An open letter to President Aquino

Dear Mr. President,

I was 20 years old when I first had the chance to vote. I was fresh from college then, and one thing I can perfectly recall about my graduation in UP was that our keynote speaker asked us to never lose our sense of idealism because, as he said, and which I believe, it is what will set us apart. And so even in my participation in the democratic process, I did not want to lose that.

Some months prior to the polls, your mother died, and I am sure you would agree that the intensity of the emotions that swept through our nation at that time somehow influenced the way the Filipinos voted.

Was it not Sen. Roxas who was the Liberal Party’s initial choice for the presidency? But you were the man of the hour. All eyes were on you. And to make you run for the post was the surest way to secure victory.

And you were not incompetent even. You were not just somebody pulled out from nowhere with nothing to offer, and your 6 years in office are a proof to that.

I have to admit I got emotional in those days, too, not only because of what your last name stood for in history, but also because I understood how our nation was in dire need of a new breed of leaders. Your candidacy promised the kind of change and healing I was hoping for.

I tried my best not to be swayed by the bandwagon. I carefully discerned by looking over the candidates’ track records and profiles. It was my first time to vote, Mr. President, and I voted for you. No, you were not a perfect candidate, but your offer during the campaign period was closest to the ideals I still hold on to today.

At many points over the last 6 years, whenever I hear news and criticisms about you, I would wonder and sometimes even cringe. When I chose you, did I have it all wrong? Was I too immature in my discernment? Did you betray my trust?

But each time, too, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. Surely, you had your share of failures. There were not a few times when I was disappointed with your seeming lack of concern or connection with the common people. Sometimes you were missing in action.

But, Sir, you were always careful with your decisions. To me, you were like a father who never fed the frustrations of the people by responding to them aggressively. You took things one step at a time, and while that could seem slow progress, it was progress just the same.

We have not been very fair in speaking about you, Sir. The harsh cries of your critics are what continues to echo as your term is about to end. For this I feel deeply sorry about. No one man can resolve all of the country’s problems within 6 years, and no one leader is so perfect as to have no shortcomings.

I do not have the luxury of space to enumerate all the achievements of your term here, but it seems enough to say that you have significantly helped turn the Philippines from being the “sick man of Asia” to the “Asian tiger,” the fastest-growing economy in the region.

They say that the mood in the Palace these days is chill and mellow as you are preparing to say goodbye. For a man so easily misunderstood, I believe silence is the best attitude and response.

So while we count your remaining days in office, and before you live the life of a private citizen which you said you have been looking forward to for so long a time, I wish to thank you, Mr. President.

I have come to admire you not only because of our common love for music or your having remained an honorable man to the very end. I admire you because it is through you that I have come to understand how a good President should be like.

This story was originally published in the author’s column “Like the Father” in Diario Veritas (Vol. 20 No. 8, June 2016), a monthly publication of the Diocese of Legazpi, Philippines.