20 February 2017
Message at the Launch of Istorya ng Pag-Asa CDO, Little Theater, Xavier University
Thank you all for your presence in the launch of Istorya ng Pag-Asa, a program that we feel is an important way of changing the narrative of our country.
I am happy to see local government leaders, students, paralegal training groups, differently abled groups, business groups, and gender empowerment groups come together to launch this movement. And of course, Xavier University officials. Maraming salamat po!
Hope is a powerful thing. It lives very intimately with many other homegrown values of the ordinary Filipino. Courage. Grit and determination. Pride in hard and honest work. Pride in a life lived simply.
Last week, I was invited to a Youth Forum called “Let’s Change The Conversation”.
Youth groups in that forum told me that many of them have been feeling beaten and depressed by all the negativity around them and they wanted to do something about it.
Do you feel the same way? Are you somehow lost in all the hatred around you? Has hope become difficult to come by?
They say that darkness is the mere absence of light. If that is so, then it is up to us to fight this darkness by surrounding our society with our own light.
Light then comes from ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Light that can come from every street corner and every pathway.
Light that comes from within, rather than from the trappings of power, fame, or fortune.
Light that comes from all of us.
When we do so, we can change the conversation and build our nation with hope that transcends gender, social status, political party, religion or region, or business affiliation.
Istorya ng Paga-Asa is born out of this need to change the national conversation. We want to bring extraordinary stories of ordinary people to every nook and cranny of our country, to every school and City Hall, to every mall, airport, and bus station. We want our people to know that they, too, can be a source of hope.
Consider some of the stories we have already chosen. That of Hidilyn Diaz, known for her humble beginnings and her struggle in being a weightlifter representing the Philippines.
She used to train with metal pipes and cans filled with cement on each end. She had no money, but she had lots of determination. In the end, the nation was transfixed as her small body carried not just the weight of metals but also the pride of her nation.
Then there’s Fe Carranza, a woman whose leg was afflicted by polio when she was young. I saw her once while walking to Naga City Hall, back when Jesse was still Mayor.
Fe was then trying to start her service tricycle with her good leg, meaning she had to twist her body around facing the rear so she can use her normal left leg to push the right-sided pedal.
Fe did not let her disability stop her from starting a small business delivering food to those who worked in City Hall and other offices across Naga City. I was thunderstruck.
What strength she lacked in her right leg, her big heart and oversized courage made up for – many times over.
I had the chance to interview Fe as president of the Naga City Council of Women at that time. She told me how she first tried her hand in business by selling vegetables in a private market in Navotas.
When that business strained her relationship with her husband, she dropped it and went back to the province. By some stroke of luck, some college students in Infanta, Quezon sought shelter in her house when they got caught in a typhoon and cooked tofu while waiting for the storm to pass. That was how she first learned the skill that would her change her life. Watch this video to listen to her story.
You would also be amazed by the story of Nanay Lorna, who has a sari-sari store in Quezon City where she sells turon and banana cue. Despite being a widowed mother, she struggled day by day to send her children to school and by sheer determination and strength as a mother, brought them up to value excellence and hard work.
One of her children is now a lawyer, one is a teacher, the other one is a nurse, and the last one is an Intarmed UP student. In short, si Nanay Lorna, nanlaban sa buhay; nagtagumpay! Here she is in a short video.
I would also like to introduce you to Alexander, known as the dancing traffic enforcer in Eastwood, Quezon City.
He broke up with his girlfriend, but instead of losing hope, he used dancing to do his work with excellence. I am happy to announce that he has since reconciled with his girlfriend and they now have two children.
Nagmahal, nabigo, sumayaw, at nagmahal ulit!
Last, but definitely not the least, is the story of Rusty Quintana, who I believe is with us today. He graduated from XU here in CDO, with a bachelor’s degree in Development Communication.
What’s amazing about him is that he was a former street kid, exposed to drugs and crime at a young age, but swam against all adversity. We can say: from durugista to Atenista? Truly, we can find hope anywhere!
Ladies and gentlemen, hope is the only thing stronger than fear. We need more of it to counter the negativity in this era of post-truth, fake news, trolls, and alternative facts.
We need more of it to nourish our sense of dignity as a nation, to build our people’s trust in liberty and freedom, and to fight for truth in an age of lies.
We can choose light over darkness.
We can have hope in the midst of hopelessness.
But we cannot wait for hope to find us. We need to find it ourselves, and give it a place to stay in our hearts and our minds.
We need to feed it with extraordinary stories of ordinary people around us. And we need to tell stories of hope to our people, wherever they are.
Thank you all for coming.
Keep your eyes open to find stories of hope around you.
You may be surprised by what you will see.
Let’s turn this into a movement that will change our nation!