7:13 PM

Harvesting Goodwill: Heto ang Taya Ko!

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“We are blessings to one another, Choose the narrow gate, not the big gate. Joey Velasco, a painter, once said [ I live not by the time of the clock, but what is the meaning of life, meaning what is shared with others.]" - Fr. Arnold Abelardo

Fr. Arnold Abelardo, the chaplain who accompanied President Noynoy Aquino during his campaign sorties, concelebrated Sunday Mass with Fr. Rodel Balagtas at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (IHMC). 600 parishioners packed the pews and electric fans blasted to draw out the heat in this energy-wise Gothic church. Every Sunday at 4pm, a Tagalog Mass is celebrated. The choir, led by Pete Avendano, is world-class in demeanor, professionalism and singing.

The choir members are the face of the church, greeting folks warmly. The whole congregation warmly greeted Fr. Abelardo, who used to say Mass at IHMC, years ago, where five hundred folks were baptized every Saturday and eleven masses were celebrated. Today, six masses are held in English, Spanish and Tagalog. Two get-togethers for the parishioners were concurrently held, one in the patio and another in the rectory. We were in the rectory with Fr. Abelardo.

Fr. Rodel’s Prophetic Voice set the tone for that Sunday. He said: “Life presents to us as a struggle. All have to undergo hardships; all have to experience trials and challenges. In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus told his disciples that despite any hardship, they must strive to enter through the Narrow Gate.“

Fr. Abelardo then described his experiences. He considered the May 2010 elections, miraculous. Why? When the other presidential candidate voted, they got a return message, “Congratulations, you won! ” He is also the same candidate who took the longest in conceding to the current president. When President Noynoy Aquino voted at his precinct, all the PCOS machines failed. He waited for hours in the heat, and like the others, he patiently stood in line, did not cut through to the front, he had to vote manually and did not get a return message of congratulations.

Prior to Cory Aquino's death, there was malaise in the country. Folks did not know whom to believe -- whether the police, military, government or the private sector. No one seemed to be telling the truth.

Then, when Cory died, all of the yearnings and aspirations of the common people came out. While some politicians had ample time to prepare for their candidacy, Noynoy was asked to run for the presidency in August -- 9 months before the election. In deference and out of respect for his mother's recent demise, he told them, “ Wait, this is not my dream. “

Pinky, his sister, told him to go on a retreat. Pres. Noynoy Aquino went to Zamboanga under the auspices of the Carmelite Sisters, headed by Sister Agnes. His question was “ Eto po ba ang kalooban ninyo para sa akin? ”

Kalooban is a word in Tagalog that denotes one's inner spiritual mission. The president-to-be did not ask for his ambitions or political wins to manifest, instead, he asked is this your will for me? After all, his life was comfortable. But, he was steeled to have unselfish devotion to the Filipino people by his parents. Ninoy said Filipinos are worth dying for, while Cory said Filipinos are worth living for. But the question remained for Noynoy -- “ who will stand up for the principles and teachings of your parents? “

On September 9, 2009, Noynoy Aquino declared his presidency. Children, men, women, carinderia store owners, tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers all came out to support Noynoy. Even the Bishop in Mindanao donated his one month’ s pay for his candidacy,“ Heto ang taya ko!” It was a symbolic act of ownership.

Instead of buying her medicine, a woman in Bicol bought yellow ribbons to line the streets where Noynoy passed through. In an elementary school that Noynoy visited, children gave up their barya sa loob ng alkansiya na lata. Heto ang aming taya!

So, when Noynoy was asked, how will you sustain your candidacy, he responded with great dignity and openness, as he went from Aparri to Jolo, saying, “ Ang taong-bayan po ang magbibigay lakas sa akin. “

Ordinary citizens made banners from used rice sacks, banig and used T-shirts. “ Ituloy ang Laban, Noy-Mar Kami! “ Asked how he would sustain his campaign, Noynoy replied, “ Eto po, participation ng taong bayan, unconventional, barya-barya! “
Every sortie they went to, they were treated like celebrities. At some point, "I would be the one dancing", said Fr. Abelardo.

As a treat, he sang a very moving song to the IHMC parishioners, "Basta maghintay ka lamang/ Huwag mawawala ang pag-asa/ Isiping may bukas pa/ Iikot ang mundo, hindi lang kasawian/ Huwag maiinip, huwag mawawalan ng pag-asa, dadating ang ligaya."

The generosity of IHMC’s parishioners became evident once again. A second collection was done for the orthopedic patients that Fr. Abelardo cares for. Fr. Rodel said a dollar is worth Php 44, but most gave more.

Retired Presidential Security Guards who ensured the safety of former Pres. Cory Aquino volunteered to secure the house of President Noynoy Aquino, during his transition and installment as the 15th President of the Republic. They were armed, not with weapons, but by a might and force more potent than bullets -- The Divine Power guards the new President, a president who embodies honesty, integrity and wholesome goodness!

For the first time since he left the Philippines, Fr. Abelardo said, “ I felt that I am leaving the Philippines in good hands. “ But, let me tell you though, the calamity funds have been wiped clean, not by God’s calamities, but by man-made pagnanakaw. The budget has been decimated, the only monies left are designated for salaries of the government staff. "

Fr. Abelardo’s list of tourist attractions he wants to visit is long -- Universal Studios, Disneyland, Disney Music Hall. But for now, they would just have to wait. He is going around the United States to speak with Filipino-Americans about his observations during Noynoy’s campaign. However, he said, " I am not the Presidential spokesperson, I was simply a witness who saw what happened and attest to the character and simplicity of our president."

In Orange County,a kababayan said, “ Oh Father,anong masasabi ninyo baka naman hindi totoo iyan, baka magnakaw din iyan katulad ng dati?“ To which Fr. Abelardo replied, “Ikaw ba ay totoo, ano ang iyong gagawin para tumulong sa pagbabago? ”

There was a pause, a long pause, “ Father when I go home, I will endure the long wait and not insert $20 in my blue passport. That will be my contribution.”
The Corvettes (Cory veterans) posted yellow ribbons with messages: “Kaya natin, magtulong-tulong tayo." Instead of crushing the Filipino spirit, the calamities of Ondoy and the massacres of Ampatuan brought goodness instead.

Fr. Abelardo shared an observation. South Koreans and Chinese investors have bought restaurants, hotels and resorts in the Philippines. It would be also nice to see groups of Filipino-American investors become part of this renaissance in the Philippines. Ano ang taya natin sa pagbabago?

As for me, ano ang taya ko?

I will continue to harvest and write about the goodwill built by President Noynoy Aquino. When I see something glaringly wrong in the US in our consular offices, I will speak up and work with them.

Fortunately, for us in Los Angeles, we have one of the most honest, transparent and efficient consular generals in the person of ConGen Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon! We hope she will stay with us for a few more years!

And for President Noynoy Aquino, my wish is that he will preside over the best renaissance of my birth country, so we can all say that we are collectively proud to be called P-NOYS!


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