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    A Window of Truth, Hope, and Empathy

    Message at the Federation of International Cable Television and Telecommunications Association of the Philippines (FICTAP)

    19th International Cable Television Congress and Exhibit

    Fiesta Pavilion, Manila Hotel, City of Manila

    Mrs. Estrellita “Neng” Juliano-Tamano, the National Chair of the Federation of International Cable Television and Telecommunications Association of the Philippines (FICTAP); Dr. Cecilia Madrid-Dy, Convention Chair and FICTAP Vice Chair for Luzon; Mr. Antonio Silloriquez, Vice Chair for Visayas; Mr. Alvin Ty, Vice Chair for Mindanao; the other FICTAP officers present; FICTAP regional chairmen; Dir. Ma. Lourdes Villanueva of TESDA; representatives from FICTAP partner organizations; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!

    Thank you very much for inviting me to speak before you today.

    Cable television is a powerful vehicle that connects the farthest and smallest communities in our country to the world. It has greatly contributed to the vibrancy of democracy, to the spread of innovation, and to our stronger connection with the rest of the human family. With a single click from a remote control, millions of Filipinos get easy access to a wide array of information—from the latest Hollywood movie channels to international news outfits that let our people know about things that are taking place across the globe.

    For instance, about a week ago, we watched in awe as teenagers in the United States spoke about gun control and cried out against school shootings. They stood up for what they believed in with so much passion and eloquence that people from around the globe listened and took part in the conversation. On live TV, we also witnessed how thousands of women took part in demonstrations in the US, giving birth to what Al Jazeera reported as “the beginning of a new era in female political activism.”

    These examples show us how cable TV strengthens global consciousness—and hopefully a sense of responsibility in helping make the world a better place. It has revolutionized the way we live and interact as global citizens, serving as a window for learning, growth, and nation-building.

    It is great when you can earn good margins doing business in an industry that benefits humanity at the same time. For many years, cable television operators are able to provide good content—from sports to entertainment to news—to an increasing number of channels at lower rates.

    But while television is still king in the Philippines, there are dark clouds on the horizon. In the US and Europe, consumers are already starting to get a range of broadband, video, and telephony services through a combination of fixed-wire and mobile technology. YouTube TV, Amazon Prime, and Netflix are starting to make people believe they can live without cable. Millennials, who avoid signing up for cable in the first place, seem to be even more out of reach.

    Within this backdrop, the need to deliver content that matters becomes even more important. All of you are in a unique position to help our people discover our national identity as Filipinos, to develop empathy for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised, and to take part in governance, not just by waiting for the government to do its job, but also to do yours. Perhaps it is time for us to make a stand and choose shows that matter to our people, and not be dictated by the hottest offerings of the day.

    In a way, we were placed in a similar situation, when we accepted the position of Vice President in 2016. The Office of the Vice President has one of the smallest budgets in the bureaucracy because it does not have the mandate to implement programs and projects. But we could not stand idly by doing just ceremonial things for six years. We could see that there is so much to be done to help the poor in the most difficult of places, so we decided to come up with an anti-poverty program that could complement the government’s efforts and bridge the gaps where we found them.

    We called this program Angat Buhay. It focuses on six key advocacy areas, namely: hunger and food security, universal healthcare, public education, rural development, women empowerment, and housing. Zeroing in on the most basic needs of the pamilya sa laylayan ng lipunan, we sought the help of private partners and individuals to fill in the gaps.

    Since we assumed office, we set aside two to three days every week to visit the farthest and poorest barangays in the country.

    One of the memorable places we visited in the last 17 months was Marawi City. There, we met Mocrimah Abdulrahman Mohammad, a 26-year-old aspiring teacher from Brgy. Dayawan.

    When we visited her community last March 2017, we discussed how to produce more landap, a traditional textile known for its vibrant and colorful design. In fact, plans of helping the local weaving community by selling their cloth to bigger markets were already taking shape. But in less than two months, the Marawi siege took place. Mocrimah and her family were among those who were affected by the clash. She, along with 50 other families, had to immediately evacuate to Iligan City.

    You see, like many residents of Marawi, Mocrimah escaped her home, bringing only her clothes and leaving everything else behind, including their source of livelihood. Fortunately, through the generosity of Metrobank Foundation and our other Angat Buhay Partners, our Marawi women weavers now have sewing equipment and capital to start rebuilding their lives.

    Just the other day, my team returned to Marawi to attend the groundbreaking of our Angat Buhay Village in Brgy. Sagonsongan. Through the kindness of our private partners and the support of the local government, we will be building about a hundred residences in a one-hectare property, for families whose houses were totally damaged during the siege. Aside from roofs over their heads, the village will have a health center, temporary learning spaces, a toy library, a mosque, water and electric supply, livelihood opportunities, good access roads, and vegetable gardens for food security. We are targeting to turn over the first 60 housing units to the beneficiaries by June.

    Another unforgettable place we visited was Sitio Bugtong Lubi, a small community deeply tucked in the mountains of Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental. There, we met the school children of Magsaysay Elementary School who studied in makeshift classrooms built by their parents and teachers.

    Getting there takes three to four hours on top of a habal-habal. Passengers have to pay 600 pesos each to ride through unpaved roads that cross a mountain range.

    There we met Esteban Mangilan Jr., the PTA president of Magsaysay Elementary School. Esteban has three children; the school where his eldest son, who is in Grade 7, goes to is very far because Magsaysay only offers classes until Grade 4. Esteban began to cry when he was telling us how difficult it was to send a child to a far school. Sabi po niya: “Iyong pera namin, imbis na ipambili ng asin, ipapabaon na lang sa anak namin. Gusto namin iyong mga anak namin, hindi sila sumunod sa nangyari sa amin. Ako kasi, hindi ako nakatapos sa pag-aaral kasi malayo ang eskuwelahan ko.”

    Now, Magsaysay Elementary School tells a different story. Just last June, our Angat Buhay partner, Negrense Volunteers for Change and Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation, turned over new school buildings and school kits to the students. It was a challenging decision for them to get involved with this community because of its very remote location, but it is a decision that is transforming lives. Now, parents from Sitio Bugtong Lubi can dream and hope that one day, they will see their children living better lives because they were able to finish school.

    In this age of Internet, Uber rides, and mobile connectivity, the stories of Marawi and Hinoba-an show how many communities seem to have been left out in our quest for inclusive growth. Many far-flung barrios do not have access to the most basic of services. In many parts of Mindanao, war and conflict continue to endanger communities and tear families apart. Sadly, despite the progress and development that we enjoy in many cities, poverty continues to cripple the lives of a quarter of the population.

    So as we gather here today and talk about how television and cyber connectivity can enhance education, promote awareness, and expand livelihood opportunities, I hope you will realize how much you can do to uplift the lives of many.

    You are in a very powerful position to educate and shape people’s mindsets, by the content that you choose. You can set new trends and influence policy-making. You can amplify the voice of the weak and the powerless.

    Instead of harboring hate and anger, let us use television as a platform where ordinary voices can demand for greater transparency and accountability from government. Transform it into a space for effective dialogue and collaboration. Employ it as a vehicle for the promotion of peace, justice, human rights, and equality.

    Let us promote programs that elevate public discourse and debate. Let us prioritize shows that encourage awareness in various fields, such as health, education and livelihood. Let us reach out to local officials and discuss ways to push for responsible information dissemination and effective communication.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is the time to reclaim television and transform it into a window of truth, hope, and empathy.

    During these extraordinary times—when democracy is continuously under threat, when credibility and decency are seemingly at odds, and when the right to free speech is sometimes being suppressed—we need Filipinos who will stand by the truth, even if it is unpopular. We need organizations like you who will fight for the last, the lost, and the least.

    I do not know how many of you have already watched Black Panther—nanood na ba kayo, nanood na kayo ng Black Panther?—but allow me to end with what King T’Challa said, and I quote: “Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

    Maraming salamat po at mabuhay po kayong lahat!

    Posted in Speeches on Mar 08, 2018