Better Days

Sometimes, the sun comes up and begins a day so muddled up and messy, that time seems immobilized, paralyzed, by the sheer weight of unfortunate events. Whenever that happens, we look heavenward in search of divine guidance and inward for much needed emotional and mental strength.

Real friends matter most during days when phone calls are left unanswered by people you thought reliable. We all have bad days in life. This is why I always ask that God grant us the gift of better days, where the innocent rising of the sun is met with the peaceful melody of a contented and serene life. I wish that now for friends of long standing.

I wish for better days to hasten the healing process for family and friends left behind by veteran journalist, Jun “Bote” Bautista. At the age of 73, Bote hoped to write away his pain by pressing the keys on his laptop. But God had other plans. As a columnist of “Abante” and a former broadcast reporter of GMA-7, Bote was hardcore when it came to news writing. His proteges in and out of the Senate press room led by the talented and highly popular Arnold Clavio of GMA-7, known to all as “Igan”, paid homage to Bote during his wake at the Magallanes church.

Those grieving in nearby chapels must have been shocked by the nonstop laughter during his wake. His gang of friends who drank with him and inhaled his smoke throughout the years at a media hangout known as “Remembrances” came in full force. We honored him with laughter – spontaneous, loving, and mischievous – the kind that he would often instigate.

It was Jun Bautista who helped put together the so-called “Batman and Robin” weekly press conferences of senatorial aspirant Blas F. Ople and Senator Ernesto “Boy” Herrera. At first, the joint press conferences were held at the poolside of the Army & Navy Club in Manila with Mathew Tan, a loyal and devoted friend of both Ka Blas and Sen. Boy, as among the chief coordinators. My father’s secretary, Mila Cruz, and Tita Misolas of the Office of Senator Boy Herrera were fellow conspirators in making sure that these weekly gatherings were successful. The “Batman & Robin” press luncheons helped catapult Ka Blas to the winning circle in the Senate elections of 1992.

Though a friend to many news sources including the top political names in the country, Bote never compromised his role as as journalist to please them. Younger reporters admired the easy, calm and smooth manner by which he tried to elicit more information especially from stoic, tightlipped sources. He smoked a lot like my father, and they shared quite a few sticks from the same pack of Winston’s carried around by Paeng, the aide of Ka Blas.

I also wish for better days for a soft-spoken woman for Cecile Flores-Oebanda whom I first met when my father was chair of the Senate foreign relations committee. At that time, she was lobbying for the ratification of an ILO convention against child labor. Recently, we lobbied together alongside other non-government organizations for the ratification of the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers as well as for the much-awaited Kasambahay Law.

Unfortunately, the integrity of Cecile Flores-Oebanda and the Visayan Forum Foundation has been challenged in court by the justice department through an investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation upon the request of an international donor that was very instrumental in the foundation’s growth and expansion.

I will not comment about the case, lacking the competence, authority, and information to do so. But I did feel sad when Cecile experienced the trauma of critical media exposure so unprepared and with little knowledge as to what was going on.

Most non-government organizations in the Philippines are in a state of perpetual financial struggle – too small, obscure, and unsophisticated in its internal affairs to successfully bid for foreign grants. Yet amongst them are real gems that the public have yet to get to know and discover.

Some government agencies keep civil society groups at arm’s length, to be invited in when the need for stakeholders’ approval for policies and projects is required. Partnerships and mentorship between the public sector and civil society can result in mutually fulfilling agendas. However, it is important that the role of an advocate does not become an ugly parody of a children’s puppet show.

I wish the readers of this weekly column better days as well. With the national and local elections fast approaching, the airwaves shall be cluttered with hype and hoopla that electoral politics usually bring. Better days could mean quiet, peaceful and meaningful days to reflect on the principles that matter, and the problems of the country worth solving. (Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com. Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople. Listen to DZXL AM 558 for our daily public service program, “Bantay OFW”, every M-F, from 12.30-2.30 pm and to DWIZ AM 882 every Saturday, 5.30-6.30 pm for “Global Pinoy”.)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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