December 25, 2009

Christmas wishes for the Philippines

(My column in today's BusinessMirror.)

DESPITE the beginnings of the global economic recession late last year, we still managed to cope with the stress of the Christmas celebration. This year’s commemoration of Christ’s birth, however, appears to be more challenging, or the toughest in recent memory.

While the economic downturn has been difficult enough, we found ourselves reeling even more because of certain personal and national tragedies, like the passing of former President Corazon Aquino, and homelessness, hunger and psychological distress due to the natural calamities wrought by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Now, our kababayan in Bicol face an impeding disaster due to an enraged Mayon Volcano. The massacre of women and journalists in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, by a political warlord in November also continues to weigh heavily on our minds.

How can we have a merry Christmas having gone through or while facing all these adversities?

Fortunately, our national psyche is also wired in such a way, that when dealing with such trials and tribulations, we are pushed to triumph at all cost. And with the national elections coming up in May 2010, most of us have a sense of the changes that we want in government and governance. We can no longer have the same kind of laid-back attitude to life in these islands, because our future, and those of many generations after, is at stake.

So it was no surprise, that when I asked several of our friends in business, government, politics and the arts what their wish was for the Philippines, many of them expressed the same hope for true change to come, such as an enlightened citizenry who would vote for the most responsible candidates in 2010, and a radical transformation of values and attitudes to help make our country work.

Here are their thoughts:

• Alfonso Yuchengco, chairman, Yuchengco Group of Companies, and presidential adviser for foreign affairs

I wish for the Philippines a complete and meaningful freedom. I wish the Philippines would be free from poverty caused by overpopulation and lack of resources; free from corruption in government, and even in the private sector; and free from violence and any threat to peace. I wish each Filipino would be rich in happiness and love this season and always. I wish the Philippines could adopt some form of birth control.

• Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo, president of the International Social Security Association

This Christmas and every day of the year, my wish is for the Philippines to be a haven of peace, prosperity and unity, for the common good. There is a great deal of work and resources needed to strengthen our institutions and improve our infrastructure facilities to meet the demands of our ever-growing population. If we move as one, our country could make progress and provide a more sustainable and prosperous future for our people.”

• Joseph “Ace” H. Durano, secretary, Department of Tourism

I wish Filipinos would appreciate how blessed our country is and to vote for people with the character and competence to use such blessings to benefit as many Filipinos as possible.

• Erramon “Montxu” I. Aboitiz, president, Aboitiz Equity Ventures

I wish that all Filipinos will think of country over self and that we have a peaceful and successful election. I also wish that we take environmental and sustainability issues seriously.

• Ma. Lourdes “Louie” Barcelon Locsin, co-founder, Power of Nine Movement, and candidate for representative, First District of Makati City

My Christmas wish for the Philippines is that the Filipinos learn to love their country and, better yet, one another. Maybe they already love their country. But it wouldn’t hurt to love our country more. And, more important, to show that love.

Will loving each other make our country great? I think so. A country is its people, not its landscape or its quaint customs. Good people make a good country.

If you have money to spare—a lot or a little—give it. When you go to church, drop P500 in the collection plate if you can afford it and not the small bills you keep in an envelope. Do something productive in your community. Start a livelihood project, volunteer in a day-care center or a parish weekly activity.

Teach your children that giving is better fun than getting, and that making people happy is the best kind of happiness for oneself. It can be taught. In fact, it can be taught early enough as to become a way of life for future generations.

Give generous bonuses to employees, giving most to the lowest ranking and less to the big executives in the firm. Bonuses are how you bring joy to those who support you in your work and how they, in turn, bring joy to those who help them help you, like their family.

Don’t complain about corruption, especially if you have no proof that will stand up in court or are unwilling to stand up and help prosecute. If you are just going to yak about it in your Facebook account, forget it. Stop preaching about honesty if you keep company with the dishonest.

It’s not hard to be a good Filipino. Let’s all try to be better Filipinos so we can show that we mean it when we say we love the Philippines.

(To be concluded next week....)

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