Love her or hate her
Once in a while, my grand aunt Imelda invites me to dinner so she can pick my brain on different political developments here and overseas. I’m sure she gets more intelligent insight from her established network, but perhaps she wants a fresh (naive?) and irreverent take on things which I guess I usually provide.
You should see us agree to disagree on issues past and present because it really is fascinating to observe how someone who’s seen it all, who’s had, in her own words, the “best, best, best” and the “worst, worst, worst” in life be always above it. The ordinary and the extraordinary, how do you tell them apart? Easy. The extraordinary, they aren’t petty, they don’t dwell, and most of all, they don’t hold grudges.
I’ve had the privilege of being in close proximity to a very select few who’ve had both the best and worst in life, who’ve accomplished the apex of human achievement and also suffered persecution and even perdition, and they share very common traits of resilience and magnanimity, and yes, in their unique way, even humility. It’s a precarious path to greatness, and it sure isn’t for mere mortals.
Some of my more self-righteous friends scoff at my association with my grandfather’s cousin: “Why do you even want to be identified with her?” “What kind of a role model is that?” “She’s a criminal!” “She’s greedy, she stole billions!”
What they don’t or refuse to understand is that I’ve exposed myself to different life perspectives and leadership models because there are lessons to be learned even from the most complex personalities, the most contentious people, and most especially, from controversial historical figures. From them, you learn what to do and what not to do, and make sure you do not make the same mistakes if in a similar situation. Everyone has a story to tell, and if we allow ourselves, we can learn from these stories. You know, even a pauper can teach us valuable lessons in living life to the fullest more than a prince, if we only cared to listen to him.
What I’m essentially saying is, if you can, do not judge people for their faults (real or perceived) and take the time to hear out what they have to say. And from there, after sifting through all the good and the bad, make and mould your own special brand of leadership, your own model of existence that fits your personality, your character, your goals and dreams, and most especially, the principles and values you hold dear.
Those who are too self-righteous will miss out on these things. In fact, my unsolicited advice is to stay away from the self-righteous, holier-than-thou types, those who impose their perfection onto others and onto the world. They are extremists — hypocrites, the evil of evils. They will condemn the same people the pope will embrace and forgive.
But I digress.
Love or hate the iconic Madame Imelda Romualdez Marcos, you gotta give it to her, the woman has foresight. Throughout the Asean Summit, you hear people like Philippine Ambassador to the UN Teddy Locsin Jr. and esteemed business columnist Wilson Lee Flores give credit to Imelda for the PICC she built four decades ago that’s still used to host world leaders and American presidents today.
Some would say those were public funds anyway. Sure, but it’s the vision behind her projects, most of which have withstood the test of time, that is the point. What other tangibles in the same scale as the PICC or the CCP or the Heart Center have other administrations left? What about the intangibles like arts and culture?
Anyhow, while having dinner at the Old Swiss Inn during the height of the Apec Summit a couple of years back when Noynoy Aquino was president, I asked Auntie Meldy if she, as former First Lady, was attending any of the Apec events, her response:
“Hijo, I was not invited. But it’s all right. Practically all the buildings they’re using for Apec are buildings I built forty years ago. They criticized me for those, but they’re still using them to this day. So no, I won’t be there, that is, physically. But I will always be there in spirit.”
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