The Philippines says #PHthankyou to the world

PH Thank YouGRATITUDE.

We may be a Third World country lacking in so many things that First World nations have in abundance. But let it not be said that we lack gratitude.

My own Mom always drilled this into me. Say “Thank you”. As a kid, I heard her tell me this so many times. It almost sounded like nagging when she’d remind, “Say thank you, say thank you…” But I’m glad she did.

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Just Thinking Out Loud…

Last night, hubby dropped a bombshell on me. Or at least, it seemed like it.

He gave me a computation for additional taxes I needed to pay by April 15.

The amount wasn’t peanuts. At least not for someone like me who has not had a paycheck for over a decade and just recently went back to work. Gee, with that amount of money going to taxes, I could already buy so much grocery, plunk a down payment on my kids’ tuition, or even get myself a new dress or shoes…no, SEVERAL dresses or shoes.

I don’t really mind paying taxes. I recognize my duty as a good citizen of this country.

What I really, really mind is WHERE my taxes will end up.

So many working people like myself pay our taxes religiously. We can’t escape it. The built-in withholding tax system ensures that the right amount of taxes are withheld from our pay every month.

But for the past months, seeing all these corruption scandals erupting here and there and not knowing how many more of these kinds of scandals have not yet been unearthed, I think to myself whether my taxes are going the WRONG way and are simply supporting lavish lifestyles of corrupt officials in government. We had the fertilizer scam, the “baboy” scam, and now this hullabaloo about rice shortage and I wonder…..

ANO PA KAYA????

As April 15 approaches, I wonder how many of the employed folks, ordinary citizens like myself, with young mouths to feed, with very little disposable income or savings, will troop to the BIR to pay taxes and like me, wonder where their hard-earned money will end up.

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I’m a Sucker for Underdogs!

Yes, I am a sucker for underdogs. It’s just me.

Of course, the underdog has to be one of decent stock and integrity. Someone credible. Someone vulnerable. Someone unable to fight on his/her own. And recently, another such person has caught everyone in the throes of controversy that has gotten incredible media mileage.

Brian Gorrell has captured the hearts and minds of bloggers and web surfers globally, including Pinoys (one of whom he accuses of having allegedly scammed him of his life savings of 70,000 dollars). Brian could not get it back and resorted to blogging in an attempt to force this Pinoy to hand his money back — money he desperately needs for his medicines. Brian has HIV.

I won’t go into detailed comments about what Brian claims he knows or what he blogged about. You can go to Brian’s blog and read all about it there.

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But what is really core to all these is his exposure of what we already have a glimpse of — the huge abyss between the rich and the poor of our country and what perks it gives to the high and mighty, to the detriment of those who merely survive from day to day and learn to go without.

If, through Brian’s blog, we Filipinos can see the real view of our country (its good side as well as its sickening ills), maybe we can now be stirred to move towards changing society, help in whatever way we can to make life better for millions of our own, bring back honesty, integrity, good governance at every level of society, and give back the dignity of the Pinoy that has been stripped bare by countless scandals not just in government but also, apparently, in our high society circles.

Kitty Go’s amazingly candid interview was so refreshing. While being herself a socialite now based in HK, she shows the better side of what real high society should be made of — finesse, social concern, clean living, honest profession, etc. There are still many of those in this country. Those who use their money to engage in housing projects, set up foundations for education, for better provincial infrastructure, and so forth. It is the few who live like there was no tomorrow, indulging in wild lifestyles, liquor and drugs, living in their intoxicated world, engaging in corruption to continue building up their empire, who bring a bad image to high society (and government, as well).

Some creative person came up with an image which Brian posted on his blog. It does not look like it is copyrighted as it has “Team Brian” on it. So I am putting it up here as well.

Good luck to you, Brian. Many people are praying you stay healthy. Many are hoping you get back your money. Thank you for exposing what many in this country have known for some time now but never dared talk (or write) about.

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Raising a New Breed of Leaders

It was a stark contrast.

At almost the exact time that thousands rallied in Makati yesterday against our present leaders in government, I found myself attending my daughter C1’s LEAd graduation. She was 1 of 32 new graduates of a 2-year leadership program formed 6 years ago by her school’s Office of Student Affairs to raise potential leaders.

Many of the graduates had to apply, and undergo screening, for LEad, which aptly stands for Leadership, Empowerment and Development. Surprisingly, C1 was only a newbie, a freshman, when her club nominated her for the program. At home, we had to discern whether to allow her to go through it. After all, she was just beginning college life, still unsure of what academic demands would be placed on her, and this program required a solid commitment from her to attend its activities on weekends. But C1 was determined to make it. We eventually had to trust that somehow, in spite of all the adjustments she needed to make in her new school, she would come through.

And what a program it was! I remember many weekends when we hardly saw her. It seemed like she “lived” in school already.

In her first year, they were groomed for leadership. Seminars and workshops were offered to hone their skills. The second year was even tougher. On weekends they went to different places around the metro. I had to steel myself once against turning paranoid when she said they were visiting the Bilibid prisoners. There were other immersion programs as well such as Gawad Kalinga, trips to Nueva Ecija and other exposure trips which opened my once-sheltered daughter to the realities of how people lived around her.

As I sat at the back yesterday, listened to some come up to the podium and relate their experiences, and viewed their powerpoint presentation of programs achieved, I felt a mommy’s pride in C1 welling up. So this was what she had been up to all these weekends.

As one of their school officials told me during dinner, while the program aims to form potential leaders of university organizations and projects, what she hoped to see in them was leadership in terms of social action, character and values as well. We both agreed that our wish was for these 32 new leaders to keep their idealism and values intact even as they leave school and go into the workplace.

I could only wish that if our own national leaders — graduates of prestigious schools including C1’s school — had likewise kept their idealism, nationalism and values intact after they got their degrees, we would not be in this mess we are in today which precipitated the rally in Makati.

To all Batch 6 graduates of LEaD, I reiterate my conviction that young people like YOU are the hope of our land. And to our daughter C1 goes a mommy’s (and daddy’s) prayer that the wisdom and idealism you have now may always stay in your heart. With God’s grace, you will become a leader in your own right and make a difference in our country.

Here is a video I took of LEaD’s activities:

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Dedicated to Our Youth (Love the Philippines!)

Today, Feb. 25, 2008 marks the 22nd anniversary of Philippine PEOPLE POWER.

I dedicate this post to my children who are part of the youth — the hope of our land. May these graphic images burn in your hearts and remain there always. I pray that the spirit of EDSA 1 will always be the inspiration of our youth to give of themselves and make this country better for all its citizenry.

This beautiful YouTube video (thanks to elcid624) was a video done for a Boston culture show in 2004. It encapsulates the spirit of EDSA and shows highlights of those days. For our youth who were not born yet or were too young to remember, this video says it all.

And what would EDSA 1 have been without music? After all, music is in the heart of all Filipinos. Our culture is filled with music that speaks from our hearts.

The songs below were written during the EDSA 1 People Power days. They remain relevant until today.

This YouTube video (from jsoria30ver2‘s YouTube channel) is a song entitled “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” written by Jim Paredes of Apo Hiking Society. In a recent ANC interview, Jim said that he wrote this 6-minute song in 2 minutes. Talking of inspiration!!!!

“Magkaisa” was written by Tito Sotto, arranged by Homer Flores and rendered by Virna Lisa Mananzan. Lucky I found this YouTube video (thanks again to jsoria30ver2):

And who can forget “Bayan Ko” written by Freddie Aguilar. Almost like a national anthem, this song has been sang in many different situations to symbolize love of country. (thanks to pnaymommy3)

I previously blogged about how I felt as a mother whose kids are exposed to all these scandals these days. Three of them are so much more aware of what is going on as they discuss these events in class and among their peers. I continue to pray that they will look at this anniversary not just as a historical event but a shining moment when the Filipino’s true heart and spirit shone forth to teach the world a lesson. It is not too late for our youth to transform this country. I have faith that where we have failed, they can succeed.

Blogger Links

Following are links to blogger friends who have likewise written posts relevant to this day in our history. I will update this list as I come across new posts.

Dine’s Tomorrow’s Leaders, our YOUTH: What if they suddenly want to do it their way?

Noemi’s Modern Day Moms and Truth, Accountability & Reform

Noemi’s Push for Change, BE the Change

Annamanila’s Taking Responsibility

Cathy’s What IS $130 Million To You?

MLQ3’s An Immoderate Threat when Representatives Fail the People

Mayi’s A Call for Prayer For This Country

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Our Youth Are the Hope of This Land

I have tried to make this blog as apolitical as possible as my theme is about LIFE and all its many facets as it affects me. But I cannot help but blog about the impact of our youth on me, especially during this time when we are once again faced by a scandal of humongous proportions. This post is not a political one. Rather, I believe that this represents our HOPE for a BETTER LIFE.

In my younger days, I was no activist. I was never in political rallies during martial law days. I chose to just focus on my studies and I must say I was a pretty good student and made good grades. But when I went for graduate studies to the States, I became aware of many things. My loneliness, being away from family, made me keenly appreciate my country even more (this is really cheesy but I would get teary-eyed whenever I would hear Lupang Hinirang). I realized I was part of a few who were given a chance for a better life when many back home could not even get to eat 3x a day. I was there when Ninoy Aquino was exiled, got invited along with some friends to a party hosted in NY for the Marcoses during their state visit (we were appalled by the excessive show of opulence that we left soon after dinner and chose to walk around NY for a change), was among Filipino students who met similarly-exiled Charito Planas during her school visit and got a personal view of what the country was facing then. I was absorbing all these, and without realizing it, this was to be my big step to a more active participation ahead.

When Operation Quick Count of NAMFREL was set up, I got involved. Without going into more details, suffice it to say that my love of the Philippines was heightened all the more during those days. We worked long, long hours in LSGH in the aftermath of the presidential snap elections of ’86. I was there when Card. Sin and Senator Lugar of the US, among other dignitaries, paid a visit to the LSGH gym where we were based. I was one of those who broke out cheering and applauding when they announced that the PICC tabulators had walked out. And during EDSA 1, I was one of the millions who found ourselves in EDSA. My heart was bursting with love for my country and hopes for the future.

But with scandal after scandal coming out, I fear for my kids and what future they will have in this country. There is so much for them to be proud of. The countryside is beautiful. Whatever is left of our rich, natural resources (depleted by greedy moneymakers) is still a sight to behold. The simple folks in the provinces show us what the real heart of Pinoys are. Opportunities abound to give and to receive — within moral and economic boundaries.

But what values are my kids picking up? Will they continue to be principled, fight for what is good and right, put country over personal interest? Will they want to stay in this country and put their talents and skills to use here rather than dream of working abroad? How do I teach them that money in itself is not bad if they can put it to use to make lives better? When they look at TV, hear the Senate investigations, and study current events in school, how do these scandals impress their young hearts?

I worry.

These days, I am just an ordinary wife and mother. My days are humdrum, revolving around planning the kids’ schedules, trying to earn a decent living, and enjoying yoga with friends.

But last night, my good friend Dine told me about her son Vince who, at the Ateneo mass at Gesu for Jun Lozada, gave up his St. Ignatius pin (which was given to him just a week ago) in order to fulfill the wish of Lozada to come out of Ateneo with a blue pin.

Vince earned that blue pin. It was a pin given in recognition of his school leadership. But in giving that pin to Lozada, Vince symbolized all the youth behind him who were in effect entrusting their future in the hands of the likes of Lozada. Here was a youth leader telling an adult that there was hope for our land and this was an encouragement for Lozada and others to likewise stay the course and let the TRUTH come out.

If our youth, like Vince, continue to love this country and feel deeply for it like I remember feeling years ago, there is hope for this country. If they can discern what is NOT right in the actions of my generation, there is a chance for them to rectify these in their generation. They are the hope of this land.

(Vince with Sumilao farmers at the Gesu Mass for Lozada — photo courtesy of Dine)

Vince, you do your family proud and I am happy to have met you through your mommy. Be assured that we are all behind you and your generation and will always pray that you all stay in the light. As for me, I continue to be a proud Filipina.

To view a short video of Vince (also taken by Dine) giving his pin to Lozada, click HERE and HERE.

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