Our Hope is in Ourselves
On Her 72nd Birthday
January 25, 2005
Today is my 72nd birthday! I thank god for all His blessings, especially for giving me Ninoy and our children. I am also grateful to our Father in heaven for sending me so many kind and wonderful people who have helped bring out the best in me. In particular, I give thanks for the gift of my sister, Terry Cojuangco Lopa, who loved me and helped me in countless ways. Nine days ago, my sister Terry left us and our hearts were filled with sadness as we said our final goodbye. But we are comforted by our belief that she is now with the Good Lord and will continue to love us and help us even more.
Two weeks ago, my youngest daughter, Kris, excitedly told me that her “maghuhula” said I would live for another 20 years. I laughed and told Kris, “I don’t want to live for another 20 years.” Then I was reminded of my prayer for a happy death:
Almighty God, most merciful Father
You alone know the time
You alone know the hour
You alone know the moment
When I shall breathe my last.
So, remind me each day, most loving Father
To be the best that I can be.
To be humble, to be kind
To be patient, to be true
To embrace what is good
To reject what is evil,
To adore only You.
Even as I am keenly aware that the time ahead is getting shorter as the time past stretches far and long, my days are devoted to my immediate family, children, grandchildren, as well as to the larger family of our nation.There is so much to be thankful for with regard to the blessings of my immediate family. I need write no more except to say,”I am content with my reminders of God’s love.” I am told by expert observers and I can sense from my own interactions with many people, that the nation’s mood these days is somber. Part of it must be our shared feelings of grief and surrender to the terrible suffering wrought by the Indian Ocean tsunami, particularly coming so close to the deaths and damage caused by the typhoons that hit Luzon late last year.
It seems however, that a larger part of the sense of widespread unease comes from a general difficulty with living standards due to recent price increases of a number of basic commodities. This more recent burden has added to the frustration of many with what they already regard as the relative stagnation of our country compared to our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world.Some have stopped believing in a future in this country, and have left or are leaving for jobs abroad.
If there is one last thing that I want to do, I would like to reconnect with the real strengths and underlying virtues of Filipinos, the fine attributes which make our people not only worth dying for, but equally important worth living and sacrificing for.
I want to join hands with Filipinos who contribute not only to the solution of problems in their homes and communities, but also to the advancement of nation-building. I want Filipinos to link up with their fellow Filipinos, who pray and work hard for our country in solidarity. Let me tell you about these groups.
The Gawad Kalinga (GK) program under the direction of Couples for Christ (CFC) is building viable, vibrant and visionary communities of the empowered poor through a combination of shelter, basic services and Christian education. GK communities, as well as similar community development efforts are deepening and enriching the roots of poor Filipinos in our country through homes and neighborhoods they can be proud of despite their poverty. CFC built its first Gawad Kalinga community in the depressed community of Bagong Silangan in Quezon City in 1995. I ask all concerned Filipinos to be part of the Gawad Kalinga and contribute to unifying as many Filipinos as possible.
Recently, I also touched base with groups engaged in a most optimistic business activity in our country---teaching poor housewives to save and then lending them the capital for micro-enterprises that derive business from meeting the bare necessities of the poor. Groups like the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD), the Lifebank in Iloilo have shown the way in assisting hundreds of thousands of mostly women borrowers who avail of loans from P1,000 to P6,000 for their livelihood projects. What is remarkable about the micro-enterprises as a platform for painstakingly taking control of their own lives away from gambling, cursing, alcohol and even spousal abuse. Their stories are indeed inspiring. By showing the gains of hard work and a strong desire to collectively change for the better, they are able to demonstrate the essence of responsible citizenship.
Upon the invitation if Ambassador Howard Dee, the Aquino Foundation has joined hands with the Assisi Foundation and invested in the replication of the empowering efforts of the above groups. Together, we have established the ASA Philippines Foundation last August and are currently operating 5 branches in 5 urban poor communities in Metro Manila.To date, the ASA Foundation has 1,495 beneficiaries.
A year and a half ago, I gave recognition to 20 People Power People groups. These Filipinos are reinforcing the belief of their fellow Filipinos in their own communities. And this belief in the goodness and progressiveness of our communities has the power to propel our nation over any hump of pessimism or hopelessness.
Our hope is in ourselves. Let us pray fervently and work hard for our country. And let us do these in partnership with our fellow Filipinos.