What if our next president was a poet? Or a teacher? Or a chef?

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 07, 2010 12:00 AM
We’ve had lawyers, actors, economists, technocrats, singers and entrenched warlords run for public office in our country. Judging from the behavior of most of our leaders on all levels of our political life, the professions they come from hardly make a difference to the governed. Generally, I have not seen any value added by the professions politicians bring into office in terms of actual governance. Maybe, in terms of winning, actors have an advantage, but once elected, they all behave more or less the same way as everyone else.

I know this is a cynical statement, and is not entirely true. Once in awhile, a politician brings his profession and expertise into the job, and it makes a difference in governance. Bayani Fernando, an engineer, was a mayor and MMDA head, and from all indications, he did think and act like an engineer. His solutions, decisions and actions showed it, for better or for worse. Fidel Ramos, an engineer and a military man, attacked every problem with the instincts, logic and focus of a battlefield general.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for the governed if politicians brought with them the passion, instincts, practices, habits, language and the true values of their original professions. And what would happen if the political process was flexible and open enough to allow other “untried” professions and occupations to serve in public office?

What would that be like? I have put on my whimsical hat and am daydreaming as I write this.

If poets ran the government, what could we expect? Ah, legalese and literalism would be thrown out the window and poetry and free verse and a playful soaring spirit would be our guiding light. Congress would open with a poetry reading in lieu of a prayer. Debates would sound like balagtasan. Officials would be wearing berets and goatees, and official sessions and functions would be more bohemian, with lots of flamboyance, and definitely less staid.

Imagine public announcements expressed in new ways: “From the toil of your labors emerges forth this humble waiting shed so that your weary bodies may find comfort from nature’s onslaught.” A project of Mayor so-and-so!

Or imagine going down EDSA and instead of the usual billboards with commercial enticements, we find quotes from poets exhorting our spirits to fly. No Vicki Belo ads of semi-naked women. No tacky ads selling instant noodles and whitening creams. Instead, something inspiring from, say, Kahlil Gibran: “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

What a different experience life in Metro Manila would be.

Or what if our president was a preschool teacher? Cabinet members would have to fall in line in alphabetical order before they enter a cabinet meeting and greet the president in unison: “Good morning, Ma’am!” The meetings would begin and end with an action song, complete with hand and body movements. Officials who need to heed the call of nature would have to ask permission: “Ma’am, may I go out?” Furthermore, presidential memos would be illustrated and worded very simply.

The program of government would be explained to everyone through a school program. And at the State of the Nation Address, everyone would receive an award or recognition. And we just might achieve political harmony, for once.

What would it be like if our chief executive was a chef? The president would be really popular, I predict. Hunger would be addressed first and foremost. And the government would be feeding the multitudes not just with the usual nutri-buns, canned goods and rice.

The National Food Authority would be known as the Nation’s Basic Menu Office. Emergency food packs would include coriander leaves to go with the munggo and the sardines. They would also be called “dishes,” not meals. Galunggong would be served in at least 10 different ways. The Palace would open its kitchen, menu and recipes to anyone who wishes to know what the President eats.

Arguments among cabinet members would be settled like an Iron Chef competition. The one who makes the best culinary concoction wins! The people would rate the president’s performance according to how he has affected the population gastronomically!

Okay, how about if we had a no-nonsense major-doma as president? You know, the chief maid who runs the entire household, and the house? She’s the one you see in telenovelas, the surrogate mother who knows where everything is and the state of affairs of everyone in the family. More than a housewife by training and practice, she executes the orders of the head of the house and when she is good, the house hums like a solid ship.

She is naturally bossy, breathing down the necks of people to do their jobs. So, the garbage would be disposed of, she would live within the allowed budget and — who knows? — she may even balance it. She would call on those who do not do their jobs well and scold them. All deadlines for infrastructure completion and other projects would be followed strictly. She would have her finger in every aspect of running the country. Her chismis network, which extends to the entire neighborhood, would be the template for how the intelligence services should gather information. With her ear habitually to the wall, she would know everything before it even happened.

Heads of state who visit would be met at the dirty kitchen!

She would make it her business to know what pleases her boss — the boss being us, the Filipino people — and we would be happy and secure knowing that we were in her safe, solid and efficient hands.

But seriously now: we have elected sportsmen, doctors, teachers, radio announcers, priests, even a mechanic to high offices in our country. Presumably, they carried the passion, instincts, habits and values of their professions into the job. But looking at the outcome, I can’t help feeling that, perhaps, if they had been truer to their original professions, we would be in a better place today.

Lito Lapid could have made a good legislator if he had played his part in the Senate like his movie roles of rescuer of the downtrodden, the poor and powerless, and fighting for them as he did in his movies. And Robert Jaworski could have conducted himself as a pushy risk-taker who got results, while fighting for his bills in the Senate, the way he used to do so effectively in the basketball court. Sen. Juan T. Flavier played his doctor persona to the hilt and the people loved it. He made his passion his political direction and advocacy.

Now we have a real estate mogul running for president. Can we expect him to follow his instincts and convert every piece of idle land in the country into a subdivision? Can we expect Noynoy, the economist, to passionately pursue bread and butter issues that affect the poorest of our countrymen?

Since our elections are mainly free-for-alls and there is no law banning any profession from running for positions of leadership, all we can really expect from those who want to lead us is to be good public officials by contributing what they know and serving with passion, no matter what profession they come from.

At least, this way, for better or worse, the people will get what they voted for.

* * *

I am running my Basic Photography Course again. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop only from 1 to 7 p.m. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Participants must have an DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

The workshop is on April 3, 1 to 7 p.m., at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The cost is P3,500.

Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations. Send an e-mail with your contact numbers to insure a slot.

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