Late last year, Gawad Kalinga issued the challenge, Ano Ang Taya Mo, as the twin rally cry to its earlier message of Walang Iwanan. Last Sunday, TV viewers who eagerly watched Manny Pacquiao demolish Ricky Hatton were treated to a TV ad launching the Akomismo movement. The TV ad portrayed known personalities from different fields to deliver the message that they, as individual citizens, are committing something for country. Quickly enough, news was spread in the Internet and the usual grapevine that Manny Pangilinan of Smart/PLDT was behind the Akomismo movement because he was interested in running for president. And even more quickly was a denial from Manny or MVP as he is also popularly called in the business world.
The speculation about Manny Pangilinan wanting to run for the presidency of the Philippines has become the focus of talks from the Akomismo advertisement. This common reaction to a message that was massively distributed over TV and print shows where Filipinos are most intrigued – towards personalities rather than the substantive content of messages or issues. If MVP wants to run for president, his intent should be welcomed because a citizen exercising his right should be encouraged. Furthermore, a citizen wanting to offer his time, talent and treasures to his people and country is a blessing. After all, the choice to run belongs to the citizen, just as the choice to elect belongs to each and every voter.
The TV ad was a beautiful one, and I believe that the message it carries is sound, solid and will be very powerful if the movement is committed to keep promoting it. My conclusion is not from a personal projection alone but grounded on years of personal experience in a work that is developing the same message and sharing it with large numbers of people. In October of 2003, when Gawad Kalinga claimed the added dimension of nation building to its beautiful work for the poor, it had committed itself to a path of loving and helping the poor, and work for their empowerment as well. The path of empowerment translates to citizens giving beyond just asking and receiving.
For several years since its public launch as a nation building movement which grounds itself on building homes, communities and evolving a lifestyle of dignity, integrity, honor and productivity even for the least among us, Gawad Kalinga has made flag-waving and nation-loving as integral to its work and principles as Christian charity. Among its workers, volunteers and the residents of GK villages, a module on Bayan, Bayani and Bayanihan is rolled out, asking each to be responsible not only for himself or herself, but also to neighbor and country. Assuring the poor, and workers assuring each other, the saying Walang Iwanan became a promise and commitment.
And taking it to the next level, raising the bar, the challenge now asks, “Anong Taya Mo?”
Anong Taya Mo is asking the citizen, even the most humble and ordinary, to accept the responsibility of a good citizen which goes beyond fending for oneself to doing what one can for the other. It is as Christian as the exhortation of loving one’s neighbor and as patriotic as a call to bayanihan and heroism. It is understandable that not many will at once resonate to a call to help others when one is also in need, but Gawad Kalinga believes that courage is a birthright that will emerge when some will light the way and be the role models for a new nation.
Again, like Manny Pangilinan and Akomismo, it is Gawad Kalinga more than its twin messages of Anong Taya Mo and Walang Iwanan that takes center stage. That is the Filipino pattern to take the personality ahead of the issue, the messenger ahead of the message. The Filipino must go beyond the surface of the box into its content, but that is the invitation to all of maturity itself.
The weakness of the Filipino is when he is in need, and that need either blinds him to many other facets of reality or induces him to escape from what is harsh and painful, then turn to fantasize instead.
The potential, however, of personality being congruent with the issue, of messenger being one with the message, is like the power of nuclear fusion. When credibility is achieved, when people believe in their gut and in their heart that the person who speaks is a person who acts exactly the same way, when the track record of the messenger proves the message itself, it will spark inspiration, it will spark passion, and most of all, it will spark a committed loyalty that have made revolution after revolution succeed in dismantling what used to be superior forces. After all, the son of a carpenter said He was the Son of God, upset the authorities of Church and State, and found Himself crucified by them and the crowds they rabble-roused. Today, billions believe the victim more than the executioners because He established credibility by walking His talk while His enemies did not.
The message of good citizenship, the exhortation for every Filipino to contribute to the motherland whatever his or her station in life, is what is desperately needed today. A nation is strong when its people and their leaders are strong. But imagine a strong leader and a weak people, then imagine a strong people and a weak leader. We have had leaders considered strong, including a dictator, but strong leadership could not lift a weak people. Yet, a strong people can easily lift a weak leader, then discard him or her quickly if there is no improvement.
There are many leaders who believe they are strong and endowed with skill and political will.
Private surveys have already been tracking popularity ratings of many personalities that one would think the presidency is a beauty contest with so many contestants. The Philippines is not lacking individuals who can be considered good leaders. Many may be traditional, maybe have grown from the ranks of Philippine politics, but truly, many of them can become good and strong leaders. All they need is a strong citizenry who will either motivate and support them, or throw them out if they misbehave.
Akomismo, Anong Taya Mo, these are calls so urgent and crucial to our life as a people searching for their Lupang Hinirang, for our honor and the respect of the rest of the world.
“Cowardice is seeing what is right, failing to do it, then insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.”