POSTSCRIPT / January 2, 2011 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Filipinos optimistic at start of new year

CLARK FIELD  Right on cue, the usual survey firm tells the nation just before President Aquino was to deliver an inspirational New Year’s message, that nine out of every 10 Filipinos are optimistic and presumably grateful to his administration.

Nobody quarrels with optimism. What we are wary about is its lulling effect on the lazy and the unimaginative.

Like faith and hope, optimism is good. But it is not enough. Like faith needing works to gain deliverance for the believer, optimism must be coupled with hard work to improve one’s quality of life.

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TABLE SURVEY: At this time of year, especially when a new leader is at the helm, Filipinos are generally optimistic. They have to be. They lose nothing, but stand to gain something, by facing the immediate future with boundless buoyancy.

The fatalistic Filipino entrusts his fate, not really to a new president, but to a merciful benevolent God. Bahala na. May awa ang Diyos.

In fact, if I were the one assigned by the survey company to do a yearend table survey (no field work, just pen and paper and lots of imagination), I would put down 88 percent of Filipinos as being optimistic about what the new year may bring.

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JUST SITTING, WAITING: Our neighbors, including Vietnam still licking its war wounds as it chases investors, are leaving us behind in comparative economic development. We really have to go cracking, and do it fast.

After President Aquino’s six-month OJT (on-the-job training) was capped with just a routine Christmas message, we started to look around for clues on what was coming next, if any.

We now wonder if we would spend the next six months just watching him quarrel with the Supreme Court and keep barking at the shadow of Gloria Arroyo.

Will the administration’s main economic activities this year be (1) the counting of remittances of overseas Filipinos and (2) the tugging at investors who had missed the bus to neighboring countries to settle for the Philippines as a second-choice location for their business?

As Mr. Aquino tilts at windmills, do we sit in the shade waiting for an April shower to bring us economic relief?

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BASIC TASKS: Like others hanging on the President’s promise of change, I have been waiting for him to tell us three basic things: (1) exactly where he wants this nation to go, (2) the route he wants us to take, and (3) and how he intends to lead us to our destination.

Defining this vision should not be too difficult for his strategic communicators, backed by their stable of geniuses in the private media, to translate into a work plan.

The expectant nation will appreciate the President’s telling us coherently how he intends to prosecute crooks in government, create gainful employment, raise incomes, produce affordable food, build low-cost dwellings and put decent clothes on our backs.

This wholistic plan should have been discussed during the last presidential campaign and later in his first State of the Nation Address, but it seems both reference points were neglected.

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ROAD MAP: The President’s 1-2-3 master plan should be so simplified that a farmer, a clerk, a student, a housewife and plain folk would recognize it as the road map prepared for them as they cross the desert.

Showing us such a map, with kilometer posts, is better than distracting the population with the spectacle of their President — still in the fighting mode of the last election campaign — quarreling with those who do not think like him.

Somebody should tell Mr. Aquino that the elections are over and that he is now the president. His focus should be uniting and rebuilding this nation threatened by very aggressive neighbors.

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CITYHOOD: Pardon my digressing to a local issue – this outrageous plan to transform our hometown of Mabalacat into a city by legislative fiat. Wow!

When I take Manila friends to Mabalacat, usually on our way to Clark Field or Subic Bay, and I tell them my humble town will soon be a city, they start laughing.

In fact, the first time they saw that welcome arch proclaiming the town as the “industrial capital” of Pampanga, they thought it was a joke.

I understand my friends’ incredulity at the grand plan of Mayor Boking Morales. He and his supporters in Congress have data on area, population and income pointing to our town’s satisfying the legal criteria for cityhood.

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WHY CLARK?: Still I will be embarrassed no end referring to Mabalacat as a city.

The main reason is that, as a drive-through will show, this modest town does not look and feel like a city regardless of its area, population and income. Those are dead physical attributes.

Cityhood is in the soul of the place and its people – not in the statistics.

Then there is the preposterous idea of renaming it Mabalacat-Clark City. Not only is that name too long, it is also a misrepresentation.

While it is true that more than half of Clark was taken from our town when the US converted the area into an air base, it now has a political personality distinct and separate from Mabalacat. What will Angeles, Bamban and other contiguous towns do if we claim Clark as part of Mabalacat?

There is no more space here to discuss my objections in detail, but my basic points are: It is the height of presumptuousness to call the town a city, and to claim Clark as part of the projected city.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 2, 2011)

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