Our house has been a mess the past two days. But it’s a happy mess. You see, my daughter Erica was so moved by the plight of people who lost their homes and possessions because of Typhoon Ondoy that she decided to set up relief efforts at home with friends. Not too long after she tweeted to just a few people when relief goods, volunteers started coming to the house. Soon enough, we had an assembly line going of young people making sandwiches, food packs, etc. Some of them came and helped for just a few hours while many stayed the whole day. Many of them where people who just heard about the effort. Everyone, it seems has a burning desire to do something.
They got the system going quite easy. Every time the table would be filled up with around 500 or more gift packs, a group would leave to go to a depressed or a hard-stricken area and distribute the food. The place they chose was a God-forsaken place in Marikina. When they first got there, they saw a site they will never forget– the walking wounded, dazed people, with dead bodies by the side in a squalor of mud and wreckage. Apparently. Team Erica was the first group to get here. The people hadn’t eaten since the storm. The whole relief was gone in 10 minutes.
It has been exhilarating to have our house as part of all this. It’s better than just feeling helpless. I know of a couple who have opened their doors to 40 orphans. In a humbler effort, we are housing an entire family in my studio. There are many more stories like this happening all over. There is something empowering when you can help in some way. I am so amazed and proud of Erica, her friends and the many strangers who showed up to help.
Today is another day here at home and more relief goods will be arriving soon. From this tiny part of the Universe, we will radiate hope to the starving and hungry among us. It IS possible to see ourselves in others. In these moments, let us not turn away in recognizing the face of God in everyone. It is true. We are the world. We are the Oneness.
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 27, 2009 12:00 AM
It was an experiment in human interaction, or maybe a step forward towards what all the social networks, of which a great number of us are members these days, are trying to do. I put out an announcement on Facebook and Twitter about a dinner I wanted to host for five random people I did not know. I called it “5 People You Meet On Earth.” It was to be a simple thing. Anyone interested in having a crack at it was to send me an e-mail and from the batch of responses, I would randomly choose five people to invite.
Not long after I posted it, streams of email and tweets deluged my inbox and tweetbox. After about two days, I had more than a hundred. I was really only able to read a few of them since there was just too many responses. Besides, I didn’t want my random process of choosing whom I would invite be influenced by a sender’s writing style, or age, or sex, or anything. I wanted it completely free of any preference on my part. The Universe would decide which people were to find themselves together in my house.
I only had two conditions for people to join: a) that they were not stalkers, and b) that I did not know them.
When it was time to choose, I looked at the list of e-mail responses and I chose every sixth sender, and changed my mind about the number of participants and increased it to six. I copied their e-mail addresses and promptly sent out my response. “Congrats! You were randomly chosen to be invited to dinner at (my address) September 20, 2009, 7 p.m. Dress informally and come with an open mind and good disposition.”
On the night of the dinner, my guests arrived in trickles, but were all rather prompt at around 7 p.m. I knew little about them since I purposely tried not to read too much or retain any info. I wanted to enjoy the thrill of meeting and discovering the people behind the strangers I was to sup with. There were seven all in all: Jane Uymatiao, May Tan, Leklek Villanueva, Car Rigo, Ricci Alesna-Magat, Jey-ai Reyes. A seventh person, my dear friend Mae Paner a.k.a. Juana Change who was so enamored with the idea of the project, had pleaded with me to invite her to the dinner, so she was also present. Based on the names of the people, I thought that two of the six strangers were male, but as it turned out, I was to have dinner with seven girls!
To my pleasant surprise, things went smoothly even from the start. The truth was there was hardly any awkward moment at all. Over delicious, sumptuous dinner prepared by my daughter Erica, we wasted no time in getting to know each other. We had a three-minute self-introduction from each member of the ad-hoc group. Not soon after we began, the amazement level felt by everyone began to rise. One participant, Leklek, who worked with a big multinational firm, had actually flown in from Singapore to attend the dinner. May was a student of law, just back a month from Sydney. Car was a psychology graduate who liked to travel and do mountain climbing. Ricci was a housewife and a fulltime mother who ran her house chores without maids. A medical technician, Jey-aiy felt that she was being drawn to cancer patients and how to treat them. The sixth, Jane, was an accountant of many years who had recently discovered the joys of “right brain” activities such as blogging, the arts, etc. Lastly, there was Mae, director of commercials, political activist and artist.
Soon after the intros, we slid into conversation which flowed freely while pleasantly touching on varied topics such as travel, books, people, serendipity, creativity, new callings, passions and high moments in our lives.
It wasn’t too long after that we all felt the quality of the exchange was getting deeper and more authentic. Mae talked about how her search for authenticity and truth made her turn down lucrative advertising work for politicians and do stuff she found meaningful and fulfilling, like her short films with her alter ego Juana Change, and the National Anthem video she made. May, the law student talked about how working with Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide, who has such integrity she said, affected her in a good way. Leklek talked about how travel to places like India and other destinations made her believe that people everywhere were generally good and honest. Ricci, who had turned down a budding career to raise her own kids, told us about how hard it was to tell her boss of her decision to leave. She also talked of her adventures in the caves of Sagada.
Jey-aiy entertained us with the story of her name, and how it was a re-christened one in high school since there were four other classmates of hers who were named Janis Ian after the singer. She shared her desire to learn more about treating cancer since fate seemed to take her to people who were suffering from it. Car, an outdoorsy type, talked about her love for walking, hiking and her time spent doing social work with depressed communities. Jane, a mother, was with SGV for some 20 years. She talked about the thrill in discovering aspects of herself which were totally new like blogging and writing about topics that she has recently discovered like her love of yoga and spirituality.
As the night wore on, I felt such ease with my newfound friends. I noted and said that the beauty of the situation we were in, that of being together without any shared past or history just made everyone talk and share freely without any fear of judgment or censure from anyone. I was beginning to think that perhaps these six people (whose names I could not even easily remember and had to be reminded of a few times throughout the evening) were brought to my doorstep by fate as strangers in disguise, but were in fact friendships merely waiting to be confirmed.
Some four and a half hours later, we started saying our goodbyes and cameras started to click away. We all took our souvenir shots, our little mementos of this crazy experiment in saying “yes” to mystery by allowing ourselves to share a dinner with strangers, peeking into their lives while allowing them to do the same thing with us.
There was another 15 minutes spent at the gate as we talked some more. Soul talk and great sharing, once started, is hard to stop. But alas, we knew it had to end.
When they left, I felt a sense of affirmation for all people in general. I felt a positiveness about humanity. I felt that, deep down, every person has a story to tell, a life to share even momentarily with others, and a capacity to accept the “other” however briefly. Could the first rule of life actually be, as Joseph Campbell says, that we are all one? That night, it sure seemed to be. And it happens when we allow ourselves to be unconditional about life and people, and accept things however or whatever shape they wish to manifest.
My warmest congratulations to you as you’ve been shortlisted as one of the top five finalists for the Best Celebrity Blog Award Category at the First Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards Ceremony!
Basically, the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards is the FIRST REGIONAL BLOG AWARDS. It’ll be a red-carpet event, packed with glitz and glamour in the style of Hollywood awards ceremony.
Thus, it brings me great excitement to invite you in joining us on board as a finalist for the Blog Awards!….’
I had to read this email about three times before I expressed a loud ‘WOW”. It was in the early morning and I even thought I may have awakened my neighbors. I have been writing on this blog for years now and have enjoyed this ongoing conversation with the faceless but real inhabitants of cyberspace.
If you dear readers think I should win the award, please click here. I will be grateful and will continue to write on this blog as a sign of my gratitude. BTW, I am the only Filipino in this category.
Don’t forget to vote on all categories for your vote to be counted. You can also vote every two hours. Since we have to vote on all categories, may I also inform you that other Filipinos made the cut as well and it would be nice to support them: Octwelve (Best Original Blog Design), Wifely Steps (Best Parenting Blog), Kitchen Cow (Best Food Blog), En Route (Best Travel Blog), Bryan Boy (Best Fashion Blog), Jehzlau Concepts (Best influential blog).
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE
By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated September 20, 2009 12:00 AM
My inbox is always full. I like to read messages early in the day and spend a great deal of time answering them. Still, I am unable to respond to everyone who gets in touch. It can get quite overwhelming. Messages stream almost non-stop throughout the day. There are urgent matters that must be attended to ASAP, and there are letters that I want to write to loved ones which, though not urgent, are nevertheless important.
Throughout the day, I get a lot of texts, and the alarm it makes raises my excitement level somewhat. The ringing of my cell phone has the same effect.
Then there are meetings, interviews, rehearsals, chores that scream for attention non-stop. Sometimes I wish I could just close my e-mail account, or select all the read and unread e-mails and simply trash them and start anew. Or lose my phone so that no one can call me, and that would give me the excuse for not showing up.
The world can get crazy. The speed of events can run me to the ground. That’s how I sometimes feel at the end of the day. To make matters worse, there are times when the preoccupations of the last few hours stick in my mind and engage me almost ceaselessly long after they have transpired. Even in the privacy and solitude of my room, I am still in the thick of things. My mind won’t let go.
I have learned a few techniques to counter this but I have yet to practice them consistently every day. These days, I am happy to be able to muster the discipline of once again sitting silent for 25 minutes in the morning before I face the world. When I sit, I build up a reserve of equanimity that helps prevent me from flying off the handle, getting impatient or becoming restless. It anchors me, makes me rooted so I don’t get lost as I go about my day amid the “dust of the world,” as a Zen writer calls the concerns in life that tug at us.
This “dust of the world” is what plagues modern living. The inventors of gadgets like cell phones, the Internet, social networking and the like must have felt that the idea of connecting people and helping disseminate ideas would be a good thing. And I think it is, if only our virtual lives didn’t make so many demands on our real lives.
The daily cycle that has ruled the lives of human beings has been destroyed by these new interventions. Whereas before, our day ended when we got home from work, now, with the Internet, our days have no beginning and no end. The cycle simply goes on and on. The technology that was supposed to make life easier has made slaves of us all, responding 24/7 since we are almost always reachable.
Many people see most of modernity as something good. We have certainly come a long way since the wheel, the automobile, even airplanes, and there is a lot to be thankful for. But I believe that modern man must develop a way to control modernity, and not have it control us. For what are all the freedom and choices that modernity offers if we don’t use it for our own good?
“Modernity is a qualitative, not a chronological, category,” wrote Theodor Adorno, a philosopher who has a lot to say about the subject. We must be intelligent enough to run the wheel instead of being run over by it.
The very fact that the speed of our lives is faster than ever must all the more remind us to step on the brakes periodically in order to remain safe and sane. A lot of modern life is about “the transient, the fleeting, the contingent…” wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire. Like the throwaway bottles of water, or the packaging that goes with fast food, we may actually choose to live with less of them.
That is only one half of the solution. The other solution is to involve ourselves and commit to more artful living.
I am suggesting that there must be time for music, reading, laughter, friendship, love and solitude — activities that, when fully engaged in, can get us out of the 24/7 mode and put us in the present, or the timeless. This is where we get our dose of the “eternal and the immovable.” No multi-tasking. No disintegration. Just flow. Unfortunately, for most people, these are the first things that go when the cell phone rings.
I often kid my friends who work in media and jobs that make them sleep-deprived that they should always bring a copy of the Constitution to show their bosses that it contains no provisions for slavery.
I once saw a documentary on the Discovery Channel about two working girls in New York who gave up their Madison Avenue jobs, the nice apartment, the fast life, and went to live in India for a year. They took the crowded trains, lived among the poor in all their squalor, and took in the beauty and the mystery that India projects especially to the Western bred. And they were surprised at how much they loved it and called it the best experience of their lives.
I know a lot of people who have thought of getting away from their busy lives to find a simpler, more essential, and freer existence. But they are prevented from going for it not only by the economics involved but more so because of how society views success, duty and responsibility. It takes special type of people to turn their backs on all that and take the plunge into the big pool of the unknown to “find” themselves.
For us ordinary creatures, we would do well by simply engaging in the humble practice of quieting down and meditating as a form of daily spiritual “bathing” to rid ourselves of the dust of the world, and prepare ourselves to face another challenging day.
Innovation: it’s the ultimate source of advantage, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the economic ring. Innovation is what every organization should be ruthlessly pursuing, right? Wrong.
I’d like to advance a hypothesis: awesomeness is the new innovation.
Let’s face it. “Innovation” feels like a relic of the industrial era. And it just might be the case that instead of chasing innovation, we should be innovating innovation — that innovation needs innovation. Why? When we examine the economics of innovation, three reasons emerge.
Innovation relies on obsolescence. Innovation was a concept pioneered by the great Joseph Schumpeter. And to subscribe to it requires us to accept his theory of creative destruction. Gales of innovation make yesterday’s goods and services obsolete. Yet, that, in turn, means that the price of innovation is recession and depression. The business cycle might never be vanquished — but it is getting more vicious with every decade. In an interdependent world, obsolescence is what’s obsolete.
Innovation dries up our seedcorn. Innovation in its purest Schumpeterian sense is undertaken by entrepreneurs. And so today, we’ve got an economy where everything’s for sale. Yet, little fundamentally new is being created. Businesses focus obsessively on the entrepreneurial aspects of commerce: we are focused still on selling the same old toxic, industrial era junk in slightly better ways. Yet, the challenge of the 21st century isn’t entrepreneurial as much as it is creative: learning to create fundamentally better stuff in the first place.
Innovation often isn’t. Innovation means, naively, what is commercially novel. Yet, as the financial crisis proves, what is “innovative” is often value destructive and socially harmful. Financial “innovation” turned out to be unnovative: it has destroyed trillions in value – here are some staggering estimates from the IMF.
It’s time to ask: have the costs of innovation exceeded the benefits?
A better concept, one built for a radically interdependent 21st century, is awesomeness. Here are the four pillars of awesomeness:
Ethical production. Innovation turns a blind eye to ethics — or, worse, actively denies ethics. That’s a natural result of putting entrepreneurship above all. Buy low, sell high, create value. That’s so 20th century. Awesome stuff is produced ethically — in fact, without an ethical component, awesomeness isn’t possible. Starbucks is shifting to Fair Trade coffee beans, for example. Why? Starbucks isn’t just trying to innovate yet another flavour of sugar-water: it’s trying to gain awesomeness.
Insanely great stuff. What is innovative often fails to delight, inspire, and enlighten — because, as we’ve discussed, innovation is less concerned with raw creativity. Awesomeness puts creativity front and center. Awesome stuff evokes an emotive reaction because it’s fundamentally new, unexpected, and 1000x better. Just ask Steve Jobs. The iPhone and iPod were pooh-poohed by analysts, who questioned how innovative they really were — but the Steve has turned multiple industries upside down through the power of awesomeness.
Love. You know what’s funny about walking into an Apple Store? The people working there care. They don’t just “work at the Apple store” — they love Apple. Contrast that with the alienating, soul-crushing experience of trying to buy something at Best Buy — where salespeople attack you out of greed. (Or, as editor extraordinaire Sarah Green put it, “where you wander around for a full half-hour unable to find anyone to help you before you finally get the attention of some blue-shirted 12-year old who turns out to know nothing about the products she sells and ultimately end up committing hara-kiri with a Wii controller”). Their goal is to sell; the goal of Apple Store employees is simply to show off their awesomeness, and let you share it. Love for what we do is the basis of all real value creation.
Thick value. It’s the most hackneyed phrase in the corporate lexicon: adding value. Let’s face it: most value is an illusion. Nokia, Motorola, and Sony tried for a decade to “add value” to their phones — yet not a single feature did. Food producers and pharmaceutical companies claim they’re “adding value,” but mostly they’re just mega-marketing.
The vast majority of companies — in my research, greater than 95% — can only create what I have termed thin value. Thick value is real, meaningful, and sustainable. It happens by making people authentically better off — not merely by adding more bells and whistles that your boss might like, but that cause customers to roll their eyes.
Let’s summarize. What is awesomeness? Awesomeness happens when thick — real, meaningful — value is created by people who love what they do, added to insanely great stuff, and multiplied by communities who are delighted and inspired because they are authentically better off. That’s a better kind of innovation, built for 21st century economics.
I’ve talked to many boardrooms about awesomeness. Beancounters feel challenged and threatened by it, because it feels fuzzy and imprecise. Yet, it’s anything but. Gen M knows “awesomeness” when we see it — that’s why its part of our vernacular. It’s a precise concept, with meaning, depth, and resonance.
What makes some stuff awesome and other stuff merely (yawn) innovative? I’ve outlined my answers, but they’re far from the best, or even the only ones — so add your own thoughts in the comments.
You might be innovative — but are you awesome? For most, the answer is: no. Game over: in the 21st century, if you’re merely innovative, prepare to be disrupted by awesomeness.
These words should be familiar to anyone who has studied at the Ateneo, or has seen a basketball game involving the school team, or has attended an Ateneo function. In my case, these words are etched in my heart. It is a song I have sung many times. One of the most memorable moments was during my college graduation three decades ago. I remember the image in my mind: I was a knight and I was leaving the castle on the hill to perform the mission assigned to me.
Through the years, the theme of this hymn has played out in my life. There is something suggestively quixotic about it, to be sure. I used to imagine the knight in my mind wearing the armor of St. Ignatius, the founding saint and guiding spirit of the Jesuit Order. As a knight, I was to descend to the real world and battle the evil therein.
Through the years, the operative word “battle” has metamorphosed into other encounters such as “confront,” “change,” “deal,” “live with,” and at times, even “accept.” The word “evil” has also changed into a range of options including “imperfection,” “the oppressors,” “the real world,” “the practical,” “the way things are,” etc. Nothing, it seems, is permanent. Not even our ideals.
In a way, that is what life does to us. We are born full of ideals and concepts of how perfect things should be and then reality comes in, gives us a shove and changes a lot of what we believe.
Throughout life, we constantly assess how the things we believe in really ought to play out for us. Are we true to our beliefs? How true? What do they really mean in the real world? Is it practical to believe in them and live them out? Are we ready to pay the price?
I have tried to answer these questions and each time I have felt a varying intensity and conflicting conclusions about them. For sure, I have put my life on the line for some of the ideals I felt were important. I have turned my back on financial opportunities because they did not jibe with my core values (even if I admit I fretted about those decisions). I have contributed time and effort to what others would regard as lost causes.
But admittedly, I have also turned my back on my beliefs and given way many times to weakness because I felt there was also something wrong with rigidity and inflexibility when the situation called for more openness.
It often strikes me how Jesus, a holy man, seemed to have been more comfortable in the company of tax cheats, prostitutes and other low-lifes than with the self-proclaimed keepers of the faith in His time. Buddha felt that unhappiness and pain were the key issues that need to be dealt with. There is an African saying that fish cannot survive in pure water. All these seem to suggest that the task at hand is to engage the world as it is.
But that is only half the story. To engage also suggests a transformation of sorts. Jesus, through his encounters, made great people out of weak men. Buddha ruminated and meditated not only to understand and accept pain per se, but to overcome it by feeling pain. And the African proverb suggests that water that is extremely polluted will also kill fish, and so, there must be some moderation of how much impurities may be allowed in. And so it is with our ideals and our accommodation of what stands in their way.
Consider the following: Spiritual writing says that man cannot live by bread alone. Carl Jung liked to talk about what happens when people meet. He described it as akin to a chemical reaction where both parties are transformed. Then there is the mythologist Joseph Campbell who says the metaphor of the dragon as being both reptilian and earth-bound, but having wings and thus being airborne speaks not just of its contradictory nature but also the dilemma of what we are to do with belief and reality. The idea of the dragon is honored in many cultures. Its very contradictory nature represents a unity of sorts — that ideals and reality both exist and must be honored.
The lyrics of the Ateneo graduation song still play in my mind every time I have to deal with things that are wrong in life outside the confines of my beliefs. The 30 years since graduation have taught me that the art of accommodation is a delicate one. The balance of practicality and idealism is precious. For example, one can thrive economically but must not neglect the care of the soul. And, more importantly, one must not despise or shun one or the other.
One time, I had the serendipitous pleasure of finding myself in the presence of a Buddhist monk at a moment of great personal sadness and disappointment. I asked him why it is that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our efforts seem to not bear any fruit. Is there a point in trying still?
He answered me by describing how the beautiful lotus can only grow in mud. That struck me. What a great metaphor! Immediately, I understood that to appreciate life is to accept everything about it. And it includes the fact that a lot of the good things we do with all our heart and against all odds will not be appreciated, but must be done just the same. In a way, it does not matter that we cannot gauge how much impact our efforts are producing. What is important is that we do what we do. In the landscape of meaninglessness, anyone with a declared meaning or purpose changes everything.
I can understand why so few good people give up their comfortable lives and descend into the murky world of politics and public service. Many times, if they are not won over by the forces they want to change, they are challenged, wrestled and eventually booted out by that very system and end up barely changing anything.
And yet, if good people really want to change things, they must do just that. Engagement is key. And hopefully, even if many will be eaten up by the system and become corrupt, there will be some who will succeed as they descend from the hill “down to the earth” while “remembering still how the bright Blue Eagles fly.”
The call of our time has actually remained unchanged from the call of ages past. And the right response has always been the same. No matter what the situation is, just do the right thing.
Thanks to Brian Johnson who provides a lot of people something to think about, I am sharing his email today. Look at yourself and see how many of these describe you.
Here, very briefly, are the 19 Characteristics of Abraham Maslow’s Self-Actualizer:
1. Perception of Reality: These individuals tend to have a “superior relationship with reality” and are “generally unthreatened and unfrightened by the unknown.” In fact, “They accept it, are comfortable with it, and, often are even more attracted by it than by the known. They not only tolerate the ambiguous and unstructured–they like it.”
2. Acceptance: “Even the normal member of our culture feels unnecessarily guilty or ashamed about too many things and has anxiety in too many situations. Our healthy individuals find it possible to accept themselves and their own nature without chagrin or complaint or, for that matter, without even thinking about the matter that much.”
3. Spontaneity: The behavior of the self-actualizing individual is “marked by simplicity and naturalness, and by lack of artificiality or straining for effect.”
4. Problem Centering: Self-actualizers customarily have some “mission in life.”
5. Solitude: Self-actualizing individuals “positively like solitude and privacy to a definitely greater degree than the average person.”
6. Autonomy: “They have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people, or even of their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the prestige, and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth.”
7. Fresh Appreciation: “Self-actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others.”
8. Peak Experiences: It’s been called “flow” or “being in the zone.” Whatever you want to call it, self-actualizers tend to experience it more often than average.
9. Human Kinship: “Self-actualizing people have a deep feeling of identification, sympathy, and affection for human beings in general. They feel kinship and connection, as if all people were members of a single family.” “Self-actualizing individuals have a genuine desire to help the human race.”
10. Humility and Respect: All of Maslow’s subjects “may be said to be democratic people in the deepest sense…they can be friendly with anyone of suitable character, regardless of class, education, political belief, race or color. As a matter of fact it often seems as if they are not aware of these differences, which are for the average person so obvious and so important.”
11. Interpersonal Relationships: “Self-actualizing people have these especially deep ties with rather few individuals. Their circle of friends is rather small. The ones that they love profoundly are few in number.”
12. Ethics: “They do right and do not do wrong. Needless to say, their notions of right and wrong and of good and evil are often not the conventional ones.”
13. Means and Ends: “They are fixed on ends rather than on means, and means are quite definitely subordinated to these ends.”
14. Humor: “They do not consider funny what the average person considers to be funny. Thus they do not laugh at hostile humor (making people laugh by hurting someone) or superiority humor (laughing at someone else’s inferiority) or authority-rebellion humor (the unfunny, Oedipal, or smutty joke).”
15. Creativity: “This is a universal characteristic of all the people studied or observed. There is no exception.”
16. Resistance to Enculturation: “Of all of them it may be said that in a certain profound and meaningful sense they resist enculturation and maintain a certain inner detachment from the culture in which they are immersed.”
17. Imperfections: Actualizers “show many of the lesser human failings. They too are equipped with silly, wasteful, or thoughtless habits. They can be boring, stubborn, irritating. They are by no means free from a rather superficial vanity, pride, partiality to their own productions, family, friends, and children. Temper outbursts are not rare.”
18. Values: “A firm foundation for a value system is automatically furnished to self-actualizers by their philosophic acceptance of the nature of self, of human nature, of much of social life, and of nature and physical reality.”
19. Resolution of Dichotomies: “The dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness disappears altogether in healthy people because in principle every act is both selfish and unselfish.”
SENATOR BENIGNO “NOYNOY” S. AQUINO III ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN PUBLIC
Senator Noynoy Aquino is vigilant in his pursuit of truth, justice and
freedom, the fundamental principles that make democracy work in this
country that his parents had likewise fought hard to restore. His
commitment to preserve, strengthen and continue their legacy is
evident in his accomplishments.
I. Positions held
Chairman, Committee on Local Government
Co-chair, Committee on Justice and Human Rights
II. Committee Membership
• Economic Affairs
• Education, Arts and Culture
• Environment and Natural Resources
• Government Corporations and Public Enterprises
• Justice and Human Rights
• National Defense and Security
• Peace, Reunification and Reconciliation
• Public Works
• Trade and Commerce
• Urban Planning, Housing and Development
• Ways and Means
• Youth, Women and Family Relations
III. Senate Bills
Senate Bill No. 1370 – an act granting an annual productivity
incentive to all workers in the private sector, establishing
mechanisms for its implementation, and for other purposes
Senate Bill No. 1719 – an act limiting the re-appointment of
presidential nominees by-passed by the Commission on Appointments (CA)
Senate Bill No. 1710 – an act banning the re-appointment of a regular
member of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) who has already served
the full term
Senate Bill No. 2035 – an act requiring the regular maintenance and
preservation of all public infrastructures, establishing mechanisms
for its implementation and for other purposes
Senate Bill No. 2036 – an act increasing the penalties for non-
compliance of the prescribed increases and adjustments in the wage
rates of workers, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6727
Senate Bill 2159 – an act adopting the doctrine of superior
responsibility to all actions involving military personnel, members of
the Philippine National Police and other civilians involved in law
Senate Bill 2160 – an act amending Section 4 of RA 9184, otherwise
known as the Government Procurement Reform Act to further restrict
exemptions to the requirement of public bidding
Senate Bill 2978 – an act amending the DILG Act to further clarify the
relationship between local chief executives and their respective local
Senate Bill 3121 – the Budget Impoundment Control Act, which seeks to
strengthen legislative oversight over executive spending
IV. Senate Resolutions
Senate Resolution No. 190 – investigating the exercise and
implementation of the powers of local chief executives under Republic
Act 7160 otherwise known as the “Local Government Code of 1991” in
relation to Republic Act 6975 known as the “Philippine National Police
and Republic Act 8551 known as “The PNP Reform and Reorganization Act
Senate Resolution No. 205 – investigating the bomb explosion at the
House of Representatives, condemning in the strongest possible terms
the recent bombing at the House of Representatives, extending
sympathies to the victims and calling on authorities to conduct a
swift and thorough investigation into this incident
Senate Resolution No. 229 – directing the appropriate Senate
committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the
circumstances leading to the arrest and ‘processing’ of journalists
and media personalities after the Manila Peninsula standoff on 29
The responsibilities of a senator go beyond the drafting of
legislation or the creation of policies. As a true representative of
the people, Senator Aquino has consistently voiced his concerns on
several issues, drawing attention to the anomalies in our current
2009 General Appropriations Act (GAA)
By vigorously examining the General Appropriations Act for 2009
submitted by the Executive, Senator Aquino was able to propose key
amendments to the 2009 GAA that seek to tighten congressional
oversight on the executive’s use of public funds.
Champion of Human Rights and People’s Participation
At the heart of all legislative and policy-making initiatives is the
development and welfare of the people. Senator Aquino has sought the
proper relocation of informal settlers and the delineation of
authority of parties involved in demolitions such as the MMDA. The
bill amending the UDHA is currently underway.
Through his privilege speeches, Senator Aquino has drawn attention to
the plight of desaparecidos and victims of extra-judicial killings. He
introduced substantial amendments to the Cooperative Code to make it
more responsive to the needs of the marginalized sector for which the
code was enacted. They are meant to strengthen the cooperative
movement by providing for transparent measures for members and
officers of cooperatives.
He is also part of the bicameral debates on the Anti-Torture Act.
Accountability to the People
Senator Aquino actively participated in the hearings that investigated
a number of reported scandals involving the alleged misuse of public
funds, such as the ZTE-NBN deal, the Euro Generals and the Fertilizer
Fund scam. These hearings brought to light the need for increased
transparency and accountability in the disbursal of taxpayers’ money.
Integrity of the Senate
The series of scandals that stain the reputation of our government has
also challenged the Senate of the Philippines as an institution. The
recent attempts to amend the Constitution, for instance, have
compelled our Senators, including Senator Aquino, to firmly assert
their defiant stand on this issue.
Senator Aquino has been vigilant in the hearings regarding the sale of
TRANSCO and PNOC-EDC. Much of his time and energy was spent on the
EPIRA and TRANSCO amendments, questioning the sale of revenue-
generating assets prior to the privatization of key government
corporations. Senator Aquino sought clarification as to whether the
sales of these assets were part of a long-term energy development plan
or not to ensure that the long-term impact of losing these assets have
been considered prior to their sales.
Senator Aquino voted “NO” to the controversial JPEPA because he
believed that the Filipino people deserved a better negotiated and
mutually beneficial treaty.
VI. Institution builder
Last but not least, Senator Aquino has dedicated his life in public
service to strengthening our democratic institutions. Principal among
these is his commitment to a genuine party system in the Philippines,
as reflected in his membership in and strong commitment to the Liberal
• Executive Vice President, December 18, 2007 to present
• Vice Chairman, March 17, 2006 to December 17, 2007
• Secretary General, 2004 to March 16, 2006
• Vice-Pres. for Luzon, 2002-2004
• Secretary General, 1999-2002
• Chairman of the Board, Central Luzon Congressional Caucus
VII. Accomplishments as three-term member of the House of
A. Positions held
Deputy Speaker, 13th Congress
B. Committee Membership
• Banks & Financial Intermediaries
• Export Promotion
• Public Order & Safety
• Civil, Political & Human Rights
• Good Government
• Inter-Parliamentary Relations & Diplomacy
• Public Order & Security
• Banks & Financial Intermediaries
• Civil, Political & Human Rights (Vice-Chairman)
• Natural Resources
• Peoples’ Participation
• Public Order & Security
• Suffrage and Electoral Reforms
• Trade & Industry
• Transportation & Communications
C. Priority Bills
• House Bill No. 4251 – granting annual productivity incentives to all
workers in the private sector
• House Bill No. 4397 – strengthening the regulatory power of the
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to effectively enforce consumer
• House Bill No. 4252 – increasing the penalties for non-compliance of
the prescribed increases and adjustments in the wage rates of workers
• House Bill No. 3616 – extending the reglementary period for the
educational qualification for PNP members
• House Bill No. 1842 – providing for the codification of criminal
• House Resolution No. 65 – inquiry in aid of legislation into the
policies and processes of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in
granting rate increases to electric utilities
• House Resolution No. 788 – creating a select Congressional
Oversight Committee on intelligence funds to check and study the use
of intelligence funds by government agencies to ensure that funds
allocated therefore are utilized for the purpose they are intended
E. Other legislation
a. Introduced an amendment in the General Appropriations Act requiring
public bidding in the purchase of petroleum, oil and lubricant
products for the Department of National Defense
The 2010 train is moving forward. Before we know it, it will be here and we have to make important decisions about where we want it to go. So this early, let us start the process of selecting our candidates well, and imagining how and where we want a presumably new set of leaders to take us.
I am proposing these rules — half-serious “new rules,” rants actually — for candidates to observe during the elections so that we can be sure we get the leaders we deserve. Here goes:
1. Anyone who wants to run for president must, on top of the qualifications stated in the Constitution, not be a female below five feet tall. She must not have a mole on her face, an overweight husband with a high–pitched voice and sons who are congressmen.
2. Every candidate must clearly state his or her stand on an issue that divides our nation’s sense of culture, its sense of socio-political correctness, its definition of honor, dignity, compassion, good taste and etiquette, and more importantly, its moral fiber. I am not talking about the National Artist awards, the RH bill or the MTRCB. I refer to something more pervasive in our national life and conversation that has set the tone and direction of our children’s values: Willie Revillame and Wowowee!
3. Every presidential candidate must promise to be creative in handling coups, tragedies and other calamities and refrain themselves, their spokespeople and their underlings from using the following overused phrases in their media statements: “We are monitoring the situation,” “We are on top of the situation,” “Everything is under control” and “We will punish them accordingly.”
Seriously, it is time to speak a different language and come up with intelligent solutions to our country’s problems.
4. Every candidate running for public office must promise not to purposely talk stupidly, or espouse dumb ideas because he thinks that by doing so, he is connecting to the greater number of our people. In truth, it only shows how much he actually despises the public when he assumes they are stupid. If you talk stupidly, at least be honestly stupid about it.
Sad to say, our people have learned to expect this behavior from politicians, the media and even the Church who have been dumbing down to us for decades when they evade real issues because it takes an extra creative effort to simplify them and discuss them with the masses. They do this when they presume that the Filipino is stupid and cannot appreciate complex concepts and ideas that can liberate them. They do this when they fear that people are not smart enough to make their own choices and so they must be kept ignorant and easier to dictate upon.
The worst part is, we have learned not just to live with this indignity, we are no longer even bothered by it. Imagine someone like Senator Villar, who instead of expressing his aversion when asked about Willie Revillame’s supposed vice-presidential aspirations, chooses to answer perfunctorily that “he has every right to do so as a Filipino citizen,” and gets away with it
Jeez! It’s the safe but insincere answer, a reactionary response that can be called idiotic politeness. It comes from the mindset of one who will wheel and deal and bend to please everyone.
We want our elected officials to be intelligent and honest and walk the talk no matter how tough the temptation is to play “dumb” in order to “connect.” And we, the electorate, should let politicians, the media and the Church know that dumbing down is unacceptable.
If we want to move ahead as a nation, we must challenge not only our leaders but also ourselves to dream higher and embrace a greater understanding and appreciation of the issues that affect us.
Knowledge, wisdom, leadership are elite qualities. Decisions, therefore, should be made by an elite group of elected officials, and by that I mean people who know what they’re talking about, in consultation with their constituents.
Would you be comfortable if someone outside of his competence — like, say, Manny Pacquiao — performed brain surgery on you? So why does the administration want him to run as a lawmaker?
5. A caveat to all candidates declared and undeclared: please avoid stunts like suddenly becoming visible with ads that promote you even before the campaign period has started. And when called down for premature campaigning, please do not say that it is “friends” who are paying for them. People have learned to see through your evasiveness. Where there is smoke, people know there is a fog machine somewhere helping create an illusion.
While we’re at it, here are some rules for officials to consider after they are elected:
A. Every public building and all public property therein, all government cars and assets must be marked clearly with stickers that read: “This is owned by the Filipino People. Use of this by the President and other government officials is a privilege. He/she must not in anyway think, act or use this like they own it.”
Remember the story of Cory’s grandson who asked her if he could eat the candy on her desk, or if it belonged to the Filipino people? That’s how conscientious officials and their family members should be. It should not be farfetched to imagine the President staying up 10 minutes longer at night grappling with his conscience, not just on how he tackled the big issues but also whether he was too extravagant using paper clips, Kleenex, or the air conditioner.
B. Once a month, public officials must set a day to state unequivocally and in public any mistake they may have committed that may have harmed the public interest, no matter how small. It would be great to hear Speaker Nograles say, “My fellow Filipinos, I’ve been such an insensitive idiot for insisting on Charter change, and through con-ass at that! My bad!” Or Senator Miriam Santiago could come clean with: “Okay. I admit I love to hear the sound of my own voice and my self- perceived brilliance. I’m sorry if I took up so much senate time which cost the taxpayers millions.” Or Senator Lito Lapid might candidly say, “I still don’t know what I am doing here. I’m sorry.”
We must find a place in our culture for public apology. It will force our officials to remain humble and may even change our nation in a big way. Imagine plunderers, coup plotters, thieves, and other baddies admitting their crimes in special courts, asking the people for forgiveness and volunteering some form of retribution like going on self-exile, returning the loot, or offering to commit suicide. (Okay, forget the suicide.) In truth, it may take as little as genuine contrition to heal our divisions. In Rwanda, people who committed atrocities during the civil war came forward and asked for forgiveness sincerely. And guess what? In most cases, that was enough.
6. Opening sessions of the legislature, executive meetings, and all caucuses, including the SONA, must start with a five-minute talk by a non-public official. In Russia, such a privilege is given to poets, writers and other artists. In our case, we can give the pulpit to humble citizens like market vendors, public school teachers and farmers. While there is a risk that this can turn into a circus, at best, our officials will be reminded at every turn who they are supposed to serve.
The tide is changing. A fresh wind is blowing. I am willing to bet that in next year’s election, genuine dignity — similar to that by which Cory Aquino carried herself during her campaign, throughout her presidency and the rest of her life — will have a better chance of winning than cheesy gimmickry.