Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good Governance

The column today (Oct. 14, 2009) of Conrado de Quiroz in the Philippine Daily Inquirer can be summed up: 

"We ourselves are the only ones who can guarantee good governance."  

His entire column is worth reading:

The one thing I keep being asked in forums is: How can you assure a Noynoy presidency will not go the route of the others?

The one answer I keep giving when asked that question is: Who am I to assure anything? But two things, I say by way of caveat, give me reason to hope.

The first is that even before Noynoy announced his decision to run, he shot up past the others. Completely spontaneously, completely effortlessly. Which astounded even me (I thought he’d do it, but more gradually). Clearly, the storyline of “the coming of the opposite of GMA” had been building in people’s minds for a long time.

The good news there for us, quite apart from the Noynoy camp, is this: Noynoy avoids, or escapes, the fundamental bane of elections, which is spending a staggering fortune to get elected. Either candidates use their own money, if they are staggeringly rich, or they depend on the oligarchs for staggering donations to their campaign. Either way it cannot augur well for the fate of the national treasury that the person who becomes president does so by pawning the family jewels and/or depending on the kindness of strangers. History—especially Philippine history—has yet to record a candidate who divested himself and his friends, or cronies, of wealth for the staggering pleasure of serving the people.

If Noynoy’s numbers hold—and I don’t see why not, this is an Edsa masquerading as an election—he will become president without being beholden to the usual suspects. That frees him to formulate policies that can be good for the country and not for the contributors. He will be beholden only to the people, not to those who oppress them.

That is of course no guarantee he will do right by the people. History, especially Philippine history, is full of leaders who were beholden to the people and reciprocated only by screwing the people. We do not have to look far, we’ve had one for the last nine years. This was a person who rode on the back of People Power but dedicated herself afterward only to spiting the very thing she owed. Substitute “ungrateful” for “lucky” and Joey Salceda’s description of her becomes more ferociously accurate.

What’s to guarantee Noynoy won’t do otherwise? Well, there’s Noynoy himself. He is not the “opposite of GMA” for nothing. The opposite of being an ungrateful SOB is being a grateful SOC (son of a Cory).

Far more importantly, there’s us, the people.

Nothing else can guarantee it. We are not active in our governance, we will never have the leader we deserve. Or we will have exactly the one we do. A people who do not particularly care if they are screwed will always have leaders who will screw them. Either by the leader’s natural inclination or the led’s own ardent invitation.

The political culture of this country sucks. It is a culture that naturally promotes corruption and trapo shenanigans. It is a vortex that swallows the best of women and men, as forums always point out. How to prevent it? By bestirring ourselves to prevent it.

It’s not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings. Nowhere is that truer than in our political life.

Take the case of corruption. Doubtless there are many reasons for it, not least of them psychological, or pathological. Some people are just bottomless pits of greed, and some are more bottomless than others. But you look at it a little more closely and you realize that the most fundamental reason for corruption is that we tolerate it.

This has been my favorite argument for years. Clearly, we do feel revulsion for people who steal, as seen by the way we corner pickpockets, handbag slashers, and other petty thieves in sidewalks and beat them black and blue. Why don’t we do the same thing to crooks in government? The only explanation I can think of is that we don’t see what they do as stealing.

Either the sums they pilfer are too huge for us to grasp, the act taking on an air of abstraction quite unlike the quite graphic grabbing of a boy’s schoolbag, or those sums are things we attribute to them anyway. Both are true, the latter especially. We really have no concept of “taxpayers’ money.” We think of the taxes we pay—and all of us do pay it, epically, if indirectly, through VAT—not as our money but as their money. It is tribute we give to our liege. If the taxes come back to us in the form of a road or bridge, we are happy. If they do not, we say, what else is new?

That is why corruption flourishes here like floods, and that is why it does not in Europe and the US. We do not see taxes as our money, they do. We do not see the hijacking of taxpayers’ money as stealing, they do.

The burden of change does not just lie in our officials, it lies in us. And the beginning of change is recognition, the driving force of change is discovery. We start realizing taxes are our money, and our officials start thinking twice about stealing them.

We ourselves are the only ones who can guarantee good governance. The prospects are not entirely daunting. We do have a capacity to act. We do have a capacity to put our fate in our hands. Look how we respond to disasters, completely instinctively galvanizing into action to reach out to the victims. Look how we respond to earthquakes and famine, digging the earth furiously and penetrating places God forgot to rescue the trapped and hungry. Look at the way we respond to floods and mudslides, braving the wilds to bring relief goods to the ravaged and help them build again. This is People Power at its best. This is People Power in everyday life.

It’s just a matter of realizing we’ve been the victims all this time. It’s just a matter of realizing we’re the ones who most need relief.

It’s just a matter of realizing we’re the only ones who can give ourselves relief.

Ref.: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20091014-229930/Assurances
. . . . .

Monday, October 05, 2009

Encrypted. . . Decrypted.

Encrypted message from my friend Johnny:

Try your best to read the above and time yourself. Gave up? Scroll down for the decrypted version.


I did have a hard time reading the above. It's good my daughter's computer knows how to decrypt:

. . . . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Change the Culture of Greed

Very well-done social commentary through music video.

. . . . .

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Canossa Dancers at Intercontinental Hotel

I had the rare privilege of watching the very good performance of the Canossa Cultural Dancers last Saturday (Sept. 19) at the Intercontinental Hotel, Makati City during the pre-launch of the Stem Enhance product.

Please click on the thumbnail or caption below to view the entire album.

. . . . .

One Web Day - SM Mall of Asia

The Philippine Internet Users Society (PIUS) is spearheading the One Web Day celebration for the first time in the Philippines:

OneWebDay Performers at SM mall of asia

Join the first ever OneWebDay celebration in the Philippines on September 22, 2009 at the Music Hall of, SM Mall of Asia from 10:00AM to 9:00PM. REGSITRATION IS FREE!

So what's in store on September 22?

  • Watch and learn "Internet History" an audio visual presentation.
  • Mingle with your co-Internet users',
  • Free PC or laptop repair,
  • Surf the net! Free wi-fi zone,
  • Learn the pressing issues confronting the Internet,
  • Get online business ideas,
  • Join a buzz group
  • Tips on Internet Marketing
  • Be entertained! great music, cultural & modern dances and more,
  • Watch Southborder, Version 4.0 and other bands perform in support of OneWebDay
  • Be part of Internet history in the Philippines-sign your name on the "OneWebday Wall"
  • Drop your "wish note" in the "OneWebDay" time capsule
  • and Why not do your EB on OneWebday in MoA?

See Floor Plan and Setup Below...

MUSIC HALL DAY SETUP (9:00am to 5:00pm)

OneWebDay Festival SM Mall of Asia AM Setup

MUSIC HALL CONCERT SETUP (5:00pm to 9:30pm)

OneWebDay Festival SM Mall of Asia Concert Setup

Source: http://tiny.cc/OneWebDay

. . . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for 2009

Be inspired by meeting the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay awardees:

  1. Krisana Kraisintu (Thailand) for "placing pharmaceutical rigor at the service of patients, through her untiring and fearless dedication to producing much-needed generic drugs in Thailand and elsewhere in the developing world."
  2. Deep Joshi (India) for "his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining 'head' and 'heart' in the transformative development of rural communities."
  3. Yu Xiaogang (China) for "his fusing the knowledge and tools of social science with a deep sense of social justice, in assisting dam-affected communities in China to shape the development projects that impact their natural environment and their lives."
  4. Antonio Oposa, Jr. (Philippines) for "his pathbreaking and passionate crusade to engage Filipinos in acts of enlightened citizenship that maximize the power of law to protect and nurture the environment for themselves, their children, and generations still to come."
  5. Ma Jun (China) for "his harnessing the technology and power of information to address China's water crisis, and mobilizing pragmatic, multi-sectoral, and collaborative efforts to ensure sustainable benefits for China's environment and society."
  6. Ka Hsaw Wa (Burma) for "his dauntlessly pursuing non violent yet effective channels of redress, exposure, and education for the defense of human rights, the environment, and democracy in Burma."

The awarding ceremonies will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Monday August 31 (a holiday). The public is invited. Free entrance.

. . . . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chinese New Year Proposed As National Holiday

I have just learned from the online version of China View that our congressmen "are deliberating on a bill to declare Chinese lunar new year a regular national holiday." The entire article is reproduced below verbatim for the reader's quick reference:

Chinese lunar new year might become national holiday in Philippines too

MANILA, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Philippine lawmakers are deliberating a bill to declare Chinese lunar new year a regular national holiday, along side with New Year's Day, Christmas, Independence Day and 16 others.

The House of Representatives reported over the weekend that the bill, which would strengthen the relationship between Filipinos and Chinese/Chinese-Filipinos, has passed a Committee reading and it is on its way to the plenary deliberation.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the bill was drafted to recognize the contributions of Chinese-Filipinos and of their rich cultural traditions. "Considering our long relations with the Chinese, many of whom have adopted the Philippines as their home, it is but just to help preserve some of their valued traditions," he said.

Chinese immigrants sailed to the Philippine archipelago long before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish colonists in 16 century. From northern Luzon to southern Sulu, barter trade flourished. Chinese brought silk, porcelain, ornaments to exchange for tortoise shells, swallow nests and mother of pearl from the native.

Today, about 2 million Chinese immigrants settle down in the Philippines but cultural scholars said Filipinos who have Chinese ancestry could number 18 million, or 20 percent of the Philippine population. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president Corazon Aquino and a number of the countries' wealthiest businessmen all known to have Chinese blood.

Lunar new year is the most widely celebrated holiday among Chinese communities around the world. The start of a year in the lunar calendar does not have a fixed date but usually falls in January or February. It is also the most important holiday for Chinese because it is one of the few moments that an extended family gathers.

But legalizing the lunar new year also faces hurdles as some congressmen say there are already too many holidays in the Philippines and might hurt the business productivity.

The World News, the most widely circulated Chinese-language newspaper in town, urged Chinese communities to mobilize all resources in pushing the legislation.

"As Filipino-Chinese, we aspire to have our ethnic holiday legalized as a regular one. It's important to us and now we have a chance," it said in Sunday's editorial.

Ref.: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-08/23/content_11930729.htm

What do you think of the proposed legislation for another regular holiday as detailed above? Is this a commendable move of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and other like-minded congressmen?

. . . . .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Journey of Ninoy Aquino

Don't fail to watch this Sunday (August 23, 2009) at 10:30 p.m. over ABS-CBN and ANC the true-to-life film aptly title, The Last Journey of Ninoy: As Told Through the Last Interview of Cory.

The official trailer:

The write-up from the PCIJ Online:

IT TOOK Jun Reyes three years to do put together a 52-minute documentary on the last 10 days in the life of martyred opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. from the time he left his family in Boston until he was felled by assassin’s bullets 26 years ago.

And it may well be the best way of retelling The Last Journey of Ninoy: As Told Through the Last Interview of Cory. What will now be known as the valedictory interview with Cory Aquino was captured on camera just a little over four months before her own death last August 1.

The digital docu-drama was born out of director Reyes’s desire to make a “timeless film” about Ninoy. He wanted “a film that will make him real to audiences who have never witnessed him alive nor remember him for what he has done—hoping to inspire future generations, to spread Ninoy’s ideals and to make him known as more than just the face on our 500-peso bill.”

“The film (is) told from two voices and points of view only: Ninoy’s and Cory’s. The stories of these two unique individuals—their struggles & victories, the transformation of Ninoy from a man-of-the-world to a spiritual man, and Cory as a loving witness to all these, (is) heard and seen throughout the film,” said Reyes, great grandson of the late Severino Reyes of the Lola Basyang fame.

The documentary became a fitting tribute to Ninoy and had its public screening at the Rockwell cinema in commemorating the 26th year of Ninoy Aquino’s death.

According to Rapa Lopa, project director of the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Inc., the film will be taken to the different colleges and universities across the country for viewing. This would be part of the campaign to create wider awareness on the sacrifices of Ninoy for democracy and freedom in the country.

“The past 25 years since Ninoy Aquino’s death have witnessed a creeping amnesia in the national psyche,” notes Lopa.

“Ninoy’s legacy of spiritual transformation, heroism and commitment to democracy has slowly been dissipated by the gradual erosion of our democratic institutions and the weakening of our collective initiative for change. The nation is experiencing the fading of memories of the historic struggles that led to the Filipino’s glorious shining moment.”

The Last Journey of Ninoy: As Told Through the Last Interview of Cory takes an intimate look at the man — his strengths and weaknesses, his triumphs and failures, his dreams and fears, as well as his simple joys as a husband and family man. It presents a tapestry of insights on the man and the martyr in particular, and about the Filipino people in general.

Bam Aquino, who was picked to portray Ninoy in the re-enactment of some scenes in the film, observes that Ninoy and Cory looked like they were finishing each other’s sentences in the way the events were presented using video clips of speeches of Ninoy and the interview of Cory done in March.

Bam’s father, Paul Aquino - younger brother of Ninoy - did the thought voice of Ninoy in the film. Both Bam and Paul were reluctant to do their respective parts, but were later persuaded upon learning that most of the people behind the project were doing it for free or for minimal fees.

Why did it take three years to make this film?

“Getting the funding was a challenge. Scripting and research took time also since it was a new format for us. Casting was likewise a challenge,” says Reyes.

The film has been rated General Patronage by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. It will be shown over ABS-CBN and ANC on Sunday, 10:30 p.m. as a tribute to both Ninoy and Cory.

Ref.: http://www.pcij.org/blog/?p=4185
. . . . .

Friday, August 07, 2009

Pres. Arroyo's $20,000 dinner tab

From the New York Post, self-explanatory:

August 7, 2009 --

THE economic downturn hasn't persuaded everyone to pinch pennies. Philippines President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at Le Cirque the other night with a large entourage enjoying the good life, even though the former comptroller of her country's armed services, Carlos Garcia, was found guilty earlier this year of perjury and two of his sons were arrested in the US on bulk cash-smuggling charges. Macapagal-Arroyo ordered several bottles of very expensive wine, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000.


. . . . .

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Remembering Cory Aquino (1933-2009)

Like many Filipinos, I haven't had the opportunity to personally meet Pres. Cory Aquino but I do cherish her memory. The following article was published by Time magazine on Jan. 5, 1987:

Woman of the Year: Cory Aquino, A Christmas Conversation

Throughout Malacanang Palace there was a festive air. In the hall below the President's office, a large Christmas tree stood festooned with white ribbons and ornaments. The weeks of coup rumors were over now, and the presidential staff was visibly relaxed. The 60-day cease-fire with the Communist insurgents was under way, despite some violations, bringing the promise of the first peaceful Christmas in the Philippines in 17 years. Dressed in a navy blue dress with red piping, President Aquino was in a holiday mood as she greeted Hong Kong Bureau Chief William Stewart and Manila Reporter Nelly Sindayen. At the end of the hour-long conversation, however, there was a moment of great poignancy. As she spoke about her memories of her husband and her obligations to her country, the President's eyes filled with tears. It was, by all accounts, the first time she has cried in public since becoming Chief Executive.

Excerpts from the talk:

Q. How do you feel after ten months as President?

A. Well, much better, of course. Ten months of experience is definitely very helpful. It's helped my self-confidence. It's still not an enjoyable task. I don't think it ever will be, but certainly it is most fulfilling. I think that's the rewarding aspect of the job.

Q. Why do you think that you have become such a worldwide phenomenon?

A. Well, both my parents influenced me a lot. While it is true we were very comfortable, we never had too much. My mother saw to it that we would appreciate everything that we had. As she put it, it was not good to have anything in excess. It was also impressed upon us that we should respect our elders. I remember when I was little, they said I asked a lot of questions. It wasn't the thing to do at the time. But it was a very happy childhood. Because we had such a close-knit family, I was determined that I should also be very attentive to my children.

Q. People often comment on your remarkable composure. Does some of this come from your family?

A. I think from my father. He was very calm. I don't remember him getting angry very often. In fact, in my whole childhood, he scolded me only once. He was so quick to forgive that it was difficult to understand. My mother was not so forgiving. She was more the fighter. This is where I must get it from. Normally I'm a peaceful person, but if I am threatened, I fight back. I'm not about to take everything that comes to me.

Q. Did your husband have great influence on you?

A. From the beginning. There were many things I didn't have to do when I was single that I had to do once I was married. During his campaign for mayor of Concepcion, I was very shy. When I felt that people were looking at me, I just wanted to hide. So my husband really forced me to come out in public. I would have done anything but that. I had to ride in a carabao ((water buffalo)) cart so that people could say, "Look, Ninoy's wife may have studied in New York and she may come from a wealthy family, but she can ride in a carabao cart." This was not my idea. We walked in the rice fields, and once we had to cross a stream. It was thigh deep. I looked at that water and thought, Am I supposed to wade in there? So I called to Ninoy, and I was expecting him to help since we had been married only a year. But he called to one of his security men and said, "Carry her." (groaning and laughing) I would have gladly waded in, but here I was in the arms of one of his security men. I was so angry and thought, Gosh, the least he could have done was carry me. We slept that night in one of the barrio homes that didn't have a bathroom, and I said, "Ninoy, you know I really have to go to the bathroom." And he said, "There's a pineapple can." (great laughter) I said, "Oh, no! There's nothing else in the house?" And he said, "No." Later, he said it was my baptism by fire. And I thought to myself, What did I do to marry somebody like this?

Q. Did things change after your husband was elected mayor?

A. No. We lived for two years in the little town of Concepcion, where we had electricity only from 6 in the evening to 6 in the morning. I would think to myself, This is getting to be too much. Then I got to be a soap-opera addict. It was the only thing to keep me company, so I'd listen to the radio. Thank God for transistor radios! I also learned how to knit, things I wasn't particularly attracted to before. Suddenly I became such a homebody, knitting while listening to soap operas. Then trying to cook. It was really a very boring existence. If I hadn't had my religion and made my vows to stick with this man for better or worse, maybe I would have had second thoughts.

Manila was only 2 1/2 hours away, and I used any excuse I could think of to get to Manila. First I decided I was not going to get a pediatrician from the provinces. I told Ninoy, "Look, this is our first child, and let's have the best pediatrician for her." So, naturally, once a month, I had to bring her to the doctor in Manila.

Sometimes I used to think, What's happening to me? For a time I thought I couldn't speak English anymore because I had nobody to talk to. I really deteriorated. Nobody wore shoes there because it was so dusty. We wore "step- ins." We went to the local movie, but there were fleas and bedbugs galore, so we'd have to bring our raincoats to put on the chairs. (more laughter) I guess I must really have been in love with my husband to have put up with all of this. He used to tease me later that those were the happiest years of my life, and I would say, "Oh, definitely not!" Then it occurred to me that maybe he had thought all this out so that I would be prepared for everything else.

Q. Were you interested in politics?

A. Oh, yes. It was just that . . . well, I marveled at my mother-in-law ((Dona Aurora Aquino)) and how she could campaign. She was perfect at it; she could give speeches. And I thought, Thank God she can do this for me! She was the type who could kiss babies. As the wife of the mayor in Concepcion, I was expected to go to every wake. Initially, the corpses would be in a bed with just a sheet or curtain over them. My mother-in-law could handle all this, but it was all I could do to look at them. Many nights I could not sleep. And sometimes Ninoy promised the widow that we would look after the children. And I would say, "Oh, Ninoy, did you really say that? We already have a child." Talk of culture shock! After spending seven years of my life in New York, to come to this small town where everybody wanted to know how we lived, what we ate! As I said, it must have been because I loved my husband so much.

Q. Was your husband religious then?

A. That came with jail. His incarceration certainly improved him. And improved me. And also our children. In the past, I had figured that so long as I didn't do any mean things, I'd be O.K. In other words, it was a negative thing rather than something positive. But once he was in prison, it brought out a whole new ( set of values for both of us. In the past, he had concentrated on how to get to the presidency, and everything was just concentrated on that goal. For my part, I had followed the path of least resistance: O.K., if I have to show myself, I'll do it. But I didn't go beyond that. I didn't go beyond people I knew. I just didn't reach out. Then, all of a sudden, with my husband in prison, he was suffering, I was suffering. Yet we knew that others were worse off. We didn't have to worry about where our next meal was coming from or whether our children could go to school. So then, I guess, I started to worry about other people. I guess I identified myself with the victims of Marcos' injustice.

Q. Do you believe God has a plan for you?

A. God has a plan for all of us, and it is for each of us to find out what that plan is. I can tell you that I never thought the plan was for me to be President. But it seems it is. During these past ten months, I really believe it has been necessary to have a woman in this position. Women are less liable to resort to violence than men, and at this time in my country's history, what is really needed is a man or woman of peace.

Q. Do you think the cease-fire with the Communists will work?

A. I always believe in trying.

Q. Have you had special troubles because you are a woman?

A. At one point last year, when my opposition colleagues told me not to go to the UNIDO convention, I made it clear to them, "Look, you people are probably all smarter than I am. You may even be right 95% of the time. But I think that maybe 5% of the time I may have some of the right answers. And I am not going to allow myself to be coerced into not doing something I believe I should do. You always say I am very important to you. If I'm so important, why can't I do what I want to do?" So I made it very clear to them that either I do what I believe I should do, or else let's call it quits. That was a turning point for me.

Q. What do you hope for most for the Philippines, and what do you think, realistically, is possible?

A. What I hope for most, what I believe people really want, is a chance to live in peace and the opportunity for a decent life. I always say that my first priority is to generate enough jobs for the unemployed. If I can just come closer to that goal, I think maybe I will have done my job. People really ask for so little. During the floods and typhoons, when I go out and deliver ; relief goods, there is so much appreciation and gratitude in their faces that I think to myself, Gosh, what are we really doing? It's only a little rice, a little food. Yet they are so appreciative. They're not asking me for big things, so if I can just give them the basics . . . They're not even asking for homes. All they're asking for is a job.

. . . . .

Monday, July 20, 2009

Your choice: Easy to do or Easy Not to do

Do you want to achieve your most important goals? In my opinion it gets down to two simple words, "easy" and "neglect".

People often ask me how I became successful at the early age of 31, while many of the people I knew did not. The answer is simple: During that 6-year period of time (age 25 to 31), the things I found to be easy to do, they found to be easy not to do. I found it easy to set the goals that could change my life. They found it easy not to. I found it easy to read the books that could affect my thinking and my ideas. They found that easy not to. I found it easy to attend the classes and the seminars, and to get around other successful people. They said it probably really wouldn't matter. If I had to sum it up, I would say what I found to be easy to do, they found to be easy not to do.

Six years later, I'm a millionaire and they are all still blaming the economy, the government, and company policies, yet they neglected to do the basic, easy things.

In fact, the primary reason most people are not doing as well as they could and should, can be summed up in a single word: neglect.

It is not the lack of money - banks are full of money. It is not the lack of opportunity - America, and much of the free World, continues to offer the most unprecedented and abundant opportunities in the last six thousand years of recorded history. It is not the lack of books -- libraries are full of books -- and they are free! It is not the schools -- the classrooms are full of good teachers. We have plenty of ministers, leaders, counselors and advisors.

Everything we would ever need to become rich and powerful and sophisticated is within our reach. The major reason that so few take advantage of all that we have is simply neglect.

Neglect is like an infection. Left unchecked it will spread throughout our entire system of disciplines and eventually lead to a complete breakdown of a potentially joy-filled and prosperous human life.

Not doing the things we know we should do causes us to feel guilty and guilt leads to an erosion of self-confidence. As our self-confidence diminishes, so does the level of our activity. And as our activity diminishes, our results inevitably decline. And as our results suffer, our attitude begins to weaken. And as our attitude begins the slow shift from positive to negative, our self-confidence diminishes even more... and on and on it goes.

So my suggestion is that when giving the choice of "easy to" and "easy not to" that you do not neglect to do the simple, basic, "easy" but potentially life-changing activities and disciplines.

(The Secret of Success by Jim Rohn)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Human Beings not Human Doings

God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He’s more interested in what I am than what I do. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings."
  • Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
  • Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
  • Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
  • Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
  • Every moment, THANK GOD
- Rick Warren
. . . . .

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Feeling Overwhelmed?

When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated, I refer to the "YOU SAY, GOD SAYS BIBLE VERSES" poster:

You say: "It's impossible"
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)

You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: I will give you rest

You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: I love you
(John 3:16 & John 3:34)

You say: "I can't go on"
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: "I can't do it"
God says: You can do all things
(Philippians 4:13)

You say: "I'm not able"
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)

You say: "It's not worth it"
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:2)

You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: "I can't manage"
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)

You say: "I'm afraid"
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)

You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7)

You say: "I don't have enough faith"
God says: I've given everyone a measure of faith
(Romans 12:3)

You say: "I'm not smart enough"
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30)

You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

Believe God is there just for you...

To download, right-click the link below and choose the "Save" command:
. . . . .

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wisdom from Miss America

In the light of the recent demise of Michael Jackson, I am reminded of what Tara Dawn Christensen, Miss America 1997, wrote sometime ago:

"Let me save you some time -- you can't have assurance in the world; you can't find it in riches or success; it's not found in an address like Hollywood, Broadway, Wall Street, or Washington DC. The road to success and personal happiness is littered with those who have tried that route and failed. Just examine the lives of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, or Nirvana's lead singer, Curt Cobain. Personal happiness is attainable only when you turn your life over to the One who loves you the most -- Jesus Christ." [Emphasis added.]

. . . . .

Monday, June 22, 2009

Loving Your Enemy

Most of the time, Ramon Tulfo tackles graft and corruption. In the Philippine Daily Inquirer today, he devoted a big chunk of his column to loving your enemy. Very good stuff: biblical and practical.

On forgiving your enemies
By Ramon Tulfo


THE front page article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday about the pain and anguish of a father, Jose Fernando Alcantara, over the death of his son was very moving.

As a father myself, I understand how Alcantara feels about losing his son, Amiel, in an accident on the Ateneo de Manila campus.

I fully understand his pain, his anguish even a year after the accident.

Losing a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly is painful beyond words. No emotion matches it.

It’s also understandable that he would want to exact revenge on Ma. Theresa Torres for his son’s death by sending her to jail.

Torres drove the van that ran over Amiel.

A single mother, Torres drove a school van to augment her income as an artist.

Nothing Alcantara can do, including seeing a single mother in jail, can ever bring back Amiel.

Sending Torres to jail and depriving her child of a mother is unchristian.

For an ex-seminarian, Alcantara is acting like an atheist, a person who is Godless.

Alcantara’s thought of revenge on Torres would have been understandable had she deliberately killed Amiel.

I would probably have had a hard time myself deciding not to take revenge if I lost a loved one to a murderer since I distrust our judicial system.

But the poor woman, whom I don’t know from Eve, never wanted to take Amiel’s life.

In fact, from the news accounts about her, she’s suffering the pain of unintentionally killing a boy who could have been her son.

If Alcantara would just pause and ponder for a moment why his son died, he would conclude that it was Amiel’s time to go back to where we all came from, the bosom of The Source.

It just so happened Torres became the vehicle for Amiel to go to the Other Side.

* * *

Alcantara should learn to forgive the woman who killed his son unintentionally.

I know it’s hard for one to forgive people who have done him harm.

I used to be a person who always thought of getting back at people who wronged me. But that was then.

Since I changed my attitude from holding a grudge to forgiving my enemies, I have noticed little things about me.

I now sleep soundly, my blood pressure has dropped, I don’t easily catch a cold, my peptic ulcer is gone, I now drink moderately, and I’ve lost weight from eating moderately.

In short, I’ve become healthier now than I was when I held a grudge against my enemies.

As self-improvement guru George Sison said of a sickness: “The question is not what ails you, but who ails you.”

When you forgive your enemy, you’re not doing him a favor, but yourself.

. . . . .

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Who is Really Pro-Poor?

Politicians can easily alleviate poverty if they so desire. How? For example, Sen. Manny Villar and Sen. Mar Roxas who both spent a whopping P578.1 million in political ads could have invested the money instead in real anti-poverty projects.

"Monitoring done by a media research company since October last year showed Sen. Manuel Villar to be the biggest spender of them all.

"Villar has spent P321.4 million on TV ads, followed by Senate colleague Mar Roxas, who has used up P256.7 million."

References: "Villar is top ad spender" (Philippine Star, June 10, 2009); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Philippines
. . . . .

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Philippine Airlines Promo: Way to Go

Are you planning to travel abroad between July 1 to Dec. 25, 2009? If so, why not take advantage of Philippine Airlines' "Way to Go" promo to avail of discounted airfares. But hurry, you have to buy your tickets from June 1 - 5, 2009. The destinations and reduced fares are as follows:

Prices listed above are inclusive of surcharges and exclusive of government taxes and other fees that are to be collected at the airport.

* Valid for round trip travel on economy class.

* Valid for outbound travel from 01SEP09 through 25DEC09

* Valid for outbound travel from 01JUL09 through 30NOV09.

* Minimum 3 days and maximum 21 days stay

* Minimum 2 days and maximum 21 days stay

* Minimum 2 days and maximum 8 days stay

* Tickets must be issued on or before 05 June 2009.

* Tickets must be issued 24 hours after confirmed reservations.
For reservations made and confirmed on 05 June 2009,
tickets must be issued within the same day.
* Changes are not permitted
- rebooking/rerouting/reissuance/upgrading/endorsement/combination
are not permitted
* No extension of validity
* Non refundable. Surcharges attached to this fare are likewise non-refundable
Government taxes are refundable subject to USD 25 Refund Service Fee
* No child/infant discount

Reference: http://www.philippineairlines.com/fares_and_promos/special_promos/other_promos/way_to_go_promo_fares/way_to_go_promo_fares.jsp
. . .

Monday, May 25, 2009

God finds an Atheist

Here's an authentic story:

John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the first day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders.

It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn’t what’s on your head but what’s in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped.

I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange ... very strange. Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father-God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a slightly cynical tone: "Do you think I’ll ever find God?"

I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically.

"Oh," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out: "Tommy! I don’t think you’ll ever find him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!" He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.

I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line: "He will find you!" At least I thought it was clever. Later I heard that Tommy had graduated and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report, I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted, and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe. "Tommy, I’ve thought about you so often. I hear you are sick!" I blurted out.

"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It’s a matter of weeks."

"Can you talk about it, Tom?"

"Sure, what would you like to know?"

"What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"

"Well, it could be worse."

"Like what?"

"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real ‘biggies’ in life."

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification God sends back into my life to educate me.)

But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, " is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, ‘No!’ which surprised me. Then you said, ‘But he will find you.’ I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. (My "clever" line. He thought about that a lot!) But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, then I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven.

But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit.

Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn’t really care ... about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. "I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.’ "So I began with the hardest one: my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him."

"Dad". . .

"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.

"Dad, I would like to talk with you."

"Well, talk."

"I mean. .. It’s really important."

The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"

"Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that." Tom smiled at me and said with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him: "The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me.

And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me. "It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing: that I had waited so long. Here I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

"Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn’t come to me when I pleaded with him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, ‘C’mon, jump through.’ ‘C’mon, I’ll give you three days .. .three weeks.’ Apparently God does things in his own way and at his own hour. "But the important thing is that he was there. He found me.

You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for him."

"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.’ Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn’t be half as effective as if you were to tell them."

"Oooh . . . I was ready for you, but I don’t know if I’m ready for your class."

"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call." In a few days Tommy called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it.

He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed.

He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time. "I’m not going to make it to your class," he said.

"I know, Tom."

"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . . tell the whole world for me?"

"I will, Tom. I’ll tell them. I’ll do my best."

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to hear this simple statement about love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven: "I told them, Tommy . ... ...as best I could."


http://www.faithalivebooks.com/profiles/profiles_powell.html; http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/j/johnpowell.htm

. . . . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5th Philippine Blogging Summit

I attended the whole-day 5th Blogging Summit at the auditorium of the U.P. Law Center last Friday, May 9, 2009.

I would say that the various speakers knew very well their respective topics:

Morning Session
  • Blogging 101
  • Photo Blogging
  • Video Blogging
  • Mobile Blogging 101
  • Do's and Don'ts of Blogging
Afternoon Session
  • Legal Issues in Blogging
  • Preparing Bloggers for 2010 Elections
  • Citizen Journalism for the 2010 Elections
  • The Bloggers Election Handbook Project
  • Blog Marketing and Advertising Experiences in the Philippines
  • Blogging to the Next Level
At the end of the summit, the organizers raffled off T-shirts with the iBlog 5 Graphics.

There was a celebration party afterwards at the Katips along Katipunan Ave. but I did not join anymore.

I will post some photos I took of the speakers when I had time to download and select the best shots from my Canon Powershot SD300 compact camera.

. . .

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two Pains

We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons. ~ Jim Rohn

. . . . .

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"He is Risen!"

Luke 24:34 (New International Version)

It is true! The Lord has risen. . .

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

. . . .

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Thought for the Holy Week

You may think that you're worthless because of things you've done wrong. But Jesus says, "No. You're priceless. And I'm willing to give My life in order to pay for your sins."

"Through the blood of His Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of His overflowing kindness" (Ephesians 1:7 God's Word Translation).


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gov. Ed Panlilio Answers Three Key Questions

I was able to attend the dialogue with Gov. Ed Panlilio at held at Patrick Pantaleon's residence in South Forbes where he was asked for his stand on declaring Marcos a hero, Reproductive Health bill, and whether he would prosecute Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

To all three questions, he gave clear and, especially on the last one, "definite" answers. Direct from the "horse's mouth:"


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

By Accident or On-Purpose?

Seneca wrote that:

If a man [or woman] knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind.

Indeed that's how a lot of people chart their lives. John Maxwell, the respected leadership guru, drives home the point with this picturesque description:

Not knowing what long-term direction they are heading for, they bounce around like a ball in a pinball machines. They live reactive lives based on what happens to them , rather than proactive lives based on what values are in them. They live their life "by accident" rather than "on-purpose."

The challenge then is for us to be "live wires" rather than mindless pinballs.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Real Leaders and Powerpoint

I would like to share with you a thought-provoking book review I just read:

The book title says it all: "Real Leaders Don't Do Powerpoint."Published just this month, the new book will quickly makes its mark among the best leadership communication books. But don't let the title fool you: this is more than a book about PowerPoint. By author and speech coach Chris Witt, it's a total book about what leaders need to do to sell themselves and their ideas.


First, though, about PowerPoint and why Chris Witt rightly doesn't trust it to do the job for real leaders. "In the first place," he writes, "it is best suited for presenting information, not influencing or inspiring an audience." And there in a nutshell is the entire argument.

Real leaders, Witt says, should only give three speeches:

  • To identify - tell audiences who they are or who they can become
  • To influence - shape the way audiences think and feel
  • To inspire - make audiences want to act

Unfortunately, PowerPoint is only good for one thing: presenting information. He's right. Anyone in the organization can present information. It's the most basic type of speech. Yes, sometimes leaders do have to do these. In front of special audiences like financial analysts who thrive on detailed slides of graphs and charts.

But that part of a leader's job is limited. They should aspire to more, an argument Witt makes convincingly for both the leader and leader-to-be.

"Remember," Witt writes, "audiences don't want leaders to speak like everyone else. They hold leaders to a higher standard, demanding more of them."

But as I said, that's a small part of the book. Don't think this is a 200 treatise against PowerPoint. It's also a primer on how to construct and deliver a speech.

Witt covers everything from audience analysis to the importance of storytelling and from why structure is critical to how to handle the inevitable question and answer period.

Consider it a good addition to your bookshelf.

Source: http://thespeechwriter.typepad.com/onspeechwriting/2009/02/real-leaders-is-the-real-deal-for-leaders.html

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Meeting with Amb. Amable R. Aguiluz V

March 11, 2009.

Together with Ptr. Romy Salcedo, Dr. John Ayudtud and Ptr. Jojo Gonzales, I was privileged to have met Ambassador Amable R. Aguiluz V, at his office at Suite 3501 of the Raffles Corporate Center in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Meeting with Amb. Amable R. Aguiluz V at Raffles Bldg., Ortigas Center

An amiable gentleman, Amb. Aguiluz is the Special Envoy of the President of the Philippines to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states (Kingdom of Bahrain, State of Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, State of Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates).

Friday, March 06, 2009

"The Reason for Being" Seminar at the P.U.P.

Last Tuesday, March 3, Dr. John Ayudtud conducted "The Reason for Being" seminar for graduating students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. (You can click on the photo or caption below to view the entire web album.)

Reason for Being Seminar at P.U.P. 2009.03.03

You can visit The Reason for Being website here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Topmost Secret to a Making a Marriage Work

The secrets to making a marriage work are not a monopoly of psychologists and marriage counselors as this article shows:

Claudine to Judai: Marry him how

MANILA, Philippines—Claudine Barretto gives fellow ABS-CBN star Judy Ann Santos advice about the latter’s forthcoming wedding.

In this exclusive interview held at the launch of Claudine’s latest product endorsement (Knorr Real Sarap), she urged Judai to tie the knot with fiancĂ© Ryan Agoncillo, pronto. “What are you waiting for? A lot of people are excited, I’m one of them,” Claudine said.

Did she think Judai was ready? “They’ve been planning their wedding for a long time,” Claudine noted. “She’ll know what to do on the day. She should savor everything—the excitement, even the tension. She’ll go through different emotions, for sure.”

That, Claudine said, was precisely her experience when she wed Raymart Santiago almost three years ago. “Most of all,” she added, “it’s important to feel the presence of God, because that’s what’s going to bind you forever.”

She heeds this guideline to this day. “Raymart and I are partners,” said Claudine. “Married life takes a lot of patience and teamwork. After giving birth to Santino, I had problems adjusting. Raymart slowed down [in his career] to spend more time with us.” The trick is time management, she said. “We can both work during the week, but weekends are for the family.”

Claudine is working on a movie next month and a new TV series in July. Star Cinema is considering several scripts—including one that will reunite her with Aga Muhlach.

“I was channel surfing recently and caught my old films ‘Got 2 Believe’ and ‘Milan.’ That was when I realized how much I missed the big screen,” Claudine said.

Film with ‘rival’

There is also talk of a film with her screen “rival” Judai. “They’ve been planning that since our ‘Mula sa Puso’ and ‘Esperanza’ days, when we were teenagers,” said Claudine. “One day that will push through, I just know it.”

A movie with Raymart is also in the offing. “Star Cinema has been courting him for a long time na,” she revealed.

In the meantime, Claudine is busy with her pet advocacies: the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines and orphaned and abandoned children. She is also training as a foster parent under Directors Alice Bonoan and Thelsa Biolena of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“Social workers inspire me,” said Claudine. “They are real-life heroes.”

Source: http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20090226-191243/Claudine-to-Judai-Marry-him-now

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

People Power Anniversary: Tree Planting at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani

What better way to commemorate EDSA I, otherwise known as the bloodless People Power Revolution, than to plant trees in honor of the martyrs and heroes who made possible the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

Please click on the photo or the caption to view the entire web album.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pres. Barack Obama speaks at National Prayer Breakfast 2009

The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year. The event has taken place since 1953 and every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in the breakfast.

Below is Pres. Barack Obama's speech:

National Prayer Breakfast
Thursday, February 5th, 2009
Washington, DC

Good morning.

I want to thank the Co-Chairs of this breakfast, Representatives Heath Shuler and Vernon Ehlers. I’d also like to thank Tony Blair for coming today, as well as our Vice President, Joe Biden, members of my Cabinet, members of Congress, clergy, friends, and dignitaries from across the world.

Michelle and I are honored to join you in prayer this morning. I know this breakfast has a long history in Washington, and faith has always been a guiding force in our family’s life, so we feel very much at home and look forward to keeping this tradition alive during our time here.

It’s a tradition that I’m told actually began many years ago in the city of Seattle. It was the height of the Great Depression, and most people found themselves out of work. Many fell into poverty. Some lost everything.

The leaders of the community did all that they could for those who were suffering in their midst. And then they decided to do something more: they prayed. It didn’t matter what party or religious affiliation to which they belonged. They simply gathered one morning as brothers and sisters to share a meal and talk with God.

These breakfasts soon sprouted up throughout Seattle, and quickly spread to cities and towns across America, eventually making their way to Washington. A short time after President Eisenhower asked a group of Senators if he could join their prayer breakfast, it became a national event. And today, as I see presidents and dignitaries here from every corner of the globe, it strikes me that this is one of the rare occasions that still brings much of the world together in a moment of peace and goodwill.

I raise this history because far too often, we have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another – as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance. Wars have been waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness.

There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next – and some subscribe to no faith at all.

But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith. It requires us not only to believe, but to do – to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world.

In this way, the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I’m announcing later today.

The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another – or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state. This work is important, because whether it’s a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what’s happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them. And we will help them.

We will also reach out to leaders and scholars around the world to foster a more productive and peaceful dialogue on faith. I don’t expect divisions to disappear overnight, nor do I believe that long-held views and conflicts will suddenly vanish. But I do believe that if we can talk to one another openly and honestly, then perhaps old rifts will start to mend and new partnerships will begin to emerge. In a world that grows smaller by the day, perhaps we can begin to crowd out the destructive forces of zealotry and make room for the healing power of understanding.

This is my hope. This is my prayer.

I believe this good is possible because my faith teaches me that all is possible, but I also believe because of what I have seen and what I have lived.

I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose.

In different ways and different forms, it is that spirit and sense of purpose that drew friends and neighbors to that first prayer breakfast in Seattle all those years ago, during another trying time for our nation. It is what led friends and neighbors from so many faiths and nations here today. We come to break bread and give thanks and seek guidance, but also to rededicate ourselves to the mission of love and service that lies at the heart of all humanity. As St. Augustine once said, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."

So let us pray together on this February morning, but let us also work together in all the days and months ahead. For it is only through common struggle and common effort, as brothers and sisters, that we fulfill our highest purpose as beloved children of God. I ask you to join me in that effort, and I also ask that you pray for me, for my family, and for the continued perfection of our union.

Thank you.