Has it been five years? I guess it must have been. Anyway, I like what I see.
You seem to have grown much in stature; from one who couldn’t seem to wait to be done with the thankless job, you now have chosen to stand with us, arm-in-arm—kapit-bisig—for as long as it takes in the struggle you began, the climb back to decency in government.
You say that perhaps things could have been done better, but that you could, head high, look anybody in the eye and tell him you did your very best. And I’m sure you could, and just as sure you did.
Your valedictory State-of-the-Nation was the very best I heard from you, in both content and delivery.
“Superb… a class act,” if I may appropriate the words of Teddyboy Locsin, your mother’s own champion—although not necessarily always yours, too.
But he and you connect me back to my own memories of her. After all, she was more than my president; she was the younger sister of an aunt by affinity, Josephine, who married my Dad’s first cousin and close chum, Noring Reyes.
But all other memories are now dwarfed by her funeral, over which heaven itself wept.
Together with a large mass of ordinary folk, Vergel and I stood outside the cathedral during her funeral, in the downpour, our hearts pained by the loss of someone we, nay, the whole nation, could not thank enough.
You yourself I thank now for the gift that you are to us from your mom and dad, whose martyrdom a generation ago started it all.
In their own time they had given us something priceless, the pride of nationhood, and like them you yourself stepped up to help us lift ourselves from another long, dark and ugly spell.
What better way to express our gratitude and affection to your parents than to elect you, their only son, president? The fact that you had not fancied the position, not even, as you would say, in your wildest dreams, and had to be thrust into it in the midst of grief over your mom’s passing, made everything, as in her own case, seem fated. (Alas, it also put on hold any potentially serious romance for the next six years.)
Thank you, Noynoy, for rising to the challenge and proving yourself worthy of leadership, not only of the nation, but of your own family, by subduing whatever proprietary sense it might have tended to have toward power, as is in the culture, if not nature, of political families and dynasties in our parts.
You walk around without a whiff of scandal stuck to you and your relatives.
Your presidency provided an endearing contrast to the previous one in many ways—accessible, young, folksy, for one thing, so eloquently comfortable in our native Filipino. You have put the presidency back where it properly belongs, in the service of the people, and called them, only suitably, “my bosses”.
You have yourself walked the righteous path, taken the high moral ground. Some of your official family may have strayed, and while some may have paid for it, others may have not. But I’m prepared to give you a reasonable benefit of the doubt.
In any case, I believe that your most important achievement lies in the healthy change you started in our culture—although not to be caught leaning too far in his favor, my husband calls it “potentially critical reform.”
You did away with the car siren “wangwang,” a long-screaming emblem of power and privilege. Now when I hear a siren, I know it’s a proper ambulance or fire truck and not some factotum scaring everyone else out of his way.
On your watch, Renato Corona, whose midnight appointment as chief justice had been among the last tacky acts of a vengeful outgoing president, was found guilty of corruption by an impeachment court. It was a triumph of the spirit for people who still wanted to believe in our justice system. In his place you appointed the young, reform-minded Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who has shown bold and inspired leadership despite inheriting Corona’s court.
Other hope-inspiring appointments have been the fearless, no-nonsense Conchita Carpio-Morales as Ombudsman, on whose account previously untouchable big fish are now in detention while being tried; the straight-dealing, take-no-prisoners revenue commissioner, Kim Henares, whose sudden appearance at an art auction dispersed certain characters to her obvious amusement; and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who takes on all comers, Rodrigo Duterte included.
That all of them are women does not at all surprise me.
But after you, Noynoy, whence comes another?
Oh, don’t we seem at a loss again! Are we watching the horizon for yet another, in my husband’s phrase, “accidental president?”
The Filipino is remarkable, it would seem, in his sense of fatalism: He’d rather leave his and his nation’s future in the hands of fate, rather than his own.
With you, Noynoy, fate was definitely kind. We were right and lucky at the same time. And it was brilliant of you to give us the not-too-subtle hint for the next election: It will be a referendum on your righteous path.
Perhaps I may only be echoing your parents when I tell you, Noynoy, you have done us proud. Thank you.