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Making History in Mindanao

7 April 2010

Speech-Making-history-in-MindanaoCommencement Address of Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
11th Commencement Exercises J. H. Cerilles State College
Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur
7 April 2010

Congressman Cerilles,
Dr. Saniel,
Members of the Class of 2010,
Parents, Teachers,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I thank you for your invitation to share this special day with all of you, and I am glad of the opportunity to visit your beautiful city and beautiful province once again. It’s been some time since I last visited Zamboanga del Sur.

I’m told that the name “Zamboanga” was taken from the Malay word “Jambangan”, which means a pot or place of flowers. If so, this is a day for offering flowers in tribute to our over 1200 young graduates today.

It is remarkable to think that with just its 11th commencement, this institution of learning is already producing these many new graduates in so many academic disciplines. If she were watching this ceremony from the heavens, Mrs. Josefina Cerilles would surely be proud of this achievement of the college that bears her name and memory.

Standing among our young graduates today, I realize that I do not have the wealth of experience and wisdom of the world that a much older and wiser commencement speaker could provide you today.

But that said, there is perhaps one slight advantage in my being still comparatively young. I can feel and share your hopes and dreams today because I am still young enough to remember my own dreams and aspirations at my own commencement.

From your eyes I can tell that you see before you a new future unfolding. And you dearly hope and believe that it is now your time!

I wish that I could tell you making today your own time will come as a natural reward for your having graduated. But, as one who has been to the frontlines. I should tell you that it’s a challenging world out there. There will be many opportunities for you, but as a professor used to tell me, “There are no miracles without hard work.”

Filipino Can-do Mentality

From years of watching our countrymen, especially young Filipinos, I am more than ever convinced that very few things scare our people these days. So I do not believe that any of you will be daunted by any statement that you face a more challenging and more competitive world.

No better proof of this is needed than the fact that 12 million of our people bravely travel and work in distant lands in order to support their families here at home. Whatever the challenge, regardless of the difficulties, a Filipino will face it.

One important lesson that you can take away from the example of our OFWs is their deep belief in building a future for themselves and their families. They do not waste their time in idle dreaming.

I believe that this is a good mindset to cultivate among the young. Where the older generations may be inclined to say that something cannot be done, I suggest that you young people should say readily, “Yes, we can.”

I am happy to say that this attitude can be seen in many of our young people today. I see young men and women who don’t care much about the fevered headlines in the newspapers and television today. They are turned on rather by the new things that are happening in the different aspects of modern life today. They yearn to create something of their own – and to contribute to the sum of good in their society.

This positive outlook, this sense of empowerment is part and parcel of the age of change we live in, when what we once thought was impossible has come to pass.

It is an inevitable byproduct of the Internet – which is plainly the most important modernization in over a century, and which is literally transforming life as we know it, including life in what we used to call the Third World.

A Young Country

The second point that as I will stress is that there is a good basis for saying that this new decade is indeed your time. For we are a young country -- young not in the sense of young historically, but young in the sense of population.

What is striking about our population is not so much the fact that we are now 94 million. It is rather that people of working age – from 15 to 64 – constitute about 62% of our population. As of 2005, those from age 15 to 39 constitute 35.5 million, representing 41% of our total population.

The relative strength and resiliency of our economy today owes in great part to our young human resources, and our early efforts to educate and develop them. It is the energy of our young – working at home and abroad – that is driving the nation forward. It is their earnings and savings that are sustaining us during these times when exports are declining as a result of the global recession. And it is their continued development through education and training, and their deployment in domestic industry and overseas that will provide vitality to our national life.

You as new graduates will enter therefore a situation where your skills and your education will be highly prized. What will be your reward will entirely depend on what you give of yourself to the challenge. Your promise and potential will only become reality if you redeem it yourself.

I once saw a movie where a key character spoke poignantly of his failures. “I am not good enough for my dreams. I’m just not strong enough, not smart enough. I’m just one of the guys back in the pack.”

This is the saddest sight of all – when the person we aspire to become – fails to emerge. When we surrender our dreams and file them away.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer has written: “The great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up. Grow into your ideals so that life can never rob you of them.”

Land of Promise

Finally, I want you to always remember where you come from and the community you are part of.

It was in the 1930s – at the time of the Philippine Commonwealth – that Mindanao was first called “the land of promise.” The vision then was that by developing and unleashing the great potential of Mindanao, the Filipino nation would be able to achieve its dream of plenty and economic development. And it was for this reason that many from other regions in the country, including my fellow Ilocanos, came to settle here.

Yet the dream, since then, has not been redeemed. It has been sidetracked by countless conflicts and differences. While the land and the seas of the South never failed to yield some bounty, the fulfillment of the dream was deferred.

I believe that in this century – in the new decade dawning upon us – we must strive anew to recapture the dream and fulfill it.

I believe it is not beyond our capability to forge in our time a truly workable peace in Mindanao – one that will gather Christians and Muslims and all the cultural communities under a common agenda of producing and sharing with one another.

I believe that productivity and dynamism can in time spread all over Mindanao and give its bounty to the entire nation.

Members of the class of 2010, I believe you are part of the generations that will help redeem the promise of Mindanao.

You will be among those who will make it happen.

And as Mindanao begins to fulfill her destiny, so will you her sons and daughters find complete fulfillment. When peace and progress truly reigns in all the communities and islands of the South, then can we say that the promise has been redeemed.

Thank you once again for the privilege and pleasure of joining you here today. Congratulations and Godspeed.