Whenever it’s campaign time, politicians are always promising to make the Philippines great again. I remember the stories from the older generation that in the 1950s, when they would be mistaken for Japanese in Europe, they would say, “We are not Japanese, we are Filipinos!” Indeed, the Philippines was once a rich nation. It had the first stock exchange in Asia, the first airline in Asia, the oldest university in Asia, and the oldest bank in Southeast Asia, just to name a few. However, after Marcos left in 1986, countries like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong were already richer than the Philippines. In the 70s, we already started the OFW movement because Filipinos wanted a better life.
In the Gospel Jesus often talks about Service. “I came to serve and not to be served.” Hence, whenever we choose our leaders who will serve, three things we should look for:
- Sacrifice. People who serve are ready to sacrifice, putting aside their personal needs for others. The best example is the millions of Filipinos having to go abroad, work with different people, live in a different culture, eat different food and deal with all the challenges especially loneliness, only to give their families a better life.
- Generosity. When one gives without counting the cost, true blessings come that person’s way. Peter once asked Jesus, “We have left our families, houses, and lands for the Gospel, what is it in for us?” Jesus said, 100 times blessings in this life and in the life to come. On the other hand, one temptation of a person who gives is the sense of entitlement. Once a security guard of a Church parking lot was told by a parishioner, “Reserve this slot for me as I was the one who donated for the renovation project of the Adoration chapel.”
- Joy. It is not easy. People will always have comments. When one serves from the heart though, no matter how difficult, there is joy. Once I was in Singapore and the lady beside me on the bus told me, “You must be a Filipino?” I said, “Yes, how did you know?” She responded, “Because you look happy.” I said, “Yes, I am on vacation and thinking of eating Hainanese Chicken and Cereal Prawns.” She eventually explained that the Filipinos in Singapore work long hours and do hard jobs. Yet, they can still be happy!
Hence in each Mass we pray that we can make our nation great again. Let us not just rely on the people we elect though. We vote them and make them accountable, but we should do our share too. We are here on earth to serve. May we serve with joy, generosity and sacrifice.