An open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte

Many years ago, in May of 1986, our family — my husband and three children — decided to leave our country when weexperienced too much chaos and violence after the Aquino assassination.
However, only ten months after arriving in the US, another blow more devastating came to my life: a huge fire in my parent’s Ermita property took the lives of four — my Dad and Mom, who were in their mid-seventies, a balikbayan sister who was to come home the following day, and an 8-year-old nephew.
Fortunately, my brother with his wife and six children were able to run away, but he was traumatized as he watched the fire engulf our loved ones.  Firemen refused to spray the hose at our building because they prioritized on helping a neighbor whose building was not even burning because the owner had given P40,000 grease money to them!
My bitterness and pain were indescribable as I vowed never to set foot again on Philippine soil.  I decided to fight depression by writing an advice column for a California Filipino newspaper, praying for my heart to melt and forgive!
I made the choice to accept the trials life threw at me, act positively to pursue worthy goals and fill my life with meaning and contribution. I let my heart overflow with joy as I watched our three children grow up to be amazingly responsible, compassionate and loving individuals and a happy marriage with my supportive husband.
Ten years after the tragedy, we had to come home to attend the wedding of our eldest son to his beautiful wife in Batangas City.  We have come and gone since, have never been to the scene until now. I just released forgiveness for the evil deeds of men, and think back about good times from the past.
Even as turbulence all over the world continues to roll like the waves of an ocean, my day never ends without a prayer for peace to reign in everyone’s hearts.  I pray especially for my countrymen who for ages have been suffering from the hands of past leaders who had only self interests and greed, as well as natural disasters, poverty and overpopulation, heinous crimes by mentally impaired drug addicts, and the inability to survive against the odds.   With the grace of God, their tools in life were strong faith and resilience!
As Helen Keller quoted, “The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
I feel you, Mr. President, will live up to the challenges — dare mighty things — and win glorious triumphs together with each Filipino whose heart you have aroused.
After watching your SONA speech, Mr. President, I can truly say that now I can see the light from the darkness.  That my soul can feel the peace that someday, my husband and I, in our twilight years, will not be afraid to come back to our once beautiful beloved Philippines, because finally God has sent a leader like you with a compassionate heart and an iron hand.
To be willing to sacrifice at the risk of your life will be your ultimate test, but what a reward you will get from all 100 million Filipinos and our future generations.  Our endless thanks from our grateful hearts and a prayer for you to never stop fighting for the sake of the country you seem to love at all costs!
Very gratefully yours,
Tess Marino

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