A farewell note
Is P-Noy an introvert or extrovert? Manila Bulletin’s Jullie Yap Daza wanted to know at the Christmas get-together of the Bulong Pulungan media forum last Friday.
President Aquino seemed amused by the question (for how could a politician be an introvert, indeed?). But he found the perfect answer: “Compared to my sister Kris, I’m an introvert.”
Everybody else laughed at this, which just goes to show, I think, how relaxed P-Noy can be in the company of, he hesitated to give voice to the term “senior media institutions,” and amended it to: “an exuberant group of media women [who exude] never-ending youthfulness.” (Good save!)
If some in the Bulong core group were skeptical of the flattery, they didn’t show it. For this was indeed not just a Christmas celebration, but rather the last Christmas party of Bulong Pulungan that P-Noy would be attending as president. He had joined the group every year during his term, despite his many responsibilities and despite the many crises that marked the last five-six years.
This was the reason some of us must have felt a bit of nostalgia, if not sentiment, especially at the mention by the President of the events that marked his administration: the Zamboanga siege; the earthquakes in Bohol, Cebu and Negros Oriental; and Typhoons “Reming,” “Pablo,” “Pedring” and “Yolanda” (“Sendong” was a “mere” tropical storm). Not to mention human tragedies like the bus hostage-taking at Rizal Park.
Indeed, it wasn’t just P-Noy who weathered these crises along with the entire machinery of government. We, too, the Filipino people, lived through these tribulations, and it could bring one almost to tears recalling the loss of life, property, opportunity and death of hope that followed these tragedies. The responses to these crises have zigged and zagged from the immediate and effective, to the excruciatingly delayed and misdirected. But doesn’t it seem at least a bit absurd that in the run-up to the May 2016 elections, the opposition can seem to concentrate only on the daily aggravations of traffic and the long queues at the MRT?
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Bulong’s “commanding general,” Deedee Siytangco of the Bulletin, promised that this would not be the last time P-Noy would be invited to the Christmas gathering. Even as he attends as a private citizen, will P-Noy also be showing up as a married man?
That was the question that the late Donnie Ramirez, who was part of the Bulong core group, was wont to ask the President, something P-Noy acknowledged. But still he wasn’t spared from having to comment on his love life. Joanne Rae Ramirez of The Star wanted to know if the recent wedding of his nephew Miguel Abellada had sparked in the President thoughts and longings of marriage. “I’ve always had plans,” he conceded. The only thing missing, he said, was the woman of his dreams. Perhaps, he mused, he would find more time to visit St. Jude’s, the Catholic patron saint of the desperate whose shrine is just a few doors away from Malacañang, during his remaining 203 days in office.
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It’s obvious that he’s counting the days until he can finally say goodbye to his high office. But even if at times he nurses thoughts of remaining in office to wrap up the remaining projects yet unfinished, he must, he said, think of the people who have likewise taken the same vows of service as he—his Cabinet, his staff, and especially “my sisters, their husbands, and my nephews and nieces”—who deserve a respite.
But at the end of the day, or of his term, P-Noy said he is proudest of the number of Filipinos lifted from poverty, the 1.4 million who were helped to recover from the ruins of Yolanda, the worst natural disaster to ever hit the Philippines, and proving that “people power is a reality and can be used for the good.”
One of the things he wishes Filipinos would adopt with more alacrity, he said, is the attitude of seeing the glass half-full rather than half-empty. He cites the experience of local governments in the Davao provinces in the wake of Typhoon Pablo, which wiped out the coconut trees which had been the main source of livelihood of the people. Rebuilding the economy would take a long time, said P-Noy, since coconut trees take years to mature. So instead, locals turned to other crops, among them pepper, which they later processed into hot sauce called “Hot Pablo.” And from a cost of P90,000 per hectare to plant the pepper, farmers were able to earn a gross of P200,000 per hectare.
It’s such stories that P-Noy apparently hopes will survive the heat and recrimination of a bitter campaign period, and sound a more resounding closing note to his term.
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Aside from honoring P-Noy as an “exemplar” of government service, the Bulong Pulungan also honored government officials and private-sector leaders for their years of service.
Those honored from the private sector were: Robert Lim Joseph for the tourism sector, Mina Gabor for tourism, Teresita Sy Coson of SM for business, Edgardo Manda for his work with the bamboo foundation, William Tieng of Solar Entertainment, and Sen. Cynthia Villar for her work with cooperatives.
From the government, those recognized were: Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Science Secretary Mario Montejo, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Pagcor Chair Cristino Naguiat, GSIS president Robert Vergara, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, former MMDA chair Francis Tolentino, and former Tesda head Joel Villanueva (the last two being senatorial aspirants as well).
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