Don’t look pretty, just do your jobs
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2014 - 12:00am

At the beginning of President Benigno Aquino’s term as pres-ident, I wrote in a column that Social Welfare Secretary Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman was an excellent choice for the Cabinet position. A couple of years later I regret those sentiments, as I am sure many do as well.

Unfortunately for her, as was the case with many other public officials, the last couple of years painfully revealed so many shortcomings and problems with our system. After all, in 2013, when super typhoon Yolanda hit the eyes of the entire world were on the country and we had a chance to truly show everyone what we were made of. I have to admit, what we showed and what the world saw was not good. There was a painful absence of government officials on the ground, relief coming in by the trickle, and we saw donations rotting away in warehouses while the DSWD figured out how to distribute and send them out to those in need.

Dinky Soliman had a chance to make a difference in the aftermath of Yolanda, but instead she was noticeably absent. She should have been out there helping our fellow countrymen get back on their feet or at the very least mobilizing the fast and fair distribution of relief goods. But the fact that foreign aid didn’t even want to go through the government for fear of corruption is already such a slap in the face. But who can blame them? After all, these kind and generous souls abroad want to make sure the relief goes where it is actually needed and not to corrupt officials.

Quite frankly that was the biggest joke in the wake of Yolanda, except that the joke is on all of us, and it’s not very funny. Honestly, due to the terrible way we handled ourselves after Yolanda (and are still handling ourselves), it’s no wonder we were so terrified when the previous storm was coming and the news said it might be another super typhoon. We know that we have not gotten back on our feet yet and we know that our foreign neighbors may be dubious when it comes to sending us help this time around.

What a sad portrait we certainly painted of the Philippines at the height of the crisis. Between corrupt government officials making aid move at a snail’s pace, we had local news personalities fighting and being petty. Who can forget when local anchor Korina Sanchez went head-to-head with international CNN reporter Anderson Cooper in the defense of her husband from the comfort of the studio? Not only did it look irresponsible but it looked ludicrous as well.

Time has passed since Yolanda and I understand that for those like Soliman and Sanchez, the ultimate goal is to look good in the public opinion. After all, public opinion is what sustains their careers. However, in the coming year how about actually doing good and doing your job responsibly and without bias instead of just looking good? I guarantee that actually doing good is so much better than worrying about how you are perceived. After all, I don’t doubt these women’s capabilities or intentions. They are intelligent and talented after all, it’s just time that they, along with so many in our government, actually do their jobs and stop worrying just about image.

*      *      *

Pope Francis never ceases to amaze me. I’m sure so many of our countrymen feel the same way. There has been a sort of “renaissance” in the church since this humble and kind man took over and he has breathed new life into the faith. It’s actually just what we need now more than ever as faith has been waning in the last decade. Having Pope Francis guide the Catholics of the world towards compassion and love has revived a hope that has been sorely missing for a while.

Not to mention, the Pope, despite being soft spoken, kind, and gentle, does not mince words. He is not afraid to share his message of simplicity and calls on all of the cloth to do the same. In his latest Christmas homily, the cardinals and bishops in the Vatican were undoubtedly squirming in their chairs as they sat behind him. He spoke of the 15 ‘deadly sins’ that affect the Vatican hierarchy in a blisteringly honest critique. These sins include being indifferent, feeling immortal, immune, or indispensable, and even working too hard. The Pope believes that rest is needed and well deserved for those who do their job well.

It was refreshing to listen to the Pope’s Christmas address because it shows that he knows there is much work to be done. Unlike many sermons of the past that admonish people to change their ways while leaving the problems of the Church out, this sermon admitted that the church had work to do as well. This humanizes the church and helps others feel closer to it instead of alienated and angry. I feel that this closeness is going to continue to be a wellspring of hope, one that will bring people back to the church.

I know that all of us here are looking forward to the Pontiff’s visit in January. I personally feel that Pope Francis will attract even bigger crowds than the previous popes because his message encompasses a much broader and wider audience range. If I were only a little younger, I would definitely make the trip out to jostle amongst the other faithful for a glimpse at our Holy Father. I remember my daughter Michelle did just that years ago for World Youth Day when Pope John Paul II was here.

Hopefully, amidst all the preparation of the Pope’s visit, his message is not lost in the fanfare. I understand we want to make things nice for his visit, but if we end up going overboard it will only prove that we have not been listening to what he has been saying. “Live simply” is his message and I truly believe that this is something a lot of Catholics in the country have to do. Giant churches are beautiful, but hollow if true compassion and love don’t reside there.

Here’s hoping for a wonderful visit for the Pope and that he may further instill hope in our country. We certainly could use it. And speaking of hope, I wish you all hope and love as 2014 comes to a close. It’s been a challenging year and a tough one for many of us, but I pray that 2015 is better. It’s a new start and it’s never too late to start again. Happy New Year everyone. May the coming 365 days bring you everything that your hearts desire.




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