Speak It Out

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

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Child of the Sun

CHILD OF THE SUN:
Belong to the Land and to the People, and serve them well
By Dr. Jose M. Tiongco / MindaNews / 22 April 2006

(Note from Minda News: Speech delivered by Dr. Jose M. Tiongco at the 9th Commencement Exercises of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, 22 April 2006 ).


Were I to introduce myself, I would present a simple country bumpkin of a doctor, a surgeon who was born and raised in Mindanao. And will die here too. And that would probably be soon, if I do not finally learn in my old age to keep my mouth shut.

I have gone around the world a few times and talked to quite a number of people of different races, people of different cultural, economic and educational backgrounds. And this is not the first time that I am speaking to a UP audience. But I get goose bumps every time I find myself in a UP institution. It is not easy to talk to UP people. I should know that. I come from UP myself. You can always tell a UP graduate from those of the other Universities. You would generally be looking at a person who is multi-talented, multi-tasked, interesting, interested, articulate, efficient, effective, competent, self assured, and eager to learn more; even if you understandably would
also have to deal with a certain palpable cockiness. Would you agree?

But if there were a Jesuit in the audience today, he will probably rise up to say that I am really describing an Ateneo person as well! I have been with the Ateneo much, much longer than I had been with UP. And I would have to agree, especially on the cockiness part. But I will argue that it is in the University of the Philippines that the student acquires on top of all that I described, a sense of Nationalism, of cultural identity, and a burning sense of outrage at the historical and present oppression of our country and our people.

And this is what UP is really known for. Would you agree?

Yes. I can attest to that, having graduated 35 years ago from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in Manila. And those were the times in our nation's history when the UP students hurled themselves at the Marcos military in the cities and in the countryside to tell them and the rest of the world that they would rather die than tolerate oppression.

That was 35 years ago. And today I often wonder what happened. How could such a pure and pristine movement that wore the invincible armor of love of country and esistance against fascism degenerate after all those years into the tattered rags of banditry, extortion and opportunism?

Those who were fortunate enough to die in the struggle have remained true to the cause. But that cannot be said for the unfortunate many who survived. For one can now see quite a number of them carving out their opulent lifestyles in USA, paying only lip service to the sufferings here in the Philippines. And those who have decided to stay in the Philippines can now be seen walking the corridors of power, integral parts of the system they had previously fought against and wished to destroy.

What started out with a bang has now ended with a pitiful whimper, if not with the clink and clatter of thirty pieces of silver.

Is our history really meant to be this way?

In a couple of years, the University of the Philippines System, the most venerable educational institution in the country will be celebrating its centennial.

How would history judge UP in the last one hundred years? If the long suffering people of the Philippines were to examine the University of the Philippines System and grade its performance for the country in the last 100 years, would the UP pass or fail the examination?

Or to put it bluntly and more graphically, if the President of the University of the Philippines System were to be dragged kicking and screaming into a people's court to account for the one hundred years the blood sweat and tears of the poor people of the Philippines were used to support UP as the citadel of the True, the Good and the
Beautiful in the country, would she be able to give an answer that will be acceptable to the tubercular stevedore in Sasa wharf who eats only once a day and whose children sit in malnourished stupor by the roadside?

Can she answer for the fact that up to 90% of the graduates of the UP College of Medicine are serving the Americans and not the Filipinos who sacrificed for their education and training?

Can she answer for the fact that even as the graduates of UP College of Law top the Bar every year, the halls of Congress in the Philippines are filled with UP lawyers who use their legal gobbledygook to pass laws favorable to the multinational business
industries in the country and detrimental to the poor in the Philippines? Can she justify why justice in the Philippines is officially and unofficially for sale and is out of the reach of the ordinary Filipino who lives below poverty level?

Can she answer for the fact that the graduates from the UP College of Agriculture in Los Banos devastate hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime land in Mindanao growing bananas, pineapples and oil palm for the transnational industries while the Philippines must still import the Filipinos' basic needs in rice and sugar?

Can she answer for the fact that UP Geologists and Mining Engineers ravage our mountains and soil our pristine streams, our rivers and our seas and irreparably harm the environment and the health of our indigenous tribes and people as they extract minerals and precious metals for foreign business concerns?

Can she answer for the fact that while UP College of Mass Communication supposedly teaches the loftiest principles of information dissemination and the responsibilities that come with the freedom of speech and ___expression, her graduates lead big Media organizations in the Philippines that are active and willing servants of big business interests and political pressure groups? The Philippine Media is a world wide marvel for its prattle and irresponsibility and for the naked arrogance of its power over our people. It has become more predatory, mercenary and corrupt than the government institutions it denounces every day in print and in lurid broadcast coverages.

I could go down the line and pile up quite a lot of indictments against the UP system. But my time here as a speaker is limited.

Of course, it could be argued that UP's role is that of Education and is different from that of the Government of the Philippines that makes the policies and enforces the laws of the land.

But UP's role as the country's premier institution in education and training precedes that of the government; because it uses the Filipino taxpayers' money to train the leaders who eventually control the reins of government and private enterprises in the Philippines.

If the University of the Philippines takes great pride that her graduates easily top the government examinations in any professional undertaking, the University of the Philippines must also bow its head in shame and sorrow because it cannot shirk the accountability and responsibility for her graduates who raid the coffers of the country,
corrupt the morals of our people, and turn the Philippines into an international basket case and permanent laughing stock of the nations of the world.

I am a simple country doctor. And I do not have claims to be part of the academe. But I do not believe in Education and Training for the sake of Education and Training themselves. I do not believe that Education does not have anything to do with Moral Duty and Accountability. I believe that UP, as an educational institution, must have something to do with the clouds of unmitigated materialism and greed that darken the cultural horizon of the Philippines today. I believe that a University education, especially in UP has to do with the constant search for what is Good, what is True and what is Beautiful, no matter how polluted these concepts may have become
through their constant prostitution for personal motive and gain. What makes a UP student momentarily flash the bright colors of Nationalism and love of country, and then upon graduation, promptly fall into the grey colors of compromise and conformity just to be able to exist in a way of life that forces him to suppress the shame and the painful voice of conscience within himself, shut himself inside his own ego, praise with bitter half-smiles the oppression and exploitation of his own people so he can beg with his eyes for a small part of the loot to be thrown his way?
What dulls the edge of his seething outrage?

I came back to Mindanao from my studies in UP Manila to seek the answers to these questions.

Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines . It comprises thirty percent (30%) of the country's land area and is home to twenty percent (20%) of the population. Seventy five percent (75%) of the Mindanawons are of migrant stock, from the different areas in the Philippines who came to escape the cultural, political and
economic baggage that burdened them in their places where they were born. They came prepared to bear the new burdens of adjustments with and consideration for others of different cultures, traditions and religions. They came prepared to work. And work hard for their children and for their children's children as well. They came prepared to respect others and be respected in their own right.

Mindanao is the richest island in the Philippines. It produces 54% of the Gross National Product but gets only 7% of the national Budget. One senator from Mindanao once describe it as the National Cash Cow that gets only dog food � crumbs from the tables of the rest of the country. But without Mindanao, the entire Philippines would starve to death.

The Philippines is a typical example of external exploitation by the G-7 countries, and Mindanao is the typical example of internal exploitation by the central government in Manila.

But it is here in Mindanao where the real heart of the Philippines beats.

The average Mindanawon is multi-cultural and multi-lingual. He lives in his community, comfortable in his culture, his own way of life, even when his next door neighbor and friend dresses differently, eats differently, talks to his children in another language, and adores another God. His children play happily with the children of people in his community whom his ancestors used to be afraid of and hated and waged continuous wars against.

It is here in Mindanao where the people consider diversity not as a divisive factor but the key to Unity and progress. It is here where we respect the rights of others to their own thinking and culture. Here where the central government is physically and administratively distant, the people have learned that working together in mutual
respect and consideration is the key to save our families, our communities and our country.

For generations, your fathers and mine, products of different cultures in the Philippines, have worked hand in hand and side by side in peace and brotherhood with each other and the indigenous peoples here in Mindanao. We belong here. It is only when the Manila government makes moves in Mindanao that devastating wars happen among the inhabitants of our island. It is a past and present government practice that the undesirables in the military and civil services in Luzon and the Visayas are punished for their transgressions by sending them to Mindanao - where they usually
wreak havoc on our lives.

Generations of hard work and carefully nurtured goodwill among peoples in our island have been erased by thoughtless and exploitative laws that are passed in Congress in Manila by people who have never been to Mindanao and are even afraid to visit it.

Twenty years or so ago, a group of UP graduates here in Mindanao visited the other sites of UP in other areas in the Philippines like, Baguio, Diliman, Manila, Los Banos, Iloilo and Cebu. And they wondered why there was no UP in Mindanao.

Thus was born a dream. And the dream was brought to a reality ten years later. I have watched UP Mindanao's development through the years as the youngest, least funded and most neglected institution in the UP system. And I have cheered your valiant efforts. I knew in my heart that you would be different from all the other UPs in all the
other places in the Philippines because of the legacy of cultural belongingness, respect and tolerance you have been exposed to. And I never doubted your success.

I do not believe that the majority of your students use UP Mindanao only as a jumping board to UP Diliman. Only the most calloused and unseeing students would not swear to the vision and mission of UP Mindanao.

The University of the Philippines in Mindanao is committed to lead in providing affordable quality education, scholarly research, and responsive and relevant extension services to diverse, marginalized and deserving sectors in Mindanao and neighboring regions through its programs in the sciences and the arts inculcating a passion for excellence, creative thinking, and nationalism in the context of cultural diversity in a global community.

As you graduate from the youngest UP institution, aware of your role in community building in Mindanao, you are sending a dare to the older institutions in the University of the Philippines System. Here is UP Mindanao's answer to the failures of the University of the Philippines System: Belong to the Land and to the People, and serve
them well!

From here onwards you have crowned yourself with the laurels of commitment to service.

Do not listen when they tell you that the crown of laurels you wear is soaked in disappointments and bitterness and the dried leaves hide thorns and maggots. Do not listen when they say that a life dedicated to others is not a life; that it does not bring food and comfort to you and your children; that it brings you no honor and laurels serve not even as condiments for a meal. Do not sell your life of service to your countrymen for thirty pieces of silver.

Because if you do, then deep in the night, years and years from now, when your remaining hair has turned to silver, a small voice will speak to you, just before you fall asleep. And you will have to listen to it. Or break apart.

And it will be in Spanish. Because it was said by a man who died young, twelve years before the University of the Philippines was born in 1908. He was a man who spent the last years of his life here in the service of our people in Mindanao. And he said it to an old man like me, who had white hairs on his head. And this may well have been
spoken by you, the graduates of a young and dynamic UP Mindanao to the old and failing University of the Philippines System.

Cuando tenga canas come esas, senor, y vuelva la vista hacia mi pasado y vea que solo he trabajado para mi, sin haber hecho lo que buenamente podia y debia por el pais que me ha dado todo, por los cuidadanos que me ayudan a vivir, entonces, senor, cada cana me sera una espina y en vez de gloriarme de ellas, me he de avergonzar!

Ug sa ato pa:
Sir, pagabut sa panahon nga ang akong ulo, maora sad kadaghana ang uban susama sa inyo, unya balikon nako ug lantaw ang akong kinabuhi, unya Makita nako nga ang akong mga paningkamut diay, alang lang sa akong kaugalingon ug walay kalabutan sa mga maayong butang nga ako untang nabuhat u di kaha kinahanglan buhaton alang sa lungsod nga mao'y naghatag sa ako sa tanan, alang sa akong mga isigkatao ng mitabang sa ako arun manginabuhi; nianang panahuna, Sir, ang tagsa-tagsa ka uban nga anaa sa akong ulo mahimo ug maidlot nga tunok nga muduksak sa akong panghunahuna ug inay nga mahimayaon ako sa akong katigulangon, iduko hinuon nako ang akong ulo sa tumang kanugon ug kaulaw!

So if there is anything then, that Mindanao has taught you here in University of the Philippines, it is to belong to land, to belong to others, especially those who have made you what you are; to be sensitive to their needs, to constantly consider the other person's way of thinking, in much the same way as you considered everyday,
what language to use to talk to the little child of a jeepney conductor who took your fare, or to the daredevil habal-habal driver who took you over the butt breaking roads to your refreshing little UP Mindanao campus.

Look up to the mountain that you see everyday. Breathe in the pure air of Mindanao. This may be your last day in the campus. Take it all in. And remember it well. Most of you will wander far over yonder, but you will never find anything more beautiful.

Because you will never find the True, the Good and the Beautiful in the world, no matter where or how you search, unless you find them first here on that mountain where the gods of our beloved Mindanao dwell, here among your people who made you what you are now, and finally, here in your own heart.

(Dr. Jose M. Tiongco is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine Class 1971. He writes a column titled "Child of the Sun" for MindaNews and is the author of "Child of the Sun Returning," a book about the early years of the Medical Mission Group Hospitals and Health Services Cooperative-Philippines
Federation, where he is chief executive officer).

Do not go where the path leads you....
Go where there is no path and lead the way...

1 Comments:

Blogger cassandra said...

nice posts in this blog worth my time...

June 14, 2006 12:18 AM  

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