Down from the hill

Down from the hill

Down to the world go I

Remembering still

How the bright Blue Eagles fly’

— Ateneo Graduation Song

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.

Are you self-actualized?

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.”

Noynoy’s legislative record



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
• Accounts
• 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
police chiefs

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
(PNP) Law”
and Republic Act 8551 known as “The PNP Reform and Reorganization Act
of 1998”

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
November 2007

V. Fiscalizer
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.

Energy Sector
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.

National Integrity
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

13th Congress
• Banks & Financial Intermediaries
• Energy
• Export Promotion
• Public Order & Safety

12th Congress
• Civil, Political & Human Rights
• Good Government
• Inter-Parliamentary Relations & Diplomacy
• Public Order & Security

11th Congress
• Agriculture
• Appropriations
• 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

D. Resolutions
• 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


Thanks to Carlos Celdran.