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    The Ordinary Filipino: Our Proof of Hope

    25 August 2016

    Partners for Progress: 5th Anniversary of BPI Bayan & Re-launch of BPI Bayan 2.0, BPI Head Office, Ayala Avenue, Makati City

    First of all, thank you so much for giving me the chance to share in your celebration today. There is surely a lot for us to be joyful about today, and truly, I see that joy reflected in your faces this morning.

    I realize that none of this came so easily: many of you have worked very long hours not only to get this anniversary together, but also to ensure the successful re-launch of BPI Bayan 2.0.

    So congratulations for such a remarkable work, and may you never tire of committing yourselves to such a noble cause.

    I have to be honest: although this is the first time I’m meeting most of you, the energy in this room is wonderfully familiar. Talagang nakakatuwa.

    I was telling your Boss na you have a happy bunch this morning.

    You see, after decades of work in the non-profit sector and having been in the public service in a few years, I’ve learned to recognize this sort of energy and embrace it when it’s there: it’s one of hopefulness, of faith in the good that we can do if we come together for a single, necessary purpose.

    Because isn’t what BPI Bayan is? It’s a meeting of many minds and hearts among the men and women of BPI.

    Under this initiative, I learned that you have already over 6,000 BPI volunteers who find time—despite the demands of office work—to serve, and ultimately, the broader welfare of our country.

    Hanga po ako sa inyong puso’t kakayahan, at sa daan-daang proyektong naipatupad na ninyo bilang volunteers ng BPI Bayan.

    We all know that service is hardly a casual affair. You understand this of course, because BPI has some of our most hardworking front-liners all over the country.

    BPI depositor po ako. Iyong aking branch ay nasa Naga, BPI Magsaysay.

    Nonetheless, some people believe service is nothing but mere action: a gesture towards another, a small transaction, a feel-good exchange.

    But that’s not the true face of service.

    Because service is extremely demanding, and it requires unfailing passion and commitment towards fulfilling a goal.

    Its nature is such that it tends to the greater good of both fellowman and country. Above all, service cannot be service without excellence, without the conviction that our efforts are the best of their expression.

    This, I think, is why you sought to re-launch BPI Bayan into a better, more responsive version of itself. If we are to make a difference in the lives of our countrymen, we need to be prepared to exceed ourselves all the time.

    I don’t mean to say that we should clock in more hours, because that’s not necessarily the solution. Instead, we need to learn to work smarter and better, and to approach traditional problems with more creativity and a willingness to innovate.

    You see, many of the problems we are now facing in this country have been decades in the making. And a lot of these problems are recurrent.

    Paulit-ulit na lang, kumbaga, at parang hindi na nawawala. Justice remains elusive, and spaces for corruption remain in the vast halls of our public institutions.

    The painful reality, too, is that millions of Filipinos still suffer from crippling poverty, while armed conflict persists in some of our most disadvantaged communities.

    At this point, it’s only too easy to surrender ourselves to cynicism. We look at elected officials and at the government, and we think: pare-pareho lang silang lahat.

    We think of the Filipino people and say, “Wala talagang pag-asa ang Pilipino, hindi na tayo natuto.”

    Add to that a commute of maybe four to six hours each day, and one can so quickly be disillusioned with this country. Is there really any hope left for us?

    Of course there is. As persistent as our country’s ills are, history has proven that nothing is more indomitable than the Filipino spirit. Each of you here stands as proof of hope, because volunteers like you are the backbone of positive change in this world.

    My late husband, Jesse, recognized this. And he understood something much more fundamental as well. Our volunteers are ordinary people of extraordinary heroism, able to effect much-needed change from the grassroots level and beyond.

    Because of this, you are the government’s natural partners for reform. You are our active co-agents of social change and nation building in this country.

    This is why Jesse put so much a premium on participative leadership, even in his earliest days in Naga City as a local chief executive.

    He sought the counsel of common Nagueños so they could arrive at new and viable solutions for poverty and social inequality in our city.

    The result was a Naga utterly transformed, so much that it was named early on as one of the 4 most improved cities in Asia.

    Citizen engagement is actually one of the advocacies that Jesse and I shared as we carried out our work. It is a cause I have long championed and continue to champion, even with Jesse’s passing.

    Now, as Vice President, I intend to bring further depth and substance to that campaign for citizen-centric governance, where you, our people, become the very engine of our country’s transformation.

    Already, my office has held several consultation workshops with various members of civil society, citizens’ groups, and the private sector, so we can begin addressing our nation’s most stubborn problems on a strong note of cooperation.

    At the center of all this is our five-point antipoverty framework, which is defined by five distinct objectives.

    First, ensuring food security, zero hunger, and adequate nutrition among the most poor Filipino families. Second, strengthening our bid for universal healthcare. Third, bringing quality education to our students; fourth, enhancing rural development; and fifth, empowerment.

    To accomplish all this, we want to pay specific attention to three groups. Sila po ang mga pamilyang nasa laylayan ng lipunan, at sila na rin po mismo ang tinutulungan ninyo sa inyong mga proyekto sa BPI Bayan.

    These are mothers and children, in-need students, and adults in households whose poverty prevent them from accessing growth opportunities that many of us here already enjoy.

    For disadvantaged mothers and children, we envision real access to key nutrition and health programs to decrease stunting among our very young, as well as to bring down the maternal mortality rate and bump up the number of individuals covered by health insurance.

    Meanwhile, for our students, we are laying down the groundwork for a solid Senior High School education, where they can develop the requisite skills for their chosen field or vocation.

    And finally, for adults in poor households, our goal is to swing open the doors of economic opportunity to them. We want to work with their strengths here and, in the end, lead them to avenues of gainful employment and sustainable enterprise.

    I apologize if this sounds terribly complicated. We must understand, however, that poverty is a notoriously complex problem, and that if we are to eradicate it, we must strike at it from several fronts. It might also sound intimidating.

    But I have also found that we can strategically link our programs so we can resolve multiple problems at once. For example: when I was Congresswoman of the third district of Camarines Sur, we initiated a program that could simultaneously address hunger and poverty.

    Because we all know that we can never address hunger with just feeding programs. It was an initiative patterned after one of Brazil’s most successful antipoverty efforts.

    Their zero-hunger programs, which after 10 years from implementation removed Brazil from the hunger map. And we tailored it to fit the unique needs of my constituents in Camarines Sur.

    We called this program the Partnership Against Poverty and Hunger. Its design very simply: it featured a feeding program for our poorest kids, and the food for that feeding program was sourced exclusively from our very poor farmers. Remember, these are the same farmers who usually lose to industrial farms and giant corporations. So not only were we able to offer hot and nutritious meals to our hungriest children; we also managed to create a steady and sustainable source of income for our very poor farmers.

    You might think that this was the program’s ultimate reward. But actually, the benefits of the Partnership Against Poverty and Hunger went beyond hitting two birds with one stone.

    When we started out, our farmers felt mostly helpless. Many of them had already resigned themselves to a life of poverty. But we involved them in training programs so they could turn out better produce and become reliable government suppliers. In the process, their entrepreneurial spirit blossomed, and they gained a new sense of ownership of the program because they saw how much it helped the children in their communities.

    When we paid these farmers another visit, the change was really dramatic: gone was the helplessness we first perceived in them. They had become changed men and women, citizens empowered to take the lead in the fight against poverty. These farmers, once unsure about their fates, had turned into our equal partners in community building.

    And that, I think, was the most rewarding sight of all. True, the empowerment of a people is nothing you can articulate in numbers. Empowerment will never show up as hard data.

    But when you empower the citizenry, you give rise to a cultural shift more valuable than numbers can account for. For too long, we have learned to place nearly all our hopes upon our leaders. It’s time we place that hope upon ourselves. It’s time we believe in the Filipino people.

    This, I trust, is what you dream of achieving through BPI Bayan. When you head out to our poorest coastal towns, when you sit down with our out-of-school youth, understand that you are looking at boundless potential for progress. Be assured that within our people lies the promise of a better and brighter Philippines.

    Of course, realizing this promise will never be easy. Along the way, you will meet all manner of frustration or disappointment. There will be no shortage of difficulty.

    But if there is anything that experience has shown me, it’s this: when we collaborate in true fellowship, there is much that we can overcome and make possible.

    When we put the Filipino people at the deepest heart of our efforts, that’s when we can bring real and lasting change to this country.

    Maraming salamat po.

    Congratulations, magandang araw sa inyong lahat!

    Posted in Speeches on Aug 25, 2016