As the 2018 Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference draws to a close, last weekend I reluctantly accepted – as I’m still recovering from a minor surgical operation – the invitation to be the resource person of a three-hour “Municipal Orientation on Federalism” of a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-recognized Drug-free municipality in Maguindanao and a recipient of 2017 Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) Award.
When I grabbed the microphone, the sound system turned to be uncooperative! What a timing! So, the attention of the person in charge was immediately called upon to fix the problem. While everybody was anxiously waiting and sitting idly, I suddenly stood up again in front and shared a Maguindanaon ‘bayuk’ (proverb):
NELATAN SU LAGAT SA TIMPU NA KABPAGULUG, NA NANGITIS SU KALUDAN SA BASA NA KAPEMBALAT.
(Translation: “The sea dried up at the time of high tide, while the ocean turned into a draught during rainy season.”)
“Now, what shall we do?” I rhetorically asked the audience. Then I answered it myself through another ‘bayuk’:
PAGAWANG KA SA SABAL NA SAN KA SA KAPAGIMAN, KA BETAD NA PAPEDTAYAN I MAPAMATALU.
(Translation: “Ride on the boat of patience and take asylum in faith, for it is but natural for the darling to be tested.”)
As I sensed that the audience’s silence transformed into smile, laughter and even giggle, I pulled another ‘bayuk’ out of my sleeve, so to speak, followed by another, until the problem with the sound system was fixed.
Apart from a general overview of the federal system of government, I also informed the 250 or so members of the audience – including the mayor, vice mayor, municipal councilors, employees, barangay officials, civil society organizations’ (CSOs) representatives, and military and police personnel – of the current proposals and debates on federalism at the national level, particularly the PDP-Laban Party’s proposed constitutional amendments.
“Let’s not think of federalism – the upcoming carabao in the national political field – as an automatic panacea. It’s not necessarily ‘manna and quail from heaven’. It’s up to us to make a paradise or hell, as the case may be, out of it,” I concluded.
During the open forum, the time for the transition mechanism, the possible scenarios if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) lags behind the government’s agenda for federalism, and the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) vis-à-vis the so-called Equalization Fund were among the issues and concerns raised by the audience.
As I was reflecting on the lecture while on board the aircraft in my way to co-facilitate a conflict analysis workshop in another city the other day, I realized the importance of the law of connection in public speaking. In the said experience, just a few lines of Maguindanaon proverbs unexpectedly served as a magic wand for me to catch the Maguindanaon audience’s attention, and more importantly, their sympathy.
In short, when you are invited to speak, do not ever forget to bring your magic wands.