Speech at the Commencement Exercises of Wesleyan University Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija

All of us may have come from different backgrounds, but I believe we were brought together by a dream. The Wesleyan University Philippines came about because of a dream to build people and make a difference.

Having been elevated to autonomous status just a week ago from being the only educational institution in the province of Nueva Ecija that used to enjoy a deregulated status granted by the Commission on Higher Education makes that dream even more meaningful.

I, on the other hand, was brought here because of a much simpler but nevertheless important dream. 

Minsan may munting pangarap ang dalawang mag-asawang makapagtapos ang kanilang walong anak. I was born to poor parents. Lacking anything of substance to pass on to their eight children, they were fanatical in ensuring we all finish our studies.

Tanging pagpapawis at pagbabanat ng buto at higit sa lahat, taimtim na panalangin sa Diyos ang naging patnubay ng aking mga mahal na ama at ina. Mabuti na lamang at sa mga panahon na iyon, ang pamahalaan ay nakaagapay sa mga mamamayan, mayaman o mahirap, maliit o makapangyarihan. Maayos na mga paaralan, malusog na mga mamamayan, hindi ito mga bukambibig lamang pagdating ng halalan.

It was a reality for millions of people in my generation. Noong araw ng aking kabataan, patas ang laban para sa lahat.

Ngayon, hindi na patas ang laban. Kapag ikaw ay mahirap, halos walang maaasahang tulong sa pamahalaan upang magbigay ng kahit na mga payak na serbisyong pampubliko tulad ng pangedukasyon at pangkalusugan man lamang.

Bakit nga ba sa ibang bansa, tulad ng Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore at marami pang iba, libre ang pampublikong pag-aaral at iba pang gastusin ng kanilang mga mamamayan?

Bakit kayang tustusan ng kanilang pamahalaan ang pagpapagamot ng kanilang mga mamamayan?

Dito sa ating bayan, kapag ikaw ay mahirap at nagkasakit, malamang ilang araw lamang, ikaw ay mamamatay. At kapag ikaw ay may kaunting naipon, malamang ubos ang iyong inipon at mabaon ka pa sa utang.

Whenever I’m asked about the country’s top problems, I always single out corruption.

Take for example the fertilizer scam that was a subject of a Senate investigation.

Out of a total project cost of P728 million in government funds, at least P645 million went to the greedy pockets of a few while only less than a hundred million actually went to benefit our farmers.

As a son of a jeepney driver, you can understand both my frustrations and anger towards these corrupt officials.

Nakapanghihinayang na ang halagang tulad ng nabanggit ko sa fertilizer scam na nilustay ng iilang matatakaw na mga pinuno at makapangyarihan sa pamahalaan ay nasasayang lamang habang dumadami ang bilang ng mga batang paslit na pilit pinagkakasya na parang sardinas sa mga sira-sirang mga paaralan at mga dukhang pamilyang kapag nagkasakit ay hindi man lang nakakatikim ng gamot at hindi nakakakita ng doktor sa ating pampublikong ospital.

Ang fertilizer scam ay isa lamang sa halos hindi na mabilang na katiwalian sa gobyerno na siyang lumilikha ng mga problema ng bansa at mga mamamayan dahil sa mga mapagsamantala at walang mga konsensiya sa ating pamahalaan.

Whenever I’m asked about the country’s top problems, I am also asked about the perfect solution. I believe it starts when they became aware of our innate responsibilities as citizens of this country.

My dear graduates, today marks your entry into adulthood and with it, the responsibilities to change the course of our history. It begins with getting involved in ridding our country of corrupt leaders. It begins by being agents of change in our own little and humble way. It begins with our sense of sheer responsibility to inform our relatives and neighbors, our friends and our acquaintances, even people we don’t even know but are victims of corruptions in our midst, nonetheless, that we are all being robbed by leaders that we ourselves elected to serve our interests as citizens of our country.

To me, this is the most basic and simplest solution. Pero hanggang patuloy na nakapikit ang ating mga mata at ang mata ng nakakarami at patuloy tayong nagiging bingi sa mga nangyayaring katiwalian sa ating bansa at patuloy nating iboboto ang mga tiwali sa pamahalaan, wala akong nakikitang pag-unlad para sa ating lahat.

And perhaps, we really do deserve this government and our corrupt leaders. Through hardships and under constant threats of political ostracism and black propaganda, I have consistently exposed scams and abuses perpetrated by our so-called leaders.

I suppose most of you are aware of the latest vilification campaign that serves to discredit my legitimate fight to preserve the public’s right for proper health care, quality education and most specially equal opportunities.

But I am not new to this kind of assault to my integrity as an elected leader genuinely belonging to the opposition in this benighted country.

I wish to assure you that I will not be intimidated or silenced. Hangga’t sa abot ng aking makakaya, lalabanan ko ang katiwalian, patuloy akong gagawa ng mga exposes, but I am only one voice.

Therefore, if you can join me in exposing corruption, it will go a long way in cleaning up our bureaucracy. There is only one accident in this world, and that is the accident of being born rich or poor. Everything else in life is a conscious choice.

My poor parents chose as an obsession to make all their brood of eight finish school and become professionals. At pinili naming walong magkakapatid na pahalagahan ang paghihirap ng aming mga magulang, mga dukha nguni’t mararangal, na magsikap sa aming pag-aaral upang hindi na muling balikan ang kahirapang nakamulatan naming lahat sa aming paglaki sa aming munting bayan sa Imus, Cavite.

But most importantly, I chose to adhere to a simple yet noble principle that my poor parents taught me as I was growing old: What is right must be kept right, what is wrong must be set right. Ang tama ay ipaglaban, ang mali ay labanan.

At ang aral na ito ng aking mga magulang ang siyang magiging patnubay ko at aking dadalhin hanggang sa huling hantungan.

But don’t ever forget the sacrifices of your own parents. Without them, most if not all of you will not make it here on your graduation day. Palakpakan po natin sila at bigyang pugay bilang ganti sa kanilang mga sakripisyo na nagbunga sa napakahalagang araw na ito ng inyong pagtatapos.

Whether you will use your talent to do good or to do harm, it will ultimately be up to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I assure that it will be a struggle to become the best person that you want to be. It will be harder than you want, it will be longer than you, and it will take more out of you than to expect that it should. But it will be worth it, to be able to stand proud knowing you are in the service of country, our fellowmen and God.

My dear graduates, when you leave the portals of this institution, your beloved Alma Mater, do not forget why you came here in the first place.

I hope today will mark the beginning of a long line of opportunities to be the change you want to see in this country and this world.

Thank you very much! Good luck and Godspeed!

*****

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