Speech of Governor Davide at the Asian Conference on the Family

Hilario P. Davide III
Governor of the Province of Cebu
at the Asian Conference on the Family

[Delivered at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila on May 16, 2014]

Maayong hapon.

Thank you for inviting me to share with you this afternoon my experiences on family love and marriage.

My wife, Jobel, and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last year, the same year that my parents celebrated their golden anniversary.

Jobel and I have known each other since we were 13 years old. We were classmates in high school. We were high school sweethearts. And little did we know at that time, 1978, that we would be exchanging marriage vows ten years later. We were married on July 16, 1988, the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The theme of our generational familial love is “Love is a many-splendored thing.” One of the synonyms of splendor is brilliance. Jobel and I have been blessed by God with three daughters, Paje, Dia and Nina. They are our three jewels who continue to dazzle and bring so much sunshine to our family.

Paje just graduated from law school and will be taking the bar exam in October this year. Dia finished last year with a degree in Social Sciences. Our youngest, Nina, is an incoming Psychology senior.

Jobel and I have been blessed as well with role models of solid marriages in my own parents and my parents-in-law. My in-laws were married for 46 years before my father-in-law passed on in 2005. This is one important factor in our marriage. Their unconditional and selfless love and support throughout our marriage have positively contributed to our staying committed to our vows. We are most grateful that they were there to help us out in raising our children especially in the early years of our marriage. Not only are we lucky to have supportive parents but also our children are luckier to have involved grandparents. Their presence in our lives continues to inspire us. It will be a great privilege on our part that when the time comes that we reverse our roles, we will be there to support and be there for them. As a parent myself, I believe that how we treat our children when they were young is how our children will treat us when we are old. We shall all the more give them the respect, attention and love in their twilight years and never consider them a burden.

As any married couple here now can attest, every marriage has its share of good and bad times. My wife and I were only 23 when we got married. Pretty young if you consider today’s generation’s marrying age. I believe the average age of yuppies settling down today is 30. Like many couples, the challenges in the early stage of marriage are adjustments to living together and financial concerns.When we got married, Jobel was already working while I was still in school. I was a working student and finished my law degree by the time our youngest was a year old. Her older siblings were in school already. We were lucky to have gone through those tough times with the love and support of our parents.

Daddy and Mommy would help us out financially every month. Since they were based here in Manila that time, we were living in their house in Cebu also we were rent-free. We lived in their house for 24 years and moved out only a year and a half ago after we built our own home. Every year for seventeen years, they would borrow our children to spend the summer with them in Manila and Baguio. My parents-in-law, who were based in Cebu, would sometimes drive the children to school when we could not bring them ourselves. My late father-in-law, a retired general, never missed a grandparents’ day sch¬ool activity of the children. In our family, this is how our parents have shown us and paved the way to solidifying our family roots. And for this, we are eternally grateful.

When we started out as a married couple, Jobel and I did not actually sit down and make a list of dos and don’ts. One thing though that we agreed on and is the backbone of our marriage is honesty. Honesty is the very core of our marriage. Honesty is a fruit of one’s love for another. This is also how we raise our children. We allow them to see not only our strengths but also our weaknesses. Not only our triumphs but also our faults and failures. One thing that we try to impart to them is to be true to oneself. We may not be perfect parents but we believe that if we show our children our true selves and not layer and cover ourselves with masks so we can look perfect to them, they will appreciate it more.

As parents, we do not also expect our children to be perfect. We do not want to. We want them to experience the sweetness and bitterness of life. To expose them to the triumphs and defeats, to deal with different types of people and the realities of life. As early as elementary, we encouraged them already to attend college here in Manila. Although we guided them, we let them choose the courses they wanted to pursue. Letting go is a hard decision for most parents to make especially when all your children are girls. But we did because we knew that we had given them the roots that will hold them steadfast in their values and the wings that will allow them to soar high as they go through life. I guess we made the right decision.

Now in their 20’s, our children when they write to us on a birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion cards or even on a facebook status, they tell us that they appreciate it very much that we allowed them to study in Manila and for letting them go and grow.

When I was invited to run in 2004 as Cebu City councilor, I conferred first with my family about my joining politics. Jobel and our children did not want me to because of the tainted reputation of Philippine politics and also because of the time that will be required of a public servant away from his family. They later on agreed and supported me. In one of our family meetings, I remember, one of the conditions set was when we hear mass and the priest will start attacking politicians for their corrupt practices or official misdeeds, they can hold their head up high and readily say that is not my husband or that is not my father.

My family has been supporting me all these years. They have been with me and have been exposed to 4 electoral campaigns since 2004. When I first ran for governor in 2010, I conferred again with my family since this was a different position, a much higher one, and covered a larger jurisdiction than the previous one. Reluctantly, they gave me their blessings. Again, Jobel and the children joined me in the campaign trail and at times separately campaigned in other parts of the province. When I lost in 2010, it was actually Jobel who cried. Not because I lost but because she saw my sacrifices and how we campaigned so hard with meager resources.

Politics as described by Wikipedia is “the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state.” Politics has earned a negative view because of fraud, corruption, deception, waste, arrogance, misuse and abuse of authority of politicians. Unfortunately in our country, the political system is tainted with a lot of corruption and dishonesty. The Napoles scandal has further pulled us back.

I was blessed last year when I won. Winning is just the first step. The main challenge as we know is governing. Good governance starts with one’s character. A public servant is expected to serve the public and not be served by the public.

Ron Herron, a former Tennessee state senator and author of “How Can a Christian Be in Politics?” espouses faithful politics. In his book he says, “In politics, you can find both sinners and saints. You won’t tell them apart by how they look or which speeches they make or what party they join or which churches they attend. You can only try to tell by the way they conduct themselves especially when no one seems to be looking.”’

Politics, per Mr. Herron, “provides special opportunities to share compassion with people who are poor, hungry and powerless.” This is the good side of politics as long as it is done with all sincerity and honesty and not with the intention of exploiting these people for one’s self-interests. Every public servant should clothe himself with humility, a virtue which is getting rare among our politicians. Power and authority can be intoxicating sometimes. What with all the accolades that you get from people who have put you on a pedestal because of your position. That is why we need our families to remind us of who we are and keep us grounded. The people closest to us help check our ego.

Although I do not see the need, my position requires me to have some police escorts with me especially when I travel around the province. I compromised with just two at a time. Honestly, I do not like it. When I assumed office last year, the local PNP even assigned two policemen to our home at night. We asked them to pull them out because our home is our sanctuary. With the little privacy that most public figures have, we need our space, too. They assigned Jobel a policewoman as security but she later gave her up because to her it is a waste of public funds.

With the children already here in Manila, Jobel and I try very much to free-up our Sundays from any official duties so we can hear mass together. If I need to be somewhere on a Sunday, I bring her along.

This chapter of our lives is just starting. As a husband and a father, I realize the sacrifices my wife and children have gone and will go through especially since they did not ask for this. It is my commitment to my wife that we will maintain a relationship and not just co-exist. It is common knowledge that some marriages of politicians collapse because they have stopped relating to each other. It is my commitment to my children that I will remain involved in their lives and to continue loving their mother. And to the rest of my family, it is my commitment not to tarnish our family name and reputation.

And to God, it is my commitment and prayer that I will be guided by the Holy Spirit to govern the province of Cebu according to His will.

Daghang salamat ug maayong hapon kanatong tanan.