Here’s one of those things that I love most about our President: his attachment to bigas.
When he brought home our OFWs who were stranded in Saudi Arabia for 3 years, they were automatically enrolled in our 4Ps program—as per our President’s orders and because, he said, “Para man lang may pangbili sila ng bigas.”
And it was under his term that rice subsidies of 20kg per month per family started. That’s 20kg of rice that comes between them and hunger and malnourishment.
Compare that with the enraging 3 kilos for 3 months the oligarch haciendero president Noynoy Aquino thought was a reasonable enough response to the demands of Kidapawan farmers’ appeal for help for them and their hungry families. And where some of them were killed for the audacity to demand help from government.
And where we had to be the ones to remind those who sat in office, “BIGAS! HINDI BALA, MGA GAGO!”
And by the way, Rodrigo Duterte wasn’t president yet when he stepped in and sent 15,000 bags of rice for the Kidapawan farmers. And it is a testament to his character that I can claim with a straight face that he did all that not for press release but out of the sincerity of his desire to ease the hunger of our farmers.
And when 17 Vietnamese fishermen were caught fishing illegally in our waters, President Duterte pardoned them and sent them off –lovingly even–with instructions to our DSWD Sec Judy Taguiwalo to make sure they had provisions. And part of these provisions was rice, of course. We’re Asians! We need our rice.
And I love how our new DSWD Secretary takes her cues from our president and puts inside the relief box for typhoons Lawin and Karen, a pack of rice good for 3 days for a family of 5.
I got into a conversation with Secretary Taguiwalo and she told me just how much our President hates hunger. He hates the thought of Filipinos/fellow human beings going hungry. And that he has, long ago, declared war against hunger.
That explains the president’s obsession with bigas.
And I love how this President thinks this way because what it tells me is this is how he cares for us. That he really and truly thinks of us—in big ways and in small ways. And that his heart really is for us.
Tutoong public service. Hindi puro ngawngaw lang.
I’ve been told not to compare—it’s bad daw. And not fair daw—to compare Rodrigo Duterte with Noynoy Aquino.
I can’t help it for one thing.
It’s like you’ve come from a really douchebag of a boyfriend—someone you meant nothing to –someone who didn’t give half a shit if you were cold and hungry—and then suddenly, you’re now with a man who loves you so much and for whom the thought that you could be hungry is just unbearable to him.
And he thinks of big and small ways to love and serve you: from freeing us from the shackles of US imperialism to making sure we have our cup of warm rice for dinner.
Comparing makes me remember the shit I’ve been through and it makes me see just how far I’ve come. And it makes me profoundly grateful for what I have now that it would make me want to be my best self and not take what is in front of me for granted.
Comparing that shit Noynoy Aquino to the awesome president we have now makes me celebratory.
It makes me want to give a most highly deserved and rousing standing ovation to Rodrigo Duterte while raining confetti down on him.
It makes me see clearly.
And it makes me dream big dreams for my country. It makes me hopeful in ways I have not been for a very long time.
It makes me dare to believe that millions can finally be taken out of the horrible nightmare of severe poverty and ignorance they are in. And it makes me want to do my part—however humble—but this time, not from a place of anger and despair but from a place of gratitude and hope.
It makes me dare to believe that our country’s best days are around the corner and all that I had ever despaired to see is within reach– a country where I and my children could live out our wildest hopes and dreams, that I do not need to leave the land of my birth to have all that I want to have.
And that our country’s dry spell has come to an end. The rains have come! All that we had ever wished to be is now at hand.
This is what I see when I see our President’s obsession with bigas.