By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated January 1, 2011
We feel relieved when a particularly bad year ends and welcome each coming year with renewed hope for a better life. As we celebrate 2011, I write this piece hopeful that more of us will not only look back, but GIVE BACK for only in giving back will our people have the quality of life we want and deserve.
One of the good things that happened to me this year is reconnecting with my high school batchmates. I am a proud product of the public school system and I spent my high school years in San Juan Municipal High School. SJMHS (now a national high school) was the first public high school in San Juan and a project of then Mayor Joseph Estrada.
SJMHS students were from ordinary to downright poor families, like mine. Mine was first batch of those who entered and graduated from SJMHS. While we did not pay any tuition, our class was where most of the “Erap scholars” belonged. We received some allowances which significantly helped us in our schooling. Our teachers then called us the “cream of the crop.” We now call ourselves “The Pioneers.”
Thanks to Facebook, some of us found each other and started meeting up. These meetings were happy occasions and as expected, opportunities to catch up on each other, many times reliving our high school experiences with fun and laughter. Our group started to grow with even many of those outside the country and some of our former teachers connecting with us.
While there were those who did not quite make it, many of us have much better lives now and some can be considered as successful. Our meetings turned serious as we discussed our intentions to repay our debt of gratitude. We now have lined up projects that will enable us to give back to our school, our teachers, other batchmates, and most importantly, to deserving students of SJMHS. Everyone is helping out and it is exhilarating to know that we are doing something worthwhile.
The Pioneers recently had our Christmas party attended by eleven of our former teachers. It was a sentimental yet happy event that made us better appreciate our teachers. We would not be what we are now if not for our school and those who gave us our education. I personally was touched and saddened that many of us are better off than some of those who helped us develop as persons. While our teachers were genuinely happy for us, I thought that life should be better for them.
Our teachers’ situation perhaps is a microcosm of the general sad state of teachers in our country. More should be done.
Our group’s initiatives are small. But if small ways of giving back is done by everyone, these efforts will redound to the improvement of more lives and perhaps, we, as a people will be more united than divided, there will be more understanding and cooperation than fighting and rivalries. Our nation will then really move forward.
At the national level, 2010 is seen by many as a year of new beginnings. With the assumption in government of a popular administration led by President Noynoy Aquino, people are generally upbeat about our country’s future. As 2010 ends, this administration remains quite popular. However, it is equally true that more and more people who keenly follow political developments are starting to be disappointed with its performance.
That there have been blunders cannot be denied: the haphazardly prepared executive orders; favoring a few families, like the Abads, in terms of political appointments; sidelining officials like the Vice President and the credible Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo; turfing and rivalries between the Aquino groups; serious mishandling of the Quirino hostage crisis; and the Pilipinas Kay Ganda scandal are just some.
These may be growing pains of a new administration and not totally unexpected. While the Filipino is patient, we should also not forget that when push comes to shove, our people act. We do not want the disappointment to develop into widespread disillusionment. We do not want another EDSA to happen. This is where giving back comes in.
When we give back, we take responsibility and we stop blaming everyone except ourselves. This culture of blaming others should stop because it will bring us nowhere. This means that we stop depending on others, including the government for things that we, ourselves can do. However, this doesn’t mean that government is freed from its responsibilities as those in government should lead in giving back—to the people.
Ordinary citizens should give back to our country. It’s the only one we’ve got and we owe our country big time. There are many ways of giving back. It can be as simple as not littering, falling in line, following traffic rules, segregating garbage, or as major as taking pride in being Filipino, paying correct taxes, getting involved in issues we care about, patronizing local products and industries, protecting our Filipino heritage, conserving and protecting our environment, reporting corruption, and taking part in projects that help others. In short, responsible citizenship is the best way to give back to our country.
Those who are in positions of power should give back to the people who put them there. You are given the power not to enrich yourselves but to serve the people. Concretely, this means that your priority should always be making the lives of Filipinos, especially those in poverty, better. Effective and efficient delivery of basic social services such as health, education, housing, electricity, water and livelihood should be on top of your agenda. Protecting people’s human rights, especially those of our marginalized sectors should be your biggest concern. For those in government, fulfilling your responsibilities is the best way of giving back.
We all can do our share, no matter what our station in life is. Making our lives better can and should be a shared responsibility. Let’s meet 2011 with the resolve to give back.