What are the Leadership Moments of Your Life?


My wife, Girlie Lorenzo, is the executive director of Kythe.  I would go with her to hospitals as a good husband and because I admire her work.  However, I have a hard time coping with the thought of children with cancer.  As I got to know her work, I developed an appreciation of the graces  Kythe has granted their volunteers.  I saw Kythe as one venue where leaders are formed.

On many occasions, past volunteers of Kythe would visit Girlie at her office to ask for her advice about their careers and life decisions.  More than once,  ‘Kythers’ (Kythe volunteers) would ask for Girlie’s written recommendation for their masters or job applications.  I noticed that these volunteers are all achievers; doing well with their careers.  I also saw that their love for Kythe was something  common in all of them. Finally, I found that they all look at my wife with high regard.  Perhaps these Kythers are endeared to Girlie because she was part of their defining moments.  When Girlie spoke once about it, I found out why.  In her talk, she mentioned how the children in hospitals brought out the best out of Kythers.

Whenever a volunteer would talk to Girlie about their career, I can only imagine the kind of leader they will become.  I see them like the Good Governance Champions and Ethical Leaders I deal with in Kaya Natin.

Because of my exposure to Kythe, I also found myself thinking about how the Kaya Natin Good Governance Champions are formed.  When I engage them, I think, ask, and sometimes speculate about their defining moments.  “Have they gone thru moments similar to what Kythe volunteers have?” I would usually wonder.

Shirlyn Macasarte Villanueva, a board member, and a Kaya Natin Champion in Midsyap, North Cotabato was shot in an ambush on December, 2008. This experience left her with a cane to walk for the rest of her life.  In spite of this, her motto as she would say, “When I serve the people, I serve God.”  I can only imagine the kind of conversation she had with God during her trying times.  After her ordeal, she has deepened her service by establishing SAKLAY that helps many Persons With Disabilities.  When I think about Board Member Shirlyn, I often wonder how she has turned her suffering into something  life-giving to many.

Jun Versoza, Tagudin mayor, and another Kaya Natin Champion from Ilocos Sur was a career officer of the PNP in the seventies.  He is also unbeatable as Mayor of Tagudin.  When I asked him about his leadership secret, he said, “Humility.  The more you are humble, the more people will follow.”  Mayor Jun’s leadership style is ‘anchored on maximum consultation, participation of every constituent and the principle of co-ownership’ as he is described by Tieza Santos in the Kaya Natin stories of champions. When I try to connect this to my usual perception of a PNP officer, I marvel at the irony.  I can only imagine Mayor Jun’s journey.  This 2013 Elections, Mayor Jun Versoza is running for Governor of Ilocos Sur against Chavit Singson.  They are both strongmen but I cannot help but highlight the humility of Mayor Jun in contrast to Chavit Singson.

Among Ed Panlilio served under the social action of his diocese in Pampanga for many years.  He is also very humble.  He is someone who speaks gently yet has a deep dedication and conviction towards his mission.  When I ask him about leadership, he said, “nagsasakripisyo, hindi nagpapamayanan, may isang salita, naninindigan sa tama, mahinahon.”  Among Ed sacrificed his vocation to run for Governor of Pampanga against Lilia Pineda.  He went from a life of security to a life of uncertainty.  When I speculate about his thoughts and considerations, I am humbled by the exercise of his Faith.

Commissioner Grace Padaca, when she would speak for Kaya Natin would say, “Dati exempted ako sa Physical Education when I was in school because polio.  But when I saw the corruption in the province, I decided to run for office dahil ayoko maging exempted in fighting corruption.”  She has said this more than once and every time I hear this, I always speculate about the trials that Commissioner Grace has gone through as a polio victim.  I am inspired to see how she did not use her handicap as an excuse.  I see her as a strong example of a person who has gone beyond herself to serve the country.

In my engagement, I constantly found these leaders continue to be life-givers that seek more about themselves to serve.  They have learned to draw strength from within to serve even in times of crisis.  They draw strength from within more than from external factors.  They are all self-aware and are capable of tapping their core competencies to step up and perform when many would cower.  Finally, I saw they are people who are very ready to sacrifice when they see something good for the country.  How did they become like this?  When they tell their stories in the Kaya Natin gatherings, I saw they went through several leadership moments in their lives.  They responded the same way that ingrained  the nature of sacrifice and leading in there being.  I found that these moments need not have come when they were elected in office.

What are leadership moments?  We need to answer this in order to expand our perspective of leadership beyond being elected or appointed.  We need to see leadership as moments that demand us to step-up.  These are moments when we were shaken and compelled to rethink about our values.  The Kaya Natin Champions are ordinary people who have become extra-ordinary because of a series of leadership moments.  These are people who have allowed those moments to reform who they are into people who can go beyond themselves and their fears to give life to others with skills that they have.

When Girlie spoke about leadership, I finally connected how Kythe was developing people into great men and women.  I would like to include her talk in my article this week so you can see what I see in Kythe.

Kythe’s Passion for Caring

Kythe is a venue where we make change. For years, we have provided volunteer opportunities for students to interact with children who are sick and dying. 

Kythe-Ateneo is a volunteer group wherein they learn about the Kythe Child Life Program. They visit patients in our affiliate hospitals on a weekly basis. A few years ago, they met Juvedeth who had cancer -acute lymphocytic leukemia. She was turning 18. The student-volunteers planned to give her a grand debut celebration. They reserved the Officers Club in AFP Medical Center, prepared her gown, arranged for hair and make-up and they even invited 18 cute guys to give 18 roses. The student-volunteers were very excited until one week before the debut, Juvedeth died. The students were devastated. Their hearts and spirits were broken. During the debriefing they realized there was no other way to ease the grief except to go through it. Ultimately, they found peace in realizing that they were able to give Juvedeth hope and joy, while she was alive. 

College students are in search of identity. During college, it is a time when we  start to discover who  we are and the best of what we can become. This is an excellent time for Kythe to engage the students because we provide leadership moments for our volunteers. When they are faced with a dying patient, who has not much time to live, they are compelled to search within themselves to give joy, to love and to care for the dying children. In a bizarre twist of fate, when the children are at their weakest, close to their dying moments, they are at the most influential, most powerful, grace-giving moment for the volunteers.  It is at these times when the children imbue the spirit of Kythe…the Passion for Caring.

Passion for Caring is simply the search from within to discover the best about yourself to care more. It is what St. Ignatius calls Magis. You know, every time our volunteer is about to meet our Kythe kids, they go through a mental inventory of their skills and strengths, all to ask themselves how can I care more. “Nagiisip sila paano magbigay ng buhos, lubos at ubos.” I think there is wisdom when you choose to journey with the dying because there is a spirit that impels you to suspend your personal interest to search and give all of yourself to care.  This is the leadership moment and practice we provide in Kythe. It is a moment when they are challenged to abandon themselves. It is a leadership practice when they choose to do so; to love the children more than themselves. 

This is probably why many of our volunteers after so many years happily greet me when I bump into them in the malls. I am endeared to them when in actuality, it is Kythe that is endearing. Kythe is part of the best of who they are because during their search for identity, we are with them as they discovered more than what they expected of themselves. 

We have volunteers like Minnie Fong, who was Kythe-Ateneo president in college, then became an executive at Unilever. She became a member of the Kythe Board of Trustees. She is now in Berkley,California studying for her Master’s Degree in Economics. Cla Valencia was also Kythe president. She is now studying at the Ateneo School of Management and Public Health and will specialize in pediatric oncology. Ayie Zerrudo, who was the Secretary-General of Kythe-Ateneo, is now the program director of The Asia Society. All three of them are still in touch with Kythe. 

Passion for caring is the spirit which drives Kythe. Our Kythe Child Life Program is a venue for transformative learning. It is a venue where our volunteers practice Magis. You know, it is ironic that in the Kythe Child Life Program, our volunteers say that as they try to give all of themselves, in the end, they feel that they have received more.  Passion for Caring and the Kythe Child Life Program are the reasons why Kythe lasted for 20 years.  This is how we have become a catalyst for change.  

As I get to know Kythe’s work and I witness leaders in Kaya Natin, I deepened my notion of leadership.  First, I found that great leaders practiced leadership long before they have gotten to where they are.  Second, I found that leadership come from certain moments in our lives.  Finally, I found that leadership must be constantly exercised to be honed.

Have you realized your leadership moments?

Comments are welcome at jesslorenzo@gmail.com or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance. Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership’s public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter

Matino, Mahusay, Tsinelas Leadership

ABS-CBN Opinion Column Week of November 30, 2012

by Jess Lorenzo

It has been over 100 days since the parting of Sec. Jesse Robredo.  We continue to recollect the life he has lived.  Many have stopped looking for answers to understand why Sec. Jesse was a Good Governance icon.  While others, like us, move on to establish handles to create a generative understanding of what he signified.

As Sec. Jesse’s image gradually fades into a memory, we continue to work to glean the lessons of good governance and servant leadership that Sec. Jesse became.  For the past day or so, I have been thinking about words that would remind me of who Sec. Jesse was.

Matino, Mahusay, Tsinelas Leadership.  These are the words that remain in the memory of most that know him.  It became the epitaph of his leadership style that was highlighted in the state funeral granted in his wake.

Matino.

In means what it connotes; sensible.  It is the kind of leadership based on responsible judgment and practical thinking.  By responsible, this means Sec. Jesse’s kind of leadership looks at the need and the greater good of the community.  By responsible, it also means being a good steward, which equates to being accountable to the resources put under his charge.  It also means practical; that is implementing realistic solutions that work on the ground.

The word also captures sobriety as a leader.  It means being clearheaded and calm in times of crisis.  It also means abstinence or someone with self-discipline.

This simplifies the definition of integrity and it cuts across our culture.  It does away with the burden of defining integrity and the different connotations and perspectives that encumber it.  It can also be a verb that is a call to action: Magpakatino ka. Which also means, ‘Be responsible.’

Mahusay.

Mahusay is defined as efficient and effective.  An efficient leader means that resources are maximized and translated to benefit.  Effective, on the other hand, denote results that are consistent to the intended goals.

Mahusay also connotes excellence and skill.  To me, this word brings to mind the image of an athlete who is used to rigorous training that results to sharpened skills.  He or she is a person used to practice and systematic improvement, conscious of indicators such as time, resources and capacity. It connotes result-oriented leaders who base their goals on figures while being keenly aware of their capacity to perform.

Tsinelas.

The word brings more connotation than its literal meaning.  This brings an image of simplicity and sincerity.  It brings to mind a leader who is grounded to the needs of the people much like Mohandas Gandhi or Jesus Christ.

I was also curious at how people I know maintain a handle of how they understand and live these values.  So, I texted some friends and solicited what they feel these words where to them.

Gerry Esquivel, MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System) Administrator said, “Jesse yan diba?  This was from an Ateneo student, ‘The Bigger Arena of Charity is in Government Service.’”  Gerry and his wife Beng have been giving to charity as a big part of their family value and activity.  When I met them, I have always seen them try to give more.  It seems that Gerry has found that the best way to give is to dedicate a big part of yourself in service to the government as Sec. Jesse had.  From his text, it seems that he has already made Sec. Jesse as a standard in giving.

Kaya Natin Champion Sonia Lorenzo said, “Matino is God fearing with right values, Mahusay is competent & with skill to do the job. Tsinelas is compassion for common people.  I feel this is a clear, simplified definition of what an effective leader should be.”

Rose Fausto, author of the book Raising Pinoy Boys texted, “Matino connotes straight, trustworthy, reliable, good morals. Mahusay is more on efficiency and effectiveness, skill, expertise, galing.  Tsinelas connotes something pangmasa.  This kind of leadership connotes good governance that touches the common people, it’s honest leadership that can be understood & felt by the regular ‘Juan’ whereas good governance sounds a bit boardroom level. These terms touch the teleserye hearts of the Pinoys.”

Harvey Keh, a trustee of the Robredo Foundation and lead convenor of Kaya Natin, said, “I feel that this is Sec. Jesse Robredo. These are the words that are now associated with Good Governance & Ethical Leadership.”

Another change-maker and a strong advocate of good governance in Nueva Ecija, Fr. Jeff dela Cruz of the Diocese of Cabanatuan weighed in with this thought, “Para sa akin ito ang pamumuno na naka batay sa katwiran, sapat na kaalaman at hindi iniisip ang pansariling pangangailangan.”

Fr. Bert Alejo, SJ  also gave a good one,

“MATINO: Likas sa kanya ang paggawa ng tama at pag-iwas sa mali, kaya maipagkakatiwala mo sa kanya ang anak mo o ang boto mo. 

MAHUSAY: Nagagawa ang dapat gawin sa paraang pulido, tama sa oras, walang aksaya, malikhain. 

TSINELAS: Nakatapak sa lupa, madaling lapitan ng karaniwang tao, hindi mahirap kausapin, hindi mataas, nakikinig, nandoon agad sa pangangailangan.

Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Jun Abaya also responded and said, “This is what a public servant should be. This should be the basis of electing people into public office.”

One of the Kaya Natin Founders, Among Ed Panlilio contributed, “Matino-ethical, empowering people, nagsasakripisyo, hindi nagpapamayanan, may isang salita, naninindigan sa tama, mahinahon. Mahusay-kasama ng mga tao natutugunan ang mga problema at pangangailangan nila, nakakapagpaabot ng mga basic services na kailangan ng tao, naiaangat ang kalidad ng buhay ng mga tao. Tsinelas-kakayahang abutin ang estilo ng panumuhay ng mga maralita, walang maraming bagahe kaya mabilis na kumilos at tumugon, pwede siyang abutin ng mga payak na tao.”

A friend of mine and his son answered the questions together and came up with these: “The tsinelas guys we know of & admire are Emilio Javier, Jesse Robredo, PNoy; Jose Rizal & Bonifacio.” From their answers, I suppose they tried to understand these values thru real people that they have come to know or have studied.  I also admire that they answered my text as a father and son.

My cousin Precy Perez said it reminds her of our grandfather.  She remembers my grandfather, close to the people, riding a motorcycle around town wearing slippers most of the time.

Another classmate of mine in Cornell, DOF (Department of Finance) Undersecretary, Sunny Sevilla, contributed, “Ang matino, yung gumagawa ng tama dahil iyon ang tama, at wala nang hinahanap pang ibang dahilan para gumawa ng tama.

Ang mahusay, yung sinasagad ang kanyang kakayahan at kaalaman para makamit ang kanyang layunin.

Ang tsinelas leadership, yung pamumuno sa pamamagitan ng gawa. Yung tipong ginagalang at sinusundan dahil sa kanyang sipag at malasakit, hindi dahil sa kayamanan, pinag-aralan, o pusisyon.”

Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca texted: “Matino ay hindi nanlolokoMahusay means he knows what he’s doing and where he’s going.  

Tsinelas connotes being unaffected with power, having absolutely no sense of entitlement”

Kaya Natin Champion, Congressman Bolet Banal responded as well, He said,"Matino at mahusay" reminds me of Sec Jess and of how he was as a government official — ethical yet effective. ‘Tsinelas leadership’ on the other hand reminds me of how Sec Rene Almendras described Sec Jesse’s leadership style, one that closely matched his modest lifestyle. This made him less intimidating and more accessible, traits commonly found in empowering leaders.”

In my Facebook, Rodelle Lavarias and Nap Beltran said it is about nobility in leadership and public service. It means being transparent, accountable, and effective.

Nonito Cabrera, former Kaya Natin team said, it is Sec. Jesse’s legacy.  He did not boast but he simply worked and achieved.

Alexia Anza posted, May paninindigan para sa bayan at matatag na ehemplo ng bawat mamayan.  May pag-ibig sa bayang sinilangan.  Gumagawa ng walang alinlangan na ang nasa isip ay mamayan at hindi pansarili lamang.”

Ceny Gunnacao mentioned that the words connoted empathy and connection to the people that is served… being one with the Filipino who is innately simple & good.

Suzy Roxas, another Facebook friend describes the image of a man in solidarity with street kids.

From the responses, I see that different people seem to have a personal connection with these words.  They create a better illustration of what an ethical leader is; someone who moves with the people to empower towards good governance.  I also notice people setting standards that they seem to also aspire by seeing themselves or loved ones as one like Jesse Robredo.  I also sense others getting a hold of these values thru personalities and people that have made an impression in their life.

However you may see these words, Rose Fausto was right; these better describe the leader that we need than words like Good Governance, Ethical, Empowering, and Integrity.  These terms are too heavy.  Try translating these traits starting with ‘Empowering’ and you will know what I mean.

When we try to literally translate these terms, we end up losing our thoughts and we fail to communicate our sentiment.  Could it be that we have such a limited inventory of Tagalog words that capture the meaning?  Or perhaps we lack the experience that make up the collective memory of what an empowering leader is?

Be that as it may, what seems apparent now is that we have set a new description of the kind of leadership we need and long for.  These words suddenly became the equivalent of good governance, ethical, and empowering leadership that Sec. Jesse Robredo exemplified.  He lived a short life but enough to leave a memory in all of us the type of leader that we need and must strive for.  

Matino, Mahusay, Tsinelas Leadership.

As Amie Hernandez and Marisa Lerias, two of our Kaya Natin Core Group said… It is humble. It is Simply Jesse

If you would like to know more of the life that Sec. Jesse lived. Visit the Jesse Robredo Exhibit at SM Mall of Asia on December 14 to 16.  This is organized by The Robredo Foundation, Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance & Ethical Leadership, Ateneo School of Government, and SM Foundation.

Comments are welcome at jesslorenzo@gmail.com or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership’s public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter


Gov 101

ABS-CBN Opinion Column Week of November 20, 2012

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/blogs/insights/11/20/12/gov-101

by Jess Lorenzo

On November 22, Kaya Natin is launching a booklet as part of our continuing effort to promote good governance and ethical leadership.  This booklet is a joint effort between Kaya Natin Movement, Ateneo School of Government, and Friedrich Naumannn Freedom Foundation to create a digest of the roles of our government officials.  

The digest aims to clarify and create a growing understanding of government leadership roles for responsible voters in order for them to have a way to choose the leaders for their community and the country.

Kaya Natin has decided to release this booklet taking into account capacity as a necessary part of leadership competence.  “We hope to continue Sec. Jesse’s legacy of promoting ‘Matino at Mahusay na pamumuno’”, Wendel Balderas said in a DZBB interview with Joel Zobel.

As Secretary Jesse Robredo said, “Sa Kaya Natin sinasabi nating, kaya mong maging matino at mahusay na pinuno.  At dahil dito, mas marami kang magagawa para sa bayan.” (In Kaya Natin, we always say that we need goodness and competence as a leader.  And because of this, leaders can do more.)

The booklet seeks to empower the voters in how to exact accountability with elected officials.  This will enable us to know exactly what their roles are and what we can ask of them.  As Harvey Keh, lead convenor of Kaya Natin says, “Public office is about public trust…” This booklet hopes to build on that trust by letting voters have a clear standard of how leaders function.  When we say leaders should be good, we will have a basis on what “good” means.

Beyond voter awareness, This is also an entry point for individuals and community organizations to participate properly.  This breaks the long held notion that government is only for elected or appointed officials.  For example, by looking at the page about the Local Health Board and the Local School Board, we can see that as a registered community organization, we have the right to be part of these development and policy making boards in order to see where the money is going and have a hand in doing so.  This booklet sets the entry point for citizens that wish to have a deeper participation in governance and development in their community.

The booklet is less than 100 pages.  It is well laid out with colorful charts and friendly graphics.  The booklet was written to ease the understanding of the readers.   

As we continue to promote good governance and ethical leadership, we seek to find ways to communicate this advocacy.  We have programs that engage leaders to improve public education and public health.  But we also find ways to engage the voters to also be ethical in choosing their leaders.  In Kaya Natin, we have come to believe that we cannot sustain ethical leaders without having ethical voters.  In terms of economic theory, we cannot have any supply of good leaders if the people do not demand them properly.

During our interview yesterday, there were people who were interested.  Joel Zobel asked if we were going to translate it in Filipino so that many more would understand.  During our on air conversation, we found that it would help if we spread a digital copy of the booklet.  In the future, maybe we can have an e-book version or an App that is interactive.  If you have any knowledge in this field, Kaya Natin could really use your help.

For years, we have had a deep desire for good governance leaders.  The ground swell during the death of secretary Jesse Robredo is indicative of this demand.  Since his death, we have had many local leaders eager to join Kaya Natin.  They would stay with us in our seminars and go out of their comfort zones to learn.  However, we need to do our part.  Good governance is something we as citizens need to work for as well.

In the few months since the death of Sec. Jesse, I have seen a mayors and government workers eager to be part of good governance.  Unfortunately, I have also heard from many leaders that their constituents do not care for good governance, there is simply no incentive to work for it.  I have also seen this in my engagement in communities.  “Marami sa ating mamamayan ay antay-government; antay nalang ng antay kung ano ang kanilang makukuha sa nakaupo sa gobyerno.”  Many would just like to leave this to the elected officials.  Few understand the dynamics of good governance and role of the electorate in nurturing good leaders.

If you are not running for any position, are you still willing to work for good governance?  Are you willing to commit a small amount of your time to read less than a hundred pages of text to have an initial understanding of the Philippine Government?… Or are you an Antay-Government?

The crafters of this booklet are student themselves.  They have gone out of their way to study, learn, and digest this material for you.  I would like to commend Jose Miguel Abrillo and Steffi Tady-Idian for leading the team that painstakingly researched this.  Clarissa Ines and Jason Ligot for helping to simplify a design that many would understand.  This is an example of the Kaya Natin Team productivity.

At Kaya Natin, we move towards good governance.  

We enable.  But the question begs to be asked, Are you willing to learn?

Comments are welcome at jesslorenzo@gmail.com or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership’s public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter


The Morning After (Ondoy)

I remember a song while seeing the images of the deluge and loss that ‘Ondoy’ brought.  I tried to recall the lyrics as I searched myself to see what I can do.  It’s an old song by Maureen McGovern and it went this way:

There’s got to be a morning after

If we can hold on through the night

We have a chance to find the sunshine

Let’s keep on lookin’ for the light

Oh, can’t you see the morning after

It’s waiting right outside the storm

Why don’t we cross the bridge together

And find a place that’s safe and warm

The storm has passed and the floods are slowly subsiding, but for thousands of families, the morning after will not come soon.

I received news through Facebook, email, and text that people I know where severely dispossessed by Ondoy.  Ali Figueroa lives in Provident village and he recounts his family’s ordeal in Facebook.  He temporarily stays in La Vista and is thankful no one was hurt in their family.  Another friend, Erwin Lizarondo, who lived near the Manggahan floodway in Pasig, struggled with his 70 year old mom in the second floor surviving on a loaf of bread and peanut butter.  He is among those who are slowly cleaning up their houses while taking stock at what is left.  Marco Flores lived with his family in Cainta and is now temporarily staying in Bacolod while the water subsides.  He light-heartedly said, “Bro, I’m still thankful we are ok and no one was hurt.  Para lang naman na-reformat ang hard drive mo.  May laptop ka pa rin pero lahat ng na trabaho mo nawala.”  My brother Ernie, who lives in Cainta with his family, said, ‘Nawala na lahat, pero naiisip ko, paano nalang kaya yung mga mas wala kaysa sa amin?’  Thousands of others did not fare as well.  Scores are still in refugee areas with children getting sick.  Many of these people are still in the middle of the storm as they still struggle to survive each night.

In Pampanga, the towns of Arayat, San Simon, Guagua, Lubao, Masantol, Macabebe, Bacolor, Mexico, and Candaba were severely hit according to Gov. Ed Panlilio.  A total of 193 barangays were hit by flash floods and the province is in bad need of clothing, construction materials such as GI sheets, canned goods, kitchen utensils, and financial assistance.  In Arayat alone, 370 families or 2,000 persons are without homes due to a landslide.

In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane Katrina hit the United States leaving 1,836 dead, 300,000 people homeless, and causing a total of $81.2 billion USD in damage; In New Orleans, Louisiana, the hardest hit, 80% of the city was submerged.  Recovery efforts are still ongoing.  In 2009 alone, the US federal government, through FEMA, spent $895 million USD in aid and reconstruction - $404 million in Education, $130.2 in Public works, $49.7m in Public Safety, $54.5m in Health care, $217m for Public Infrastructures, and $40.2 in Emergency Protective Measures.  On top of this, several civic groups such as Build Now, Habitat For Humanity, Southern Baptist Convention, and Catholic Charities, just to name a few, worked hand in hand with FEMA.  In spite of all these efforts, the road to recovery is still a long way.

As of September 29, Ondoy has brought 240 deaths with many still missing.  It has driven 374,890 people to evacuation centers and caused a still- un-estimated property damage.  There is no doubt that the recovery period will be long most especially because our government structures can barely cope with the recovery effort.

(From Sun Star)

Last Sunday evening, September 27, Pres. Arroyo visited the municipality of Arayat to personally condole with the families and relatives of the 12 persons who died in a landslide as a result of strong rains brought by tropical storm Ondoy.

The President, together with Presidential Assistant for Central Luzon Lorelei Fajardo and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales and other local officials, went to the wake of the victims at St. John Chapel in barangay San Juan Banyo to extend her deep sympathies as well as financial assistance to the relatives of the landslide victims.

Banyo Barangay chairman Jesus delos Santos said P15,000 cash assistance, P10,000 from the President’s Social Fund and P5,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, each were given to the victims’ families.

This amount, (approximately 370 families x P15,000 or P5.50m in total) is small.  An yet it took the president to go there herself to offer this amount to the victims in Arayat.  How about in the coming weeks and months and the succeeding needs that these families need to recover?  It seems that the government is not prepared to handle the long recovery.

So far, there is an overwhelming response from many people to help in the other areas in Manila hit by Ondoy.  Many volunteers are trooping to relief operation centers to lend their time, talent, and treasure to help.  As of yesterday, ABS-CBN broke the P30million level in donations.  Other large initiatives lead by Ateneo and Gawad Kalinga has also created a lot of help.

But we need to consider responding beyond this period of relief efforts.  After the floods subside and the telltale signs of Ondoy are removed, the recovery period starts.  I am wondering if we can respond to this as well as we have now.

During these times of relief, I have contacted friends and family members to run 10/10.  Basically, I asked my friends to call 10 people within 10 days to ask for pledges.  At the same time, I asked some family members to make quantifiable sacrifices every day for 10 days to give directly to the relief centers.  So far, we have a few sacks of rice, clothes, and a few thousand pesos donated through Ateneo.

In trying to respond to the recovery I realize we need more than this.  When I was volunteering in Gawad Kalinga in 2004, I remember the efforts that were made in Dingalan, Aurora.  In that storm, hundreds of people died and about 900 families where rendered homeless in Dingalan and Gabaldon alone.  A few weeks after the storm, the relief subsided just like the mud and the floods have.  Gawad Kalinga sustained its efforts over the coming weeks and months which put up about 270 houses in the area.  During that time, the volunteers dedicated their efforts for a sustained period beyond relief.

But in order to do this, I found that we need to be aware of ourselves and our behavior.  We need to understand how much of ourselves we can dedicate to this cause of recovery.  If I can somehow convert that 10 days of sacrifice into 10 weeks or perhaps 10 months and quantify how much I will give, I will slowly understand how much of myself I am committing over a longer period.

We need to find small sustainable efforts to dedicate to this recovery.  If we can somehow convert 3-o’clock habits into 3-peso life giving habits for a few years to this cause, we can convert this energy into a sustained initiative.  Obviously, we cannot linger in relief centers for prolonged periods of time.  Realistically, many of us have work to go back to.  Some have campaigns to resume.  And others have places to go.  But we need to ask ourselves, ‘How much of myself do I leave behind in this effort?’  ‘How much of the need to I keep and carry with me?’

The song ends…

And we’ll escape the darkness

We won’t be searching anymore.

There’s got to be a morning after

There’s got to be a morning after… (Repeat & fade)

Just like Erwin, Ali, and the others who have lost much in this, we also need to take stock and see what we will dedicate to ourselves and what we will offer to others.  If we can somehow develop a growing awareness of how much we give to those who have lost, most especially the poor, maybe we can carry this habit to the other areas of the country’s need.  When this happens, we integrate the needs of the country into the things we value.  This way we may not need Ondoys’ to make us respond.  We will solve many of the problems that make this deluge worse for the poor.  And maybe, for some of us, when we become leaders ourselves, we won’t need to give up a “two-month” salary or give P15,000 pesos just to say that we gave.

Let’s put our hands out in time.


RH Bill? Are you for or Against it?

by Jess Lorenzo





The RH bill is now in the high priority list of congress and soon the representatives will be forced to decide on the issue.  As of now, the battle lines are slowly being drawn as the arguments are rehashed.  I’m an advocate of good governance in public health.  We run initiatives in different areas and it is not new to me when people ask my opinion about the RH Bill.  “Are you for or against?”, they would usually ask.

I have always evaded the question because I know debates almost end up nowhere.  The conflicting values are deep-set.  However, I also realized that by staying in the middle, I am not contributing to the country to be able to move forward beyond this impasse.  I have read previous versions of House Bill 4244.  I have also read Senate Bill 2378.  Both are similar in that they cite maternal mortality as a primary basis for the law.  While HB 4244 merely hints about teenage pregnancies, SB2378 explicitly states the need to mitigate high teenage pregnancy rates.  Finally, HB4244 explicitly includes Population Development while SB2378 does not.  

In order to have a handle on the Pro-RH Argument, and without over simplifying the rational of the proposal, it is okay to consider that the primary reason for the bill is birth deaths and over population.

On the other hand, the Anti-RH Argument primarily focuses on morality and the values of the Catholic Church.

During MY consideration, I had to sadly dismiss the argument of the Church that RH is a moral issue.  I believe that putting this forth as the highest moral degradation in the country is inaccurate and being selective.  I believe that if morality is the lens at which I am to argue, I would also need to argue against corruption with the same zeal - if not more.  This inconsistency created double standards that occlude any sense of moral priority that the Church has.  The Church’s lack of consistency in communicating and addressing moral issues and priorities regrettably diminished their ascendency in this particular matter.

Never-the-less, I cannot easily dismiss the catholic values in which my faith was founded and strongly anchored.  For this reason, the values I hold serve as counterweight against the RH Bill.  I delved into this and studied the RH Bill with a negative perspective against it.  I needed to see a counter value for me to seriously consider endorsing this publicly and with my friends.  It is something that threatens part of my identity and at some length, what it means to be a Filipino.

As I studied the RH bill, and as I immersed myself in public health development and maternal health development, I saw the counter-weighing value against what I held.

The question that stretches the social consciousness of the country is not a moral issue but an ethical dilemma.  On one side is my Catholic value which I hold dear and on the other side is the genuine need to address a public health issue.

This ethical dilemma is enough motivation for me to take time to read and re-read this policy proposal.  At the very least, I found, thru my reading and a few years of exposure in public health, that it would be unethical if I am dismissive of the RH Bill.

I found that the rational for the RH Bill justifies a measure to address maternal health development.  Deaths due to complicated pregnancy is very high and teenage pregnancy is also high.  I believe that simply going against the bill without an alternative to address the maternal health issues in the country is irresponsible.

But there is also a fundamental flaw in the the way the bill is presented.  Let me sight the two issues about the RH bill  that leaves a doubt in my mind.

First, the policy rationalizes maternal health needs as a primary reason for the bill.  As it does, it pushes reproductive health.

By framing the need to address maternal health with a reproductive health bill, the authors of the bill have pushed population control as a twin sister in pushing for maternal health development.  Consequently, any efforts that rationalize the improvement of maternal health delivery, like birthing,  pre-natal check-ups will be questioned because of the controversial reproductive-health-twin-sister.

In my view, I believe that maternal health must be pushed separately from reproductive health.  In my experience managing public health programs, the need for improved public and private maternal health facilities and services must be prioritized with or without the RH Bill.  Though some issues in reproductive health is intertwined with woman’s health, maternal care need to be approached separately from population control/development.  If the framers were more sensitive to the Filipino culture, they would know better to separate the policies to give maternal health development a lead start at addressing the issues.  

But I can only speculate that they packaged the two issues together because reproductive health initiatives are next to impossible to pass in our country.

In the US, they have a policy that addresses preventative care for as many as 47 million women.  In this law, which is a big part of Obama’s signature health care program, private health care polices must cover yearly checkups of women with no “out-of-pocket” costs.  This coverage include: Pre-natal care, breast exams, cancer screening, diabetes screening, and domestic violence screening.  Under Obama’s health policy they will also cover breast feeding supplies as well as contraception.  The contraceptive coverage provoked a political fight with the religious groups and conservatives.  This issue is very important as employers renew policies.  So far their proposed solution is to offer a waiver to religious employers to exclude contraceptive coverage.  Just today, House Republicans argued that the federal government has gone too far with this policy.  New York Representative Ann Buerkle said, “This is not about woman’s health.  This is the largest assault on our first amendment rights which is religious freedom.”  Because of this, women who need the other benefits besides contraceptives will have to wait a little while longer as the US Congress sort this out.  

This is their version of the RH Bill.

Second.  House Bill 4244 indicates under provision 10 that:

There shall be no demographic or population targets and the mitigation of the population growth rate is incidental to the promotion of reproductive health and sustainable human development. 

However, the title of the bill is “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011.”  

In my opinion, this indicates that the framers seek to skirt the issue of population control yet is compelled to frame a policy that it is because of the title. This inconsistency diminishes the intent of the law.  Is this for population development and control or for maternal health development?  The strongest argument of the RH Bill is the need for maternal health development but much of the content focuses on reproductive health and population development.  If I were to look at this with a good governance perspective, I will have to ask these questions in order to later determine how resources will be allocated.  How much funding would contraceptives have?  How much money would be allocated to birthing facilities and strengthening pre-natal care?

Which now brings me back to the question: “Am I for RH or Not?”

In spite of all these questions and doubts about the RH Bill, I need to ask myself an alternative if I am oppose it.  Imperfect as it is, it is still an effort to address the need in the country.

I will support the RH Bill in the absence of any alternative policy.

The good governance practice here is the journey thru the ethical dilemma to value my faith while I own the problem of maternal health development.

In supporting the RH Bill I needed to ask myself. Do I know the issues?  Am I part of it?  How can I help?  What values do I see and put more consideration on?

I think the RH Bill is not yet the answer to the questions that stretch our understanding.  The debate between our faith and the answers to problems around us will linger.  I think the RH Bill is a just a start of something which will evolve and become better as we continue to engage.

As a footnote and an ending to my opinion, let me share to you the origin of the partnership of a Kaya Natin initiative in District 3, Quezon City.

The program is a public health development effort in partnership with Congressman Bolet Banal, the Parish of Sta. Maria dela Strada in Katipunan Avenue, Kaya Natin, and Merck, Sharp, and Dohme (MSD).

It started with a dialogue regarding the RH Bill in 2010.  Cong Bolet was for the bill while the parish was not.  They did not agree on the RH Bill but they agreed to address the problems in the community and improve maternal health care.

Now, the program is called HEALTH LEADERS FOR MOTHERS or HL4M.  This program seeks to improve maternal health access for mothers in selected barangays in Quezon City.  There have been almost 2,000 pregnant women that benefited from this program in just two years.  By the end of 2014, we expect to reach 6,000 women.  

This year, Sta. Maria dela Strada, thru the SINAG Movement is putting up a community managed lying-in facility to cater to the mid-wives and the mothers to promote birthing in maternal facilities.

Do I support the RH Bill? 

Yes, I do.

But more important than supporting it, I have taken concrete actions to respond.

How do you respond to the question?

(If you wish to know more about this program watch the YouTube video, search HL4M in You Tube or visit: http://youtu.be/kgLMBJKJ3Xk , You can also search for “Health Leaders for Mothers” in Google)

Comments are welcome at jesslorenzo@gmail.com or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership’s public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter


Kaya Natin’s view of PNoy’s SONA: Good Governance means Good Services

PNoy’s speech elicited so much ovation from the gallery not so much for the delivery that most expect out of a State of the Nation Address but more for the overwhelming achievements that his administration has done in just over 2 years.  As Raissa Robles said on her Facebook, “So far, Pres. Aquino’s speech is boring. But I would rather have boring than corrupt.”  Some agreed.  PNoy was simply direct about what he and his administration has done.  The message was simple.  We are doing well because of good governance.

PNoy’s report was abundant with clear and concise figures.   30,801 midwives and nurses are deployed in barangays. 1.672 million maternal checkups. 1.6million children vaccinated against polio and measles.  Dengue reduced by 97% in some areas and programs are now working well because mosquito traps reach the many barangays in need.

In education, overall spending has increased.  State Universities and Colleges got increased endowments.  66,800 classrooms will be done by next year. The desk shortages will be addressed by the end of 2012.  “Ang minana po nating 2,573,212 na backlog sa upuan, tuluyan na rin nating matutugunan bago matapos ang 2012,” according to PNoy.

Over 2,200 km of roads will be repaired and completed by the end of 2012.  This is a big hump off the 7,239km backlog that have accumulated over the years.  And the clincher: all these roads are done without increase in taxes. “Dati, panay ang ‘hoy, gising!’ sa gobyerno, bakit wala daw kasing ginagawa. Ngayon ang reklamo, ‘sobra namang trapik, ang dami kasing ginagawa.’  Paalala lang din po: naisasaayos na natin ang mga kalsadang ito nang hindi nagtataas ng buwis,” PNoy emphasized to the delight of the audience.

“Dahil maayos ang paggugol ng gobyerno, walang tagas sa sistema. Dahil maayos ang pangkolekta ng buwis, lumalago ang kaban ng bayan. Bawat pisong nakokolekta, tiyak ang pupuntahan: Piso itong diretso sa kalsada, piso para sa bakuna, piso para sa classroom at upuan, piso para sa ating kinabukasan,” PNoy continued to explain.

The SONA was none other than a clear finger post in the road of ‘Daang Matuwid’.  It is an affirmation that good governance is working because resources are now starting to reach the ground.  Arguably, there is so much more need and backlog to respond to but the figures that the president showed indicated that we are on our way to recovery.  We now have the highest GDP growth in Asia and we are now a country lender in the international community.  In so many words and between the celebration of the achievements, PNoy simply said, The GOOD GOVERNANCE initiatives that the government pushed for translated to GOOD SERVICES.

This is part of what Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance & Ethical Leadership does thru its programs.  

Just this past weekend, Kaya Natin, in partnership with SeaOil just completed the 3rd phase of the Luzon leg for the KN Champions for Good Governance and Public Education.  This is an innovative engagement put together by Mark Yu of SeaOil, Harvey Keh, Marisa Lerias, Krz Lopez and Ginny Villareal of Kaya Natin.  Since last year, Kaya Natin and SeaOil have engaged over 90 LGU’s and mayors for this development initiative.  The objective of the program is to engage the local government chiefs in order to initiate programs for public education reform.  A big part in achieving this is the improvement and expansion of their local school boards (LSB) thru innovative means.  In this program, the participants are ushered to LSB development by being exposed to good practices and examples that have worked in other areas.  These practices range from participative planning, needs identification, understanding simple measures of performance, developing effective initiatives all to improve basic public education.  Towards the last part of the program, the mayors are introduced to public-private-social enterprise models and examples in order to bring creativity in promoting good governance.  At the final part of the long engagement, they are asked to put together plans which are competitively judged and funded based on specific criteria.  The programs must address increase in National Achievement Test Scores or Increase in Completion Rate.  These program initiatives will be judged based on innovativeness, feasibility, sustainability, and value creation.

During the closing forum, they discussed the desire for continuing the engagement.  In this venue, I saw that KN was able to provide a creative environment where the desire for good governance was raised with the participants. One of the participants, Councillor Lugie of Olongapo city said, “One of the good part about this program is the camaraderie we have. And in this friendship, we strive to keep the Kaya Natin Spirit as we struggle and win in politics.”  In the context of this discussion, I would think that they now have the desire to depart from traditional practices of school paintings, paving walkways, and basketball leagues as they are immersed in innovative good governance practices.

In District 3 Quezon City, Kaya Natin, in partnership with Congressman Bolet Banal facilitated a civic group led health initiative to engage the barangays towards improving maternal health.  Quezon City is the biggest city in the country in terms of population.  Over the years, the City Health Office have been initiating programs.  Unfortunately, these programs become fragmented in the barangays.  City paid health workers and Barangay employed health workers are uncoordinated.  As much as the city tries its best to implement programs, they are short handed in effectively addressing the issues on the ground.

Kaya Natin, positioned itself right here in this gap.  

The development initiative began when a group from the Sta. Maria dela Strada Parish wanted to go beyond campaigning for PNoy.  Kaya Natin, facilitated a plan with the community which gave rise to SINAG Movement who have chartered themselves towards initiatives in Good Governance and Poverty Alleviation focused on Pansol and the surrounding areas in District 3, Quezon City.

SINAG’s engagement with Cong. Bolet started off with a dialogue on RH Bill facilitated by Kaya Natin.  They did not reach an agreement but they decided to carry on and improve maternal health access in the area.  They started with raising funds and enrolling mothers in PhilHealth but later expanded towards strengthening front-line leaders towards better maternal health service in the Barangays.  Kaya Natin soon partnered with MSD and a program called HL4M or HEALTH LEADERS FOR MOTHERS is born.  This program was put together by Mike Alzona, myself, Cong. Bolet Banal, Floy Aguenza, Boy Nazareno, and the the board of SINAG.  Our goal is to strengthen community leaders to improve maternal health.  Last year, the group was able to enroll 400 pregnant women in PhilHealth.  This year, they have already profiled over a thousand pregnant women and have provided pre-natal checkups to over 600 mothers.  SINAG consistently runs a weekly checkup at the SINAG Center which is located at the Balara Filters, provided by MWSS Chair Gerry Esquivel.

Recently, Kaya Natin, Cong. Bolet and the group has expanded the program to engage the 7 Barangays, Loyola, Old Balara, Pansol, Escopa 1 to 4, in cooperation with the City Health office and the Ateneo School of Government.  The goal remains the same but KN plans to target 6,000 mothers by 2014.  While Kaya Natin is doing this, they are engaging the Barangays to increase the number of health workers and train them towards improved maternal services.  On August 4, KN is running a community health leaders congress in Ateneo Grade School to empower community workers towards the HL4M objective.  At the same time, Kaya Natin is also putting together a workshop for City Health leaders to improve their technical writing skills.

In this initiative, KN has discovered and confirmed that there is a big room for Public-private partnership in Health Development.  This exercise highlights Cong. Bolet’s participative approach in strengthening civic groups to help address the community needs.  Furthermore, KN continues to achieve public accountability by encouraging and guiding empowered civic groups to engage the barangay in order to deepen understanding.  “Hindi pwede ang matuos lamang sa gobyerno. Kailangan nating unawain ang pangunahing pangangailangan ng komunidad upang mapatupad ng mga lider ang kanilang pangako sa bayan,” according to Mixie Rivera a KN program manager.

By September, 2012, Kaya Natin, in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, will be releasing the Governance 101 book that is a voter’s guide to the roles of the elected officials.  This is another effort in deepening our understanding of governance and increasing public accountability.

KN has also facilitated another Public Health Policy development program.  Kaya Natin Champion, Senator TG Guingona, has also started working on Good Governance in Public Health.  Sen. TG has piloted the initiative in the City of Naga, in Cebu to engage the local government to improve the Local Health Board (LHB).  This engagement, in partnership with the Ateneo School of Government and Kaya Natin was able to facilitate a local health plan for the city at the same time increase their PhilHealth enrollment.  Last June, 29, Mayor Chiong and the council ratified this plan together with a 10,000 PhilHealth enrollment for the city.  In the coming months, this initiative will also include programs that engage and enhance the BHW’s as part of the effort to professionalize front line health workers.

As PNoy leads the country in ‘Daang Matuwid’, Kaya Natin echoes his words by engaging local government heads to improve basic services.  Kaya Natin continues to translate Good Governance and Ethical Leadership by creating venues for leaders.

Marisa Lerias, one of the KN Core group members said, “In the discussion with the Mayors during the KN-SeaOil forum, KN has apparently become a strong brand that the public officials want to be associated with.”  

Kaya Natin, because of the champions, have successfully increased the value to good governance to elected officials.  Many want to be co-branded with Kaya Natin as practitioners of Good Governance & Ethical Leadership.  KN’s challenge is to continue to translate this demand into ways to engage elected officials and enable them to have and sustain good governance practices.  The demand for the KN brand only says one thing… The demand for good governance is there.

Having this kind of president who fights for ‘Daang Matuwid’ is perfect timing.

PNoy’s SONA is certainly an affirmation to Kaya Natin’s effort to pursue and translate good governance to the ground.

We need to cultivate and build the good governance constituency and sustain the change.  We need your help.

KAYA NATIN!

This SONA ends up to be exciting after all.

Comments are welcome at jesslorenzo@gmail.com or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership’s public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter

Faith & Patriotism

Faith & Patriotism

This past week, we celebrated Independence day.  And just like every year, we momentarily celebrate our love for our country.  For most it will just be a day-off and a traffic-free Edsa.  Apart from June 12, these are the other days we celebrate our love for our country:

August 21 : Ninoy Aquino Day

Last Monday of August: National Heroes Day

November 30: Bonifacio Day

December 30: Rizal Day

February 25: Edsa People Power Day 

By Contrast, our religious holidays are:

1st week of April: Holy week, Holidays on Maundy Thursday & Good Friday

November 1 & 2: All Souls Day & All Saints Day

December 25: Christmas day

Year Round: City, Municipal, & Barangay Fiesta

The religious holidays are well celebrated.  In all cases, we find ourselves participants in realizing the spirit of the celebration.  We go to churches and even attend recollections during Holy week.  We go to the cemetery to connect our faith with our loved ones during November.  We fall in long lines to spend and buy gifts for Christmas.  During Fiesta’s we prepare feasts.  In some cases, people would even borrow money to make sure there is a lot of food during this festive season.  From these faith celebrations, are famous feast days such as Peñafrancia of Naga, Pahiyas of Lucban, Sinulog of Cebu, Kadayawan of Davao, and so on.

In all of these events, we can see personal stake and involvement that have made these celebrations pillars of our culture and identity as a Filipino.

Unfortunately, we do not have much venues to celebrate heroism.  Edsa People Power day (Feb 25) is hardly felt outside Metro Manila.  There is no widely known venue where a person can participate in any of the other heroic holidays.  Because of this, we are left with little opportunity and an unfulfilled desire for heroism.  

This is probably why we are passionate about Jessica Sanchez and Manny Paquicao winning and shining for the world to see.  Edsa becomes abandoned during Paquiao fights.  All of us, down to the farthest barangay can connect to Jessica.  The entire country felt her loss in American Idol.  Similarly, we are also shocked by the loss of Manny that some are protesting - very much immersed and involved.  It was as if our national pride and identity is slightly diminished by Bradley’s win.

Could it be that we are all drawn in by people like Jessica Sanchez or Many Paquiao because we are in search for heroes and patriots?  This is not necessarily bad but we cannot rely on Jessica and Many to uphold our pride as a country.  If we always need a world champion, we will have an external perspective of what makes us proud.

We have developed an external view of heroism because we lack the venues and opportunity to exercise and slowly appreciate patriotism or love for country in ourselves, our family, and our friends.  We lack the opportunities to enable us to be proud of ourselves and see the heroism in us and those we care for.  This is the foundation of patriotism - when we and those we care for start to have a stake in how this country is defined.

When was the last time you volunteered to serve during Independence Day, Bonifacio Day, or Rizal Day?  Are you one of those that just go somewhere for vacation during those days?

At Kayan Natin, I noticed that our following is rooted in two things.  First, People follow us because of the champions in good governance; what they do and what they signify.

Second, there are people that follow us and invest in us because they find that we create a venue where they become part of an effort towards good governance.

Mark Yu, the Chief Operating Officer of SeaOil, Inc., in a talk he shared with 15 mayors last weekend disclosed why they are partnering with us to engage local government leaders.  ‘We want to create a healthy relationship with mayors because we do not want to bribe to get permits.  And the best way to do this is to help them in their need as leaders.  If we help them become better mayors, we are developing a healthy relationship with them.  We are helping them become better leaders and we are also helping build this country.’ (Paraphrased), Mark said.  Just this year, Kaya Natin and SeaOil partnered to engage 92 mayors to improve their Local School Board to develop public education. 

Girlie Garcia-Lorenzo, my wife, is the executive director of Kythe.  It as an organization that helps children and their families with cancer in public hospitals.  She attributes their 20 year existence to their volunteers.  Girlie said, “For twenty years, we have enabled volunteers to discover more about themselves in giving joy to a dying child. …and many of our volunteers become passionate in what they do.”  Lately, Girlie talks about Passion for Caring. “It is a program where we engage the hospital professionals to help them care for the children better,” Girlie said.  By end of this month, Kythe will be inviting all of their partners and other corporations in an effort to celebrate the gains they see in deepening corporate social responsibility.  “There is just so many sick children in need and we need more partners to help,” Girlie emphasized.

While I was volunteering with Gawad Kalinga (GK), I saw how individual heroism and love for country is celebrated thru meaningful and relevant participation.  By volunteering to build houses, I found myself concretely fighting poverty which became my own expression and discovery of patriotism.  For a while, GK was a place where I found myself relevant in making a difference for the future generations.  It was a place I saw how I needed to reconcile my capacity in relation to the need I see.  By that, it became a framework in developing patriotism.  Today, GK continues to engage many people.

We need more venues where we can exercise and develop patriotism as we have our faith.  Each time we sacrifice to go to mass, go on retreats, or give to the church, this becomes part of a growing understanding of our faith and how it defines us; our relationship with God and how we see ourselves - our identity.  Can you imagine if we have the same opportunity to nurture our sense of patriotism?  If we can somehow realize our love for our country in our search for identity, we will also discover our own heroic nature

We have the capacity to love our country as much as we love God but we need to have a way to own our patriotism just as we have grown to own our faith.  These are venues where we make small sacrifices for our faith that serve as formative and learning environments; moments we have invested to develop the integrity of our love for God into our culture.  We need to invest in similar opportunities to develop our love for our country.  The way we nurture our faith is the same way we need to nurture our patriotism - small, consistent sacrifices that become part of who we are.

Do you have your Kythe, Gawad Kalinga, Kaya Natin, or other venues that let you sacrifice to address a need?  Do you nurture these sacrifices and continue to invest in them?  Do you see your efforts become part of who you are?

Until you can positively answer these questions, you will remain in search of heroes.  Every now and then a Jessica Sanchez or a Manny Pacquiao will come along and help make you proud of our country.  But as they go you will be left wanting and searching for another hero.

As Jessica’s favorite singer said:

There’s an answer,

If you reach into your soul,

And the sorrow that you know will melt away.

God colors my world.

There is a certain spirituality in loving my country. I see we need to develop a perspective that enables me to dwell beyond the problems and issues I see. I found that I need to see the potential and strive to realize the greatness i see.
This is how i nurture patriotism.

Moving towards good governance


This is a picture taken a few years back in my home town.