Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Enigmatic Charm of a Charismatic Leader: Fidel Valdez Ramos in Bangkok

As he scans the room, he moves from person to person, paying much attention to the person he is talking to at any moment, making the person feel that he/she is the most important person in the world.

The 12th President of the Philippines, his excellency Fidel Valdez Ramos, arrived in Bangkok, Thailand to grace the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Asian Institute of Technology as a keynote speaker. He is the recipient of an honorary PhD in Technology from AIT. He also humurously states that he misses his 'barkada sa golf' that's partly why he flew to Bangkok all the way from Manila.

The moment he dropped off from the mercedez benz which was his service car from BKK airport to Sukhothai Hotel, courtesy of OUTLAURS, he was all smiles and automatically worked his charms even to the hotel staff who were stationed to greet him at the lobby.

I introduced myself as a Filipino student from AIT, and he started chatting with me like we knew each other for many years. I know he does not know fully what Urban Environmental Management is (my field of study at AIT), but he instantly said that my course is important. Talk about 'charm' and 'charisma'.

My colleagues (Dennis and J) and I, together with people from the Philippine Embassy went inside his suite to have a short photo ops, and he even gave Dennis, J, and I a signed copy of his publication, drawing a big heart at the top of the page, with our names on it.

Fast forward 3 hours, and we were at the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok to listen to his short talk with the other leaders of the Filipino communities in Thailand. I realized that there are so many women leaders in Thailand's Filipino communities, as most of them work as teachers in English here in Thailand.

FVR starts his speech in stating that "the Philippines has been always trying to catch up with Thailand", and that the advantage we always have in this race is "nakakalamang sa English ang Pinoy". He further states that the "political situation is fluid in the Philippines just like in Thailand." He also notes that the difference lies in that our leader is the head of state and head of government, and that we don't have a 'moral leader'.

He places emphasis on how to initiate change in our country. He reflects on his career direction after his term of Presidency, and has no special preference in running for office anymore, as he believes that 'running is just as important as voting'.

He further encourages everyone to register as soon as possible: 'the earlier, the better'. He emphasizes that VOTING is a very important right which every Filipino citizen should exercise. "Yan ang ating pinakapagmamalaki: in 1898, we were the first democracy in Asia. Encourage yourselves to register, and encourage the others to do so."

In this competitive and difficult life in the 21st century, FVR states 3 important events in the course of Philippine history which should keep every Filipino going:
  • the spirit of 1896: sigaw sa Pugad Lawin, Balintawak;
  • the spirit of 1942: the defense of Bataan; and
  • 1986: the spirit of EDSA: 'kung saan nagkaisa ang sambayanan at Panginoong Diyos'.
"Sana maibalik natin ang samahan na ganun. UNITY, SOLIDARITY, and TEAMWORK can make the Philippines surpass whom we are trying to ovetake, which have not been successfully done..."

Pertaining to the main issue why other nations that were behind the Philippines years ago are now successful and the Philippines has become stagnant, he states: "...other nations and superpowers are so PRODUCTIVE....the Philippines is VERY REPRODUCTIVE..." He reiterates that being PRODUCTIVE vs REPRODUCTIVE can be a hindrance to educate young Filipino children. Education is a key to raise high quality children, and every parent should make this a priority in raising their own kids.

Furthermore, he puts emphasis on good Filipino traits which makes the Filipino race more resilient than the rest of the world. "Filipinos are among the happiest in the world...among the top 5, according to the top published sources." He elaborates in saying that the Filipinos can manage to somehow stay happy despite the challenges in life. "Mababaw ang kaligayan ng Pinoy." He states the 4 Ks that make any Filipino happy: Kainan (at parties and gatherings, no matter how small), Kawayan (waving at each other when meeting anywhere), Kamayan (especially with VIPs), and KODAKAN (taking pictures in almost any given situation, especially that which are taken with close kins).

He concludes his speech with a brief intoduction of some books which he wrote over the years after he descended as the President of the Philippines. Among these books, he notes the following to be must reads:
  • Caring, Sharing, Daring (he jokes that it's really a book for Filipina old maids named "CARING, CHARING, and DARING");
  • Sermons. (Which is a collection of all the Sunday Columns which he wrote on Manila Bulletin which compunded to 3 volumes of the same title).
During the Q&A exchange, he even asked each respective woman who asked question, to sit beside him, jokingly stating it as an example of how he was able to settle conflicts in Mindanao by simply letting conflicting parties sit on a single chair.

Indeed, I understand why FVR has always stayed neutral before most Filipino's eyes and hearts, despite the controversies he used to get involved with in the past. CHARM and CHARISMA was his style....indeed, "The Charismatic Leader gathers followers through dint of personality and charm, rather than any form of external power or authority."

Other Links:

Fidel Valdez Ramos: 20 years after EDSA
Ramos Peace and Development Foundation Inc (FVR: RPDEV)
Fidel Valdez Ramos (FVR: CV)

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