I believe in the Filipino. I have faith in his inherent capabilities for nation-building and I fully support his aspirations for a better quality of life.
The Filipino is a diligent and dedicated worker, dependable anywhere as he was in Hawaii at the turn of the 20th century where he relentlessly toiled as a lowly sugarcane plantation worker. But through sheer hard work he raised his offsprings to become successful entrepreneurs, professionals and respectable leaders of the community.
Today, we have Filipinos distinguishing themselves in many parts of the globe as doctors, dieticians, nurses, care-givers, teachers, lawyers, seamen and domestic-helpers, because the very same conscientious genes run through their blood.
Above all we have OFWs – industrious and devoted workers in the Middle East and elsewhere, who have managed to keep the Philippine economy alive through the billions of dollars they have been remitting into the country annually. They are our heroes who have braved and endured harsh conditions overseas for the survival of their families at home, without even realizing that they repeatedly save the nation from economic disaster.
Our experiences show that Filipinos abroad are admired for their outstanding qualities and achievements in systems that work, where the law applies to everyone fairly and where individual initiative and hard work are surely rewarded. But the sad part is that in our homeland, they wallow in despair, lethargy and hopelessness as victims of incompetence and corrupt leadership under a regime of socio-economic inequality where the political structures and processes are controlled by a powerful oligarchy.
And yet, I have faith that our street children and out of school youth can still be heroes instead of social outcasts, if we provide them with adequate shelter, education and training to become useful citizens. Our unemployed can be heroes as well, if we provide them jobs that empower families to be strong and functional social units. Our industry workers can be heroes also if given adequate and commensurate salaries that will encourage the manufacturing of quality goods competitive in international markets. Our farm workers can be true heroes if we make our land reform program work to maximize production and enable us to be a net exporter of food and other agricultural products. Even the most marginalized of our peoples, including our indigenous brothers and sisters can be great heroes, if their long years of deprivation, displacement and neglect can be properly and urgently addressed so that they too can take active part in nation building with dignity, respect and a sense of belonging.
Many other Filipinos can be heroes if critical changes take place to make effective government possible: one which is able to eradicate socio-economic disparities and resist the political machinations and demands of a small elite group; where we can rely on a justice system that impartially and swiftly enforces the rule of law; and where the utilization of resources and creation of wealth is spurred by private enterprise and investments, tempered by a sense of stewardship, which everyone benefits from.
These changes can happen if our people will arise and re-assert their power and earnestly carry out their duty to choose competent leaders with the moral strength and courage to do that which is right for the Nation.
In a democracy, real People Power is demonstrated not by our ability to force out incompetent and abusive officials, but through our capacity to elect the right candidates to public office. We cannot expect government to perform effectively unless we in turn take our civic responsibilities seriously.
There is also need to redefine ourselves and to develop a national soul on the basis of our common history, our rich cultural heritage and high ideals and traditions. We must be able to arrive at an ethical understanding of who we are, what we want to become and how we will get there so that the Philippines will once again be a cradle of noble heroes.