On July 27, 2015, President Noynoy Aquino delivered his last State of the Nation Address (SONA). And since I live in Q.C. it made sense to avoid going out of the house and risk getting stuck in traffic. So I equipped myself for an afternoon of front row viewing of this milestone show of PNoy.
In earlier news, I heard some protesters complaining about the overkill preparations being done by the police – complete with barbed wires, cement barriers, containers to prevent them from entering the no-rally zone. I did my own overkill preparation of hot tea, banana chips, Japanese peanut snacks, potato chips and chocolate to keep myself from dozing off to sleep. Come on, it’s not very easy to keep your attention listening to hours of speech.
I tuned in early in order to catch the red carpet portion of the event. However, I noticed that this was missing in yesterday’s coverage. Maybe ANC was asked to tone it done and avoid looking like an Oscars Awards Night. I understand this because a lot have complained about the insensitivity highlighting the contrast of the lavish outfits and the real state of our nation, which is widespread poverty among Filipinos. But I just had a special interest on their Filipiniana-inspired outfits that day because my parents are celebrating their 60th (Diamond) Wedding Anniversary soon and my mom has chosen this as our theme. So I did the next best thing. I checked out Instagram #SONA2015 and saw some interesting outfits. Another thing that helped me keep my attention was keeping tab of the interruptions for applause and coughs. For the duration of two hours and 15 minutes, here’s the score: applause= 140; coughs = 8, the latter is an improvement from last year. He may have reduced smoking already.
My husband, sons and I have been doing public speaking for quite some time now – our talks and presentations, both individually and as a family, my sons’ hosting jobs (in their respective schools and offices, etc.). Although we still have a lot of public speaking to do to complete our 10,000 hours, we now treat public speaking more seriously, with more respect and with a higher standard. Like last Sunday when we heard mass, we couldn’t help but be exasperated when the priest kept all of us and the other parishioners hostage with his long, winding, and going-nowhere sermon, not an unusual occurrence in Catholic masses. Bishop Soc Villegas nailed it when he said, “Priests should stop the homily abuse, which can harm the soul!” As a public speaker, I believe that your listeners’ time is precious, and you don’t only waste their time, but also your opportunity to connect with them if you fail to prepare well.
The SONA is no exception. In fact, this is a very important address that the president delivers to his fellow Filipinos whom he has started calling boss ko since his first one in 2010.
Let me share some of my observations about the last SONA:
- Don’t waste your opening salvo. He started off looking cheerful and at ease despite the pressure he must be feeling on his valedictory speech. There was a long applause, which made him smile and gave me the impression that the speech would start with a positive note. Unfortunately, he enumerated the ills of the GMA regime again. Later on I understood that he had to set that out as his background so that he could show his regime’s accomplishments in a brighter light. There is a logic to it, but hey! This is your 6th already and we’ve heard all those before. More importantly, you DO NOT waste your opening salvo to engage your audience. This is what’s called the hook in public speaking. Now his critics have all the right to say, “Hindi ka maka-move on,PNoy!”
- I like story-telling. I believe that lessons are best delivered and remembered when told in a story. And this is why I think he would have been better off starting with the story on how he was the most reluctant presidential candidate with the aid of a video of Alex Lacson narrating it. While others may criticize his anecdotes throughout the speech (his predecessors did this too.), people can better understand and remember stories compared to statistics.
- Women power.There was a time he was enumerating the accomplishments of women in his cabinet – BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, et al. It would have been a nice touch to mention something like “If you want a man’s job done, give it to a woman!” to endear himself to the female population and provide a comic relief. Feminist jokes always work on both genders.
- Use of Filipino. I must commend PNoy for his great command of the Filipino language! Mahusay siya! I wonder if he used to be in the Filipino honors class at the Ateneo High School? I know it’s hard to express all those business terms in Filipino and he sounded like he really knew what he was talking about and wasn’t just reading from his guide. I took down notes and since I probably think in English when it comes to business talk, I wrote down my notes in English. I hope this choice of Filipino in delivering the SONA reached more Filipinos.
- Presenting numbers in an intelligible way. Among the things that were presented well was addressing the classroom and teacher shortage. He showed inherited problems in numbers and showed accomplishments with the balance already made part of their 2016 budget and makes a compelling reason for the lawmakers to approve his proposed budget; otherwise, the blood is in their hands. He ended this part by saying he wouldn’t hand over any problems to his successor.
- Use of analogy. He defended the K-12 to his critics by using an analogy that said something like, “Hindi po iyan gamot na pag-ininom ng batang kinder e magiging college na sya agad!” I thought it was a powerful way to explain that it takes time to feel the effects of reforms. In the same way, he could also use this to explain the effects of the improvement in our international credit rating and the positive perception of the world on us. The thing is, the people in the business sector may fully grasp this but not the Filipinos who are hardly making both ends meet.
- Revisiting Kayo ang boss ko! Maybe PNoy (and all of us for that matter) should re-visit this tagline. It worked its magic at the start of his term both to reverse the wang wang mentality and to make the Filipinos feel good about themselves. It also forced everyone to go back to the fundamental definition of public service. However, overdoing this may make him miss the chance to “demand” cooperation and obedience from his constituents. Each Filipino should be reminded that he has his own duty to perform to make our country prosper. In other words, he is not entirely the boss of PNoy. He is also the follower. Let’s take the traffic problem for instance, which has come to epic proportions that draconian measures might already be necessary. He could have started off by admitting the government’s part in allowing the MRT situation to worsen, then go on to acknowledge some form of helplessness to solve the traffic problem alone and would need cooperation from the public. A well-crafted request to each Filipino to sacrifice a little in order to solve the traffic problem might have been taken well. I am just thinking aloud here and I don’t have any bright solution to offer,but something has to be done in this department. The news of 27% increase in car sales doesn’t sound like good news to motorists anymore!
- Humanizing the president. Towards the end of his speech, he started thanking all the people around him. I was actually toying in my head, “I wonder if he will thank my batchmate, his hairdresser Cherry Reyes, the franchise holder of Toni & Guy and wife of Chot Reyes?” and he did! His airtime for Cherry was longer than that for Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima! I’m not complaining about the Thank Yous because it humanized the president and our culture likes cute things like this. Give it to him, it was his farewell show.
- Great ending. If there’s anything the public and media were both waiting to get from this SONA, it was his endorsement for the next president. He may have wasted his opening salvo by blaming GMA again, but I must say he maximized his ending and used it well to leave an impact. He outlined his regime’s accomplishments as shown by figures on both the domestic and international fronts, with record high GDP growth rates that, when sustained, will catapult us to first world status in one generation. He proceeded to admit that there are still a lot of things to be done and that this is only the beginning, then ended with a question to this effect: Will you cut off a tree now when it’s finally starting to bear fruits? Then the cameramen ably flashed on screen the faces of the three presidential aspirants side by side – Binay, Poe and Roxas, all flashing their smiles, reminiscent of Oscar Awards Night, that I could hear an inner voice say, “The nominees for the best actor are…” For someone who was listening to PNoy then and aspires to finally attain the first world status in his lifetime or even just for his kids (who wouldn’t?) what could have played in his head was this, “The nominees for the next president who will continue PNoy’s reforms and bring us to first world status are…” I’m telling you, if all who were watching were handed a ballot to cast their vote on, there would have been a surge in the votes for Mar Roxas, who was made to appear pogi in his thank you portion while appearing very meek, humble and able on cam. His kulelat ranking may have been passed on to Binay, whose alleged supporters inside the Congress displayed their rudeness by booing the president after his speech.
So what grade do you give the President? Earlier that day, I saw Professor Clarita Carlos being interviewed by Karen Davila and I liked her candor and smart answers. She refused to give PNoy a grade and when pressed for one, she reminded the host about the condition of her guesting – i.e. she will not give PNoy a grade. Then she went on to explain the different aspects and references and different kinds of public, that makes it difficult to give a catchy sound bite of a categorical grade.
This discussion made me think about how a president should set his goals upon assumption of office. Should he just set easy-to-reach goals so that on his last SONA, he will be graded favorably? But we all know he shouldn’t. As one writer said, “The danger is not in setting your goal too high and not attaining it, but in setting it too low and attaining it!”
How should we set our goals?
When we do our own goal setting in our family, we start out with a really big dream that embodies the kind of person we want to be. Then it’s broken down into medium and short-term goals, then further down into monthly goals and daily winning habits. For family goals, we know that each one has a role to play. And I think it might be good to have something like this as a country. The late Lee Kuan Yew had it structured like this and they were detailed in his thick books From Third World to First and The Singapore Story.
We’re not Singaporeans. I’d like to think we’re a lot more fun, but admittedly, a lot harder to rule; nonetheless,we ought to have a common long-term goal, the backdrop of which is going to be our basis in choosing our leaders, election after election, so we do not get lost in the personalities and what’s uso. Then one more thing, our role in this development should never be forgotten. It should be taught in schools, reminded in our places of work, both public and private entities, so that each time we have a SONA, we are all accountable to each other, and responsible for the real State of our Nation!
Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon. Her new book is the Filipino version of the latter entitled Ang Muling Pagsasalaysay ng Ang Pinakamayamang Tao sa Babilonya. Click this link to read samples of the books. Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is also the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards.
Photo Attribution: Photos from my iphone, #2015Instagram, PhilStar.com SONA 2015 put together by the author to help deliver the message of the article.
This article is also published in PhilStar.com and RaisingPinoyBoys.com.