In a few days the country will be celebrating Independence day. I remember my father, a veteran of World War II, hoisting the flag on the car’s antenna and taking us to watch the parade of floats and military hardware at the Quirino Grandastand in Manila. I was in my pre-school days, but I could feel the electricity in the air when we were there, one of pride and a great sense of hope. In fact, they’d sell the flags for cars and buildings just as the month of June set in. And there was always that anticipation building up towards June 12.
These days are called Flag Days, and this is what the government’s official gazette says about it:
On May 23, 1994, President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order No. 179, stretching National Flag Day into an extended period, from May 28 to June 12, culminating in the celebration of Independence Day. All Filipinos are encouraged to display the Philippine flag in all offices, agencies, and instruments of government, business establishments, schools, and private homes throughout this period.
This is such an important day for all Filipinos that I felt it important to repost this piece I wrote a few months back about this current President’s penchant for discarding the Philippine flag pin for his beloved yellow ribbon..
Anti PNoy, or Antay PNoy?
A lot has been said about the way government and specifically President Benigno S. Aquino III has handled the Yolanda/ Hayian crisis. The general sentiment is that there is a lack of quick deliberate action in the wake of the starving, dying countrymen. Management experts cite poor people and resource management. Political experts cite decision making hampered by political considerations. Medical experts cite lack of understanding of crisis and triage processes.
I refuse to be drawn into areas I have no expertise in. What I have written thus far is either what I have encountered myself or what people I trust have given me from out in the field – those who are on the ground.
As for my take on the President and his actions, I will have my say in my area of competence: communications. And to me, my beef with the President boils down to one thing: THAT DAMNED YELLOW RIBBON.
Yes, that yellow ribbon PNoy wears over his left breast.
That yellow ribbon was an effective tool when Noynoy Aquino ran for president in the 2010 elections. It was a symbol with close links to the heroic legacy of his father and the saintly intentions of his mother. It was a symbol of a crusade for a committed fight against corruption. It was a symbol of hope.
Yes it was criticized then as stolen from copyrighted symbols for specific disease awareness campaigns: red ribbon for HIV/ AIDS, pink for breast cancer, white for victims of violence, yellow for bone cancer, etc. But that didn’t matter, as it turned out later various ribbons started having different meanings anyway.
But what was a partisan act in the elections has no place once you’ve been voted into office.
It has always been said that in a democracy, elections polarize the people. But when the candidate wins and is sworn into office, his first and most important act is to bring together his divided citizenry. The new president is president for all the people – president for those who voted for him and those who didn’t.
My take is, from day one, PNoy should have ditched the yellow ribbon for the traditional pin worn by the President of the Republic of the Philippines: The Philippine flag.
Continuing with the yellow ribbon sent out the message that PNoy was installed by the yellow army and from here on in it’s the yellow army’s day in the sun.
It reminds me of that old deodorant ad in the 1980s that said “Ang may underarm odor, hindi kasali.” Well, in a democracy, even the foul-smelling are citizens of the land. The same citizens who PNoy say are his bosses.
Many will say that this is nit picking (a gross idiom by the way, originally referring to literally removing invisibly-tiny louse eggs by hand or literally nag kukuto – yuck). But I see it as one that strikes at the very core of PNoy’s leadership and his power and drive to lead his people though his “daang matuwid.”
In as much as the president must be able to rally his citizenry to action, we the people also must also play out our part. Thus, while we are indeed polarized as a people by the partisanship of elections, we must drop this when somebody is constitutionally declared a winner. As citizens we MUST recognize the president as the anointed leader, and must submit ourselves to his authority as our Chief Executive and the Commander in Chief of our armed forces.
Even if you did not vote for PNoy… even if you campaigned against PNoy… he is still the president. And we submit to his leadership.
And that’s why I have a beef with that DAMNED YELLOW RIBBON. It is partisan and exclusive. It is a yellow agenda, for a yellow army. If you don’t subscribe to the yellow agenda, you are not one of us. If you don’t subscribe to the yellow agenda, you are not deserving of our good graces.
But PNoy is president. The yellow agenda has won. There is no need to rub it in. Having won the presidency, his agenda has become the nation’s agenda.
Thus presidency has to be an inspired leadership. How inspired? A simple example is this (and I’ve used this in many a talk):
In this face off against the mighty China for the Spratlys, I will stand by my Commander in Chief in the front lines, even if I just had sticks and stones to fight with.
I will not hide behind PNoy; I will not use him as a shield. I will fight with him, I will have his back, and I will be one with him in laying my life down for my country. Even if I did not vote for him.
But that DAMNED YELLOW RIBBON keeps telling me that I am not part of his exclusive circle. It is not our country’s colors which I salute when they march by. It is his army’s color, of which I am not part of, nor deserving to wear.
And ever since PNoy was elected president, and in every celebration or crisis we experienced as a nation, all the ups and downs we have faced, good or bad we have had, I feel increasingly excluded. I am distanced by that DAMNED YELLOW RIBBON.
So, no, I am not ANTI PNOY. He is the constitutionally elected president of my country, and I recognize him as the leader of out nation. But his appointment as leader is very different from his display of leadership. In which case, I am ANTAY PNOY (waiting for PNoy)… I, as many of the citizens of the country, am waiting for him to be OUR leader. To rally us to the flag.
In these last few days of death, destruction, hunger and, most significantly, despair in central Philippines many ask: who’s really in charge? We all know who it is but we don’t feel it. We are not talking about one who will spend sleepless days and nights down on the ground, hair disheveled, directing truck traffic when his management skills clearly indicate that he is clearly best managing people and mobilizing resources from the command center.
We need leadership that will inspire action. Most importantly, we need leadership that will instill hope. In a disaster of this magnitude we cannot afford to lose hope. Because hope brings the promise of renewal and the inspiration for rebuilding. Hunger, slow moving relief, death of loved ones… those are manageable. But not despair. Not the loss of hope.
In his article “Why leadership matters” Steve Keating says:
Leadership has always mattered and it is inconceivable that there will be a time when it doesn’t. Perhaps no one has ever said it better than John Maxwell when he said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Everything!
Leadership matters because no one and nothing comes to success without it. Think about it: virtually every great accomplishment has at its core, solid leadership. When everything is going well it is leadership that keeps people from getting complacent. When things are going poorly it is leadership that rights the ship, it is leadership that sets the new course and it is leadership that provides hope.
One of the greatest things a leader can give their people is hope. People need hope, almost as much as air, food or water. Without hope effort stops and progress stops along with it. Leadership matters most in the absence of hope because experienced, authentic leaders will manufacture hope from despair. Leadership matters because where there is a lack of leadership despair will prosper.
Mr. President, please, lead this country. In this time of despair give us hope. Give ALL of us hope. Ditch that DAMNED YELLOW RIBBON.
Please, while we are ANTAY PNOY. Do not drive us to be ANTI PNOY.