfort even if I attend services inside another Church/congregation. A few months ago, I joined my Mom in attending Saturday services in another congregation. It was a beautiful service not only because the speakers and pastors were great leaders but also because it gave me a quiet time to pray with my Mom. I enjoyed it not because the “Church” is different or better or anything like that but because wherever I may pray, I know that God is just there. I can pray under the rains or on top of a mountain or inside an MRT coach because I know that God is listening.

To be fair, I genuinely believe that Shamcey did not intend to belittle other people’s faith. The sheer tension of the moment will definitely make anyone nervous. I think that if she was given another minute to think about it (which, of course, does not happen in the final moments), she would have come up with a very carefully-worded, well thought-out, and less discriminatory-sounding response.

However, when all the pageant’s noises have gone down, a profound moment may find Shamcey thinking and she may look back on her reply. For example, what if her boyfriend is non-Catholic/Christian or of different religion from her? He may feel some discomfort also. It is not really about the fact that he will make her choose (I think genuinely sensible and well-grounded men will not make their girlfriends choose between them and their girlfriends’ religions) but more really on the fact that actually, there should be no “contest” on whose religion is better (e.g., so it will be the “winning” religion, the religion that the marrying couple should choose as their “unity” religion). Because between two persons who are truly in love and united by a common God–the  One God–there is really no contest. Sometimes “religion” muddles up the whole equation. Actually, at the end of the day, for a couple who has a very strong foundation and whose relationship is not confused by religious ideologies, faith is clear enough. God is clear enough.  

No matter what our faiths or religions are, we are all the same in the eyes of God. He does not teach us to love and respect only those who belong to our Congregation or religion. He teaches us to love and respect one another. He does not care in what name will we call him. He only wants us to do what is right and follow our inner compass because in our core lies our true connection with Him.

If we will also look at it from the “universal” point of view–after all, the pageant is called, “Ms. Universe”–her response can also be misconstrued as an attack against the concept of ‘universalism’. Or even the philosophical underpinnings of “universal human rights”, which clearly state that we should not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, color, or religion. Her reply, without meaning to offend or hurt anyone, may have raised some eyebrows simply because it somehow compared her hypothetical boyfriend’s religion and her religion. Her answer seems to oppose the very core principles of ‘universalism’ and the context of “Ms. Universe” as ambassador of global peace. A “Ms. Universe” is expected to epitomize the values of open-mindedness, of embracing other cultures and religions, and her answer clearly showed where she stands amid a world where conflicts, wars, or terrorist attacks happen because of religious differences or in some cases, fanaticism.  But again, it is a tough competition–the final moments even tougher–and not everyone can land in the Top Five.

Ms. Angola brings beauty pageants a notch higher. Congratulations! (Photo credits: Telemundo.com)

So to Ms. Shamcey–thank you for doing your best. We are proud of you! The whole country honors you for going that far in the competition. You may have not won the title but to our hearts, you are already a winner.

And to Ms. Lopes, congratulations and best wishes! I am sure that great things are in store for you. May your reign bring you to new levels of personal and spiritual awareness. God bless you and Angola!

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

JR meets JR (A Tribute to a Hero’s 150th)

Remembering Jose Rizal (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo).

Jose Rizal and I share the same birth date, June 19. I thank my Mom and the heavens for choosing this date for my day of birth. One trivial reason is that it makes it hard for my loved ones to forget my birthday! :)

Seriously, I consider it a beautiful coincidence that the sun was in the same position in the sky on the day that Rizal and I were born. After all, there are 365 days in a year and sharing the same natal day with your National Hero is, in itself, a wonderful and sweet twist of events. I remember that, as a child, my curiosity about Rizal made me think of him as a kin of spirit. Someone whose ideals remind me of my roots and the meaning of being a Filipino. Someone who constantly nags me to read more, to write more, to create more, to learn more of the world, and share my gifts with others.

My JR meets my other JR: Two men who constantly push me into a life well lived. (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo)

Perhaps, our common “personal events” do not end in sharing a birth date because my friend, Rory, smilingly reminded me a few weeks ago that Jose Rizal’s initials, JR, is also the nickname of my husband. :) It is indeed another interesting ‘twist’. The JR in the imagination of my youthful days, the hero of my youth, has indeed happened in the flesh later in life, and this time, I am conversing to a real live JR–a hero in his own way–a person who also joyfully nags me towards an existence of constant learning and creation.

And so, we retrace the footsteps of Lolo Jose, as he celebrates his 150th year. It was the day that my JR meets my other JR. They met face-to-face, measuring each other, as if comparing how well they know this (common) woman in their lives. Who is loved more? Who has seen more of her light and dark sides, the shadows beneath the sunshine of her smiles? They both end up scratching their heads, not wanting to admit that the other may be the greater one in her eyes.

It does not matter though. For today, they are sharing this woman. Her laughters that tease. Her questions that do not wait for answers. Her unique way of looking beyond what is visible. Her fondness for arts and living and food and music. They nudged each other, reminding each one that this woman is both an unfathomable puzzle and a familiar place. There is comfort in her warmth in the same way that there is mystery in her touch.

They counted each moment through the sun’s rays on the window sill. (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo)

We got our Lakbay Jose Rixal @150 passports stamped for the first time. My other JR (my childhood hero) smiled at me from the blue skies. He winked at me and said, “Not bad at all (gesturing at my JR)! You have done well. And wait, we share the same initials!” I had to wink, too. After all, these two different men, by a sudden twist of fate, share this connection now and may really have to learn to like each other.

The letters engraved on them–like the evening stars strewn around a velvety soft sky–danced wildly… (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo)

They are smiling now, even grinning, perhaps thinking, counting each moment through the flickering of the sun’s rays on the wooden window sill. Their smiles lingered in my mind. Our footsteps on the brown-skinned floor followed me relentlessly, even throughout my dreams that night. The letters engraved on them–like the evening stars strewn around a velvety soft sky–danced wildly, sometimes embracing me, other times eluding me, as if wanting me to run after them.

Listen to the walls. (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo)

And the walls talked and listened at the same time. The door suddenly opened and they appeared, looking for me, wondering where have I been. They began to laugh, immediately figuring out the answer. My childhood hero looked at me and touched the walls. He made me promise to always listen to the silence. To listen to the walls because they carry messages from yesteryears. I began to move closer to the walls but he stopped me. He said, “Not now.”

The Triumph of Science over Death, a Rizal clay scuplture, displayed in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila. (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo)

We walked to the next room and proudly showed me this stone sculpture of a naked woman. He asked, “What do you see?” I replied, “Not now.” And we both laughed, two souls many many years apart, but laughing, anyway, at this moment in time.

We reached his Contemplation Room. Suddenly, he was no longer laughing. I felt his pains. I saw tears streaming down his face but I dare not say anything. I patiently waited, torn apart between wanting to comfort him and leaving him to his own sorrows. When it was all quiet again, I simply thanked him for what he has done. He gestured towards the door, gave me one last glance, and disappeared into the shadows.

Honoring Jose Rizal’s final moments. Telling us to think of our own heroes. (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo)

I celebrate his wisdom. I celebrate his arts. I celebrate his courage. I celebrate his dreams for the Filipino people.

I then whispered, “Happy 150th birthday…I know you have a sense of humor so please forgive me for this late greetings.”

I took tentative steps, away from the room, and saw JR waiting for me at the end of the hallway. He held my hands and together, we walked to the sunshine outside, believing in heroes and the messages that they leave behind.

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Note: The Lakbay Jose Rizal @150 is an ongoing campaign of the Department of Tourism and other agencies to celebrate the life of our national hero through visits to the places that figured prominently in his life. The campaign covers 26 Rizal shrines scattered all over the Philippines. The first 100 pilgrims who have visited all the sites (with proofs of visits through the stamps on their Rizal passport) will be given tokens and Kalakbay ni Gat Jose Rizal certificates. The campaign runs for a year, from June 19, 2011 to June 19, 2012. However, pilgrims can continue the visits (and have their passports stamped) even after this period although there will no longer be tokens/certificates at stake. For more information about Lakbay Jose Rizal@150, please visit this link.

Get your Jose Rizal Passport at the Department of Tourism.

Proud of our first Rizal stamps!

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Tornado hits my neighborhood in New Manila, Quezon City

We were caught by surprise. We were preparing our late breakfast of toasted bread and sunny side-up eggs when suddenly, the winds outside roared angrily, as if crying out, warning us to take refuge. We hurriedly looked outside our kitchen windows and realized those are not ordinary winds…

We were shocked when we went outside to see the fallen trees and electric posts.

Indeed, we are witnessing the brunt of a buhawi (tornado). The angry wind was whirling and pulling and out of fear, JR and I grabbed each other and ran to our bedroom, thinking it was the only safe place where the glass windows are not open. We remember closing the windows last night. Just as we were about to go right inside, we saw that the third window (which we cannot even open before this day) was wide open and, therefore, there will be a danger that it can be pushed by the wind, breaking the glass in the process…so we stayed under the door frame, partially covering ourselves with the door, and prayed loudly, “Lord, please save us!”

We stood there, holding each other, the sounds of the winds and possibly, of roofs and falling trees all around us…All these happened in about ten to fifteen seconds. And then there was quiet.

We checked each other, hugged, and shouted, “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, angels, we are safe!” And then we checked our house. The eggs that JR were cooking are now with twigs and leaves from the trees outside. There were debris of dust, leaves, and twigs everywhere, even on our bed and pillows. My laptop was covered with big particles of dust and soil. All our picture frames on top of the refrigerator toppled over. The laundry area is a total mess although the protective wall (of steel and thick wire) remained intact. Splattered on the white walls up to the ceiling are debris of leaves and soil.

Outside our unit, we were met by the family who lives just next to ours. They, too, were still in shock. We exchanged stories about how we dealt with the tornado. They asked if the protective wall in our laundry area was also destroyed like what happened to theirs. Amazingly, we told them that it seemed ok.

Even in the middle of a disaster aftermath, we still kept our sense of humor. We told them how our breakfast eggs are now covered with twigs. Not to be outdone, they went to their unit and came out again and showed us what happened to their newly-cooked rice—now covered with leaves and twigs, too! Apparently, the winds blew away the cover of the rice cooker! I told them they can re-cook it as fried rice!

We checked the damages outside and were shocked to see the fallen trees in Poinsettia Street (which intersects our street). The old and lovely trees of the convent across our house fell over. A Meralco post fell on the street, too, as if defeated. A piece of a roof that flew from a house now hangs from a cable of an electric post. Looking up outside our veranda, we saw someone’s pair of pants hanging from the top of another electric post! (Photos of the tornado’s aftermath are below this post).

Back in our unit, we also wondered how the third window in our bedroom opened. Most of all we wondered why the glass windows did not break, not even one, when the roofs of our neighbors were blown away. Must be that the glasses are much stronger and safely secured than the roofs or…we were saved by our angels.

Indeed, there are mysteries that we cannot answer. We are still shaken–dealing with the aftermath of our own adrenalin rush—and somewhat tired, almost feverish, but we know we are safe. Thanks to our friends and families who sent concerned text messages, love, and prayers.

We share with you all this part of our journey as we also pray for the safety of other Filipinos who are still dealing with the floods and the aftermath of typhoon Falcon. I also take this chance to ask all of you to do a little deed like planting a tree when you have the chance. Global warming certainly affects atmospheric conditions and aggravates the impact of storms and weather disturbances so even the simple act of planting more trees will definitely mean a lot to many people particularly those who are living in risk- and flood-prone areas.

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Below are photos of the aftermath of the small tornado that hit New Manila, Quezon City. Photos taken through HTC Tattoo phone camera.

Street sign across our house. The convent across our house (their main gate is in Poinsettia St.) lost several of their well-loved trees.

Fallen Trees in Poinsettia Street

Another shot of the fallen trees outside the convent.

These are the trees that fell down near our house.

A Meralco electric post that fell near our house.

This piece of metal that hangs from an electric cable used to be part of the roof of a house near ours.

Pants blown away to an electric post. I wonder whose pair is this…

A tree branch now hangs from a cable near our veranda windows.

Our house was luckily spared although the laundry area was in a complete mess after the tornado. The next-door unit’s protective wall and grills in the laundry area were smashed though.

The picture frames on top of the refrigerator toppled over. We consider it another small miracle that nothing was broken despite the very fierce winds.

There were leaves and twigs everywhere our house after the tornado.

Our breakfast eggs were quite “seasoned” with twigs and soil debris.

Our neighbor showed their rice to us. The cover of the rice cooker was blown away and the debris of twigs, leaves, and soil literally covered the top of their steamed rice.

Media coverage teams went to check the damage and get footages. ABS-CBN reported live from the site, in the evening. This photo was taken from our veranda.

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista also came to check the damages. Here, he is being interviewed by the media.

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Dreaming of a Philippine Leadership Academy

(A repost of a blog posted last December 7, 2010 in my previous site, http://meilbox.asyanna.com)

If I have the means, I will build an institution and name it the Philippine Leadership Academy.

A “No” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “Yes” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble. – M. Gandhi (Photo Credits http://www.newsofap.com)

It will produce graduates with the integrity and courage of Mahatma Gandhi, intelligence of Jose Rizal, and spirituality of Mother Theresa. The graduates will be the only ones qualified to run for public office or even become public servants. Training and formation of these future leaders will begin in Grade 1 and continue until the day they walk up the stage to get their college diploma. Having a high IQ (or at least more-than-average IQ) will be a basic requirement for admission.

Ok, you can laugh now and tell me that I am trying to ‘fish’ for the moon.

Impossible as this dream may sound, I think this is the only solution for us to have government leaders, elected officials, and public servants who will serve with intelligence, wisdom, leadership, compassion, honesty, and integrity.

We have the Philippine Military Academy, right? We even have formation houses for priests. So why not do it for elective and civil service positions when the stake is significantly higher?

However, a 5-year or even 8-year program will not work. The education and formation should begin in childhood; when there is still enough innocence left in a person’s mind. When his mind is still like a fresh sponge waiting for knowledge, wisdom, and integrity to soak everything in.

The parents of the prospective students (future government leaders) should be fully committed to their children’s future as  leaders. They should not expect them to become millionaires but maybe just comfortable enough to be able to afford some luxuries every now and then (the government, should of course, give them decent salaries so that there will be no reason for temptations). They should also give them enough motivation and inspiration. Even the parents should live a life of integrity. After all, young people look up to their parents as role models.

We all know that education is crucial to how a person will eventually become in the future. Of course, there is no guarantee that a well-educated person will not end up being a crook someday but with a formation program as intense as what I am envisioning, there will be lesser chances for the ‘churning out’ of a corrupt public servant. The program will be so intense and soul-deep that there will be yoga and meditation classes as early as in the elementary years. Simply put, the education will not just be about atoms, anatomy, governance, Renaissance, poetry, and climate change, but also anchored on the mission to produce graduates who are so spiritually-grounded that they will not even know the spelling of corruption.

A part of their high school years will be spent reading about exceptional global leaders and Nobel Prize winners who left remarkable and lasting legacy for the humanity. They will be taught to enjoy the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and even our very own kundiman, because that is the only way they can connect with the past and appreciate their places in the future. There will be art, poetry, and foreign languages appreciation classes because the only way to broaden one’s perspectives and see the world and its sufferings deeply is to breathe life and art itself; to consider life through the minds of artists, poets, and linguists so that one comes out wiser and richer.

In college, there will be debate classes and mock sessions on how the government operates. Their minds will be pushed to their limits; their creativity nurtured so that they can think of new and innovative ways to govern and make the bureaucracy work for the benefit of all. They will be challenged on how to craft and implement laws and policies that will really work and not some kind of token legislation that are so full of great promises but lack the teeth for proper implementation. They will be trained in the most intensive courses on economics, business, and finance so that they will know how to manage this country’s wealth and resources (including human resources) so that they will not even aspire for overseas trips just to get investors and ODA money to finance our domestic requirements and industries. Their minds are going to be molded so that they themselves will abhor words like nepotism, political dynasty, and padrino systems.

Most of all, the graduates of this leadership academy will NOT steal, lie, or amass wealth. They will be so nationalistic and grounded that having a functional car and a comfortable house will be enough. There will be no dreams for yachts, private jets, and Hermes bags for their wives. Of course, their rich ancestors can probably leave them inheritance to allow them live a good life but those will be reported in public up to the very last centavo spent. In fact, they are just so grounded and selfless that they would rather donate the sudden inheritance (with the condition that it will be used to build factories or assist SMEs).

“No good water comes from muddy spring. No sweet fruit comes from a bitter seed.” – Jose Rizal (Photo credits http://moralheroes.org/jose-protacio-rizal)

These leaders will commit their lives to goals bigger than themselves. As what our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal once said, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice. “

However, in order to have this kind of leaders, we need to plant the seeds. We have to believe in this dream. We need to start while the minds of our youths are still fresh like the morning grasses waiting for the dews to drop on their faces and nourish them.

I am serious about this dream and I hope the 741 million lotto winner will read this message and offer the initial funds for the setting up of this leadership academy.

_________________

This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Shortlisting the Presidentiables

We have watched the “Halalan” presidentiables’ forum aired over ABS-CBN last night and here are my top three choices, my reasons for choosing them, and why the others did not even pass my ‘shortlisting.’ :)

Let me first discuss my top three choices and why I think they deserve my vote.

1. Mr. Nick Perlas. He is my favorite because he has a strong platform anchored on a clear vision how to address corruption, environmental problems (such as climate change), and poverty (i.e. promoting domestic industries and agriculture). Among all the candidates, he seems to be the only one who understands structural problems and how to address them vis-a-vis poverty and inequity. More importantly, since he is not a “trapo”, I would assume that he will not be indebted to anyone nor be pushed into a situation when he would allow the growth (and even presence!) of private armies just so he can have the needed votes come election day. (Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay huwag magagalit.)

However, I also think that Mr. Nick Perlas’ main weakness is on communicating his views well. I am pretty sure he has great ideas (and track record to support the ideas) but he doesn’t seem to have the so-called “gift of gab” of say, Mr. Eddie Villanueva, or even, Sen. Dick Gordon. He has the tendency to go in circles or say too many ideas all at once instead of focusing on key ideas. He probably needs to learn how to speak more in “bullet points” particularly in public forums like that.

He also says “Po” or “Opo” too much to the detriment of the message he is trying to put forward. In situations like that, a clear delivery of message is more important particularly that he is running an alternative campaign. Lesser “Po” or “Opo” will not harm his candidacy. He needs those precious hours of media exposure in order for people to know him more. His lack in machinery may be compensated by adequate media coverage but in order to be an effective communicator, he should be clear and concise in his delivery.

One may say that a President does not need to be a good public speaker and that the most important part is to have the intelligence and the heart to govern with fairness and wisdom. True. But I also believe that communications make or break any campaign. You may be the best candidate but if you fail to deliver the reasons why people should vote you, then there lies the unfortunate irony. Sadly, we still live in a world that heavily relies on advertising, marketing campaigns, surveys and public opinion. Show the people the same products with the same price and they would likely buy the one whose endorser was clearer or wittier with his message (or maybe, cuter?).

Albeit the said ‘weaknesses’, Mr. Perlas is still the guy who tops my shortlist (at least, for now). I know he will not even win against an “Aquino” surname (unless a divine intervention happens between now and May 2010). That is another unfortunate side story. Nothing personal against Senator Aquino but I think even he himself will admit that his popularity is mainly because of his parents. He does not have the brilliance and solid platforms of Mr. Perlas or Mr. Villanueva. He does not have the political will and guts of Bayani Fernando. He does not have the solid track record of his father. Admittedly, he seems to be a nice and honest guy. But honesty is not the main requirement for sound leadership. Clearly, Mr. Perlas has the right mind and heart to enable him to lead this country towards genuine recovery but, unfortunately, he does not have the machinery, money and popularity to win an election that is mostly fueled by ‘mainstream’ ingredients: showbiz endorsements, TV ads, popular surnames, and of course, it does not hurt to have a sister /close kin who is seen on national TV every day. My unsolicited advice to Mr. Perlas? Run for a lower office such as a local executive (Mayor or Governor), or even as a Congressman, immerse himself in the ‘real’ world of Philippine politics, and then when the time is right and when the voters are really ‘awakened’ enough to understand the difference between a trapo and non-trapo, run for President.

My fearless prediction is that he will not win. I will definitely vote for him but sadly, the majority of the Filipinos will vote for Senators Aquino and Villar, and former President Estrada. But then again, miracles still happen, right? :)

2. Mr. Eddie Villanueva. Among all the participants, I think that he is the best communicator. His ideas are clear and he can deliver his messages in a very organized manner. Like Mr. Perlas, he also has a strong platform and more importantly, it is based on the importance of spirituality and faith in God. I can only agree with him. I think that we need spiritual renewal and a leader who can motivate us towards this path is probably what this country needs right now. However, and perhaps, ironically, his being a Church leader also gives me some hesitation and this is probably my main reason why he is just No. 2 in my list. I cannot put the exact words to it but I would have some hesitation voting for a parish priest, pastor or evangelist to become a President. Nothing personal against them. It is just that I think that it is better if they remain in their main vocation and do their public service through the vows that they already made. I know that people should have the right to change their minds but then again, I would also be quite uncomfortable with the idea of a religious leader who suddenly craves for political power.

But then again, our state of the nation may already need some kind of ‘divine intervention’ so that we can truly prosper? Can a religious leader be the answer?

3. Senator Dick Gordon. I have no direct knowledge of the Senator so my thoughts here will be mostly based on the few things that I know about him and how he performed in the Halalan Forum. I liked his thoughts on ‘enabling the Filipinos to believe in themselves.’ Like him, I also do not believe in “dole-out” mentality. I kind of get uncomfortable when candidates say things like, “Para sa mahihirap” or something like that. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-poor. But you see, we should stop this culture that when people are poor, they must have more rights or more leeway. No, I don’t think so. We give equal rights  to all–whether rich or poor. (Please do visit my old post, “Circumstantial Culture” if you want to read more about this.)

The problem on poverty is not going to be solved by “taking care of the poor as if they are helpless babies.” Let us draw the line there. We should create jobs, we should make hospitalization more affordable, we should give free education up to high school (or even college if we can afford it), etc. but it is not the same as condoning squatting, allowing sidewalk vendors, and giving dole-out money (subsidies?) when electricity or rice prices go up. Let us stop acting as if we are the savior of the poor. We are not. We should address the root of the problems and not the symptoms. Let us empower the poor and not forever treat them as ‘helpless’ people who so badly needs our charity. Our upbringing definitely requires us to lend a helping hand to those in need but we should remember the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

And so, I saw this kind of thinking in Sen. Gordon and yes, his running mate, MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando. They believe in hard labor. They believe in instilling discipline. They believe in decency and the rule of law. I think our country needs those things and much much more.

My only problem with Sen. Gordon is that he is not strong-willed enough. Sometimes I have doubts about his political will. To me, he is still a trapo. Well, maybe a better trapo, but still, he sometimes chooses to be quiet when going otherwise will inconvenience him or his party.

Oh, if only we can combine the strengths of these presidentiables and emerge with a candidate who has the wisdom and strong platform of Mr. Perlas, the spiritual grounding of Mr. Villanueva, the discipline and love for labor of Senator Gordon, and yes, the popularity of Senator Aquino. Ahhh, if only we can!

Now that I have given you my Top Three choices, I would give you the one who ended up last in my shortlist. He is no other than -

Secretary Gilbert Teodoro. It is obvious that he is intelligent and a savvy communicator (he deserves some cheers here). However, I will definitely not vote for him for the following reasons:

1. He always says he values “loyalty” and that is why he is sticking it out with Lakas-Kampi. Can someone ask him this question, please, “Is loyalty greater and more important than integrity?” If your boss and his family are obviously associated with a lot of issues such as on corruption, over-spending, over-traveling, vote-rigging, allowing of private armies (which led to a horrible massacre of innocent lives), and so on and so forth, would you still be proud that you are “loyal” to him? When should loyalty end? Must we draw a line somewhere?

2. He is clearly a trapo. It does not mean he is terribly nightmarish-bad but it is sad that he cannot even leave the party because of another thing (I may be wrong here, of course) – the machinery it offers. There lies the brutal fact that despite the endless issues hurled against his ‘masters’, he dare not leave them…and maybe because of the ease and comfort of having a nationwide machinery for his presidential aspirations? We can only guess. To a traditional politician, a party support is still a party support. However, Mr. Teodoro should also remember that a good party is not the same as a bad party. No more debate.

3. He is  a product of political dynasty, the very same thing that eventually becomes the ‘fertility bed’ for abuses. I remember his interview with Ms. Cheche Lazaro (in “Profiles”) when he said that he went back to the Philippines after staying in the US because he was convinced by his politico-relative (if I remember correctly, Mr. Danding Cojuangco) to run for public office. As if running for public office is a DNA thing. As if having relatives in politics gives one the ‘moral’ reason to also run for public office. Why do we have this penchant for husbands and wives, fathers (and mothers!) and sons, sisters and brothers, running for public office? Can we finally put a stop to these weird habit of believing that public service runs in the blood? Sure, it’s probably ok to have two politicos in the family (although I still think that a husband-and-wife team of politicos leaves a bad after-taste) but having 3, 4, 5 and even more politicians within the same surname or lineage is definitely a sign of lack of ‘delicadeza’ or shall we say, a familial addiction to power? Again, I may be wrong but let us look at things squarely; there is no need for complicated analysis.

4. His platform does  not seem anchored on a genuine understanding of the structural problems inherent in our national woes. For example, he actually believes that we need more military and police personnel! That was how he replied when he was asked something about the huge presence of CVOs in Mindanao. Oh dear, it is as if our problems are military in nature and that the solutions also require a militaristic framework. He must talk to his former subordinates in the AFP/DND and find out more about how many of the Generals now think that our society does not need more guns but more participation in nationwide building and environmental protection. Yes, Mr. Teodoro, I have personally met Generals and Lieutenant Colonels in the AFP who are now talking about social transformation that is anchored on building communities and not on creating more private armies. Does he really think that we need more militia men to cover our 7,100++ islands instead of jobs, food security, and environmental integrity?

I still have No. 5 as a reason but this has become a very long post already so I must stop now. I hope this shortlist will help you as you ponder about our future as a nation. Let us vote wisely and not give up on this country.

Saludo pa rin ako sa Pinoy! Kaya natin ito!

Vote wisely. The future is in our hands.

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Leonids meteors and much more

I woke up at almost 2:00 pm today and I have a good excuse for that. Leonids meteors.

From 2:00 to 4:00 am, hubby and I were lying down on borrowed carton and rubber mats (thanks to students and fellow astronomy fans out there), at the viewdeck of the PAGASA Observatory in UP Diliman Campus.  It became quite cold at around 3:00 am and that’s when we realized how stupid we were not to bring anything like mats and blankets! :) (Next time, we know better!)

Anyway, the long wait was definitely worth it. We started seeing meteors every 15 or 30 minutes or so. If my count is right, I have seen about 11 of them. Not bad for a 2-hour stay. The girl beside me who started their watch at about 9:00 pm said she was already on her 25th meteor by the time we were leaving. So using simple calculation, she have seen an average of 3 to 4 hours meteor an hour. Not bad too! (I must also thank her and her other friends who kindly shared their mats with me and hubby – who are total strangers in the dark!)

My favorite meteor happened sometime around 3:30 am – it left a bluish streak of light and the ‘train’ it created was thicker than the others I have seen this morning. It appeared below the Orion star constellation (at least from my vantage point of view). I shouted and clapped my hands along with the others who would also normally applause and cheer everytime a meteor arrives. Wow, if we had seen only one meteor that night, then it would already be worth the long and chilly wait.

Photo credits: Jim & Carol Harlan from Space(dot)Com

The other meteors were equally magical, leaving reddish, yellowish and mostly whitish glow along the dark skies. One even had an almost greenish tinge! According to the NASA website, “The color of many Leonids is caused by light emitted from metal atoms from the meteoroid (blue, green, and yellow) and light emitted by atoms and molecules of the air (red). The metal atoms emit light much like in our sodium discharge lamps: sodium (Na) atoms give an orange-yellow light, iron (Fe) atoms a yellow light, magnesium (Mg) a blue green light, ionized Calcium (Ca+) atoms may add a violet hue, while molecules of atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and oxygen atoms (o) give a red light. The meteor color depends on whether the metal atom emissions or the air plasma emissions dominate.”

Leonids meteors showers (taken in US skies)

Photo credits: Anthony Galvin from Space(dot)com

The news articles about the meteors showers predicted that there would be about 100 meteors appearing every hour but unfortunately, I think the visible ones numbered about five per hour only. I guess one reason is that the others were not visible to the naked eye anymore because of the clouds and yes, the level of pollution in Manila. I always think that ‘stars shine more brightly’ in the provinces because the air there is cleaner and therefore the skies are clearer. It makes sense because according to scientists, those ‘hazy’ skies are mostly caused by air pollution. One probable factor why we also didn’t see more meteors was the cumulative effect of city lights – I am very sure that we’d see more of the meteors had we been watching from, say, a secluded beach resort or a mountaintop. I hope we city dwellers will do something more concrete to combat air pollution, or we are doomed to a future with no more nights of stargazing and meteors-watching.

It was my first time to do stargazing again after a long while. This time, I have a husband beside me (who must have been thinking how the hell he ended up with a wife who would drag him into the dead of the night just so they can watch falling stars…hehehe). [Yes, hubby, expect more of nights and morning like that!]

I posted this in my Facebook today, “Looking at the expanse of the night skies with stars scattered all over like burning jewels, it made me think again about how mysterious, beautiful, perfect and energizing the universe is. Everything is just so perfect, the planets don’t colide, the earth just circles the sun in harmony with all the other planets, and we live, we breathe, we laugh…Ahhh, this is so full of mystery, so full of magic…”

God must really really love us all very much.

For more details about Leonid meteors and other astronomical facts, you may visithttp://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/meteor.html

__________________

This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

The privilege of being a leader

Aga Muhlach’s latest interview which was posted in Facebook inspired me to write this blog.

As I posted in my Facebook -

Hubby and I were just recently discussing this thought – “Being a President is a huge privilege because you have that POWER to make meaningful changes. Why waste that once-in-a-lifetime chance? Not everyone can be President. Mrs. President, you have that POWER in your hands, why squander it? And to all our government leaders – please do not waste that once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a great IMPACT to the lives of the Filipino people! Stop corruption! Stop selfishness! Stop politicking!” Go, Aga, you just expressed the sentiments of many people!

And so Aga’s outpouring of frustration reflects how most of us must probably be feeling. We are all frustrated. Some may feel helplessness. Or resignation.

For how can we change the way things are going? How loud must our voices be in order to be heard? I am sure our President and government leaders have been hearing us loud and clear. Haven’t we shouted enough? Haven’t we written enough?

When will our so-called leaders really deserve the title “Leader”? Haven’t they forgotten that the word carries a power so encompassing that it can make this country rise again? They have that one chance to lead this country towards greatness! They have the privilege to touch many lives! They have the authority to make the laws work!

But what are they doing? They travel first-class and dine in fine restaurants while millions cannot even afford three square meals a day. They launder money. They smuggle goods. They receive kickbacks in government projects. They allow tax evaders to go scot-free for a fee. They shamelessly stay in power by ensuring their sons and daughters will ‘inherit’ the positions they are leaving behind (as if they hold the exclusive rights to those positions). They plaster their names on billboards and every space available in the community after they ‘sponsored’ the construction of a basketball court or a barangay hall. They pay millions of pesos on TV ads while the country’s disaster team doesn’t even have enough rubber boats to save people during strong typhoons and floods. The list is endless.

It saddens me because they have that ONE chance to make this country great again and yet, they are squandering this chance. It saddens me because even if we shout on top of our voices, they don’t seem to be bothered anymore. They call for unity. They call for cooperation. But how can we even take their calls seriously if what we see are their corrupt practices, incompetence and lack of concern?

Wake up, Mrs. President! Wake up, Senators and Congressmen! Wake up, Governors, Mayors and Barangay Chairmen! Wake up, Cabinet Members! Wake up, appointed and promoted leaders in government! You have that CHANCE to make this country rise again! You hold in your hands that very rare chance, in fact, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a genuine difference.

We, the Filipino people, are reminding you of that great privilege in your hands. Please do not squander it.

The clock is ticking. Every minute wasted could be one more life lost, one more tree fallen, one more river dead.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin