Toots Ople pushes for excellence, patience among women and youth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 25) — Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople, the first to lead the new Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), shared an empowering message on how women and the youth can take charge of their lives while staying grounded.

"Sa mga kababaihan at kabataan [To all the women and the youth] out there, design your life. Your best will always get noticed. Be known to be the best. Do not aim for mediocrity. 'Wag kayong mainip [Be patient], your time will come. Excellence does not need a hashtag. If you are excellent, you just are, and people will recognize that," Ople said.

She also reminded the youth of what they can miss out on because of their fast-paced lifestyles.

"If you are reaching out more for your phone rather than the hand of the person you love, then you're missing out on what real life is about," Ople said.

"Create your own moments rather than watching or recording others have fun with theirs… Just because everyone seems on the go, you do not need to be perpetually in motion. Be who you are, aim for self improvement," the secretary added.

Ople was the keynote speaker of CNN Philippines' Women Summit "Embrace Equity" held at the Samsung Hall in SM Aura to raise awareness about the network's campaign for the International Women's Month.

The summit conducted a series of talks - from social changes to the art space - highlighting women's decades-long challenges, as well as the needed actions so they can confidently take up space.

Creating your own path and living simply

Ople also shared her life story to the audience. She recalled how her father, late journalist and politician Blas Ople, shaped her life and continues to inspire her even years after his death.

Ople's career path was influenced by her father: from her work as a columnist, 17 years and counting as an advocate of overseas Filipino workers, to her work now as a public servant.

"My dad, he was my hero. He wrote so I wrote. Nine years old pa lang, alam ko na I wanted to be a writer because of my dad [At 9, I knew I wanted to be a writer because of him]," she said. "He cared deeply for our workers so guess what, ganun din ako [I am the same way]."

She also emulates the late Senate president's simple lifestyle despite holding one of the highest positions in the legislative branch during his term.

The DMW secretary travels without a security team, and her vehicle does not have sirens or blinkers.

"Simple works best for me and clarity matters even more qualities that go hand in hand. On leadership, it is living simply that is very important… There will come a time when people won't open their doors for you anymore. Simple is just knowing who you are," she said.

Despite acknowledging the privilege of being the daughter of a man who was instrumental in the framing of the Labor Code of the Philippines, she believes her dedication and fearlessness to fight for the rights of migrant workers led her to being appointed as the DMW secretary.