|Source: Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation Website.|
We were innocent schoolboys when Ramon Magsaysay was president of the republic, and the only memory we have of him is his signature campaign jingle Mambo Jambo and the grief of the neighborhood and our teachers when he died in a plane crash on 17 March, 1957.
We knew he was from Zambales from our principal who tearfully recalled before our grade 3 class the pranks he played on them when they were classmates in our town's private high school. We'd have the bragging rights years later when we've become an alumnus like him of the same school, Zambales Academy.
We remember Filipino First, the catchphrase associated with Carlos P Garcia. It was under him or Diosdado Macapagal that the country was placed in an austerity program, and so for some years we scrimped on town fiestas or canceled them altogether. But definitely it was Macapagal who changed independence day from 4th of July to June 12.
Our political consciousness matured through the long years of living dangerously under the Marcos regime. We too were in the thick of the EDSA revolt of 1986, and the highs and lows in the aftermath from Cory Aquino to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
We've always maintained a certain wariness of the so-called Yellow Magic, too many myths have been woven around it, we think. Thus, we try hard to dissociate Benigno Simeon Cojuanco Aquino III from his mother to give him a chance to shine in his own color.
We wish him well in leading us in the struggle for that "Daang Matuwid". It's not a new battle cry, it's vintage Rizal in another form and context, it also harks back to Ramon Magsaysay, who had as much charisma and magic like his (PNoy's) mother, who called for "morality in government" in his first state of the nation address (SONA) on 25 January 1954.
Here's the pertinent excerpt from The Guy's SONA, an echo that still rings very true today--
"MORALITY IN GOVERNMENT
"And now let us consider the moral state of the nation. There is little in the immediate past of which we may be proud. Since the change of administration, we have unearthed one case after another of outrageous corruption, abuse of power, and manipulation of the laws for self-enrichment. The sordid record is just beginning to unfold. I fear that further inquiry will yield even uglier facts.
"What, we have been asked, are we going to do about all this?
"We must, first of all, remove unworthy government officials and employees. Where the evidence so warrants, we will prosecute those who justly deserve prosecution. Not only considerations of morale and discipline but also the very progress of our work make this demand upon us.· We shall not be able to move ahead for as long as those entrusted with the promotion of the public welfare are busy exploring and exploiting opportunities for selfish ends. We simply cannot tolerate such men in the government. They must go.
"I wish to make clear that the spirit of justice, not of persecution, will guide us in this undertaking. The innocent, the honest and the efficient need fear nothing from us. This Government will protect and defend their rights by enforcing impartially and without political bias our civil service rules and regulations. In the Executive Department, I will not permit anyone to exact political vengeance on honest and efficient employees by dismissing them without cause or harassing them in any other way. The victory we have won is not a license for political persecution.
"To guide us in the conduct of public business, we must return to the timeless moral and political principles which we have either forgotten or taken for granted. There is the principle that honesty is the best policy in public as well as in private life. There is the principle that, while politics is indispensable for the workings of democracy, it cannot be superior to the interest of the nation.
"In the effort to secure for ourselves and our children a government of integrity and efficiency, I will welcome whatever legislation may be enacted by Congress that will serve to prevent, deter; and discourage corruption, increase the penalty for malfeasance in office, and lay down definite rules of ethical conduct in government.
"In the last few years there has been a decline of morality. Character building alone, without a solid moral foundation, has been found inadequate in developing a sound citizenry. We should improve and strengthen the implementation of the Constitutional provision on optional religious instruction through practical and just measures.
"I shall address to the Congress on another occasion a special message on the problems of students who have proved their right to participate in public affairs, as well as on the need to stimulate and foster the growth of our native culture among our youth.
"ACTION AND UNITY
"These, then, are the problems that we are committed to solve. To be sure, many more will arise in the course of this administration. But I sincerely believe that solutions to them will be found, just as I am confident that we· shall be able to dispose of the difficult business at hand.
"I must remind you of an all-important fact: that what we have set out to do can be realized only through concerted action and unity. More than ever, we must think, plan, and work as one, with only one supreme goal in mind-the promotion of the welfare and happiness of our people.
"Perhaps you will say that the people are asking for a miracle. But they too performed no less than a miracle when in one great irresistible movement they dared every peril to preserve the right to have a government of their choice. Thus, they proved to the whole world, to our friends and enemies, that democracy has come of age in our land, that it has become truly and actively a part of the Filipino way of life.
"We have pledged to enrich that life. We can do it. We must do it. With the aid of Divine Providence, we shall begin and continue the work until we shall have fulfilled the great promise that gave our people strength to prove themselves worthy of their heritage of freedom."
P.S. The complete first SONA can be retrieved through the hyperlink in the reference below.The second to the fourth SONAs can also be accessed from the Official Gazette online.
Official Gazette Online. Ramon Magsaysay, First State of the Nation Address, January 25, 1954. Retrieved from http://www.gov.ph/1954/01/25/ramon-magsaysay-first-state-of-the-nation-address-january-25-1954/