Speech of President Aquino at the Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, December 5, 2012

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas

[Delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace, on December 5, 2012]

Thank you. Please sit down. Thank you.

Secretary Albert del Rosario; Secretary Mely Nicolas; excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps; awardees of the 2012 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas; officials and staff of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas; fellow workers in government; honored guests; mga minamahal ko pong kababayan:

Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat. Maayong gabii. Maayo pabengi. Naimbag na rabi. Mayroon pa ho bang kulang? [Laughter]

Hintayin po n’yo iyong video namin ni apl.de.ap, hinihintay ko lang pong kumapal ang buhok niya. [Laughter] Para bagay ho kaming magkasama. [Laughter]

And seriously… Thank you. I really had so much bad news today especially from the effects of typhoon Pablo. Your song really lifted us up.

The numbers are not really—simply alarming. Hopefully, they were erroneous numbers, which would be corrected soon.

Today, we welcome back Filipino achievers from fourteen different countries in five different continents, all of whom have displayed excellence in their fields, together with an unrelenting desire to uplift their motherland. As President of this country, it is my pleasure to say: Welcome home. Your acts have allowed everyone to see the enduring truth in the words of one of our country’s most renowned migrants, the writer Carlos Bulosan: Indeed, the Philippines is in the heart.

As I browsed the list of awardees, I was reminded once again just how blessed with talent our people are. Whether homegrown or raised abroad, the people in our presence today have become true ambassadors of the skill and creativity of the Filipino. More than that, our awardees today have shown that despite great distances, our people are united in the spirit of bayanihan—the idea that the true measure of our humanity is defined not by what we have built alone, but rather, by what we have achieved in solidarity with our fellowmen. Many of our awardees have chosen to pay their successes forward by taking part in the collective task of nation-building. This is something I personally admire.

Many of you are perhaps familiar with my own family’s experiences abroad. For years, we lived as political refugees; and this allows me to sympathize with the difficulties the migrants here have gone through—the pain of separation from your loved ones, and from the places, and even the food, you’ve grown familiar with, compounded by the inescapable longing to return. I also know that those of you here who were raised abroad have had to contend with your own set of challenges. We know of the fundamental struggle one naturally has with his identity, and of the long voyage towards discovering, and ultimately growing to love, the land of your forebears. You rose to these challenges; you made it work. Even in the face of adversity, you were able to contribute to building your adoptive societies.

As our newly revitalized nation is showing: hindi puwede sa Pilipino ang puwede na—we can always do better. This has become as true for Filipinos here in our homeland, as it has for you. And in this new chapter of our history, Filipinos everywhere in the world are increasingly finding ways of working together in this constant quest for excellence, so that we may fulfill the collective aspirations of our people sooner rather than later.

And now that we have a government that is truly on the side of the people, our common aspirations come to the fore: empowering the citizenry by investing in healthcare; fighting for the human rights of Filipino migrant workers; and making certain that our culture and heritage etch their rightful mark in the global arena. If I may add: Recently, contemporary pop music has been deluged with Filipino talent, and not least among them are, my friend, apl.de.ap’s hip-hop anthems, which, I, from time to time, like to enjoy and sometimes I dance to so long as my knees permit it. [Laughter and applause] And it certainly helps my enjoyment knowing that the man singing on the record has consistently given back to this nation. I distinctly remember, around this time last year, apl made a point to visit the parts of Cagayan de Oro ravaged by the tropical storm Sendong so that he could personally help those affected. He even ended up donating a new school building.

Right now, typhoon Pablo is departing the Philippines. I am happy to say that we have made considerable progress in how we anticipate and respond to natural disasters. Just as government has become proactive, I am seeing a greater spirit of cooperation among our fellow citizens. Still, Pablo has taken its toll, and I am confident that those of you who have always been giving generously in the past will take the time to lend a helping hand where it is needed. We are proving to the world that geographical gaps cannot shake the unity of the Filipino people.

At this time of rebuilding for our people, let us work together in the spirit of bayanihan—the spirit that has always pushed our country past any adversity and towards a better tomorrow. And as we aim for the stars, let us continue to strengthen anchorage in our roots. After all, it is our collective identity, our shared pride, that is at the core of our continuing pursuit of excellence.

My sincere thanks for all you have done. I wish one and all a pleasant afternoon.

President Benigno S. Aquino III (MNS Photo)



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