My cousin, Grace, wrote, “I didn’t see you reply. Did you see… Tita Day is organizing a trip to Malacanang in two days!” Who, what, when where? It was my dormant Facebook account in the loop so I was unaware until then!
Just the week before, I pulled some good muscles that made walking and standing a pain (literally) and my husband had been sick on and off since the weekend so as much as it sounded like a worthwhile trip, I was dependent on God taking care of those things.
I have a confession to make. I’m not a Duterte fan. My aunts and uncles spent a good number of years not only in the president’s hometown, Davao, but also across from his house. When my grandmother had a health emergency when no one was home, it was (now President) Mr. Rody Duterte himself who took her to the hospital thus saving her life. When my now forty-something year old cousin, Chevy, was a baby and turned blue due to a hole in his heart and no one was home, guess who took him to the hospital and saved his life as well? Yes, and with no fanfare.
I love my Tita Day dearly; she is one of my spiritual mentors.
But when she raved about (then) Mayor Duterte during the election period, my palm met my forehead more than a few times as fear and much concern prevailed over the news coverages. Along with my aunt, many Davaoenos I met/meet would say that the brusque manner and speech on the political stage are just an act. They vouch passionately that his heart sincerely wants to help the Filipinos, specially the poor, and really works for progress and peace as evidenced by how Davao evolved after he took office there. In Davao, they say, the regular folk are not afraid of him at all because to them, he’s the person who has transformed their city into a safe place where they don’t worry about criminals even late into the night. The talk is just to intimidate would-be criminals. However, the Davaoenos’ and my family’s sentiments did not change my mind. I wasn’t rooting for President Duterte during the elections.
But how many times am I going to get a chance to see Malacanang? Accurately, one… this.
On the day itself, my husband was well and went to work early plus I could move with much less pain. So I decided then and there to join the group.
As the car approached the Palace, the presence of people became sparse as the view was replaced by stretches of high grills and gates with weaponed uniformed guards to keep outsiders out. Had it not been for Tita Day who arranged everything and had permission not been granted by the person in authority, there was no way I would get past those gates. I was reminded of God’s home in heaven and if not for Jesus, I have no way to get in. But thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross in my place for the forgiveness of my sins so that I am covered by Your blood and it is through Your righteousness (not my unrighteousness) covering me as I put my trust in You as my Savior and Lord, that I can enter heaven.
The center of Rizal Hall has a dome on top which has EXcellent accoustics. Underneath it, we all joined in singing an imromptu, soulful a capella “Our Father” in harmony.
We walked about…
As a wonderful gift of unexpected grace, a fleeting window of opportunity opened up and we were able to see the President within that narrow time.
When the President came out, he had on a t-shirt and slacks. He had on a kind, gentle expression. The vision I saw was distant from what I thought President Rodrigo Duterte would be like. His demeanor was humble and kind. He greeted my aunts and uncle warmly and talked with them. He had a kind manner even to the rest of us. No splashy statements. No hullaballoo.
When I was next to the him, I said, “President, mura’g na-ignuy man ko nga nakatapad nimo. (In Tagalog, parang natameme ako na nakatabi sa inyo; In English, I’m at a loss for words, overhwhelmed to be beside the President of my country, so I’m just rambling).
He asked my aunts, “Kang kinsang anak man ‘ni (Whose daughter is this)?” “Kang Peping ug Tom Estuart, katong abogado (my aunts answered)” “Ah o,” he acknowledged, smiling ( I don’t know if he remembers my parents or was being polite). Shortly after, the words came, “President, I’m praying for you.[raising my right hand over him], May the Lord bless you…… immeasurably more….. than all you ask or imagine.” In my prayer, I was also praying for him the every spiritual blessing that the Lord has for those who are His, who are faithful in Jesus Christ.
It all happened in a flash and soon, off the President went back to business. There was not even a shadow of a trace of arrogance. As his car drove off and quiet moments followed, I just thought to myself, he has a MONuMENTal task. Being a President of a small company is hard enough but to be president of a country with 98.4 million Filipinos of diverse inclinations… the thought alone constricts my air passageways.
It is always, always easier to criticize and point out how things could be done better when we are not in the person’s shoes. If we sat in the person’s place, what would we do? How would we solve our country’s problems?
I’m sure there are things that need improvement (diplomacy for international or domestic relations, due process, restraint in release of statements that encourage lawlessness in law enforcers among others) but this person in his honorable position knows the risk of running a complex country such as the Philippines and had the courage to take it on. If my original presidential candidate had won, I’m sure there would be a mountain of criticism for that person also as there is always an abundance of people with better ideas.
As the President tries to run the country, how do I as a common citizen (who’s naturally allergic to politics) respond?
The CCF Message two Sundays ago had counsel on this:
Excerpt (Afternoon Taglish Message by Ptr. Bong Saquing):
Full Message (Morning English message by Ptr. Ricky Sarthou):
[At CCF, whenever we have fasting or pre-service prayer time, Number One on the prayer list is always for the President and our leaders.]
I’m learning that God commands us to pray for all our leaders. All authority comes from Him and He is the one who establishes those who are in position. He can direct the hearts and use each one of them (even those who don’t know or believe Him) according to His perfect will… just as He used King Cyrus, King Xerxes; in the midst of the rule of Pharaoh, kings, governors/ government leaders, He was working His will among and for His people who were under that rule. We can bring up all our concerns to our authorities respectfully and through the proper channels. When God commands us to submit to our authorities (which does not preclude making appeals and requests and expressing our sentiments respectfully), our accountability lies in our obedience to Him; our authorities are accountable to Him for their choices. Prayer may sound corny to those who do not know the Lord but it is extremely powerful.
What we do or say that edifies our country/city/ place where He has assigned us is a seed that is for our good. Conversely, what we do or say that maligns it is a seed for its downfall along with our own. But we do have a choice.
Lord, I continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to so fill President Duterte and all government leaders to give him/them clear knowledge of His will, and work out Your will and holy purposes through the President/our government leaders. May Your righteousness, strength, wisdom, discernment, guidance be upon them and direct their steps. I pray for their spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, psychological well-being that You will heal them of any brokenness all the way to their infancy and childhood, that in You, they will be whole and be able to serve the country better. As they seek You, may Your favor rest on them as You reveal more of Yourself in more intimate ways to them wherever they may be, whether standing, sitting, lying down, sleeping. May You give them a vision of Yourself and may they seek to use their positions of power and authority to glorify You.
Lord, thank You for all the good things that the President and our country’s leaders have done, are doing, and will do. Please use them for our country’s good. I pray for our country’s welfare, that You would prosper and bless it not only materially but spiritually. May You be the one to go before all our leaders to lead this beautiful country and its beautiful people. May we see all of the beauty within and spend some time dwelling on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, or praiseworthy. If there are things that we are not satisfied with, may we respectfully make our appeals through the proper channels as we submit to You and to our authorities. This is not easy but we depend on Your Holy Spirit. May our countrymen lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity, may all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. May You speak in understandable ways not only to our leaders but also our citizens, me included of course, of our own individual share in seeking to turn away from the things in our lives that displease You and seeking to please and honor You with our lives as our proper act of worship of You in Jesus’s name and for His glory amen.