Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Leaders Filipinos Deserve

Last Sept. 4, I brought along my sister Sheryl, and officemate and friend Myra, to attend the Leadership Forum organized by the Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC) secretariat in Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.

I have been wanting to see Pampanga priest-turned-governor Panlilio in person along with the polio-stricken Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela. Their David vs. Goliath stories have been well covered by the media (and thank God/Goddess for that): in 2007, Panlilio, or "Among Ed" among his supporters, went against incumbent Governor Mark Lapid and board member Lilia “Baby" Pineda; Padaca against Faustino Dy Jr. in 2004. Both had only the solid faith and support of their constituents for the alternative leadership/politics they were offering. And win they did.

That evening forum in Makati brought Padaca and Panlilio anew with new-found allies such as Ifugao's Gov. Teddy Baguilat, Mayors Jesse Robredo of Naga City and Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. The forum became a venue for the young people (who paid P100 each)to listen to their struggles and their current experiences being in the shoes of leaders in their particular towns and provinces. We later learned that their group earlier visited Mapua school where they also gave talks.

Gov. Panlilio was the first to arrive and he proceeded to sit directly at the front row by himself. Since we were just a row away from him, we asked him for a quick photo shoot, shameless photo animals that we were. I only managed to say "Good evening, po," and briefly contemplated touching his hand to my forehead when the camera clicked. Then a group of three approached him, then a group of five, a couple, then a grand queue. One would have thought that no less than Ate Vi was there.

Padaca arrived just after the opening remarks was delivered. And all heads did turn to her direction when the host announced her name. Oddly, though she was in crutches, she seemed to have floated altogether tackling that strip of floor from the back of the room onto the stage. All that time, she had this smile that seemed to bless each face it met, and one's heart felt comforted at once (ok, it might just be me exaggerating but the whole room of about 200 people came to a calming joyousness when she began walking, something akin perhaps to seeing Pope John Paul II walk right by you, when he was alive, of course). No wonder, she won over the hearts of the people of Isabela (in 2004 she had at least 40,000 votes over Dy).

And so each told their story. And they were the proof and the story. In the end, listening to all their stories put the fire back in one's faith that there is still hope for the country, that there is hope in wishing for good governance in the Philippines, that there are good people who are willing to put up a good fight and be the good changes that they want to see in the country. That good Filipino leaders are not a thing of the past. That if a cluster of bad people can bring ruin to our country, then good people can buck the dirty brand of politics this country has seen and make smart changes. That is if Filipinos would support these good leaders, we will have the government we finally deserve.

These local officials have banded together under the Kaya Natin! a movement for genuine change and ethical leadership started by Harvey Keh of the Ateneo School of Government. You all will be hearing more of this movement as they are set to tour around schools and other institutions in the country. The Kaya Natin! movement calls for a platform of ethical leadership, good governance, transparency, social accountability and electoral reforms.

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