#InspireCourage: A Mindanaoan's valedictory address
To University President Father Roberto C Yap of the Society of Jesus, members of the Board of Trustees, honored guests – Brother Carlito Gaspar of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Sister Amelia David of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sister Neriza Herbon of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul – faculty, formators, staff, parents and relatives, and my fellow graduates, good morning.
A few days ago, I was told that I was graduating! I felt relieved, excited, and nervous at the same time but when the adrenalin wore out, a question haunted me: “Who am I? Who am I?”
Today, I find myself with 3 answers.
I am a Mindanaoan, a child of the beautiful heritage that is reflected in the distinct patterns of woven cultures, the grandeur of mountain ranges and friendship, and the multiple palettes of our skin.
But today, we are facing a crisis. People who claim to be Mindanaoans are spreading hate and forcing us to believe in their twisted ideologies. Our identity has been stolen by these violent extremists, but only a few are finding ways to take it back.
I choose to be part of the few. I choose to raise my voice and say that I am neither fear nor hate, I am peace and freedom, and I am Mindanao.
"I am Mindanao," a social campaign which we started, aims to educate college students about the dangers of violent extremism, strengthen our pride as Mindanaoans, and empower us to create counter narratives of our own. I am committed to this cause even if others might say that it’s dangerous and unchartered, but as millennials, we are thrilled to go to places no one ever dares to go.
I am a Filipino and my country is in troubled waters. We are in the phase of rethinking our old ways and challenging the norms. We are facing numerous problems of poverty, crime, drug abuse, environmental degradation, unemployment, globalization.
We want quick fixes. Thus, we have the (proposed) death penalty, the war on drugs, the lowering of the minimum age of criminals, and the launching of casinos for supposed greater income. But these are just patches to cover up the bigger issues.
Taylor Swift got it right when she said: “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.” We have enormous bullet holes in our country, and we need some stitching and healing.
As a millennial, I stand up against these quick solutions. I refuse to just stay silent about these issues. I urge you to make your personal stand – vote, blog about it, write songs, make documentaries, call your congress representatives, run campaigns, sign petitions, advocate.
I am a global citizen, and I do not live for myself. The world has found ways to make our planet smaller by involving everyone. The United Nations launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which encompass all the sectors of the society whether education, health, infrastructure, financing, environment, and justice in order to bring a brighter future.
One of the SDGs is goal number two: zero hunger. We can work together to reach this goal.
The Agriculture graduates can focus on improving the quality of crops and livestock.
Our fellow graduates from the Center of Integrated Technologies and our engineers will help in the mechanization of the production process.
Our tech graduates from the Computer Studies can help in capacitating our farmers about new technologies,.
Business majors train our farmers to become entrepreneurs and (help) market their own produce.
The social scientists on understanding the market and the society at large.
Our lawyers in protecting the rights of every citizen.
Our doctors and nurses in maintaining good hygiene and health practices.
And our educators in cultivating students and life-long learners to become better citizens of this world.
We are all part of this wide network. We might be small but we are creating ripples of change in the bigger system.
I am a global citizen because being a person for others is being blind to color, ethnicity, culture, gender or religion. Being a person for others is being able to see everyone with the eyes of love. We do not live for ourselves alone. We live for every person in this world.
I was asked to talk about what we can do in the future, but I say why wait for the future when the future is now, when the future is here, and when the future is us.
We are already part of the revolution that is happening in our society, and that’s what makes us millennials. We know who we are, who we truly are.
Today, I will end with 4 answers instead of 3.
I am a Mindanaoan, a Filipino, a global citizen, but most of all, I am an Atenean. – Rappler.com
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