‘I forgive the man who took my mom’s life’

Hazel Panganiban
In her valedictory address, FEU summa cum laude graduate Hazeline Panganiban says she believes that even criminals must be given the chance to change

Dr (Bienvenido) Lumbera, our commencement speaker; the Board of Trustees chaired by Dr (Lourdes) Montinola; school officials headed by President (Michael) Alba, faculty members, parents, distinguished guests, fellow graduates, a grace-filled afternoon. Four years ago, I dreamed of studying in Manila. The excitement and thrill of studying far from the province (inspired) my enthusiasm. I was so inspired to study hard, to do well in exams and be the best in class recitations. All went well at school. I got good grades and I was top of our class.

But things changed when my mom died 2 years ago. She was brutally murdered by a hired killer. From that day on, I felt very devastated and found it hard to study. The only person who kept on pushing me to study was gone.

I will no longer see her happy smiles whenever I hand her my grades slip. I will never hear her jubilant voice again whenever she would tell everyone that her daughter received a flat one.

I traveled through darkness and pain for quite some time. Only after I remembered what my mom told her friend before she died that I finally realized what I must do, what I must become. She told her, “Proud ako sa mga anak ko kasi napalaki ko sila ng maayos. Kahit wala na ako, sila ngayon ang magiging alaala ko sa mundong ito.” (I am proud of my children because I raised them well. If I’m gone, they will be my legacy.)

My mom never feared oblivion because she knew she built a legacy. She built what my sisters and I have become today. My mom made me realize that as human beings, we must build a legacy of our own.

So I chose to let go of the pain and forgive the man who took my mom’s life. It was hard but I have realized that resentment can never bring my mom back. I believe that criminals, despite the gravity of the crimes committed, must be given the chance to change.

We live in a society where people view justice as retributive in nature — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Retributive justice, at its core, believes in the philosophy that crimes are to be curtailed, minimized or, at best, stopped altogether; and that anyone who violates a set of rules agreed upon by society commits a crime and, therefore, deserves to suffer some form of punishment.

But this kind of justice only perpetuates the cycle of violence.

The death of my mother brought me to the legacy that I want to build. I want to fight for human rights – the rights of everyone without exception.

Everybody is entitled to basic, inalienable rights. It can never be taken away from someone because of misdemeanor. Yes, my mom was a victim of human rights violation and the usual reaction is to get even and kill the person. But for me, I don’t want the person to be killed. I want him to be given the chance to change.

I want to help change the public opinion and show that true justice is restorative. Restorative justice operates on the premise that conflict, even criminal conflict, perpetrates harm. Therefore, individuals must accept responsibility for repairing that harm. Instead of focusing on the harm itself, I believe the society must focus on the solutions.

Hundreds of crimes are committed every now and then across the country. In fact, 597 different crimes happen every day. But instead of directing all our attention to the gravity of these crimes, why don’t we focus on analyzing why these crimes happen? Why don’t we participate in devising mutually beneficial solutions and then implement them?

I believe conflicts are resolved in a way that restores harmony among community members  and allows people to continue to live together in a safer, healthier environment. Indeed, nowadays, all of us feel insecure about  our environment.

We fear that we might get robbed or even raped and so on and so forth, but isn’t it happier to live in a place without fear? This is the social mission that I want to do for this country.

Today, graduates, let us all rise up to the challenge and find what legacy we want to build, what social mission we want to do for this country. The greatest challenge that lies before us today is how to effectively utilize our theoretical foundations and practical experiences to contribute to the holistic growth of the society.

We all have a social obligation; a debt to the society that raised us.

As graduates of the Institute of Arts and Sciences, we are expected to be globally competitive and highly principled. We are expected to be leaders who are lifelong learners, problem solvers, effective communicators, and community-oriented as well as culturally rooted citizens. We must possess not only excellence but also character.

In reaching great heights, it isn’t enough to be the best in the field. On our way up, we must put in mind how we can create the greatest impact on the lives of others.

I am fighting for the cause of human rights and restorative justice because I am hoping to repair the relationships that had been broken because of crimes. I believe that when everyone understands the true value of human rights, no one would even dare to take someone else’s life.

As we walk out of this hall, we may all be looking for career opportunities that would satisfy our pockets; jobs that would bring in more money and prestige. However, work is not all about the money. As we take different paths, let us be reminded of the legacy that we want to create because at the very end, this is what really matters in life.

I believe the greatest legacy that we can build is social activism. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Our country desperately needs our help. Our country calls for the youth who can be agents of social change. The sense of apathy among Filipinos is very alarming. Maybe we could start with that. Let us start by expressing our genuine concern for this country and taking our own active roles in moving this country forward.

As Danile Inouye, the former Senator of the United States of America said, “In our transition from student to scholar to graduate, the nation is once again blessed with renewed creativity and the power of youthful idealism. For just surely as each one of us represents the pinnacle of hope and achievement of our families, so too, do we represent yet one more jewel in the crown of great democracy.”

Please allow me to end this address by extending my never–ending gratitude to my dad who supported me all the way. I proudly dedicate this Latin Honour to him. I love you, Papa.

Please say thank you to your parents, a big round of applause, please. Thank you to our dedicated faculty members! A round of applause, please.

And my warmest salutations to the graduates of FEU Batch 2013. Thank you very much. – Rappler.com

Hazel Panganiban is an AB International Studies graduate from the Far Eastern University (FEU). Panganiban, who graduated summa cum laude, delivered her valedictory address during the 85th FEU commencement exercises held last April 24.