Archive for the ‘Personal Reflections’ Category

How to make your 2013 more meaningful

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

How to make your 2013 more meaningful

By: Harvey S. Keh

Published at The Manila Bulletin on January 6, 2013 (Sunday)


The new year always brings about new resolutions, opportunities and challenges to all of us. A recent survey done by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) shows that  almost 90% of Filipinos are entering this new year with renewed hope and excitement. Yet despite this, there still much work to be done to help our country continue to move forward towards lasting progress and development. This will only happen if each of us will take the time to do our own small share towards making a difference in our society.


Here are some concrete initiatives that we can do to help make our 2013 more meaningful not only for ourselves but also for our country:


1.) Share your old but usable books to our public schools


While we have many books that just gather dust in our book shelves or cabinets, less than 20% of our public elementary schools do not have functional libraries due to lack of resources. This is equivalent to more than 10 Million young Filipino students who are not able to learn how to read properly because they do not have books to read in the first place. The Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation accepts storybooks, up to date encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference books and other learning materials that can still be placed in our public elementary school libraries. If you would like to donate, you can call (02) 433-1440 or (02) 990-3282, you can also bring your donations to 56-D Esteban Abada St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.


2.) Volunteer for the coming 2013 National and Local Elections


We always love to complain about how corrupt our government officials are and this is a fact in our country where we lose billions of pesos due to graft and corruption. These billions of pesos can easily provide scholarships to poor but deserving students, adequate housing to poor families and health insurance for every Filipino. More often than not, the reason why we have corrupt political leaders is because many of us choose to just stay away from getting involved and ensuring that these people never get elected into public office again.


If you believe that our country deserves clean, honest and truthful elections then you may want to share your time and talent to volunteer for election watchdogs such as the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) or the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). You can contact NAMFREL by calling their office at (02) 470-4151 while you can just visit your nearest parish church to volunteer for PPCRV.


Let us remember that we do not have a right to complain if we don’t do our part as citizens of this country to ensure that we elect the right leaders.


3.) Blog and write about inspiring stories in your community


When one looks at the front page of our newspapers, majority of the news are usually bad news. Are we as a nation really that bad? I don’t think so. There are so many inspiring stories in our communities but sadly, not many people know about these stories until media decides to publish or feature it. One prime example is the Kariton Classroom of Efren Penaflorida who only got attention when he was chosen as the CNN Hero of the Year in 2009. Fortunately for Penaflorida, his friends decided to upload a video of his initiative on YouTube which got the attention of people from CNN. This recognition enabled Penaflorida’s group to receive more resources and donations that is now allowing them to help more children in Cavite.


Our country is a nation of heroes that is why I am sure that there are a lot more exciting and worthwhile initiatives that are happening in our own communities thus, it would be good if we can blog or write about these initiatives so that we can continue to inspire more Filipinos to do their own small share in making a difference by sharing their time and talents.


Just like the Kariton Classroom, the community projects that we start need not immediately make a great impact but if we are able to create several hundreds or even thousands of these initiatives all over the country then it will only be a matter of time before we are able to make a big dent in our nation’s fight against illiteracy and poverty.


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October 8, 2011 Leave a comment


by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Times

WHEN I was still young, I remember watching a Pepsi commercial saying that “we seal our fate with the choices we make.” If there is one very important skill that you have to learn early on in life it is the ability to be able to make sound and wise decisions. This is a life skill that we not only need in our personal lives but also in our professional careers. Oftentimes, the thin line between success and failure becomes dependent on the kind of decisions that we make. I have a friend who lost his entire livelihood just because he made a wrong decision of failing to take time to understand the different consequences of the decisions that he made.

Parents as teachers

Parents are challenged to train and teach their children to make good decisions early on in their life.

Decision-making cannot simply be learned by reading a book, it has to learned through constant experience like riding a bicycle or swimming. I remember that as early as when I was in Grade 1, my parents would already give me opportunities to hone my decision-making skills by making me decide on what food should I buy given my limited allowance or what kind of toy would I buy every time I would be given an academic award in school. These simple decisions have taught me to think before I act which is very important since oftentimes many of us tend to simply make a decision based on intuition or whim.

Parents should not be afraid to see their children commit mistakes early on in life since these are learning experiences for their children so that when bigger, tougher life decisions have to be made, their children would be better prepared to handle them. Many children grow up being averse to taking risks or making decisions because they were always protected by their parents who made the decisions for them. Instead of protecting our children from taking risks, parents should instead provide pointers or guidelines to their children on how they can make sound decisions.

My parents always taught me that in making decisions, one should always look ahead to the future as to how a particular decision will have an effect in my life. I was taught that one should not only look at the positives in a particular decision but more importantly, the negative consequences that it might have not only to me but also to those around me.

Aside from this, my parents have always reassured me that there is nothing wrong with committing mistakes as long as you learn and grow from these experiences. This is perhaps the reason why I have been able to start several organizations that help promote access to quality education and good governance in our country because I am less afraid to take risks because of the formation given to me by my parents when I was growing up.

Decisions for the country

As we grow up, we realize that decisions have become an integral part of not only our lives but also the life of our nation. There is a reason why there is a minimum age before one can participate in our local and national elections. At 18 years old, the state presupposes already that a person has had enough education and experience to make a well-thought of decision in choosing the right leaders for our country. Sadly, this is not the case for many Filipinos who still do not take this political exercise seriously.

The consequences of making poor decisions in elections have a huge impact in our lives as seen in the recent calamities which caused much flooding in Pampanga, Isabela, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. The reason for this massive flooding is not just the rainwater from typhoons Pedring and Quiel. This was further aggravated by the rapid deforestation that has occurred in our mountains particularly the Sierra Madres. Without trees whose roots absorb the rain, water will naturally flow down from our mountains into our communities. This, again, caused major damage and even casualties this past week.

Deforestation has been perpetuated because our local officials and even our police force have tolerated and even corruptly supported illegal logging activities through the decades. It is actually very ironic that the some of these local leaders that have benefited from these illegal logging activities are now the ones who are trying to win the hearts of people by leading the rescue and relief efforts.

If every Filipino would just learn to make wiser, better decisions such as choosing not to sell his/her vote and choosing to vote for a candidate based on qualifications, platform and virtues then I am sure that many of these social problems that we face right now can be solved.

Hopefully, the next generation of Filipinos will be taught and trained well by their parents and schools to have the necessary skills and competencies to make better decisions for our country since, as we are learning now, a simple decision can make or break our nation.

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Hazing, the non-violent way

August 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Hazing, the non-violent way

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — I was disturbed when I saw the video of how new recruits of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were being tortured and abused as part of their so-called initiation into the ranks of the PNP.

Hazing, also found in several colleges and universities, has been a lingering problem that has caused the loss of several young lives in the past decades.

Two years ago, the sad story of a 14-year-old girl from a high school in Quezon City was all over the papers. The girl got pregnant due to a group sex initiation that she had to undergo to join a group in her school. She didn’t even know who the father of her child was!

Some fraternities use “tradition’’ as an excuse for hazing, saying this has been a practice for several generations now. Is the use of violence, torture and inhuman acts the only way for people to share a common experience?

Hazing only promotes a culture of violence and revenge. Those who have undergone acts of hazing would most likely also want to do the same to the next batch of recruits. This cycle goes on and on, destroying young lives or losing them in the process.

The challenge is for fraternities and other associations to think of more innovative, safer and productive ways of conducting their initiation. Here are some suggestions:

1.) TUTORING NON-READERS IN OUR PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS EVERY SATURDAY FOR 8 CONSECUTIVE WEEKS. Addressing the problem of access and quality of our basic education system is one of the main priorities of the present administration. But given the enormity of the problem, the government cannot do it alone. So why not engage and encourage fraternities and other associations to develop a reading program that assists non-readers in public schools. If one would like to be part of a fraternity, then one has to commit at least eight consecutive Saturday afternoons to help increase the reading comprehension skills of young students.

2.) ASK A NEW RECRUIT TO RAISE AT LEAST 300 BOOKS FOR A PUBLIC SCHOOL LIBRARY. Assign a recruit to a certain village or subdivision and ask him or her to write letters to the homeowners asking them for donations of books that can still be used at our public school libraries. Each neophyte member asked to raise at least 300 books given a limited time before s/he can be accepted into the organization.

3.) PARTICIPATE IN A COMMUNITY CLEAN-UP AND ASK RECRUITS TO COLLECT AT LEAST 60 KILOS OF PLASTIC WASTE EACH. All new recruits will be brought to a barangay and they will be tasked to develop a program to help maintain the cleanliness of the community. They will then help the barangay in educating the community about this program while each of them will be assigned to collect at least 60 kilos of plastic waste. The collected waste may be sold to junk shops and the money earned can then be used by the fraternity or association to fund their programs.

4.) CONVINCE AT LEAST 250 PEOPLE TO LIKE THE FRATERNITY OR ASSOCIATION’S FAN PAGE ON FACEBOOK. One of the things that organizations and even companies are doing now is harnessing the power of social media to promote their products and activities. This is also one thing that fraternities can do which is to ask their new recruits to convince at least 250 people to like their organization’s

Facebook page. Imagine if a fraternity has at least 10 new recruits then that would immediately translate to at least 2,500 new likes on their Facebook page. This would allow the fraternity to reach more people when they promote their activities.

Through these small, simple suggestions, we can make the initiation process of any organization more productive not only for the individual who is being initiated but also for the organization and eventually, the community as a whole.

* * *

Erratum to my previous column: In my last column, I featured the fellows for the Asia Society’s Asia 21-Philippines Young Leaders program. I would like to apologize to Michael Sandejas whose awards I failed to cite accurately. 
Here are the awards and the recognitions that he has received in recent years: Cinemalaya Audience Award, Cinemanila International Film Festival Selection, Gawad Tanglaw Presidential Jury Award for Film Excellence and National Council for Children’s Television Award in 2009, San Diego Asian Film Festival and Third Eye Asian Film Festival in India last 2010.

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I know good governance isn’t sexy but…

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Leaders of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership

I know good governance isn’t sexy but…

By: Harvey S. Keh

Ever since I’ve graduated from college in 2000, I have been very much involved with two major advocacies that I feel very passionate about, the improvement of access and quality of education in our country and the promotion of good governance. I have always believed that both of these elements should be attained by our country in order for us to eventually move out of poverty and become a first world economy.

Healthway Medical donates to Pathways to Higher Education

Pathways to Higher Education

I started Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines in 2002 together with Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J. and Dr. Milwida Guevara, both of whom I look up to as mentors and as great Filipino servant leaders. Pathways helps academically-gifted but financially-disadvantaged public high school students gain access to college and eventually finish their college education. Since we started Pathways in 2002, more than a hundred students have already graduated from college many of which come from families who earn less than P 150.00 a day. Raising funds for the scholarships of our participants wasn’t very hard since many generous Filipinos were more than willing to “adopt” our scholars. Even large companies such as Universal Robina Corporation, Healthway Medical, Diamond Hotel, RCPI and Smart Communications have partnered with Pathways in helping bring opportunities to more deserving young Filipinos. Those who may want to consider helping our Pathways participants can call (02) 426-6001 local 4048.

Children reading at a newly opened AHON Foundation library

AHON Foundation

In 2006, Mr. Hector Tagaysay and I worked together to establish the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation, a corporate foundation of Filway Marketing, Inc., that aims to help build well-equipped public elementary school libraries all over the country. Since then, we have helped refurbish more than 40 libraries in Marikina, Quezon City, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, La Union and Pangasinan. Like Pathways, AHON does not find it very hard to get book donations and grants from individuals and organizations who believe in providing quality basic education to every Filipino child. Just recently, AHON got a grant from Target Sourcing Services which will allow us to provide Filipiniana storybooks and other reference materials to our beneficiaries. Two weeks ago, another multi-national company got in touch with us and committed to helping provide books to another public elementary school in Pasig. Those who may want to help AHON bring books to more Filipino children can call (02) 434-1458.

Good governance’s struggle for support

Unlike Pathways and AHON, the biggest challenge for me in terms of raising funds and support has been in Kaya Natin. The Ateneo School of Government together with Among Ed Panlilio, former Gov. Grace Padaca and DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo launched the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership in 2008 at a dinner meeting at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan. Since then, we have evolved to become not just a movement that promotes good governance but also as a leadership sanctuary that supports effective, ethical and empowering government leaders in our country. We believe that the only way for good people to prevail against graft and corruption is if they synergize their efforts and work together. Yet, despite the great need for good governance in our country given that billions of pesos are lost every year to graft and corruption, it has been quite tough for us to raise resources for our programs and activities.


One major reason for this is that many Filipinos still shun away from getting involved in anything political especially major companies which have their own interests to protect. Another reason that I see is that unlike Pathways and AHON where you can concretely see where your money goes (in the form of a scholar or a library), good governance is vague and it doesn’t yield results immediately. Finally, I discerned that by espousing good governance and ethical leadership, you are forced to take a side thus by choosing to advocate for what is right, you automatically gain enemies which are those who live and perpetuate graft and corruption in our society. Whereas in other advocacies such as education, healthcare and shelter, you don’t have to step on anyone’s interests.

Looking at the bigger picture

Yet, if you look at the bigger picture in the Philippines, isn’t it supposed to be the role of our government to ensure that quality education is provided to all? Isn’t it the role of our government to be able to provide equitable opportunities to every Filipino to be able to own a house? My point here is that if good governance is practiced by our government leaders, the impact would be greater and much felt by more Filipinos in a faster way. Yes, a movement that promotes good governance isn’t sexy but in the end, it also needs to be supported lest we want our country to be continually run by corrupt leaders.


A story comes to mind as I write this piece. There was a man who saw another man drowning in the pool so he jumps into the pool and saves the drowning man. Right after he brings the man out of the pool, he sees that there are two other men who are now drowning in the pool as well. He then jumps into the pool and saves both of them. This process happens again and again and again until the man grows tired because the man fails to see the bigger picture and address the root cause of the problem which is the presence of an evil man who continuously throws people into the pool.

Making a commitment

One could reflect on this story as a story of our country today. While there are so many good people who are doing their own share to contribute to nation-building, many Filipinos continue to still live in poverty. The greater challenge now is how we can engage our government and its leaders so that they can become champions of good governance who can effectively respond to our growing social problems. By doing so, we make our leaders accountable for their actions or inactions and in the end, better delivery of basic services to every Filipino can happen.


In conclusion, donating or volunteering for a cause is a personal choice which I hope many Filipinos especially those who live comfortably will make. Whether it’s helping provide a scholarship, donating books or supporting champions of good governance, the important thing is you have gone out of your comfort zone, made a choice and more importantly, a commitment to get involved and contribute to making our society a better place for all of us. Genuine and lasting change will only happen if every Filipino will not just stop at complaining about our present problems but also start to become a proactive changemaker in his or her own small way.


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Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J. – My mentor, my hero

March 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J.


My mentor, my hero

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Bulletin


MANILA, Philippines — How do you transform a university into one of the premiere academic institutions in Asia while helping rebuild the future of a nation beset by rampant poverty, corruption and illiteracy?

Ask Fr. Ben. While he has always valued the need for academic excellence, he has always said that the true worth of an academic institution in a country where more than half of the population continues to live in poverty is measured by the amount of impact it will have towards changing the lives of the poor and powerless.

Thus, it was no surprise that Fr. Ben has dedicated much of his time in working towards the improvement of the public school system and in working with Gawad Kalinga towards the provision of shelter for many homeless Filipino families.

During his talks, he has always cited the Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen in saying that the only way for Third World countries such as the Philippines to move out of poverty is to improve its public education and public health systems.

Fr. Ben has taken these words to heart and in the last 10 years, he has been instrumental towards the establishment of several successful non-profit organizations that have helped rebuild and improve our public education system.

One of these organizations is Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines which I co-founded with him and Dr. Milwida Guevara in 2002. Pathways aims to help academically-gifted but financially disadvantaged students enter college and finish their college education.

Many people fail to realize that I was only 23 years old when I started Pathways and it was the constant guidance and mentoring of Fr. Ben that helped me run the organization towards helping hundreds of public school students all over the country gain better opportunities of attaining a brighter future.

Even before Pathways, Fr. Ben had already established the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED), an institution that helps empower and train different stakeholders in the field of public education towards the improvement in the performance of public elementary school students.

Since its establishment in 1998, ACED has provided training to thousands of public school teachers and principals from all over the Philippines.

One of the more inspiring success stories of ACED happened recently when one of its pilot schools, Payatas B Elementary School, went from being in the bottom 10 of Quezon City public schools to being in the Top 20 in just a year. According to Fr. Ben, this big leap can be attributed to the concerted efforts of the community such as the parents and the barangay leaders to actively participate in the improvement of public elementary school.

Now, he has decided to tackle the growing problem of malnutrition among school children in Quezon City where he has launched a feeding program together with the local government towards addressing underweight children. Fr. Ben shares that this is a very important initiative since one of the main reasons for the high drop-out rate is our children’s poor health due to their lack of nutritious food to eat at home.

He never seems to run out of good ideas and energy when it comes to helping the poor. I am sure that as he retires from being our University President, he will now have more time to focus on ensuring that all these worthwhile initiatives will continue to grow and help more Filipinos in need.


As I grew up my heroes evolved from the usual Superman, Spiderman and Batman to basketball superstars such as Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to national leaders such as Ninoy and Cory Aquino, Jesse Robredo, Grace Padaca and Among Ed Panlilio. I realized that all of them have one thing in common, they are all ordinary people like you and me that have decided to go beyond themselves to promote and fight for something good which is often larger than life.

Heroes are people whom we look up to as bearers of hope in times of trouble and despair. When all else is lost, we look up to these extraordinary people to inspire us to believe that anything is possible if only we believe in ourselves.

Fr. Ben decided that he wanted to make it his mission to build the nation and despite the many challenges that he has faced through the years, he has emerged victorious. More importantly, he has restored hope to many less privileged Filipinos who have been neglected by our leaders through the years. Truly, the Ateneo community and the Filipino people are blessed to have a modern-day Filipino hero in Fr. Ben.

Harvey S. Keh is co-founder of Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines and AHON Foundation.

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The Meaning of Hermes and the new People Power

February 27, 2011 79 comments

The Meaning of Hermes and the new People Power

by: Harvey S. Keh

This afternoon I finally had the chance to visit the Hermes store at Greenbelt in Makati. I have always seen and heard about this brand of the rich and famous which made me wonder how much are these bags really worth. Upon checking, I was shocked to see that the prices of each bag ranged from a “low” of P 500,000 to as high of more than P 1,000,000. Wow! These bags actually cost more than your ordinary car with several months worth of gasoline (in spite of the high cost of gasoline these days). Yet for me, what is disturbing is the fact that these kinds of high-end luxury shops actually thrive here in a third world developing country where more than 23 million Filipinos continue to live in poverty. I say this because I don’t think the likes of Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci would dare to open their shops here if there wasn’t enough Filipinos who would go out of their way to buy their wares.  I am not saying that owning these luxury brands is wrong but in a situation where many of our countrymen still experience involuntary hunger every single day, one should have the social conscience to strive to live a simple lifestyle.  Perhaps, this is also the reason why many of us were disturbed when at the height of increasing prices of basic commodities, President Noynoy Aquino bought for himself a second-hand Porsche which many of us know costs several millions of pesos.

Hermes and Poverty

According to the latest National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Poverty Incidence Survey which was conducted in 2009, a family of five would need at least P 8,251 per month to live a decent life and to stay out of poverty. The price of a brand new Hermes bag can actually provide food, shelter and education to five poor families for a whole year! What is even more disturbing is the fact that many Filipinos don’t just own 1 Hermes bag but even up to 8 bags! While you have 12 year old girls who have to sell their young bodies to dirty dump truck drivers in Tondo for a measly P 300 just to be able to help bring food on their family’s table, their more affluent teenage counterparts hang out in bars every weekend wearing shoes and accessories worth thousands of pesos. This becomes all the more disturbing when we see children of some of our corrupt government officials who literally flaunt their latest Louis Vuitton bags or are seen riding their newly purchased Mercedes Benz sports car.

A detached middle and upper class

Many people who will get to read this will probably be upset by what I have written. Some will say, it’s their hard earned money so it’s their right on where they will spend it. Others will say, as long as I’m not hurting or disturbing anyone then people shouldn’t care about the luxury brands that I buy. Perhaps they are right and I am wrong but I believe that this kind of “detachment” from the reality of the kind of lives that millions of poor Filipinos live by my fellow well-educated middle to upper class members of our society has led us to where we are now. 25 years after the EDSA People Power Revolution and many Filipinos are still forced to go abroad just to be able to earn a decent living for their families. In the experience of many countries that have risen out of poverty, the middle to upper class has always played a very important role. Clearly, this is not the case here in the Philippines where many of us still leave our government to worry and solve our myriad of problems.  Many of us try to temper our guilty conscience by taking part in occasional charity or gift-giving activities but sadly, as soon as we leave Payatas, we go back to the comforts of our own gated subdivisions, go about our normal routines and slowly but surely forget about the people there. Worse, some people just do it for show knowing that it will come out in the latest society and lifestyle pages of our newspapers. When we go to first world countries like Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Canada and the United States, we often ask ourselves when the Philippines will become like them. The President of Ateneo de Manila Univesity, Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J., has always reiterated that our country will only be able to move forward at the pace of its slowest members. This means that unless we are able to do our own share in helping our less privileged fellow Filipinos, our country will never be able to progress beyond the third world.

A new kind of People Power

This kind of situation calls for a change of heart and mindset for many of us. Instead of thinking of People Power as a one time, big time event that we commemorate every year. We should now begin to think of People Power as a way of life that we are called to live out each day. People Power brought freedom and democracy to our country in 1986 and it is also through genuine People Power especially from the more privileged class in our society that we will be able to free our country from poverty.  This new way of life calls for us to be more aware of what is happening in our society and to become more sensitive to the needs of the other especially the poor. It is also a call for us to go beyond our usual comfort zones, stop making excuses, make small sacrifices and decide to regularly make time to share our talents and skills to help address our country’s social problems.  Small things when done in a consistent basis will go a long way such as instead of buying another pair of shoes that you still don’t need, why not use the money to help buy a complete set of school supplies for several public school students? Instead of taking a trip to the beach every weekend, why not sacrifice a week or two every month so that you can take time to join a medical mission and use the funds to help provide life saving medicines to indigent patients? When each one of us decides to make these small sacrifices then we see this new kind of People Power emerging. This is the time as well when we will see that we are making headway in our fight against poverty.

In summary, what I am trying to say in this article is this new People Power asks for us not to turn a blind eye but to actually give a damn and care for the plight of our less-privileged Filipino brothers and sisters. It is a challenge for us to go beyond the typical lip service of saying that one loves the country yet s/he cannot even concretely show genuine love for its most marginalized people. It is a call to not stop at just complaining about all our country’s problems but to have a more conscious effort to become involved in nation-building.  Finally, it is an even greater challenge for us to begin to change our own way of life so that it is no longer just centered to ourselves, our needs and our wants but rather, a life where we make a firm and lasting commitment that each day is another opportunity for us to do our own share in helping uplift the lives of others.

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Modern-day heroes for the Filipino youth – part 2

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Modern-day heroes for the Filipino youth

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Bulletin


MANILA, Philippines — Last week, I shared about the things that I learned as a leader from three of my role models whom I consider to be modern day heroes of our country.

This week, I conclude this two-part article by sharing about three more inspiring Filipino leaders that have greatly influenced me to try my best to become a positive changemaker in our society.

Dr. Antonio La Viña

Dr. Antonio La Viña, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG)

Dean Tony, as he is called by those who work with him at the Ateneo School of Government, is one of the world’s foremost experts in climate change and environmental law. He served for three years under the Ramos administration as Undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

It was during his stint at the DENR that he was able to resolve thousands of environment cases that had been neglected through the years. He was able to do this by ensuring that all employees who worked with him did their best and this was done as he fostered a culture of transparency and accountability in his office.

His main innovation was literally taking out almost all the walls in his office so people could easily see whether or not each employee was doing his or her job.

Aside from being a champion for environmental issues, Dean Tony is also a successful social entrepreneur as he continues to work with different organizations within and outside the Philippines in seeking innovative solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems.

Due to this, he was able to increase the enrollment of the ASOG’s Masters in Public Management Program by more than 500 percent. But more importantly, he was able to bring the program to different parts of the country such as Marawi City, Tarlac and Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.

He is also widely credited as being one of the main driving forces in the establishment of a center for social entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University which helps provide training and formation to aspiring young social entrepreneurs.

Recently, he also brought the ASOG’s social entrepreneurship program to Rome and Naples in Italy for our Filipino migrant workers who are based there.

Amid these achievements, Dean Tony has always made it a priority to make time to mentor young leaders like me by continuing to teach at the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools and the University of the Philippines’ College of Law.

Truly, I am one of the lucky ones who continue to learn a lot from his wisdom and advice.

Among Ed Panlilio and former Gov. Grace Padaca

Among Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca, co-founders, Kaya Natin! Movement

When I first heard about the inspiring stories of their electoral victories in 2004 and 2007, I realized that with effective, ethical and empowering leaders like former Pampanga Governor Among Ed Panlilio and former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, our countrymen still have much hope to hold on to.

Their victories happened when it seemed that the forces of evil were lording it over in our national government, as rampant graft and corruption became the norm in many of our democratic institutions.

More importantly, their victories had once again shown that if the Filipino people were united, we could overcome insurmountable odds. As soon as they assumed office, they wasted no time in delivering good governance and quality basic services to the Filipino people.

Among Ed’s efficient quarry tax collection program won for the province of Pampanga, the prestigious Gawad Galing Pook Award, while Padaca became the second local government official from our country to win the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, widely acknowledged to be the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize in Asia.

Yet, despite their many achievements and victories, they lost in the last elections — with their heads held high. During the campaign, while their opponents resorted to vote-buying and harassment, both of them took the moral high ground and not to do unethical means to attain victory.

Despite the fact that they are no longer in government, they still continue to go around the country and even abroad to talk to different groups about their experiences in promoting good governance and ethical leadership.

Like many Filipinos, I continue to hope and pray that we will wake up one day to a Philippines that is led by selfless Filipino leaders like Among Ed and Gov. Grace.

Harvey S. Keh is director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government. He is 2010 TOYM awardee for Public Education and Good Governance. Comments are welcome at