His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the premier screening of National Geographic’s Inside Malacañang
[Delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace on February 28, 2012]
Secretaries Sonny Coloma, Patty Licuanan, Joel Rocamora, Edwin Lacierda, Mon Jimenez; other members of the Cabinet present; Mister Jude Tercuato; Miss Marnie Manicad; Chairman Felipe Gozon; Undersecretary Manolo Quezon; of course, my Ate Pinky; Fox International Channels team from the Philippines, Singapore, and Hong Kong; trade partners of Fox International Channels; friends from the media; honored guests:
Most of you know that the very stairs you climbed to get to this hall are the same stairs this country’s Presidents climb on the day they assume office. But there is another story about those stairs, which you may not be so familiar with—and I thank Manolo for this trivia—they say that Teodora Alonso, the mother of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, went up those very stairs, on her knees, to beg the Governor General to spare her son’s life. In a way, this story captures the view many of our countrymen may have of this Palace—that it is a well-guarded structure, removed from everyday life: a house of power and authority whose occupants influence the lives of all Filipinos. And this, particularly, is the viewpoint we want to shatter.
My mother was the first President who chose not to live here, and, like her, I have also chosen not to. In fact, I live just across the river you see behind the windows at my back—which you do not see presently. [Laughter] Living in the Palace can have an unhealthy effect on the presidency—the luxury and grandeur of your surroundings, as well as the knowledge that some of the most important decisions affecting the Philippines have been made within these walls. It can make you feel like royalty; it can take you away from reality, and make you forget that you have more than 95 million bosses that you have to serve.
While I have the privilege of working in such a grand office, I have never forgotten that anyone who lives or works here does so for a limited period of time and does so upon accepting the mandate given him by the Filipino people. I have always believed that Malacañan Palace is, first and foremost, the palace of the people.
We reaffirm this today with the premiere screening of Inside Malacañang, a documentary created through the collaboration of a Filipino team and the National Geographic. I am a fan of National Geographic; and I immensely enjoyed both Inside the White House and Inside Air Force One, which is why I am excited to find put what you actually filmed and shot and portrayed as far as Malacañang is concerned—as I hope you all are—and indeed we really want to see the finished product.
More than anything else, this documentary will open up the Palace not only to Filipinos, but also the whole world. Apart from telling you more about the history of the Palace, it will also give you a look into the lives of the other people who work here—the pilot and maintenance team of the Presidential Airlift Wing, the Presidential Security Group, and others who work very closely with me. They help me to do my work as President, and I am happy that there is now a film that immortalizes their hard work and dedication.
Perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank all of them. It is no joke being President especially coming after my predecessor. Your tasks, and the consequences of your actions lie heavy in your mind every day. You shuttle from meeting to meeting, from event to event. I imagine that without my hardworking staff and the security group, we would not have made the progress we have made these past twenty months.
This is an understated lesson in the documentary: that the Presidency is about more than one person. On a larger scale, the same is true for our country. None of us can change this country alone. Every worker must put in a good day’s work; every student must attend his classes and study his lessons well; every public servant must keep his bosses in mind and do his job efficiently and honestly. Our roles in this country, no matter how big or small we may perceive them to be, support the roles of others. The work we do on a personal level is the backbone of this country’s progress.
As this documentary fully opens this historic palace’s doors to everyone, let it stand for our intention to give this country back to its people: to engage our citizens to take part in nation building; to remind them that we all have a stake in this. These are crucial steps in our country’s road to progress. Let this documentary symbolize that the halls of power are not exclusive to elected officials—every single one of us can take part. This is the pathway that we must take to make certain that all of us are involved, and that no one is left behind.
Thank you. Good afternoon.