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Manigong Bagong Taon!

Maybe I’m just old school but I really prefer the way we used to greet each other for the New Year: MANIGONG BAGONG TAON! Of course, the traditional English greeting of “Happy New Year” is fine but our Filipino greeting is just full of hope.

Manigo means prosperous or favorable. And that’s what I want for everyone in 2017: to be happy and prosperous.

In my previous column, I talked about using Christmas and New Year’s celebrations as opportunities to make memories with our families. I mentioned the small tradition I started with my family of getting together abroad to celebrate the holidays.

In my company, I also started a tradition about 25 years ago. Every year, I would bring some of my officers and management people to the US to celebrate the coming of the New Year. My only criteria is that they should not have visited the US before.

I decided to do this for two reasons. First, I treat my employees as family. This is cliché, I know, but it’s true. I treat my company as an extended family. I firmly believe that a happy and contented workforce is a productive workforce. So, I want to give my officers who have never experienced going to the States the opportunity to do so.

Second, the US trip also gives them the opportunity to be exposed to different business practices. The trip might actually give them ideas on how to improve our business here in the Philippines.

Corollary to these is that it gives us the opportunity to bond outside the work environment. Running a business is not just about the bottomline. It’s also about human relationships. I would like to think that I have very loyal, capable, and passionate employees. Many have been with the company for years, even decades.

By the time this column sees print, I should be in the US with 40 of my officers. I hope everyone has a great time celebrating the end of a year and looking forward to a new one.

That is the same wish that I have for our country. 2016 has been an exceptional year.

First, we had a peaceful, honest, and very successful national elections in May where an overwhelming majority of our people voted into office the first President from Mindanao, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who immediately set out fulfilling the mandate given to him: restore peace and order in the country in order to ensure progress for the poorest of the poor.

Second, our economy hit some high notes particularly a 7.1% GDP growth in the usually lackluster 3rd quarter of the year. This performance was hailed by many as the strongest growth in Asia outpacing China and other emerging markets.

There is a lot more good news, but these two should make us proud and happy of what we have accomplished this year.

Sure, there are bad news and complaints left and right. But I would rather look at it as a healthy sign that our democracy is working despite its imperfections.

I wish our nation more success in the coming year as the country assumes chairmanship of the ASEAN. We will host the ASEAN Summit on the heels of President Duterte’s successful trips to China, Japan, Brunei, Cambodia, and Singapore. I hope we can continue with strong ASEAN cooperation on security and trade issues.

In 2017, we also look forward to the success of the peace talks between government and the Communist Party of the Philippines and the track with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I hope next year, we can finally make that first significant step towards genuine peace.

On a personal note, as some sort of a New Year’s resolution, let us all endeavor to be nicer to one another. Let’s be more caring towards our fellowmen. I understand that sometimes we have strong feelings about certain issues and we see ourselves in the middle of a nasty debate. But remember that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Let us not lose what makes us human, what makes us Filipinos.

Manigong bagong taon po sa inyong lahat! I wish you and your family peace, health and progress!

(For comments/ feedback email to: mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www mannyvillar.com.ph.) (Senator Manny Villar)