P-Noy and the Pinoy abroad
Absence, some say, makes the heart forget, but not so with many OFWs and Filipino immigrants who are spread out across the globe for various reasons such as work, family relations, or studies. Many of us know in fact that absence makes the heart grow fonder. There are things we used to take for granted whose true worth we only realized when we began living abroad. There are also things whose importance becomes highlighted when we are in another country.
The Philippine president is probably the most influential representation of the Philippines and its citizens abroad. He or she also has a big impact on the impressions other citizens might have on Filipinos. Other people would probably not know what the capital of the Philippines is, but can certainly say who the sitting president is and what that person is famous for, because in world news, the president’s name is broadcast and mentioned more often than the country’s capital. Consequently, the president takes the role of the standard bearer for Filipinos abroad. We take pride in the Philippines’ archipelagic beauty and beautiful beaches that appear in the top spots of international travel magazines. We also hope the same for every president we put in place in Malacañang.
President Benigno Aquino III, or P-Noy as we knew him, fulfilled this standard bearer responsibility for Filipinos abroad to a tee. We saw democracy flourish, justice served to a significant extent, marked poverty alleviation, economic recovery, and essential infrastructure put in place. His brand of governance and diplomacy answered criticisms head-on without using brute force. Media did not feel stifled in their reportage, and there was a broad sense of freedom of expression and creativity in the country during his term.
From afar, and interspersed with visits to the country every now and then, I was confident that the legacy of democracy in the Philippines was being propagated by P-Noy. I was absorbing news from home with satisfaction. There was always something positive being reported, like the shift to a more comfortable life for many as the economy boomed, the roads and bridges being built, the jobs continuously generated because of good diplomatic relations with other nations.
For OFWs and immigrant Filipinos, this meant a lot. It meant hope for a better life for their kin and relatives. It meant more opportunities for their children perhaps a college degree—or the probability of acquiring a property once they retire in the Philippines to be with their families for good. That hope gave them inspiration and the thought that they were not alone in keeping their dreams of a progressive Philippine society alive. Positive news was a reminder that their sacrifices were being put to good use in their home country. In time, they might not even have to make the sacrifice of being apart from their loved ones at all.
During that time, I was able to write articles about P-Noy’s landmark legacies as my way of sharing to the world the positive developments we had achieved in the Philippines. I wrote a piece about the lower maternal mortality rate registered during his term, and wrote my master’s thesis in anthropology on the policy legislation process involved in the framing of Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
Beyond these positive reports, I basked in the thought that our country was on the right track and that if and when we decide to come home for good, there will be a happy place waiting for us, ready to embrace us again.
These days, the nation grieves P-Noy’s passing. Countless testimonies attest to the sterling values he brought to the stewardship of the nation. Expressions of gratitude honoring the former president for his hard work in nurturing democracy and the rule of law during his term continue unabated. In the process, this has become a time of reckoning, a time to ponder our values as a nation. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Even in death, P-Noy is making sure that the ideals of democracy and good governance will remind us and light our path out of the dark times.
Tess Q. Raposas is a freelance journalist currently based in Europe.
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