Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Asi identity in the age of globalization (4)

(Last of four parts of commencement address to the graduating class, Class of 2012, Sibale Academy, 23 March 2012, Concepcion Parish Church, Concepcion, Romblon)

With education, you will gain enough confidence to be in the labor market. This market, by the way, is very competitive and open only to the skilled and the educated. It is blind to race, religion, color, nor creed. Remember, we are in the Knowledge century where brainpower, not manpower or muscle, commands a premium. Only if you acquire an education that you can fully participate in the continuing knowledge debate happening at every turn in a highly globalized, flat world.

After my graduation from high school, I had never doubted, despite my family’s poverty, that I will finish college. My grandparents on my father’s side were barely able to read and write. On my mother’s side, my grandfather finished only grade seven under the American system, but he was fluent in spoken and written English. My father never reached high school; neither my mother. But all of them had inculcated in us the value of education. In my family, so strong was our desire to pursue college education that as I look back now, I couldn’t believe that all my brothers and sisters, except one, finished our courses in college through sheer hard work and tremendous sacrifices. And I am very proud of our achievement.

It is fortunate that you and I grew up in an island where the tradition to acquire an education to be able to make it in life is very strong. Our parents go through so much pain and sacrifice so that we can be educated. And rightly so. With limited land and other resources, they are convinced that education is the only ticket out of the socio-economic shackles of Sibale.

So I sincerely believe that most, if not all of you, will continue to college after high school, if only to affirm this education tradition, and to sustain the record of Sibale as the municipality in Romblon which has the highest literacy rate and with the highest number of university graduates. You can check this fact with the National Statistics Office.

The fourth life-long learning that could be useful to you after your graduation is to learn the values of sacrifice, tenacity, and diligence. I know that these concepts are not new to you. For four years, you have already invested a lot in acquiring a high school diploma, perhaps, sometimes skipping the luxury of a new shirt or dress just to save a little money for books or tuition; or perhaps skipping a meal just to make it to the next day. Your parents have also done as much, perhaps, foregoing the little luxury of a drink during a fiesta, or at the worst, postponing a visit to a doctor just to save for your school allowance.

Well, you are not alone. Students before you have suffered the same. I know many Sibalenhons who have been through such adversities and have triumphed. They are an inspiration. I myself experienced terrible difficulties in my college days. Before I finished my degree, I did a lot of odd jobs as many of my classmates and peers can attest. I did poultry farm work; worked in a hollow blocks factory; became a barker in a jeepney terminal; sold real estate and insurance; and bought and sold junk. But I hang on to my dream and chased my star as if it was the only thing that mattered. The good news is that the rewards for those sacrifices, when they come as they did to me, are immense and very self-fulfilling.

So, don’t ever lose hope, or be discouraged. Be patient and hang on to your dreams. Persevere. Be diligent and work harder. Don’t be distracted. Stay focused, for you will eventually succeed and get your reward as countless others before you had.

The last, and the most important, life-long learning that has helped me and I am sure will help you is to cultivate your faith in God. Coming from a writer who has a different perspective about many things, you wouldn’t believe it but the most constant in my life philosophy is the belief that nothing in this world ever happens without the knowledge and dictate of the Creator from whom all things, including knowledge, emanate.

You have gone to a Catholic school, so I am sure you need not be reminded that faith move mountains. When all else fails, when you are down and seem vulnerable to temptation and despair, the only remaining anchor that can save you from total moral and spiritual devastation is God. Never mind religion, but mind your faith. We have our moral duty which is, according to George Washington, is inseparably connected with human happiness. That moral duty is first and foremost to the Heavenly Father. If we obey it, no storm on this earth should and could ever extinguish the light that our faith in God keeps burning in our hearts to shine the path of our journeys.

My dear graduates, I began by saying how honored I am to be here today. I shall end by saying thank you to all of you—to Father Mehler, the school officials, and members of the faculty—for making this graduation happy and meaningful. And thank you, too, for listening.

Inggwa ako it pabayon sa mga maguyang: Lamihay nak salamat sa inro hugot na pagpalangga sa inro mga apas, ag sa pagtambong it hungor sa inra pag-aray. Paka-rumruma baga nak ka aagtuan ninra sa liwas it Sibale Academy ay buko rungawan, kung buko’y mas sahoy, mas marako, ag mas maigkas nak labanan sa pagpanray it kaisipon ag kaayaman. Ka inro premyo nak kaalwanan pag sinra’y makabarbar it kolehiyo o nio mang kursong bokasyunal ay naghuhuyat. Waya’t maakab it kina, kada huyata. Kapan kamo it rungan-rungan nak pag kamo'y nakatabok ay tangkas ka inro tanang kabudlayan.

Masilak ag masadyang adlaw sa atong tanan.

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.)