Xavier University, CDO
March 14, 2015
To all of you dreamers of a better Philippines, to all of you seekers of a beautiful future for the Filipino people, to all of you, our youth, the hope of our future and our motherland.
I speak before you today with so much faith in the Filipino, with so much faith in our potential as a people. Despite the many problems we face as a people and as a nation, I am firm in my belief that the Filipino remains one of the most wonderful human beings in the world today. For the Filipino is one of the kindest persons on earth. For the Filipino is one of the most caring and one of the most helpful human beings in the world. Ang kasingkasing ka Pilipino ay usa sa pinakadaku sa tibuok kalibutan. And for that, I truly believe that the Filipino is one the best hopes of humanity today to build a better world for all mankind.
I am also firm in my belief that God has given us a beautiful and a bountiful country. Our Philippines is one of the richest in the world when it comes to natural resources. And there is no country in the whole world that is more beautiful and enchanting than the one where God planted us, than the one given to us by God.
I also believe in the talent, skill, and the capability of the Filipino. I believe that the Filipino is capable of greatness. I believe that the Filipinos possess the same great and powerful spirit that moved the Japanese, the Koreans, and the Singaporeans of 50 years ago for them to build the kind of countries they have for their peoples today. I believe that we Filipinos, as a people, are no less great than all the peoples of our prosperous neighbor countries in Asia and in the world. I believe “na kung kaya nila, kaya din nating mga Pilipino.”
I believe that, as a people, we will eventually find the answer to the many questions in our country, that we will eventually find the solution to the many problems that plague our nation. I firmly believe that we will eventually find the correct formula so we could bring our people and our nation to the true path of progress and prosperity.
Today, I wish to speak to you about culture, particularly about the role or importance of culture in making a country prosperous, beautiful and great.
Let me start by sharing with you a short story.
In 1959, Singapore was considered as one of the poorest countries in Asia and in the world. That year, Lee Kuan Yew became its leader. Lee Kuan Yew became the leader of Singapore for 31 years, until 1990. In 1990, when Lee Kuan Yew voluntarily stepped down from power, Singapore already became one of the most prosperous countries in the world.
Lee Kuan Yew is considered today as the father and the builder of modern Singapore.
Today, Singapore remains one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world, despite the fact that it has no agriculture, no farming of any kind, no gold deposits or any form of mineral deposits, no oil deposits, no beautiful beaches.
So how did Singapore do it? How did Lee Kuan Yew do it?
In 1994, the TIME Magazine interviewed Lee Kuan Yew. One of the questions he was asked was about the role or importance of culture in success, in his country’s progress and development.
Lee Kuan Yew said “culture is destiny”. Your culture is your destiny. Your thoughts, beliefs and habits today will determine what will become of you 20 or 30 years later. Your beliefs and habits today will determine how far you will go in life. If you study hard and work hard today, you will have a bright future. If you believe you are a failure, you will be a failure. If you believe you are great, you will be great. If you want to excel, you must build a culture of excellence. If you want to become great, you must build a culture of greatness.
Your culture is your destiny.
Lee Kuan Yew said that this principle applies not only to an individual person. It also applies to a people. A people’s culture will determine the destiny of that people.
It is in this context that I wish to talk to you about our country today.
Today, our Philippines is a country of many paradoxes.
Our country is one of the richest in the world when it comes to natural resources, being the 5th richest in gold deposits and the 12th richest in mineral deposits in the world, and yet our Philippines has one of the highest poverty problems in Asia. According to the official data of the government from the Philippine Statistical Authority, more than 25% of our people suffer in poverty. But according to the SWS surveys in 2014, more than 50% of our population rated themselves as poor.
According to SWS, in 2014, around 20 million Filipinos experience hunger, 5 million of whom suffer from extreme hunger.
According to Senator Grace Poe, around 15 million children are hungry in our country.
According to SWS, in 2014, around 12.1 million Filipinos are without work or jobless.
Today, at least 5 million of Filipino children are classified as out-of-school youth. They are school aged and should be at school, but they are not at school. They are out there in the streets or in the squatters or in the mountains of poverty.
Today, around 10 million of our youth are growing up without a father or a mother by their side because the father or the mother has to find work abroad because our country could not provide the jobs to their fathers and mothers.
Today, around 5 million Filipinos are homeless, many living in the streets and other slums of poverty.
In the meantime, the gap between the rich and the poor in our country is the highest in the whole of Southeast Asia, according to Stratbase Research Institute in 2013. The richest 10% of Filipinos own and control 76% of the wealth and resources of our country, while the richest 1% owns and controls 40% of our country’s wealth and resources. That’s according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Watch’s Report in October 2014.
In the meantime, the “kanya-kanya” or “pami-pamilya lang” mentality is worsening as a problem in our society. We see this in politics, where political dynasties have turned our democracy into a “familycracy”, a country that is being ruled by the dynasties, for the dynasties, and of the dynasties. According to the 2014 study of AIM, 70% of the members of the Senate and Congress now belong to political dynasties, while 80% of the governors and mayors in all LGUs in the country are members of political dynasties. This means that the political dynasties have already captured 70% of our congress and 80% of all LGU leaderships in the country. This “kanya-kanya” or “pami-pamilya lang” mentality is also visible in the private sector, where there are businesses or companies who earn billions every year, and yet pay their employees minimum wages, often as contractuals, as the business owners refuse to share their companies’ blessings to their employees.
Why is our country the way it is today?
In 1987, American writer James Fallows called us a people with a damaged culture because, according to him, we do not have a sense of community as a people. We do not have a sense of nationhood. We do not care for one another.
Our culture is our destiny. Our culture as a people will determine our destiny as a nation.
Today, one of the major challenges we face today as a people is this – How do we heal ourselves as a people? How do we rebuild our country? How do we make the Filipino truly great and respectable in the eyes of the world?
Truly, we need to rebuild our country, and this we can do and we must do piece by piece, block by block, group by group, town by town, city by city – until such time that our archipelago of 7,107 islands truly believe in one fundamental thing – that we Filipinos are one people. And that as one people, we are also just one family.
What can we do? What can we contribute in the rebuilding of our country? What can we contribute in making our country great and prosperous? What can we contribute in making the Filipino great and respected in the eyes of the world?
To build a Great Philippines, we need to have a Great Generation of Filipinos who shall embrace the mission to build our country great.
Your generation can be that Great Generation!
For your generation to become that great generation, I have four (4) suggestions to you, my dear NSTP graduates.
My first suggestion to you is this – always believe that you are great and beautiful as you are. Always believe that the Filipino is great for he is a child of a great God who truly wants him to be great. The Filipino is no less than the American, no less than the Japanese or the Chinese, no less than the stars above or any person on earth. You are as perfect and as beautiful as you are, for God created you in His image, out of perfect love. You have the equal right to be here. You have the equal right to all the beauty and bounty that God provided to this world for all humanity. You have, within you and around you, all the essentials you need to succeed and to prosper in this world. Please do not ever belittle or look down on the Filipino. When you look down or belittle the Filipino, you insult the gift that God gave to you, yourself. Do not allow anyone to make you small, or any less. Always stand tall and stand proud. Show to the world that the Filipino is a world-class human citizen.
My second suggestion to you is this – believe that as a people, we are but one family. That every Filipino is a brethren, a brother or a sister. We are all children of the same God, though we may call Him different names. We are all offsprings of the same motherland, though we may come from different islands in the archipelago. And though we are many, we are one. Though we are different, we are the same. For we are but one family as a people. We belong to one another. Please always remember this. It is only our true love for one another that can make us whole as a nation. It is only our true love for one another that can make us one family as a people. And the stronger we love one another, the stronger we become as a nation.
My third suggestion to you is this – have a dream, and make it big and beautiful. You have only one life, so strive to make your life beautiful and extra-ordinary. Always remember that every success begins with a dream. The size of your tomorrow will be determined by the size of your dream today. And while you dream big for yourself, please also dare to dream big for our country and our people. Dare to dream of a Philippines that can offer you boundless opportunities and limitless possibilities. Dare to dream of a Philippines that is beautiful in its march to progress, because it seeks prosperity for all and not only for a few, because there is enough for every Filipino and his family, because no Filipino family is left behind in the streets or in slums of poverty. Dare to dream of a society where the weakest of our people can also be strong, where the poorest among us can also be wealthy. A nation that can meet the lowest needs and the highest expectations of our people. Dare to dream of a Philippines where every child is able to study, where every graduate is able to find work, where every parent is able feed and give comfort to his children. Dare to dream of a country where every Filipino can attain the fullness of life as he or she conceives it to be, one that can bring out the best, the highest, and the most beautiful in our people, so the Filipino may become a model to humanity, so our country may become a light to the darkness in our world. My dear youth, today you and your generation will be measured by the size of your dreams for yourselves and our country. Tomorrow you will be measure by how much you have realized those dreams. I sincerely pray to God that He will allow you to achieve all your dreams for yourselves and our country.
The fourth suggestion I wish to make to you is this – please strive to be a Good Filipino, please strive to be a Good Citizen. Do your share in nation-building. Do small acts of kabayanihan for our country. There are small acts of patriotism that you can do, like becoming a citizen ambassador of the Filipino and our Philippines, by promoting what is good and beautiful about us, by building hope for our people, instead of despair. Throwing your thrash or garbage properly or falling in line or patronizing Philippine-made products are among the other little things you can do to show your love for our country. And there are many more. As a Filipino, you were born as part of the whole, as part of the answer to the question, as part of the solution to the problem, as part of the hope to our people. I hope you will always believe this – There is a special reason why you are who you are, why He made you a Filipino. God has a special purpose why He put you here, in this part of the world. Perhaps He wants to use you as a light against the darkness that is in some parts of our country. Our country needs many good Filipinos as models for our youth. I hope you will strive to be one of them. For truly, we are the architects of our own success. We are the builders of our own greatness. We are the writers of our own story. We are the creators of our own future. Let us show to the whole world that the Filipinos are world-class people.
Dear NSTP graduates, if the Japanese were able to build for themselves a great and a prosperous country, kaya din ng Pilipino! If the Koreans were able to build for themselves a developed and prosperous country, kaya din natin! Kaya din ng Pilipino!
Truly, our country needs a lot of good Filipinos.
I hope you will be different.
Where there is cheating, I hope you will choose to be true and honest.
Where there is negativity, I hope you will choose to be positive.
Where there is despair, I hope you will choose to build hope.
Where there is fighting, I hope you will choose to unite.
Dear NSTP graduates, please choose to be part of a New and Great Generation of Filipinos!
Please allow me to end my speech with these 3 wishes.
Firstly, I wish that you will all aspire for greatness, my dear NSTP graduates. I wish that you will aspire for the best, the highest, and the most wonderful. Believe me, God wants all of these for you.
Secondly, as you aspire for greatness for yourself, I wish that you will also dream and aspire for greatness for our country and people. I wish that you will always bring and carry with you the Filipino and our beloved Philippines. As you march towards success, may the Filipino shine with you in the world.
Finally, I wish that God will grant all the desires of your heart. I wish that all your dreams will come true. I wish that you find your true happiness in this world.
With God’s love as our weapon, let us repair our country!
With God’s love as our weapon, let us rebuild our nation!
Let us build our country great and wonderful, not only in the eyes of the world, but moreso in the eyes of our Lord!
And may God use each one of you mightily and wonderfully for our country and people!
Congratulations all of you! Maraming salamat po.