By Manuel A. Rodriguez, UST Batch 2009
There is probably no other time of the year as most awaited by students, parents and teachers than the graduation day. For the students who will not yet graduate, it is the start of their summer vacation where they can enjoy or rest and have a break to re-energize themselves for the next academic year. The same may be true for the teachers, who, after a very stressful year, may now enjoy a deserved rest.
For the parents of the graduates, it is a time of great relief and thanksgiving, for it marks the beginning of the fulfillment of their children’s dreams. To a graduate like me, the graduation day is certainly the most awaited day. Now, I can say that I have partly fulfilled my dreams and realize my vision. I sincerely hope that all of us, batch mates, are setting on the high road of achievement, success, and service to others. I urge my fellow Christian graduates to recognize the deep pride that our parents and our loved ones feel for us. Let us thank them for their support, prayers, encouragement, time and their touch of comfort during our hard times as students.
Reservations and Fears
However, together with our feelings of happiness and excitements are the fears, of what will we become years from now. People, who are older than us, usually say that it is but normal for us to be apprehensive. But I am sure that even if our country is confronted with, and struggling from, social problems, economic crisis and political chaotic scenario, there are still countless opportunities outside for graduates who are Christians. In St.Paul’s letter to the Romans, there is a verse that may be appropriate: “All things work together for good to them who love God.” (Romans 8:28).
We all just have to believe in our capabilities, do the will of our Father in heaven, toil hard with patience, live our values and virtues, give more than we take, and of course, storm heaven with our prayers.
The day we attend our respective commencement exercises, we have already partly achieved our dreams. That moment will mark the end of a journey and a start of a new one. That is why probably we are calling it commencement exercises, to remind us that graduation is not the end, nor it is the ultimate achievement or the realization of our goals. It is more of a start or an opening of new doors leading to a realm of vast possibilities. This is true for the hundreds of thousands of people who have graduated before and for us Batch 2009. Each graduate, with a good academic training and experiences, has been prepared to take the next step on whatever path he or she has chosen to take.
The wars we are all in
With the uncertainty this country is facing, the opportunity before us has never been greater and the challenge has never been more intimidating.
As we are all aware, our nation today is fighting several wars, and our enemies in every battle in these wars are seemingly unconquerable. We are waging war against all forms of criminality, drugs, corruption, poverty and injustice. We are waging war against terrorism. We are waging war against forces that seek to destroy our democracy, and against evils that seek to divide and destroy the institutions of family.
While we now know who are enemies are and already waged war, we need to religiously assess, and firm up our tactics. As our country is trying to heal its wounds, solve social problems and exerts effort to transform us into a better country for our generation and those who will follow, it calls for us Christians.
The challenges that our nation is facing now is to heavy and complex to be left on the hands of the few. Our country is pleading for men and women like us to come to its rescue. The nation demands from us, citizens, full participation, support and dedication. The virtue of loving our nation is often being neglected even by Christians like us; we are too busy praying for our own concerns or of those people who are near to us…forgive us o God for forgetting our beloved Philippines.
The Challenge for us
I encourage my fellow Filipino graduates who are in Christ, to serve this nation of ours in every possible way, in every way we can. Graduates like us have so much to give for the Philippines.
While the generation that came before us, have their experience to rely on, we have the intelligence keenness, knowledge, energy, hope, dreams and idealism to trust on. Our country may already have much brains working for the government, but they without a doubt lack the sustained idealism that can live and bloom in the middle of harsh, selfish, complacent, mediocre, and unprincipled society and work environment. This nation need young blood with bold yet noble, principles and with high and sustained idealism and courage, who can act without fear and correct or rectify the wrong without compromise with Christianity as his template principle.
Government service…why not?
While we hate to admit it, it is common perception that the government is filled with mediocre, undriven and unmotivated people, with the notion that government is for lazy and sleazy people. Most officials in the government are corrupt, and abusive in the exercise of their power. May we see these negative notions of people to the government as a calling for us to do something that will make it the otherwise. If we value our nation that much, we will immerse ourselves in it and we will make a difference.
I am not saying of course that only the government needs good, honest, and dedicated worker. In fact all of us, in whatever field or endeavor we may find ourselves in the future, must continuously preserve and cultivate our ideals, values and virtues that we hold now. The realities outside the halls of our respected campuses are more complex as we think, and as we can imagine. We must guard ourselves against the luring temptation of money, power and influence just to get our wants, at the expense of our values, principles, and faith.
The idealism we should have
When I speak of idealism, I am referring to idealism in action –the nationalist idealism possessed and practiced by the likes of our national hero Rizal, and Bonifacio, and Ninoy and many of our revered statesmen in the past. With regards to the Christian idealism, I am referring to the idealism that Christ himself practiced while he was on this world.
Idealism should not only remain in the head. It should be practiced and tested. Idealism in action cannot be possible without the corresponding courage because it is courage that will actualize it. Winston Churchill once said: “Moral courage is one virtue, that make all other virtues possible.” Indeed, of what is the use of our honesty if we do not have the courage to uphold it? Justice, if we do not have courage to defend it? Democracy, if we do not have the courage to fight for it?
As Christians our idealism should also be grounded on proper values and virtues and should have a special leaning to the disadvantaged and less privileged in life. Its bias should be for the achievement of social equality and justice, as what the ancient maxim says: “Salus populi est suprema lex – The welfare of the people is the supreme law.”
Our role in the 2010 elections
May of next year, we will be electing the next set of people who will lead this nation. We will elect the next president who will lead us for the next 6 years. For many of us, this is maybe the first time that we will practice our right to suffrage. With the realities of the practice of election on our country, and as enlightened graduates, we know that this is, indeed, a not so easy time. This is maybe the first time that our idealism, principles, intellectual maturity and good judgment may be used or tested. But above all, it is still a test of faith for us Christians.
We have been watching the possible candidates closely, even there is still no campaign on going we have been listening to the promises that they implicitly say (some explicitly), seeing how they perform or act, and weighing the virtues of each. Ideally we would like to see how closely they come to fulfilling our own vision of the future and of the future of our nation. Yet, we may be tempted to ask: “How do we choose if none is close enough?” Verily, it may not surprise is if some choices are made out of disillusionment or resignation rather than out of hope.
This confusion, some may tell us is the “reality of the world.” Others may say that this has nothing to do with the books we have been studying all these years. True enough no matter how excellently our books are written, or how esteemed our lecturers are, there will be so much more to any event that inevitably, or even necessarily remains unsaid. All the intrigues that the media is feeding our minds, whether here or abroad, all the backdoor negotiations, or seemingly shady deals merely scratched the surface of everything that is really happening.
This is the sad reality. But do not get me wrong because I will be the first one to say that it does not have to be dire. Evolving social structures are what we must live and work with, and it does no good to do nothing but shake fists at the storm. However this real world will be presented to you, your comfort and hope are in your intelligence and your education. Maybe at first it does not seem enough to stop floodgates. But, if only my words alone can assure you for your lifetime, I say that this is more than enough.
A life for others, a life of purpose
Years from now, we may already be enjoying the fruits of our labor. Yet we may still be living in the poor old Philippines where leaders remain selfish and corrupt, crime is everywhere and poverty and injustice still abound. And we may ask ourselves where were our values, our idealism, our ideals and dreams for our nation and our fellow Filipinos? Indeed despite our success, we may have missed something still. Perhaps we have forgotten to enrich the values, dreams, and ideals because we have focused our minds and our work only to our own future. Please, let us not do the wrong thing our old ones did.
Have you forgotten that we ought to live for others? In a world full of hostility and greed there is no feeling more refreshing and fulfilling than that of having served and helped a disadvantaged brother or sister. The most accomplished life I that one fully dedicated for the benefit for others.
Thus as we all go now to the real world, I would like to urge you to continually assess our virtues, values, ideals, and principles, which we are holding now. And ask where are we in the practice or in our mission in fulfilling or realizing them.
MARCH 22, 2009, MANILA
Often recalcitrant, but always principled.