Speak It Out

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The name Ardythe:good war (Anglo-saxon); flowering field (Hebrew); spiritual prosperity (Swedish); Norwegian goddess.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tony Meloto's Commencement Speech

ISKOLAR NG BAYAN, BAYANI PARA SA BAYAN
By Antonio P. Meloto, Gawad Kalinga
U.P. Commencement Exercises
National College of Public Administration and Governance
22 April 2006

Maraming salamat sa inyong paanyaya na magsalita ngayon sa napakahalagang araw ng inyong buhay. Hindi po ako nag-aral dito sa UP, pero dalawang tao na malapit sa puso ko ang nagtapos dito. Yong ama ko was a graduate 68 years ago in Business Administration, at ang pangalawang anak ko ay nagtapos sa Theater Arts in 2003. Ako’y tuwang-tuwa dahil ito ang pinakaunang UP graduation na napuntahan ko and it somehow lessens the guilt of not attending my daughter’s graduation dahil pinahalagahan ko ang misyon ko para sa mahirap.

When I was invited by Dean Alex Brillantes to be your speaker I asked myself what could I possibly say to some of the brightest minds in the country, mga Iskolar ng Bayan, many of whom want to go into public service. I am not a politician. Since 1996, I vowed not to take on any political position, whether appointive or elective. Gusto ko lang magsilbi sa mahirap. I wanted to help the poor by caring for the least of my brethren as a Christian who was challenged to follow Jesus all the way to the slums. I wanted to learn how to care for the weak and the powerless who were victims of history and a political system that they thought they were helpless to change. So I speak before you as an ordinary Filipino who has discovered the potential of every Filipino to make a difference and to bring about meaningful change by learning to trust one another and to work together for the common good.

Going back to my father, he lived a remarkably simple life although he was the contemporary in U.P. of two powerful people – former President Ferdinand E. Marcos and Ambassador Roberto Benedicto. I remember the times when he would talk about these two popular men and I often wondered to myself why he was happy to be a nobody – contented with his life as a public school teacher and later on as an accounting clerk who could hardly provide for six children. One thing about my father, he was scrupulously honest, although frankly, I would have been happier in those times for him to be more compromising so we could have more comforts in life. At age 81, he died without ever owning a piece of land… or building his own house… or driving his own car. He left us with nothing except his good name, the respect of his friends and the many lessons he taught me. The greatest one I learned is that the political power of Marcos and the business empire of Benedicto failed to bring our country out of poverty and to make life better for our people.

It is not political power or wealth that builds a nation. Power and wealth are mere consequences of a strong nation. A strong nation is built by a strong people -- people who are determined to work hard, people who are willing to sacrifice for one another and the common good and most importantly, people with integrity.

U.P. has produced many people with integrity like my father. And it is this value that I want to highlight for those of you who want to go into public service or any field of human endeavor. Integrity is what we have lost as a people. We no longer trust our institutions. We lack confidence to succeed in our own country. We have lost the respect of other countries. Integrity is what we have to regain. Intelligence, competence, talents, skills we have in abundance because we are a gifted people but they are meaningless without integrity.

My father almost failed in me when I took the path of selfishness, wanting only to help myself gain the wealth and power that I never had. I compromised the values and integrity that he taught me to achieve my personal ambitions. But God intervened in my life in 1985 when I joined Couples for Christ and discovered a beautiful plan for me, for my family and my country. My family and I cannot grow at the expense of others but in fact achieve it by helping others find their own security and quality of life.

Our selfishness has created the mess that we are in. Worse, we are caught in a vicious culture of blame. Yes there is basis for blame. Many politicians have not kept their promises… many of the rich have not shared their wealth… some Church leaders have failed to practice what they preach… many Filipinos have abandoned their country… and even the poor have been criticized for not working hard enough.

At the rate we are blaming each other, everybody is to blame. Lahat naman nagkulang at lahat naman tayo ay nagkasala. But blaming alone never solves the problem. It does not build homes for the poor. It does not feed the hungry. It does not restore human dignity. It destroys friendship. It poisons the spirit. It kills hope. Instead of looking for fault in others let’s look at ourselves –- what we have done wrong, what we have failed to do. We need to change…but for me, change begins with myself.

We have destroyed so much of ourselves and our country that me changing myself is not enough… that you changing yourself is not enough. We have to inspire change in many others… and, we have to change together.

Change will not come easy, that’s why we need to encourage and we need to honor all the good examples around us. We need to invite everyone to come on board. Poverty is so massive that our response to it cannot be small. We cannot rebuild this country if we do not engage every sector of society including government. It is counter-productive to judge all government officials as corrupt. In dealing with dishonest men, just be honest. We cannot change people if we make them our enemies. Engage them and bring out the best in them.

While many are accustomed to the path of blame, we have to discover a new path, build a new culture of honoring those who do good.

In Gawad Kalinga, we work with National Government agencies and over 300 mayors and governors and we have been inspired by their sincerity and their determination to help the poor in their towns and provinces. Last year, we discovered a lot of outstanding local government officials in our effort to rehabilitate victims of calamities and conflict. The popular image of politicians as trapos and corrupt has not often been our experience. In working together, most of them have shown sincerity, deep concern for their constituents, and honesty in their dealings with Gawad Kalinga. If we maintain our integrity in dealing with them, they can be encouraged to respond to us in the same way.

We have partnered with over a hundred corporations and many prominent families and individuals. They are not the insensitive, selfish, greedy people many have always painted them to be, when they are given the chance to show their concern and express their generosity. Many of them have adopted Gawad Kalinga as their opportunity to make a difference, and many more will do the same because of their example.

Itong nakaraan lang na typhoon sa Luzon, kailangan natin ng 400 hectares para sa mga 40,000 families na nawalan ng bahay at nawalan ng mga mahal sa buhay dahil nakatira sila sa delikadong lugar. Akala namin mahirap kumuha ng lupa for relocation but in 2 months we were able to raise 507 hectares in 12 provinces. Hindi pala madamot ang Pilipino kung sila ay naniniwala.

The religious sector is likewise not indifferent. A number of churches are responding with boldness to the call of nation-building by restoring the dignity of poor Filipinos. Bishop Soc Villegas took the initiative to build the Cardinal Sin GK Village for the informal settlers in Punta Sta. Ana; Bishop Precioso Cantillas is helping in the rehabilitation of landslide victims in Southern Leyte; Archbishop Ramon Arguelles is providing Church land to informal settlers of Lipa City; and today, CBCP President and Archbishop of Jaro, Angel Lagdameo, is opening Church land in 5 vicariates to host Gawad Kalinga communities for the poorest of the poor including many Church workers.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches had not been less generous when they partnered with Gawad Kalinga together with NDCC (National Disaster Coordinating Council) and DSWD in building new communities for the typhoon victims in Luzon. And now, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, more popularly known as the Mormons, have volunteered their services and offered their expertise and resources in providing water systems in GK communities all over the country.

We are seeing a miracle in progress as different churches transcend their differences to work together to build a nation by helping the poor rise from poverty. This emerging unity is an affirmation of the Gawad Kalinga spirit of non-discrimination in the choice of whom to help and working with those who want to help.

Pwede rin magtulungan ang Muslim at Kristiyano.

Tomorrow I am flying to Camp Abubakar. Five years ago there was an all out war that destroyed an entire Muslim community. Mahigit isang libong pamilya ng mga kapatid nating Muslim ang nawalan ng tahanan. Tomorrow we will see 200 houses rising from the ashes of war. Together with Barira Mayor Alex Tomawis, DSWD and SMART, Christians and Muslims are building peace and friendship by building peaceful Gawad Kalinga communities in Camp Abubakar. This is also happening in 20 Muslim communities in Mindanao.

Millions of Filipinos have left the Philippines and we thought they had deserted us. But then again, this is not true. They have not forgotten. They have not stopped loving the motherland. Many are not just giving resources to build homes and villages but are actually coming home to help build them themselves. The Kampampangans helping Pampanga and Tarlac… the Batangueños helping Batangas… the Bicolanos helping Bicol.. and many more helping the provinces and towns of their birth. They are making true the words of Isaiah, “Your sons and daughters will come home to rebuild your broken cities.”

We gave life to the spirit of negativity, pessimism and divisiveness in our country and succeeded in convincing ourselves that we are hopeless. When we are in an attack mode in pursuit of even the noblest causes, the natural reaction is to defend and fight back perpetuating an environment of conflict.

We need a more radical response to our present predicament. Radical means to be different and to be passionate. Passion for change is oftentimes fueled by anger but passion that is more powerful is fueled by love… Love for God & country… Love for God & our poor countrymen. Pwede rin maging radical by following the path of love and the path of peace.

The University of the Philippines has always been known for being radical. It has produced outstanding men and women who risked their lives, their families and their future to fight injustice and corruption… most of them driven by a sincere desire for change. Despite the long history of militancy however, this university that has produced some of the most powerful leaders, politicians, businessmen and prominent advocates of many causes has not lifted our people out of poverty and our country out of corruption.

Is it possible for U.P. to champion a new brand of radicalism to what we already know? One that entails engaging all sectors of society without judgment or discrimination, following the path of peace and the true spirit of bayanihan to concretely find solutions to our problems.

Instead of Ibagsak, can we try Itayo? Instead of away, puede bang magtulungan? Instead of unahan, puede bang walang iwanan?Lalong-lalo na sa mga matatalino, magagaling at mayayaman… yung mga mahirap na hindi makapasok sa UP, pwede bang balikan natin? Huwag natin silang iwanan.

Even as we exercise our right to speak up and even criticize what we believe is not right, can we as vigorously honor what we see is good? Can we build and restore this country, where no Filipino is an enemy… where we will rise together because the weakest and the powerless among us will not be left behind?

Are you radical enough for this? Let me answer for you.

Yes, you are. This brand of radicalism already exists in U.P. but not recognized and honored enough. U.P. has Pahinungod which has done a marvelous job of stirring the spirit of volunteerism but it needs to be mainstreamed, sustained and embraced as a way of life. U.P. has given birth to many NGO’s and cause-oriented groups that are sincere in their desire to help our country.

Three things that we need to recognize about being radical:

Working together to build peace in times of conflict is radical

Fraternities fighting each other is normal. Fraternities working together… that is radical. When people unite, transcend political, religious and cultural differences and work together for the common good… that is radical. That is what Upsilon and Beta Epsilon, Beta Sigma and Alpha Sigma are starting to do in Gawad Kalinga. I honor Eric Pasion and those who started Gawad Kalinga Youth in U.P. for being builders of peace.

Working for the good of others at the sacrifice of greater opportunities for self is radical.

When people leave their high paying corporate jobs to give their time to serve their country – that is radical. Melo Villaroman, U.P. Business Economics ’84, retired early at age 42 as Director for Business Development for Asia of Procter & Gamble based in Singapore. When offered a higher position in Europe or the U.S. he politely declined and stated that his country needs him now. Eena Kanapi, U.P. Political Science ’92 is another radical spirit who left her job as Strategic Planning Director of a multi-national ad company to help the poor. Both are full-time volunteers of Gawad Kalinga, both are sharing their expertise in helping their countrymen rise from poverty.

Promoting the message of hope in times of despair is radical.

Maria Montelibano, first graduate of U.P. AB Broadcasting, multi-awarded TV Director and media specialist is heading a global multi-media campaign to communicate the message that there is hope for the Philippines if Filipinos can work together until there are no more squatters, no more slums, no more hunger, no more crime… where there is dignity and peace for everyone in this country.

U.P. has produced a beautiful Filipino in my daughter, Wowie. She has put her love life on hold to host the sports-adventure show GamePlan that showcases the beauty of our land and our people and to volunteer for Gawad Kalinga, bringing her to the poorest and the most remote areas of our country.

Many from this university have helped us in this Revolution of Hope – Cris Vertido, Cheche Lazaro and thousands of nameless and unrecognized volunteers and partners throughout the country. We are excited with the offer of support of President Emerlinda Roman throughout the U.P. system nationwide and offer of help from Dr. Ledy Cariño and Dr. Alex Brillantes to mobilize UP-NCPAG for Gawad Kalinga. We know that many more from among you and your parents will come and help.

I am asking all of you now to do what I ask every Filipino to do --

Never stop hoping for our country.
Don’t stop caring for our people.
Demand greatness from yourself as a Filipino
Inspire greatness in other Filipinos.

No nation in crisis ever achieved victory without its young warriors leading the battle. Do not wait to be as old as me before you start to help our people and build our nation. Begin now. Like others in my generation I am here to admit the mistakes we have made and share the lessons we have learned.

Our greatest mistake is that we keep leaving others behind, especially the weak and the powerless. Look at what we have reaped because of our neglect. And because we left them behind – this is the curse of poverty that you will inherit from us.

For the last four years, kayo ang mga iskolar ng bayan. This nation did not choose you to be her scholars so you can just help yourself. This nation chose you so you can help others. Don’t forget the poor -- the many others who will not have the privilege of a U.P. education. Go back to the towns and the communities where you come from and give land to the landless, build homes for the homeless and help grow food for the hungry.



This is the foundation of nation-building. From there, it grows to productivity built from discipline and talent. Nation is not about business, it is about economy. Nation is not about political parties, it is about governance. Nation is not about projects and programs, it is about vision. Nation is not about power and position, it is about leadership.

Let me send you off with a prayer.

As you go your way now, may God almighty light your path and embolden your heart. May you be the joy and consolation of your parents for all their hard work and sacrifice, knowing that you will be the future full of hope. May you heal the wounds of our nation and restore the dreams of our people. May you be the new generation of heroes that will bring our people to the promise land. May God be with you every step of the way.

Apat na taon kayong iskolar ng bayan.
Habang buhay kayong bayani para sa bayan!

Congratulations at mabuhay kayong lahat!

2 Comments:

Blogger Tahiti Tradewinds said...

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September 02, 2006 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

worth readin...inspiring....lets act

July 11, 2013 7:16 PM  

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