, January 18, 2005  (STAR) By Angela T. Lopez  -  A "peaceful societal revolution" to make a better Philippines. Sounds alien to a pessimist nation? Not to this "alternative" Nobel Prize awardee, who happens to be Filipino.

Nicanor Perlas, who won the Right Livelihood Award or Alternative Nobel Prize in 2003, sensed the urgency to "tell the story about this other Philippines" silently lurking in our midst. This side is hardly known to a public accustomed to bickering politicians, deeply rooted corruption in the bureaucracy and living up to old Filipino habits.

And at the forthcoming Karangalan Conference and Festival scheduled later this week, Perlas will bring together the forces of "good news" makers to celebrate the strengths of the nation and limitless possibilities that lie ahead.

Everyone is invited, even cynics.

"There was one key consideration in designing the flow of the (eventís) program. We did not want to celebrate excellence without grounding it in the challenges which we face in the Philippines today," Perlas, spokeswoman and executive committee member of Karangalan, said in an interview.

"We wanted to convey the message that the excellence we are talking about is the excellence that has the power to transform challenges into new achievements for a better country," he said.

The Karangalan fest will be held from Jan. 21 to 23 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Under the theme "Mobilizing Excellence for Creating a Visionary Philippines," over two dozen globally and national renowned Filipino leaders, artists and achievers will speak and perform at its first national conference.

"The Philippines of achievement and hope," that is what Perlasí story is all about and the driving force behind the seed that started Karangalan, which means "honor" in English.

The Karangalan idea, he said, began to emerge in 2003.

"I noticed the striking contrast between the bad news plaguing the country and the little noticed fact that at least 10 Filipino individuals and groups had received global recognition for their achievements," Perlas explained.

"I spoke about this in a number of conferences and also about many other local initiatives that were doing excellent work but were not known to the public at large," he said.

Hearing the "good news" enlivened the spirit of his audience.

"At that moment, I knew it was urgent because we were digging our own grave on the diet of one-sided bad news," he said. "We were sinking deeper into the trap of a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Still doubtful? Perlas stressed the story that he and kindred spirits are to tell is as real as it gets.

The country is not all about gloom and doom, and the Karangalan conference will remind, nay shove it in our consciousness.

"It is urgent to present the story of the other, more positive and equally real side of the Philippines. In this way, we develop a collective consciousness of our own worth and achievement and start appreciating the positive images of the future that we have within us," he said.

Day One of the Karangalan conference "is the day for context," according to Perlas, just to remember why they are there in the first place.

"And if we have a small piece of our soul still clinging to the declining Philippines, Day One will make sure that it will be gone by the end of the day," he vowed.

Day Two "sees the glimmer of hope in the horizon," Perlas said.

"It is the announcement of the emergence of another, much better Philippines," he said.

"Day Three further reinforces this sense of generative powers in us for creating the future we want. When all these different alternatives come together, we will achieve a peaceful societal revolution," Perlas declared.

Peaceful, of course, means non-violent means will be used for a new Philippines to come about.

"It is societal because it will take individuals in all spheres of society, the economy, polity and culture to create a new country. No one has a unique position to be the sole re-creator of this country. It will be as many (as) who want to create the country of our dreams," Perlas said.

After the three-day Karangalan event, what then?

Perlas said: "The spirit of Karangalan is premised on one foundational idea. And the first step we can do after (this), is to examine what in our individual lives, and in our spheres of influence, we can change for the better, in the direction of a better country."

But he added, this is just the first step. The beginning of a journey and it all boils down to Filipinos joining hands ó a collective effort.

"We have to advance a new kind of bayanihan, one suited for the 21st century. This means that we join our individual efforts with others and collectively build a better country," he said.

This can take many forms, Perlas said, and it can come from something as simple as hooking up with like-minded individuals to form a group, which will then link up with another. It goes on and on.

The media will also play a vital role, but not anymore in dishing out the bad news.

As we are in the age of modern technology, with advancements left and right, Perlas called on Filipinos to take full advantage of this to "stay in touch" even after the Karangalan event "so that we continue to empower each other."

In the end, itís all about choices: either we believe it can be done, or we resign ourselves to not ever finding even a flicker of hope for the this beloved nation of ours.

"This is the worst and best of times in our country. We have historical possibility to make a choice. Will we put our talents and energies on a declining Philippines? Or will we place our talents, time and resources toward creating a better country?" Perlas said.

For those interested to attend the Karangalan conference, tickets are available at Ticketworld, National Bookstore, Tower Records and the CCP.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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