A great, exciting time to be Filipino

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

I’ve been feeling very upbeat about a lot of things lately, especially about the Philippines. The past three years of P-Noy’s administration have given me encouragement about many things that are largely positive. You dear readers already know that I have been a supporter of Noynoy Aquino from day one of his campaign and up to now. But let me explain why my level of optimism surprises even myself.

When I supported candidate Noynoy it was primarily for three reasons. The first one was, I knew then as I know now that he was/is one honest guy. I knew in my heart that he would not steal from the Filipino people and would not tolerate corruption. He is, after all, the son of Cory Aquino and Ninoy Aquino who both sacrificed a lot for this country. His personal background, especially what his family has gone through, surely would have an impact on his decisions and his behavior as a public official. I told myself then that even if we hardly progress in other ways, at least the level of corruption would be reduced if he became president. I would not be voting another plunderer into office. Honesty was a non-negotiable. I had simple expectations.

During the campaign, I did not feel he sounded exceptionally brilliant, or as intelligent or charismatic as some of the other candidates. He was not a great orator. But he seemed to project himself differently. I detected real empathy, a sense of compassion. And he was comfortable among ordinary people in a way that did not seem put-on at all. He spoke Filipino with great fluency and depth. He had a folksy demeanor that appealed to the poor, which was not toxic, unlike the way Erap’s appeal seemed to me. Wishfully, I hoped that in Noynoy, we might even have a new leader in the template of Magsaysay. That was my second reason.

My third reason for supporting him was that all the other candidates seemed too timid in committing to certain issues like reproductive health, justice, anti-corruption, especially about the filing of cases against GMA, et al. They all sounded like politicians, like the usual trapo candidates who were playing it too safe. I felt that Noynoy had the courage to speak his mind even if it meant angering the Church and the established powers. He could stand his ground. I told myself that at least I knew what promises he would make and I could take him up on them if he did not live up to his commitments.

And by the way things have been going the past three years, it seems P-Noy is bent on keeping most, if not every, promise he uttered in the campaign. And even more.

For too long, we have been listening to ourselves rant and complain about how nonexistent reforms were and how timid our leaders have been in delivering even minute needed changes. Any talk of meaningful change always ended in a resigned sigh and a conclusion that change would probably not be coming soon, not in our lifetime.

P-Noy’s first year, which started with the banning of “wang-wang,” was good and popular but it seemed too early to say what the government could possibly achieve that would be a real game-changer. Could he really deliver on the big items? And though a few good things were happening early on, I kept reminding myself that one, two or even three swallows certainly do not make a summer.

But real changes seem to be truly happening now.

I am amazed at the pace of good things that are transpiring on many fronts. Almost every week now, we read news reports through local and foreign media that puts the Philippines in a good light.

Good news was something so rare before. And in the few times it did happen then, we would readily dismiss it as a fluke. We had a deep pessimism, a cynical inertia that lingered like a weather disturbance, which refused to leave. We were a broken people who did not believe in our leaders, and in ourselves. It seemed easier to just be cynical so as not to be further disappointed than we already were.

But now, there is a palpable optimism in the air and it is contagious. There is just so much good news about a lot of things. We feel the pride when we hear that the Philippines is finally being considered a real destination for tourism and investments in a big way. Lately, the New York Times placed us among the top 20 places to visit, even ahead of Paris and Bangkok. A European magazine dubbed Boracay as the best destination in the world. The tourists are really coming. Our stock market continues to amaze and surprise the world and more importantly ourselves. Our GDP growth is the second highest in the region next only to China. Our credit rating has gone up 11 times, and we are just one notch short of full investment grade. One way or another, all this has to surely trickle down economically by way of jobs, and more people will hopefully feel the blessings soon.

There also is now a greater seriousness and commitment among our legislators to tackle controversial items like the RH and sin tax bills that have recently become law. These were ignored in the past or conveniently passed on from Congress to Congress because weaker leaders were wary of a possible backlash from the Church and losing political capital. But yes, this Congress finally did it! I am even confident we will get the Freedom of Information bill enacted into law.

The wheels of justice could still use more speed. Even so, many were impressed that we were actually able to go though a proper process of impeachment that toppled a less-than-honest chief justice. This should hopefully redound to a more credible SC. There are also many pending cases now filed against big, used-to-be untouchable people.

And who can forget the truly historic moment that saw the MILF and the government signing an agreement for lasting peace and development in Mindanao. This seemed like just a pipe dream not too long ago. But now, the chance for real peace and progress is more real than ever.

There is definitely a momentum of change happening now. And seeing how the President’s high numbers are holding up, one can conclude that there is an enthusiastic constituency cheering him on and supporting him. And with the help of social media, an even greater number of people are now expressing themselves on issues and showing that they care about what’s happening to our country.

As a people, we are experiencing that it is possible to demand both honesty and competence from our leaders. We elected P-Noy who is surprisingly turning out to possess both qualities. It is only right that we now demand the same virtues from all our other officials.

In an election year, this is something we the citizenry must seriously think about, and it should certainly guide the way we vote. Too many times, we have elected crooks, liars and generally dishonest, self-serving politicians who not only continue to insult our intelligence and our sense of decency, but have also managed to get themselves reelected again and again!

These people are clearly throwbacks who now belong to the dustbin of our dysfunctional past. They are officials who were/are on the wrong side of every important issue that needs to be tackled to move our nation forward. They have no place in a country that is enjoying a newly discovered confidence and a desire to finally progress. It is time we make sure they do not ever return to office.

We still have many huge problems to be sure. It will take more than one administration to solve them. But in place of the usual cynicism that keeps us from moving, we are enjoying a wave of optimism. We are on the move. We are on the runway for a takeoff to greatness. I know many have already awakened to an inspired sense of who we really are and the possibilities of what we can be.

It is a great, exciting time to be Filipino.

* * *

So you got a new DSLR during the holidays. Start taking great pix right away. Enroll now. My first Photography Workshop for 2013 happens this Feb. 9, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 2231 Pasong Tamo Street, Molave Compound. Cost is P3,920 (VAT inclusive).

For information, call 0916-855-4303 or e-mail jpfotojim@gmail.