Commencement Speech at Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College, Ajuy Campus

27 March 2015

Commencement Speech at the Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College, Ajuy Campus

Good afternoon to everyone! Maayong gab-i sa inyo nga tanan!

Thank you for having invited me to join all of you here gathered today in this momentous occasion, to confer degrees upon our laudable graduates and pay tribute to them, as well as to their proud and equally laudable parents, relatives and loved ones.

The magnificent sight of our graduates’ processional march down the aisle—their parents or relatives by their side—is truly heartwarming and inspiring, evoking, as it does, the triumph of the human spirit.

It must still be fresh in our minds that just a little over a year ago, our homeland of Iloilo had been ravaged by the crippling and seemingly insurmountable effects of a massive environmental disaster.

Observers, with mouths agape at the dreadful sight of utter ruin, have wondered how the members of the community could possibly rise up again and move on with both physical and psychological normalcy.

At that time, possibly the lowest point of our lives, we may have written off all our hopes and dreams—entertaining the thought that they might as well may have been washed away into oblivion along with our homes and things.

But look at you right now. Look at your communities outside.

As one community, we have refused to give up. We have picked ourselves up, dusted off all the debris upon us, heaved a big sigh, and proceeded to brave life once again—with a renewed vigor and fresh sense of hope.

Despite the grave miseries that befell our communities, our educational system had refused to wane and die out on us. And backed by our parents and loved ones, we had resolved to literally go back to the drawing board to resume our quest to earn our stars in the educational system.

These are clear testament to the high premium that we Filipinos place upon our education.

As we strived to build physical resilience of our vital infrastructures in our communities during our recovery phase, we also strived to build our own individual economic resilience. And with this ultimate emblem of self-improvement, we have decidedly armed ourselves with a very crucial and important tool to survive our own personal economic challenges in the real world out there.

And rightly so, my dear graduates.

Indeed, finishing your college education is a big challenge in itself already, praiseworthy and deserving of highest recognition by your families and our community.

But this is not the end. An even bigger challenge awaits you outside, as you all leave the halls of this revered institution of learning and bid goodbye to your professors and administrators. And I am hoping that you are merely saying “goodbye for now”, and not “good riddance”!

Your graduation from this institution of learning is but a bridge to the next stage of your journey in community life, as you transition to becoming productive citizens of our country and our economy, and partners in nation-building!
On the one hand, from the perspective of our dear College, your collective successes are crucial to its own, as it pursues the coveted “State University” status. If you will recall, Congress had passed a law in 2013 (RA 10597), which grants our school the opportunity to be converted to a State University. This was initiated by no other than Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr., the handsome spouse of my companion here on the stage, Atty. Yvonne Tupas.

However, let us all remember that the upgrading to “State University”-status has been made subject to a time-bound compliance with certain CHED requirements, which is until January of 2016. So, we should all work hard to help our beloved institution attain this status.

Kung kami na inyong mga lingkod-bayan ay may target sa 2016, kayo rin sa NIPSC ay mayroong sariling target! So, let’s aim for “N.I.S.U.” in 2016! Hashtag: “N.I.S.U. 2016” (#NISU2016)!

On the other hand, from your own vantage points, finding your right place in the bigger scheme of things of our society consequently poses an even greater challenge.

Of course, some of you are planning to extend their stay in the academe, by pursuing further studies, like masteral degrees, law studies, and the like. Your integration to the national economy might come at a later time.

Still others, by force of their stringent academic timetables, are prevented from immediately partying the night away later, like there’s no tomorrow! I am referring to our graduates of Criminology and Education, who still have the residual task of undergoing and passing their respective Board examinations to complete their successful entry to the professions aspired for. Hence, I exhort you hold your celebrations in abeyance, and immediately go back to the drawing board, hit your books and review for your Board exams. The earliest schedule is actually this coming Sunday, I believe, for the professional teachers! Then, for our criminology graduates, the exam is in two (2) weeks! Pero di bale, meron pa namang schedule sa September at October. Perhaps in the meantime, a simple dinner with your family will do for now, in recognition of your “partial” fulfillment or the completion of “Part I” of your academic targets! Hindi pa tapos ang boksing sa inyo!

Some of you are particularly groomed for self-employment and business, like those of you here who took up entrepreneurship courses. With spot-on ability to analyze consumer demand and feasibility of businesses, coupled with creativity and innovation, you have the potential of becoming successful, creating economic value and jobs in the process. Just don’t forget to apply for your business permits, pay your employees right, and also pay the required taxes! You would not want the BIR knocking on the doors of your store in the future!

Kidding aside, my dear graduates, all of you are now ripe for induction as official and full-fledged members of the Philippine labor force.

CONGRATULATIONS! Welcome to the Philippine workforce! And I mean this wholeheartedly, and with no hint of sarcasm whatsoever.

But the question now is: How can YOU be of service to the country and your fellow citizens?!

As part of my mandate as your elected Senator, and as my own personal mission as well, I want to impart to you some insights—shocking insights—about the real world that is waiting for you out there. So, you can timely prepare yourselves for them, and spur you to be even more industrious and perseverant, in order for you to ably protect your rights and interests.

And what better place to learn all of these insights than HERE in our school, and also NOW before we finally leave its hallowed halls.

My dear graduates: I want you all to know that the real world out there, as it is now, is very CRUEL and COMPETITIVE!

Let us examine some numbers.

First, we are presently faced with a national unemployment rate of six-point-six percent (6.6%). And of this beleaguered sector of our society, almost one-fifth (1/5th) of them are college graduates!

But the good news is that the unemployment rate in Western Visayas is four-point-three (4.3%) percent, way better compared to the nine-point-three percent (9.3%) unemployment rate in Metro Manila.

This low unemployment rate should be inspiring news for all of us, as we head out for our job applications soon. And especially so, considering the empirical finding of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) that forty percent (40%) of our fresh college graduates—in the range of 500,000 to 600,000—find difficulty landing a job immediately after their graduation.
Gawin pa nating mas exciting nang konti! Lagyan natin ng kaunting "Battle of the Sexes" na anggulo! Among our unemployed Filipino workers, sixty-three percent (63%) are males and thirty-seven percent (37%) are females.

Ang ibig bang sabihin nito ay talagang mas magagaling masisipag ang mga kababaihan?! Mga kapwa lalaki, huwag naman tayong papayag dun!

Then, when we do get hired, we shall soon encounter during actual employment the realities of minimum wage and low salaries, the prevalent "contractualization" of labor, the "5-5-5" (5 months-5 months) contract, the threats of "Endo" or "End of Contract", and of retrenchments and layoffs, etc., etc.
Let us prepare ourselves for these realities.
We have to teach ourselves, and learn by heart our basic rights under the Consitution and existing labor laws. Our Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) are there to precisely help us guard against violations of our labor rights and uphold our interests under the law.

One of the reasons cited for our unemployment rate is the so-called “mismatch” between skills of the workers and the skills required by the available jobs. But then again, I believe that we should not be alarmed. I am comforted by the fact that the courses offered by our beloved College are directly attuned to the DOLE’s list of in-demand and hard-to-fill jobs in our economy for the years 2013 until 2020!

But at best, before we set out for our job applications, we have to assess our present skills and competencies, in order to increase our chances at employment—or better yet, at continued and fulfilling employment.

First, for possible government employment, we may have to review and take the Civil Service examinations, to determine if we have the required skills and knowledge for government service.

For private employment, the PMAP cites its 2010 study that suggests that members of the Filipino workforce have to make sure that they possess the necessary "functional skills", which are DEMANDED by today's very competitive and aggressive industry standards. And these essential skills are: 1) Critical thinking; 2) Initiative; and 3) Effective communication skills.

According to PMAP, "Critical thinking" is "the ability to solve actual workplace problems usually in multi-tasking situations and priority challenges". "Initiative" is the skill of being able to foresee situations and "not wait to be told what to do". "Effective communication" is the "competence in the language of business".

Meron ba tayo nito? Aba, dapat!

To use an example, the Philippines is a top destination of business process outsourcing (BPO) companies. Unarguably, this is because of the FIlipinos’ proficiency and adaptability in English—not to mention their uncanny ability to mimic Western accents!

Indi lang kamo kabalu mag-Ilonggo! Maayo gid kamo mag-“Slang”!

The Province of Iloilo is being groomed to become a destination of business process outsourcing (BPO) and information and computer technology (ICT) companies.
Quantum leaps of progress may have been decelerated by the recent disasters, but the province is back on track, led by our very own Iloilo City, touted as one of the “Next Wave Cities” of Western Visayas. In fact, based on the latest survey, Iloilo City ranks ninety-first (91st) in the world’s top BPO destinations.

So, let us remember all these, and ensure that we develop in ourselves these particular skills and competencies. And I am certain that our study and training here in our dear College have more than adequately prepared us in mustering these skills.

Let us also not forget the career option of foreign or overseas employment. For everybody’s information, remittances from our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) for the year 2014 were at a record-high, besting the figures of previous years! So, if working overseas—becoming one of our nation’s “Bagong Bayani’s—is part of your career plans, then start early by honing your skills and competencies to make them at par with international standards. This early, you may already want to start learning the language and culture of the country you are targeting!

But if you do not want to leave your homeland behind—at sino nga naman ang may gustong umalis at mawalay sa ating mga pamilya?!—there are plentiful opportunities available for you here. Yes, I am of the firm belief opportunities abound in the entire country, and most especially here in our very own beloved home province of Iloilo. All we have to do is to level-up our skills, and assiduously look for these golden opportunities waiting for all of us out there.

For example, when Mayor Juancho Alvarez visited me in the Senate a few years ago, I was given a crash course on the vast tourism potential of our lovely town of Ajuy. Certainly then, this is one particular area which we can take advantage of, in order to spur economic progress of our hometown. So I call on not only the entrepreneurship graduates, but also the more entrepreneurial from among you, to help tap this amazing potential and contribute to the building blocks of economic development of our beloved homeland.

Then, with hardwork, and aided by good fortune, we shall all soon land our dream jobs and careers and become productive citizens in our communities! We shall also be able to give back to our community in the form of taxes, which shall then “pay forward” and further support the education of future batches of students of our beloved College.
So we have to shape up to keep up with the cruel and competitive world that is out there. With focus and determination, let us prepare ourselves to be the best that we can be, and arm ourselves with the necessary skills needed to survive in our world today. And let us then brace ourselves, as we head out and brave the challenges presented by our Philippine economy.

Pasensya na kamo kung hindi ako makahambal sang derecho nga Ilonggo. Pero tilawan ko.
(My apologies if I do not know how to speak Ilonggo. But I will try nonetheless.)

Ginabatyag ko ang inyo kalipay sa adlaw nga ini. Pero indi ini ang katapusan. Madamo pa nga palaabuton ng sa aton kinabuhi!
(I share your joy today. But this is not the end. There are many other challenges ahead!)

Gani indi kita dapat makapoy. Madamo pa ang dapat obrahon. Kinahanglan puno kita sang kakusog kag kapisan!
(So we should not get tired and stop. Marami pa tayong dapat gawin. Dapat puno tayo ng sipag at lakas!)

Indi kita madulaan sang paglaom!
(Huwag tayong mawawalan ng pag-asa!)

Indi naton pagbay-an ang aton banwa!
(Huwag nating pabayaan ang ating bayan!)

So, once again, my dear graduates, I offer you my sincerest and heartfelt congratulations for your hard-earned accomplishment! Be PROUD now, but then again work harder to be PRODUCTIVE!

The same sincere and heartfelt congratulations should go out to our dear parents, relatives and friends. Nakaraos din po tayo!

Last but not least, let us not forget to congratulate and thank our educators and administrators! Kudos for yet another job well done! Onward to N.I.S.U. 2016!

So, once again, congratulations!

Madamo gid nga salamat sa inyo nga tanan!
(Thank you very much to everyone!)

Mabuhay ang Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College…soon to be the “Northern Iloilo State University”!

Mabuhay ang banwa sang Ajuy! Bangon, Ajuy!

Halin sa kon pamilya, Romualdez kag Marcos: palangga ko kamo tanan!
(From my family, the Romualdezes & Marcoses: we love you all!)

Malipayon nga gab-i sa inyo nga tanan!