the babel machine


Friday, February 04, 2005

truly luli

Had an enjoyable telephone conversation yesterday with Luli Arroyo, who called me up because of a few questions I e-mailed her a little over a week ago. She wanted to let me know that she got the e-mail but that she wasn't able to contact me immediately because she's been traveling within the country and was swamped with a lot of work. We ended up having a long conversation, exchanging our views on different topics.

Some might not know it but Luli's the Director of Operations of the Foundation for Information Technology Education and Development, which aims to increase IT awareness in the Philippines and promote ICT deployment in our schools. We first corresponded a few years ago when I interviewed her for an Philippine Internet anniversary special.

Since then, we've occasionally corresponded over the phone or via e-mail and other online tools, and I even wrote a story about her Amazing Race 5 experience -- she really likes that show. So anyway Luli and I ended up talking about a lot of stuff yesterday, ranging from recent IT issues, to FIT-ED projects, to biotech and agritech, to the use of online tools like blogs and Friendster, to gaming (which she confessed is one thing she hasn't gotten into).

Since this was a normal conversation and not an interview, I won't go into details. You'll be hearing about the FIT-ED projects in upcoming articles. I don't mean to sound like I'm gushing, sucking up or pretending that we're close, but one thing I've always admired about Luli is how down-to-earth she is. She's never made a fuss about being the daughter of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and she's refused any of the perks that come with her "status."

I'm not the only one who says this. I'm sure you've read or seen for yourself how she carries her own bags and uses the normal immigration queue, not the special one for VIPs. She rides cabs with her friends. She's never asked for any special treatment, and in a country like the Philippines where the padrino system is still rampant and many people, including government officials, legislators, celebrities, businessmen and members of media, demand perks not enjoyed by "ordinary citizens," Luli's attitude and actions are nothing short of remarkable. Even though she herself would wonder what's so special about not asking for special treatment.

As a journalist, I'm trained to be cynical. You have to be, since you get swamped with a lot of "praise releases," and of course vendors and their PR and marketing people want to present their companies and products in a good light. Nothing wrong with that -- that's what they're expected to do and they're just doing their jobs -- but we have to ask the hard questions if we want to make sure a product or service really works and is beneficial to users, and not just vaporware.

Yet here I am practically gushing over Luli, but let me make it clear that this isn't blind devotion or fanboy mentality at work. I'm not putting her up for canonization or anything. She's human and of course has her faults, but what I'm saying is that she's serving as a good model for how all people in power should act, just by being herself.

Maybe if we all stop obsessing over status and insisting on shortcuts, this country will truly get somewhere -- a lot faster.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 9:24 AM :: 4 Comments:

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