Launch: Nationwide Search for Courageous Women Awards Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City, 22 July 2016
The year 2016 is truly momentous for me in many ways. I ran for Vice President in a race that I never saw coming, not in my wildest dreams. That I won was as big as the surprise of actually being in the race.
But more than that, I am amazed at life’s seemingly random “connecting dots”. One: the climb from 1% to Vice-President.
The sheer impossibility of it was exactly like the way my husband Jesse began his political career. Chances of him winning his first candidacy was so slim too, that in hindsight, this was his way of telling me to have faith.
Number Two: the day I was asked proclaimed by Congress winner of the Vice Presidential race was Jesse’s birthday.
Number Three: the day I was asked to become Housing Secretary was the same day he was asked to become DILG Secretary.
And Fourth: the day I took my oath as HUDCC chair, July 2016 was the same day six years ago, July 12, 2012 when he took his oath as DILG Secretary.
All these coincidences. Number Five: the unexpected meet-ups with so many people who would end up to be instrumental in this very important work. In fact, my chief-of-staff now was also Jesse’s chief-of-staff before. All of 30 years.
All the members of my staff are very young. Ako lang po ang matanda. Truly, there have been so many angels surrounding me and my family in this very interesting period of my life.
As women, we all know that we are endowed with more clarity, more empathy…more understanding. We can be audacious without being overbearing. Parang hindi yata papayag yung mga asawa natin, para sa mga asawa natin, parati tayong overbearing.
Efficient without forgetting the little details that make all the difference, we can make growth happen without leaving behind the ones who need an extra push.
Women, however, need a lot of encouragement also to get out of their shell. That is why awards like “The Nationwide Search for Courageous Women” is instrumental in the development of great women in our country.
By launching this award, Zonta will be one step closer to its mission of service through advocacy work.
Now, more than ever, the work that we do to serve our country will have to center on building an inclusive nation: a nation where everyone can thrive, not just the privileged few. A nation that provides equality of opportunity to ALL, not just those who win the ovarian lottery.
A nation where everyone counts.
In Naga City, I have four agels here from Naga, we have created a cocoon of inclusivity, recognized both here and abroad. We are not perfect by any stretch, but by empowering our people and by institutionalizing measures of public participation, we have ensured that inclusivity will always be the end goal of the Naga City’s governance efforts.
As I traveled all over the country during the campaign, I saw that the cities of our nation have much to benefit from the lessons we have learned. And we all have much to learn from the best practices in the world.
Vietnam’s urban upgrading project for example, Brazil and Peru’s zero hunger programs, Jamaica’s basic services for the poor are just some of the newest models of inclusive cities that we can use as our inspiration.
The inclusivity of cities themselves will be an important focal point in building an inclusive nation.
There’s a whole body of literature now on building inclusive cities. But the challenges are widening faster too.
More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. By 2050, this is expected to reach a staggering 70%. Rising inequality in cities can make social structures unstable and put economic growth in danger.
A Forbes magazine article said that in the Philippines, the richest 20% of the population received 52% of the country’s total income in 1994, nearly 11 times the share received by the poorest 20%.
In 2009, the poorest 20% of the population accounted for just 4.45% of national income. That’s a huge rip in our inequality, perpetuating feelings of hopelessness and frustration especially among the poor.
This only means one thing. You and I have more work to do. Interestingly enough, women can do much of the heavy lifting. We are excellent in collaboration and working with teams.
Just look around you. Ang tawag sa atin mga anak natin, Titas of Manila.
Sabi ng mga anak ko, “kayong mga Titas of Manila.” Just look at how the Titas of Manila love to go out together. We don’t have testosterone and the need to compete and always be the alpha.
We are excellent in thinking of new ways to lengthen our stride—in housing, in education, in fighting hunger, in sparking rural development, in providing public healthcare, and in empowerment. All these are the priorities of the Office of the Vice-President in fighting poverty.
In this work, we also need to think of more meaningful ways of measuring our successes or failures. Ito po ang natutunan ko sa asawa ko. As Jesse always used to say: if we can’t measure something, then we can’t improve it.
Parati pong sinasabi ng asawa ko, bago tayo magpagod, bago tayo magtrabaho, kailangang may sukat. Saan tayo nagumpisa, ano yung inimprove ng tinulungan natin dahil sa ating tulong? Kasi if we can’t measure anything, then we don’t have the baseline, we don’t know the improvement, we don’t know if the targets were worth our efforts.
For instance, at the HUDCC which I chair now, we are no longer focusing on trainings held but on outcomes from those trainings. Ito po, just as an aside, medyo nadismaya ako nung first day ko. I was asking for briefing from some of the members of the staff and they were providing me with accomplishments of the office.
Iyong accomplishments, number of trainings. Accomplishment. Ano yata iyon, processes lang.
Diba yung accomplishment dapat ano yung naging resulta out of the training? So yun yung ginagawa namin ngayon. Hindi na kami nagbibilang kung ano yung ginagawa pero ano yung resulta ng mga ginagawa.
Instead of number of houses built, we want to look at how those houses have improved quality of life. When in medical missions, we should not be looking at the number of patients but the long-term outcomes of treating those patients. This should be the mindset of those who are in the work of inclusive growth.
I understand that when it comes to running a business or leading an organization, which is what many of you women are very good in doing, we have laser-like focus on systems and strategies that will allow us to extract the most outcomes from every peso of capital or every man (or woman) hour. When it comes to our bread and butter, we better shape up or we lose market share.
Let me propose that our standards for building inclusive cities and building an inclusive nation be at par or even higher than our standards for our businesses, NGOs, or organizations.
For after all, the wider net of inclusivity is the one thing that will make all our endeavors more sustainable.
Truly, inclusive growth is not just critical for those in the fringes of society that we have vowed to serve, but also for your businesses and your organizations to grow sustainably.
Businesses and capital markets have been fueling global growth for decades, creating wealth for nations. But while market-led economic growth transformed whole chunks of the global map, its unfortunate byproduct was the exclusion of swaths of population who did not gain equality of economic opportunity.
This is true in countries like the United States as well as our country. But for an emerging economy like ours, economists have already said that the only way for us to move forward is to make sure that the bottom poor feel the benefits from the recent economic growth that we have experienced.
Inclusivity is always the key.
Let me close by telling you this story about an experience I had when I was still in Congress. Once, when I was on my way to visit an IP community in Mt. Isarog, which is part of my district.
When I was on my way there, I saw a group of people huddled together and I wondered what they were doing. So I told my car to stop and asked why are you here? Why are you all together?
Apparently, they were teachers and parents building a school for their children. But all they had were only eight posts to start with. It was a Thursday. The school year was to start the next Monday. And all they had were eight posts. So I was asking them what they were waiting for.
They were waiting for the principal who was buying more materials from the town. The principal had to withdraw P10,000 from her own savings because the person who pledged the donation has not yet given the money. The P10,000 seed money bought them some pieces of coco lumber, nails, some bags of cement and nipa shingles.
I looked at my wallet and I had had P12,000 in my wallet and decided to give them the P10,000 to add to their little fund. Masayang masaya na sila but I was asking myself, anong magagawa nila sa 20,000? Meron silang 10,000, dinagdagan ko ng 10,000, ano magagawa nila.
But that’s not what was important. I posted about that experience on Facebook, and posted pictures of the teachers and parents working on the school. And in less than a week I was able to raise P300,000 for the school.
With that small amount of money, P320,000, they built more classrooms—each one with a small comfort room, of course made of light materials.
Why should the entire nation care about these small classrooms, tucked away in a seemingly insignificant part of our country? Why should you—great women in the prime of your lives, successful in your careers, surrounded by the comforts that come with your successes—care about the school teachers and the parents beyond our news, new bags, new dresses and maybe Ruby Woo lipsticks.
In each of those classrooms, there will be a child who might be the next you. We never know if he or she might be the one who will eventually discover a medical breakthrough or discover a new technology or move a generation with his or her thoughts and ideas.
Each one of those children in those classrooms represent our hope for a better nation. And you—women endowed with unique gifts—can create an environment more nurturing and more inclusive for each of those children.
So the challenge for all of us now is how can we be more relevant? I hope that we let our driving force for all that we do, be the inclusion and the transformation of the lives of our people, who have long been excluded in our society. Because inclusion is not just a buzzword. Nor is it just nice to have. It is critical for our nation’s future.
So please expect me to come knocking on your doors and ask you to sit down with us so we can explore ways where we can partner in our advocacies together. Sinabihan ko na po yung aming area directors, wala na silang choice. Mam, you’re stuck with me.
I was telling them after all this let’s sit down and scan the environment on how we can maximize our resources and be of better help to our countrymen.
Maraming maraming salamat po, and thank you for having me this afternoon.