September 25, 2009

Why the yellow ribbon

Maybe I'm just being sentimental, impractical and naive. 

But there's a tiny yellow ribbon tied to my everyday handbag and a bigger one tied to the antenna of our car. The ribbons have been there since Cory passed away in early August. Initially it was a sign of affection and respect for a truly great woman who made us proud to be Filipino. But even before Noynoy decided to seek higher office to continue Ninoy and Cory's legacy, I already made the decision to keep those yellow ribbons until next year's elections, if only to show that I wanted change. But more importantly, to show that I wanted a return to what I call "the yellow values." What are these "yellow values"? 

A genuine love for our country. He cast aside fear for his life, gave up a comfortable life in Boston, and returned to uncertainty -- and as it turned out, to certain death -- so he could help lead the country back to the path of democracy. She likewise cast aside whatever fears she might have had after her husband's tragic death, gave up her much-cherished privacy (and we would have understood if she had chosen to keep it as the grieving widow of a martyr), and led her countrymen in the fight for freedom against the dictator. 

The courage of one's convictions, integrity, an abiding faith in the Almighty, and the ability to live by values that are in consonance with such faith. He refused to bow to the will of the dictator during the dark days of the regime, choosing to suffer the hardships of imprisonment, and in the process rediscovering his faith, than compromise his principles. She had a deep faith, governed without being tainted by corruption, readily relinquished power and ensured a smooth transition, then continued to speak up and fight whenever our democracy was under threat, even if it meant going against the ruling power. 

Seemingly simple values. But a tall order given the society we have, and the times we live in. What are the times we live in? A simple illustration: an honest and hardworking public official who has not enriched himself in office is thought of as a fool! 

It will be an uphill climb because as a people, our values have been damaged, corrupted, by decades of greed, apathy and cynicism. On a personal level, many of us have been able to develop a remarkable ability to compartmentalize our lives and rationalize every kind of behaviour, that the bad becomes commonplace and acceptable. 

We cannot pin all our hopes for our country's salvation on the shoulders of one man. Our redemption as a people will have to come from our own will and determination to recover what we know in our hearts to be true: we are a people capable of greatness. Ninoy, Cory and many others have shown this to be so. 

But, we need to embrace one important truth -- any change for the better has to come from deep within each one of us. We need to be the change we want. We have to look within ourselves and realize that the reason things are the way they are in our country is that not enough of us who love it, were willing to do something even just a little bit more than what we've always done. 

Some of us will be more capable and have more resources to do bigger things. Some of us will not. But we can all do something in our own little way. It's up to each one of us to find out what that might be.

For me, it begins with tying a yellow ribbon.

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