education in the Philippines

[New School] Patuloy na pagtatayâ: Pushing back as a way of moving forward

JB Wacnang Bejarin
[New School] Patuloy na pagtatayâ: Pushing back as a way of moving forward
'Our own self-awareness and critical thought should lead us to recognize that, indeed, being privileged makes us part of the problem'

The following is the valedictory address delivered at the 2022 Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Schools Commencement Exercises.

Every graduating batch has its own fair share of challenges. Our batch, however, had to face challenges that were extremely overwhelming: the national K to 12 reform, the new Loyola Schools core curriculum, and the global transition to pandemic learning. Our batch was the pioneer of these changes. We were used to test if these changes would actually work. Jokingly, we called ourselves “guinea pigs.” 

We started college with our OrSem Tayâ – to take a chance. True enough, our experiences in the past four years have revolved around taking chances on ourselves, on our country, and on each other. 

Sa pagtatayâ sa mga sarili natin, sumabay tayo sa agos ng pagbabago. When I stayed in the dorm in first year, I met batchmates who had to leave their provinces to study in Manila. It wasn’t easy for them to live in a new environment, but they adjusted and excelled in orgs, in acads, and in sports. As a student leader, I witnessed how we carried on despite the changes brought by COVID-19. Training alone at home, our student-athletes rediscovered their passion for sports. And they continued to compete for our school and country. Our student leaders continued to serve, even as interactions with sectors and org members had to be done online. Those among us who needed to pass our theses patiently conducted interviews and gathered data remotely. We learned to think outside the box. We finished what we had started. We survived! 

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Sa pagtatayâ natin sa Pilipinas, lumabas tayo sa ating nakasanayan. During the country’s most recent elections, many of us went beyond registering as first-time voters. We campaigned house-to-house for candidates that reflected our values, even though the odds were against us. What we lacked in machinery and resources, we made up with hard work and radical love. 

At sa pagtatayâ natin sa ating kapwa, nagtayâ rin sila sa atin. Many of us got by college through the kindness of others: parents and benefactors, loved ones and friends, and blockmates, classmates, and orgmates who all made memories with us; teachers, formators, and personnel who supported us; and people we’ve met and have made an impact in our lives in profound ways. 

However, we ought not to glorify our resilience through the difficulties of the chances we had taken. Ang totoo, marami sa atin ang napagod, nabigo, at nasaktan sa pagtatayâ. Many scholars needed to work part-time on top of their academic load just to make ends meet. During the pandemic, a lot of us struggled to learn, not only because of the lack of access to onsite facilities and resources for conducive online learning, but also because it was difficult to feel that we belonged to a community. Many of us may not yet have processed the sense of defeat after the previous elections. Some of us lost loved ones and opportunities and, perhaps, up to now, have still been unable to grieve. 

Indeed, we can only come to terms with our past if we recognize what we truly feel. More importantly, we can only be at peace if we act upon the things that hold us back. Sa madaling salita, kailangan pa rin nating magtayâ. But to take a chance is not to move on as if nothing happened, it is to push back as a way of moving forward. 

Patuloy na pagtatayâ sa sarili 

To push back is to be self-aware and critical about ourselves and the conditions we find ourselves in. When it dawns upon us that other people have it worse, some of us even dwell on how lucky we are compared to them: “#SimpleJoys,” “#Thankful,” “SoBlessed.” The fact remains that we are privileged – some more than others – in a country beset by deep inequality and social exclusion. 

Our very education is indicative of this. Our community takes to heart being persons with and for others, yet a lot of us live lifestyles detached from most Filipinos. This is not to say that we or the Ateneo failed to be critical of the state of our society. In the face of injustice, we have been firm about our values and principles. Marami rin naman tayong nagawa! Yet our own self-awareness and critical thought should lead us to recognize that, indeed, being privileged makes us part of the problem. 

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In dilemmas like this, Ateneo has taught us to discern – to weigh our options, recognize our motivations, and remember our “why.” In pursuit of Magis – or what is more loving and good – we ought to translate this awareness into action as we decide what to do after college. 

Patuloy na pagtatayâ sa Pilipinas 

Paano ba ang magtayâ? To push back is to resist the structures that reinforce the status quo. Our struggles with stress, anxiety, and depression are by-products of systems that force us to be productive to the detriment of our well-being. That’s neoliberal capitalism for you. Kailangan ding suriin at intindihin ang desisyon ng mayorya sa ating mga kababayang iboto at ihalal bilang pangulo ang anak ng isang diktador. More than three decades after the return of democracy, many Filipinos still feel that their lives have not changed. As the gap has widened between the rich and the poor, more Filipinos have become marginalized and susceptible to forces that aim to distort established truths for their own gain. 

Paano ba ang magtayâ sa ganitong klaseng sitwasyon? If our problems are systemic in nature, then our approach must go beyond the individual and toward the structural. Inevitably, privilege gives us the power to influence how organizations, institutions, and movements are shaped. Let us commit ourselves to the transformation of the current way of doing things. Let us work with the marginalized and allow them to govern, even if it would mean letting go of the very privilege from which we benefit. 

Patuloy na pagtatayâ sa kapwa 

Kaya ba natin ang ganitong klaseng pagtatayâ? Oo, pero hindi nang mag-isa! To push back is to go beyond our circles towards broader collective action. Pagkatapos ng eleksyon, marami sa atin ang nakaramdam ng pagkabigo, hindi lang dahil parang nasayang ang ating mga itinayâ, kundi dahil hindi rin natin alam kung ano na ang susunod na gagawin. Sa pagkatalo, sino o ano na ang dahilan para lumaban tayo at magkaroon ng pag-asa? 

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Hindi nakabase sa iisang tao o iisang eleksyon ang mga pagbabagong ating minimithi, kundi sa ating lahat. All of us have power, given each individual’s inherent capacity to do good. However, we may often feel that the power we hold cannot make a dent in society’s problems. But imagine a future where we work together across our chosen careers – in the fields of government, medicine, media, the sciences, education, technology, development work, engineering, culture, business, and the arts, among others – in employing holistic solutions to society’s problems. Imagine the possibilities when we work with people from different walks of life and set aside our self-interests in pursuit of the common good. Each of us has the agency to make this choice. 

Sa aking mga kapwa magtatapos, kaya ba nating piliing magtayâ? Para saan? Para kanino? Sama-sama tayong magtayâ para sa isang Pilipinas: kung saan tinutugunan ang mahihirap na problema gamit ang angking-galing ng bawat isa. Sama-sama tayong magtayâ para sa isang Pilipinas: kung saan hindi na espesyal ang pagtatapos sa Ateneo, dahil abot-kamay ng bawat kabataan ang de-kalidad na edukasyon sa lahat ng bahagi ng bansa. At sama-sama tayong magtayâ para sa isang Pilipinas: kung saan binibigyang espasyo ang lahat na makiambag tungo sa ating mga pinagkaisang pangarap, magkakaiba man ang pinanggalingan. 

Malaking karangalan po para sa akin – bilang isang Ilokano at katutubong y-Kalinga mula sa tribo ng Tulgao, Tingguian mula sa Abra, at Ifugao – na ilahad ang kuwento at mga hangarin ng Klase ng 2022 ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. While we cannot determine what the future holds after graduation, hope lies in us choosing to take a chance on ourselves, on our country, and on each other – of pushing back as a way of moving forward. 

Thank you very much and congratulations, my dear batchmates! Dios ti agngina ken matago-tago tako losan! Mabuhay tayong lahat at maraming salamat po! –

JB Wacnang Bejarin recently graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He is a proud Ilocano and Cordilleran, having roots in Kalinga, Ifugao, Abra, and Isabela.

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