Speech at the 55th Founding Anniversary of the Lyceum of the Philippines University – Batangas (LPU)

To the University President of the Lyceum of the Philippines-Batangas, Dr. Peter P. Laurel; Senior Vice President Frederick Badillo; VP for Academics and Research, Dr. Cecilia Pring; Chairman of the Founder’s Lecture 2021, Dr. Arnie Christian D. Villena; teachers, parents and our very dear Lyceans — magandang umaga sa ating lahat.

Speaking before you today feels surreal for a number of reasons. In recent years, we seem to live in the greatest irony of our time: There is a surplus of online channels that connects us — yet, we have never felt so distant from each other; we have paved our roads and built bridges, but our mobility has been constantly restricted; the world has been on a moment of standstill but oddly, we all seem to be running against time.

To say much has changed in just a year’s time may be an understatement. From where we stand, you and I would agree that the world we live in has changed literally everything around us.

Worst, the pandemic has created the greatest disruption to global education systems in our history.

It reminds me of the distant past, when education had been the single most important wealth parents can bequeath to their children. I was instantly nostalgic of the memories of my parents, especially of my mother, who took whatever back-breaking jobs they could handle just to send their children – all eight of us – to school, all the way to college. For those of you who do not know yet, I was a proud alumnus of Lyceum of the Philippines University in Intramuros, Manila, before entering the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1967.

My parents knew then, as we have come to understand now, that we should pursue education even if the odds are not in our favor.

We face a much more difficult problem today; the odds are that we have to alter the way we learn things and the manner by which we live our lives. Surely, all of you here carry the burden the pandemic has brought to your educational platform. In fact, as we speak, our community of learners still suffer the most from the growing educational disparity, inaccessibility, and discontinuity.

But as we say, in every crisis in human history, there arises many opportunities to bounce back, and as the theme of your event states — to “learn different and live different.”

We are fortunate that just within our reach is an arsenal that can transform societies in ways unimaginable. I speak of information technology – one of our anchors for stability in these otherwise uncertain times and a defining force for virtually all societies to survive.

The critical role of technology could not have been even more underscored in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit humanity on a massive, unprecedented scale.

While the future of technology and innovation offers a sense of brighter hope for humanity, the status of science and technology in our country still leaves a lot to be desired.

In fact, the glaring dearth of resources allocated to Research and Development, averaging annually at a mere 0.4% of our national budgets from 2018 to 2021, is one of my priorities as a legislator. I believe that of equal weight and importance, we must bridge our growing digital divide.

This is the reason why I have constantly stood my ground for the digital connectivity and science and technology programs of the government. I am certain that if we accelerate the deployment of the needed digital infrastructure, we can better serve our educational system and the public at large.

We know this for sure: continuous education will improve not only the competence of our learners but the welfare of our nation. Similarly, the efforts of your university for the adoption of digital technologies will depend on how they affect the values and morals of our learners.

Natitiyak ko, kahit na halos limang dekada na ang nakalilipas, nananatili ang pilosopiya ng nagtatag ng unibersidad na ito — a great educator and a distinguished senator, Dr. Sotero Laurel. He stressed the importance of education beyond classroom learning. He believed that learning is a lengthy process that must instill a passionate commitment to nationalism.

Higit kailanman, kailangan nating pagtibayin ang edukasyon bilang instrumento ng pagsusulong ng interes ng ating bayan, at pagpapayabong ng ating kultura at pagkakakilanlan. This is our shared responsibility: we must steer our future generation towards nation building for a society built on trust, integrity, and hope.

May the virtues of our dignified university, “Veritas et Fortitudo” meaning ‘Truth and Fortitude’ and “Pro Deo et Patria” or For God and Country, serve as your moral compass as you navigate your professional and personal journeys.

Again, I wish Lyceum of the Philippines-Batangas a meaningful implementation of the 55 degree and non-degree online and blended programs.

Thank you and Mabuhay!