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An Amazing Country

After a day to adjust, we set off for our first real day of work with a jammed schedule that took us to two provincial capitols.

The Philippines is a colorful place, with equally colorful people. Like other developing countries I've visited, it literally smacks you in the face, from the smog of an early morning run, the sight of cops with machine guns, the gripping poverty that borders the edge of every highway, or the traffic which is as ubiquitous as the tropical humidity.

But it's also home to absolutely wonderful people, who love and are proud of their country. I could spend a year here just visiting the people who in the last 48 hours have invited us to their homes and communities. One woman gave me a beautiful piece of art she had woven after simply talking to her about her community and craft for 5 minutes. I don't think you could spend time here and not want to come back.

Today was interesting in many ways. We traveled with police escort most of the day to help us get through traffic, which was a little like riding inside a video game. We met the populist and politically ambitious Governor of Cavite, who graciously spent well over an hour with us. And we stopped at Taal Volcano, one of the most stunning views anywhere in the world.

But nothing quite prepared any of us for our state visit to Laguna. The Governor of Laguna, Jeorge "ER" Ejercito, is a top Philippine actor, whose colorful character is only topped by the energy of his government's commitment to transforming his constituency. His ideas are bold, maybe even a little cheesy and crazy, but the guy is all in. And he's taking his skills and marketing his community like he'd market a movie. The music videos he's produced to market tourism in Laguna in a word are epic.

He spent nearly four hours with us and other leaders from his community. His Chief of Staff, Carlos Dolendo, could do stand-up. I've never laughed so hard through a power point. And his staff are tireless and there is a real spirit of can-do attitude.

And in a nutshell, that's been my Philippines experience so far. Bright people, with lots of energy, who love their country and almost universally love America. The challenges here are real and you can't miss them, but everywhere we go, we find leaders -- particularly young leaders, who are going to find a way to will their communities to a better place. It's inspiring, and in the absence of sleep, it's fuel to keep going.







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