Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

*Mountain Province State Polytechnic College graduation speech. The drafting of the speech was a collective effort. Thanks @kabataanpl.

Maimbag nga aldaw. A pleasant day to all of you.

I was told several times this morning that the MPSPC is grateful for my participation in today’s graduation ceremonies. No. It is I who should thank MPSPC for inviting me to deliver a message to our graduating class of 2011. This is the first time in my life and in my capacity as a legislator that I was given the privilege to address the college graduates of a state college. Thank you Madam Nieves, thank you MPSPC.

I congratulate the graduates, the honor students, the outstanding undergraduate students. You made it! The Filipino youth, the Filipino people who funded your education are proud of you. I also congratulate the other magna and summa students – magna, magnanine years in college; and summa, sumampung taon sa kolehiyo.

But this day belongs not to you graduates, although it’s a special day for you. This day is dedicated most especially to the two happiest groups of people gathered this morning: your teachers, and your parents.

Graduation is more like a Thanksgiving Day. It is our opportunity to thank the people who made it possible for all of you to reach this stage. Not all students who entered Grade One in 1996 or 1997 made it through college. In fact, out of 100 students who enter grade one, only 14 are able to finish college. You are part of the lucky 14, congratulations!

And one of the reasons why you’re here this morning is because of the sacrifices made by your teachers and parents. So thank you teacher for the lectures (we were listening most of the time); thank you teacher for the patience; thank you teacher for the good and not so good memories. Let us give a round of applause to our teachers.

And for the proud parents; thank you for the tuition payment, thank you for the allowance (although sometimes we use it play dota), thank you for believing in us, and most of all, thanks for all the sacrifice and hardwork (we know that some of you had to leave the country, others were forced to sell properties) just to make sure that we were able finish our studies. Students and soon to be graduates of MPSPC, clap your hands and honor your parents.

After school, you have a responsibility to fulfill to the community. You must serve the country which subsidized your education. We expect that you will use your talent and training to improve the lives of others. Think of the farmer, the market vendor, the bus driver, your parents – all the taxpayers who contributed to your education.

Public schools exist because they have specific missions to fulfill – equip the youth with knowledge and skills that are most needed by the community. They offer courses, including unpopular courses, which are vital for the survival of the nation.

There are 2,000 colleges and universities in the country, most of them are privately owned. Most of them are offering courses that are popular in the market. But if all students will take up the popular courses, who will study agriculture (young Filipinos do not know how to be a productive farmer anymore; but they are good at playing Farmville)? Who will study marine science, biology, geology, meteorology – courses whose importance became more obvious after the Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster a few weeks ago? Remember that like Japan, we are also located in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

State Universities and Colleges, like MPSPC, are mandated by law to continue developing programs which are deemed crucial for the progress of the country. I hope you will not forget that mandate when you leave this campus.

Soon, you will realize these “inconvenient truths” about life after college: 1) Jobs won’t be easy to find; 2) It’s even more difficult to meet the expectations of others – like if you don’t know the answer to a trivia question or you can’t fix the TV, or if you made a mistake in arithmetic, people will ask you: college graduate ka? 3) Some of you will realize that you are best suited for a career which is different from the job prospect you had been preparing in the past four years. Relax. It’s part of life. Welcome to the real world. 4) But the fun part is only beginning. Because after a few months in the job market and still unemployed, you and the people around you will ask if you just spent 6 years in elementary, 4 years in High School, and another 4 years in college so that you will only earn a diploma paper without a monthly paycheck?

Yes, education is job preparation but it is more than that. It should be more than that. Yes, formal schooling allows students to absorb the technical knowledge about the world of work but it also teaches them to develop a passion for new learning, the craving to acquire new ideas, the desire to seek new truths. You are an educated person the moment you realize that your education is incomplete. After college, the learning never stops.

There is no excuse to be ignorant after college. When I finished my schooling in 2000, there was no broadband internet and our cell phones have limited functions. Pangkaskas ng yelo ang laki ng phone namin, namangha kami nang tinanggal ang antenna ng phone, at bilib na bilib kami sa larong snake. Today, information is accessible. Communication is faster because of advancements in IT.

More than your high grades, college is memorable because of the critical thinking and critical skills you develop in school. These skills are essential to filter information in the cyberspace which you can use to advance your careers.

Critical thinking is also useful to preserve our past, defend our cultures, and assert our future. We are constantly reminded about the coming of the future but what about the preservation of the past? I am mentioning this because I am worried about the ignorance of many people about our history and the diverse cultures of the Filipino nation. How can we be globally competitive if we are ignorant about our identity?

Sadly, there are Filipinos who assume that only Christians and Muslims exist in the Philippines. They are not aware of the 110 ethnolinguistic groups in the country which could reach up to 10-12 million of the population.

Many television shows and movies, and unfortunately, some schools, books and educational materials usually portray and depict our Indigenous Peoples as harmful, and uncivilized who are the lowest form of human life and are incapable of living by themselves.

From our kindergarten up to major universities in the metropolis, not much is said about the cultures of our indigenous peoples. In most cases, they are not spoken of at all. Or if they are, they are often reduced to the “exotic”.

But they were the brave inhabitants of the Philippine islands whose resistance to foreign invaders enabled them to preserve their unique customs.

In an effort to correct prevailing misconceptions and misrepresentations of IPs in the country, Kabataan Partylist has filed House Bill 3963 or the “Indigenous Studies Act of 2010” pushing for the mandatory study of the history, culture and identity of indigenous peoples and cultural communities in all public and private schools.

Through IP education, Filipino students will learn that Igorots are distinguished by their tribes: Ifugao, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kalinga and Tingguian.They will learn too that the indigenous peoples of Mindanao are called Lumads. And when we refer to Filipino Muslims, we are actually talking of 14 tribes in Mindanao and Palawan.

We will develop an appropriate pedagogy to effectively deliver education in our IP communities. This alternative learning system can be applied throughout the country. I am aware that MPSPC has an outstanding IP program and I hope this can be replicated by other schools.

There is also an urgent need to understand the historical and cultural context upon which IPs exist and ultimately, correct existing economic policies and conditions that continue to push IPs at the brink of survival

Development aggression projects like dams, logging, commercial plantations, and mining not only destroy forestlands, these also displace IP communities. Perhaps the greatest threat to upland tribes is the government’s current obsession to extract super profits from the country’s mineral wealth.

We must fight, we must resist. We must remember how our ancestors defended their ancestral domain against the foreign invaders. We must invoke the memory of Macliing Dulag, a tribal chieftain and protest leader from Kalinga who was martyred for his brave defiance against the dictatorship in the 1980s. The historical importance of Macliing Dulag and the struggle he lived and died for reverberates up to this day.

As you beat your path through various careers, I hope that you will carry within you the flame of the Cordilleras. It is this flame that the heroic peoples of Cordillera have put ablaze. And it is this flame that is sustained by our everyday struggles as peoples fighting for our identity and existence.

Graduating class of 2011, the world outside will tempt you to just think of yourselves, to forget about your community, to forget about collective. I hope that you will not to succumb to this temptation. May you continue to be guided by the memory of your heroic past, a past that is forcing its way to be recognized in the present, to change the present.

Finally, let me say once again that it is my privilege to be invited as your guest of honor and speaker this morning. I hope I will be invited again in the beautiful town of Bontoc – where the weather is cold but the reception of the people is warm. And I hope that Mountain Province State Polytechnic College will be known that day as Mountain Province State University.

Mabuhay ang kabataang Pilipino!

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