It was a thought-provoking conversation about change in our society, an admission that our generation has largely failed, and that change would be led by this generation.
While waiting for the wedding of TV reporter Pia Gutierrez to naval officer Errol Dela Cruz on December 26, I chatted with my partner in the procession: Rear Admiral Jose Renan Suarez of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He had a quiet strength that showed a passion fueling his faith in the future – necessary for his job as the head of the Naval Education and Training Command.
We spoke about a shared focus: the ongoing battle against corruption, instilling a code of ethics, providing a clear mission, and encouraging strategic thinking – for his officers and our journalists. [Disclosure: I sit on the board of the Philippine Navy.]
We discussed problems in organizational development: breaking feudal structures of management; empowering marginalized voices; creating a culture of excellence and meritocracy; encouraging entrepreneurship and accountability.
Over the next half hour, we spoke about what drew both of us to this couple and their wedding: the idealism of youth and our hope for change in the next generation.
He spoke so eloquently that I asked if I could do an interview about leadership on video, and while he said yes, it's a shadow of our conversation. With the camera on, he became stilted and retreated into "safe" language, but our conversation stayed with me for days.
We talked about the lure of power, and when I asked him how he keeps his ideals, Suarez replied, "I hope I will never reach the stage when I become the ogre."
Then he told me a story.
There are different versions of this parable: Suarez said they were brothers; others say they were friends. Some say the winner becomes the ogre; Suarez said they had a choice.
The lesson is the same: that the enemy isn't out there, it's in you, and that power is so tempting few can resist its lure – especially when you enjoy its fringe benefits.
Suarez said as he rose up the ranks, he avoided the trappings of power: for example, he drove himself to the wedding, and he doesn't have an aide. I understood that: I live within my means; avoid borrowing against the future. That's allowed me to quit high-paying corporate jobs, and while I make a fraction of what I used to make, my ideals are intact.
The enemy is within.
As we go into the 2016 elections, these are the leaders I will be voting for: the men and women who have slayed the enemy within – who are self-aware enough to draw the lines they will never cross...before the lure of power can turn them into the ogre that never dies. – Rappler.com
Maria Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for nearly 35 years. As Rappler's co-founder, executive editor and CEO, she has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government. For her courage and work on disinformation and 'fake news,' Maria was named Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time's Most Influential Women of the Century. She was also part of BBC's 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019 and Prospect magazine's world's top 50 thinkers, and has won countless awards for her contributions to journalism and human rights. Before founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN's Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before opening the network's Jakarta Bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. She wrote Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism.