I am on a ferry boat from Cebu on its way to Hilongos, Leyte. It has been some time since I have taken this route to reach Maasin, Southern Leyte, which is my final destination for today. My age does not encourage me to do traveling like this anymore. After all, I had to wake up at 3 am to be in the airport by 4 am, then take off for Cebu by 6 am. When we dock at Hilongos, I still have an hour of driving to get to Maasin, making today an air, sea and land trek. But this is the Philippines, and traveling can be an adventure in itself.
From the airport early in the morning and in between meetings in Cebu, I have been looking at the news from print, TV and cyberspace. Even the kind of traveling I am doing now, it is most possible to stay wired to domestic and global developments. Truly, it is the dawn of the 21st century, even for our country, the long – struggling third world member making a great effort to leap forward. It is not just technology, it is a people blessed with great talent that can use the present and emerging technologies.
Poverty has kept most Filipinos in darkness far too long. But the moment is turning history towards a freedom so long overdue. The reduction of poverty has not been short of fantastic, less because of the leaderships of the controlling institutions but more from a magnificent effort of the poor as represented by Overseas Filipino Workers. From economic classes D & E that used to comprise 90% of the population, OFWs are slowly but surely pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and creating the emerging middle class. And the collective optimism generated by a fresh presidency seen internationally as honest and consistently supported by the vast majority has catapulted the performance of of the Philippine economy to a rare position – somewhere at the top of the world.
Filipinos who are stuck in deeper poverty may not have the opportunity that the upper portion of the D class had from the global need of labor and services, but government and a more enlightened business elite will be more focused in being the big brothers they never where before. The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is a reflection of government resolve, from the Executive to Congress, that the poor will find more support. The very idea of a Magna Carta for the Poor tells us of a perspective whose time has come. Even though the proposal has not found fruition into law does not mean it will not. In an amended form, it will. It will simply because it’s time has come.
Government did not start having a new look at the poor on its own. Private sector efforts and global influence have done their part in awakening government, and the upward movement of tens of millions of OFWs and their families is proving that a more spread out purchasing power can boost our economy. If government and big business want the newly declared investment grade status to bear fruit, they have to reach down to the left behind poor and lift them up with generosity and determination. Global investors will not be as cooperative as before in investing in countries where the poor will pay the price for their profits. The times are simply different, and a new generation is introducing a new ethical standard for doing business.
The age of information means transparency, not just more data. Information by itself is unnecessary baggage because there is just so much of it today. Information has to be processed and it is almost automatically happening. With a little guidance, the processing will produce intelligent insights. Transparency is not really about information but more about intelligent conclusions – the basis of insights. That is why transparency breeds reforms, not just makes available more information.
Intelligent conclusions from transparency is reshaping the very foundation of human understanding, lifting it from superstition to intelligent belief. Faith is not about believing because someone says so, but because there is an intuitive affirmation from many sources in life that makes the faith solid even if inexplicable. Faith is not about darkness, it is about truth – incontrovertible truth that the human soul understands. The journey from transparency to wisdom is a powerful pathway. From our deepening understanding of the environment and life’s ecology, to the growing desire of the youth to build a better world, the human ethos is being refined.
Again and again, I am reminded to be grateful, that special men and women have come to bless me with their kindness, their courage, and their nobility. Because of them, I did not tire from the pursuit of a personal and collective destiny. Because of them, we will build a new and strong nation, from the bottom up, from the top down, with the courage to care, with the promise not to leave the poor behind.
We must not wait for the government, we must not wait for the Church. Our obligation as citizens and as men of faith belongs to each one of us, not to them. In the final analysis, there is no government without us, there is no Church without us. At the end of time, we will be judged not by the volume of complaints we made but by the good we did for others. Today, then, is the perfect moment to do more.