Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Asi identity in the age of globalization (3)

(Commencement address to the graduating class, Class of 2012, Sibale Academy, 23 March 2012, Concepcion Parish Church, Concepcion, Romblon)

The first of these life-long learning is getting an identity. You yourself must identify who you are to be able to recognize your place in a highly globalized world. And what is this identity? That you, first and foremost, is an Asi and a son or daughter of Sibale. You have to retain your Asi-ness before you can become a Filipino which is a larger national identity and before you can become a global citizen which is itself a badge in the international community.

There have been a lot of debates on the identity of the Filipino. One argument comes from Francisco Sionil Jose, the most translated Filipino writer in English and a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Awards for Literature.

Sionil Jose posits that we are not Asian because he said our country lies quite apart from the Asian mainland, the highway where the main currents of Buddhism and Hinduism flow. He said we are neither Spaniard, nor American, nor Japanese. So what are we? He said: “We are Filipino, uniquely shaped by our geography, by our history, and still struggling towards nationhood, and hopefully, creating a just society.”

To a large extent retaining our Asi-ness, our being Sibalenhon, means taking pride in our cultural heritage, including our language. The Asi has plenty of cultural attributes that we should be proud of. To rise above ourselves, to be able to compete in a flat and globalized world, we should internalize and live our cultural values of spirituality (paghigugma sa Diyos); strong family ties (pagpalangga sa pamilya); respect for elders (pagtahor); hard work (pagiging mahugor); and tenacity (pagka-matiniison). These Asi values are us and ours. They define us.

But while we retain our culture, we must see to it that this culture is not rigid, but rather open to other cultures, to change, and to new technology. In other words, we should go global but local. We must glocalize, to borrow Friedman’s words. To glocalize means to adopt foreign ideas that best suit us and we can use, discarding those that don’t. This also means that when we are already successful, either in business or in our respective careers, we should devote part of our efforts and achievements to the benefit of our hometown and of our fellow Sibalenhons. Dapat natong kaykayon ka ato gakor. We should return to our roots.

As a graduate of the Sibale Academy, I have, I believe, followed this injunction to the best of my abilities. In all my travels all over the world, I have always proudly carried my Asi identity. I always say I am an Asi and I come from Sibale, an island town of Romblon in Central Philippines. I speak our language whenever the chance is appropriate and nurture and promote it in my writings. If you have been following my blog site, you will see that I am a fierce defender of our culture and always the first to trash those who disparage things Sibalenhon. This is my contribution to our island’s progress.

The second life-long learning I want you to consider is to know yourselves: to see clearly what you want in life or what you want to become and then to devote all your energies in achieving it. I have learned this the hard way. In my younger years, my dream was to become an accomplished writer. But in the university, because of circumstances, I pursued a business course. Later, the college degree I obtained bore little meaning in my work career because I ended up following my star. I became a writer.

Sadly, many Filipinos of today are born, grew up, study, find a job, marry, bear children, grow old, get sick, and eventually die without knowing what they wanted in life. They did not have any steady path to their dreams, thus they are lost, living unremarkable lives, and passing through this world without any significant contribution to society. Such people are quickly forgotten. One of the open secrets to a life fully lived is to know what you want and toiling hard to achieve it. Follow your dreams and make a mark.

The third life-long learning you must follow is to acquire an education no matter what it takes. Education is a passport to a life better than what you have now. It is the great equalizer, enabling the poor to acquire the same status of and to stand shoulder to shoulder with the affluent. With sufficient education, you can rise to a higher ground than where you stand now. It unlocks the doors to a world of immense opportunities; without it, those doors remain shuttered.

(Third of four parts. To be continued.)

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