|Former DILG Undersecretary|
NOW THAT our certificates of candidacy had been filed with the Commission on Elections, the process of engaging our voters on why Akbayan deserves another term in the House of Representatives commences.
It is also time for its nominees, particularly this representation, to lay down before our constituents and mass membership why we are representing the party. Or on a subjective note why I am running for this position and not serving the party through other means necessary and indispensably relevant.
Last April 2015 during Akbayan’s 6th regular Congress, I ran as the first nominee with the desire to serve as a legislator. In 2010 I tried out as its third nominee but Akbayan did not make the cut falling short of votes to get the required percentage for three seats (Akbayan got two seats though).
This is a new field and vastly different from what I have been doing or as psychologists say, have been programmed to do. I am a development worker and activist since graduating from college thirty years ago. But I am also proud to say that I am one of Akbayan’s co-founders since its inception in 1995 leading to its first foray into the electoral scene in 1998. I helped in strengthening the party at the local level and is one of the strong party advocates of participatory local governance through my NGO work dovetailed in our party organizing. As Mindanaoan, I strongly feel for federalism and the rights of indigenous peoples for self-determination.
I would like to share with you a life-changing event I went through a couple of weeks before I filed my candidacy with the Comelec. A good friend and fellow traveler in the political-developmental field, Councilor Leo Avila, invited me to a self-awareness seminar called Ikepono. There I came to know Bruce Conching, an unassuming guru and friend, who developed this universal knowledge of love and respect starting with knowing who I really am. Unlike other seminars that mostly give inputs and talks from speakers, this one is process-filled and reflective, remembering and revisiting your past and knowing who you grew up to be. Just the thought of remembering is intense enough. What more if you have to tackle your past with a community of fellow seminarians? I went through this seminar with an open mind and heart with the thought of letting go and let God.
It was then that I realized that all along, I already knew who I am and must therefore assert positively and without a doubt, that I am “God’s warrior for peace and love. I am a committed and passionate leader, empowering people and communities now!” For me, this is a powerful description of who am I that emanated from a soul-searching process.
In one of our exercises, I picked several cards at random that are connected with my being. Part of ‘seeing’ oneself is that of making your imagination wander freely and think of yourself in the third person. I played this out in my mind conscious of the cards I’ve picked and their meanings as described in the cards.
Thus, this narration of the Tom that came into this world. So let me share the narrative of Tom:
“Ever since Tom was a boy, he had this sense of belongingness to this big island they called Mindanao. He remembers songs of his favourite band Asin extolling Mindanao’s yearning for change. He remembers his geography teacher saying that Mindanao is our home and we should fight for it against the enemy.
“Tom had a chance to travel to Davao city as a child where his father brought him. In those trips he came to know about how diverse were the peoples of Mindanao. It was also a time of war as the Bangsamoro nation was struggling for independence against the Philippine republic under the dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos. But what struck him then was the violence engulfing Mindanao. He came face to face with violence at an early age when a soldier shot an older brother of a friend. He was seven years old then and that scene bothered him since then. That boy the soldier killed was a Muslim.
“Tom’s awakening to fight injustice happened when he was in fourth year high school. His father, a company official, got fired for siding with the cause of the workers who were demanding wage increases. He knew that top management were getting rich at the expense of the workers --- and the environment. Tom’s pain then was that he faulted deeply his father for deciding to leave and not to fight. His father’s reason was that he has a family to feed and children to send to college. Somehow he blamed his father for not fighting but now Tom knows his father was right. That there is a reason and season for everything and one must be patient and have wisdom to sense those things.
“Tom came to know about the suffering and poverty all around the country and just like Mother Teresa who at the age of eighteen decided to become an activist after leaving her home in Skopje, Macedonia to serve in Calcutta, India. Tom wanted to live and not just make a living. Tom wanted to be happy and be of significance to others and not just becoming ambitious.
“Tom goes to college in far-away Manila knowing nothing about the place nor the language they speak. He had to endure the stares of his classmates who see Tom as a Muslim because he was from Mindanao. Tom felt alone but had to fight that loneliness and prejudice. Later on Tom made friends and had the opportunity to be elected to the university student council and also became a campus journalist.
“Tom started his passion for writing because he got exposed to the conditions of the poor, deprived and oppressed. Later he joined the revolution against the dictatorship. After the downfall of Marcos, Tom channelled his passion to become a development worker with NGOs. He worked as a community organizer for informal sector workers, a trade union organizer among construction and public sector workers, agrarian reform advocate, participatory local governance specialist, and also helped form AKBAYAN. He also finally shared and lived his life with a woman she loves and respects, Lia Jasmin, whom they now have two wonderful daughters.