Speech at the 34th Foundation Anniversary of the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University

University Awards & Recognition
Ortega Memorial Center
DMMMSU North La Union Campus
15 January 2014 | 9:30 AM

To University President Atty. Benjamin Sapitula, the University Vice Presidents, Chancellors and Directors, professors and the rest of the personnel, the awardees and honorees on this occasion, my dear students, and dear parents, esteemed guests and friends, ladies and gentlemen, naimbag nga aldaw kadakayo amin!

Thank you to the DMMMSU family for the warm welcome, and for having invited me to become a part of your 34th Foundation Anniversary, albeit as a replacement or substitute of my sister— Manang Governor Imee Marcos of the Province of Ilocos Norte!

You know, it was really not I, but my Manang Governor Imee, who was originally invited by University President Atty. Benjamin Sapitula to be the guest speaker for today. Presumably because of her alleged busy schedule, Manang Imee literally asked me to stand in for her. Mukhang sobrang busy yata ang aking Manang Imee!

In his letter of invitation, Atty. Sapitula wooed Governor Imee with these words of flattery: “You have always fascinated and inspired us with your wits and charm, and we miss you here in the University and in the Province of La Union”!

Now, I ask Atty. Sapitula:

Apay? Awan kadi kanyak dagita nga kalidad?! Wala ba ako ng mga katangian na ito? Kahit papaano, meron din naman siguro akong “wits and charm”, Manong ken Manang!

Kidding aside, it is truly an honor and privilege for me to be with you here today on the occasion of your University’s 34th Founding Anniversary. And I sincerely congratulate the entire DMMMSU family for yet another year of meaningful existence and productive service in our community, as bannered by the sterling performance of our Board top-notchers, graduates and students, faculty members, employees, administrators and benefactors— all of whom have brought pride, glory and honor to our beloved institution, and to whom we dedicate this occasion in fitting tribute.

And perhaps everyone will agree with me that we also are honored and privileged that our celebration coincides with the rare visit of a shooting star— a “rockstar”, in fact— to our country. Yes, my friends, I am referring to the visit of Pope Francis to our beloved country. At approximately 5:45 pm this afternoon, His Holiness Pope Francis will arrive in our country.

The Papal visit can be likened to a great comet making appearance in our skies— as it is indeed a very rare and infrequent occurrence. This is only the fourth time that the Pope will visit our country. The last visit of the Pope— the equally popular and charismatic John Paul II— was exactly twenty years ago, way back in January 1995, where it was estimated that 3 million people had lined up along the streets to welcome His Holiness.

Malamang hindi pa kayo pinapanganak noon; siguro, sa atin dito, si Atty. Sapitula pa lang ang pinapanganak noong panahon na iyon! That was on the occasion of the 1995 World Youth Day, and it was also during the time that DMMMSU was celebrating its 14th Foundation Anniversary. And to add to these historic coincidences, Pope Paul VI visited the Philippines in February 1981, just one month after the establishment of DMMMSU.

Parang napakaswerte naman yata ng DMMMSU na bumibisita mismo ang Santo Papa sa Pilipinas sa mga Foundation day events ng DMMMSU!

The Papal visit is very, very significant to our nation. In fact, we desperately need it, especially the strong message of “Mercy and Compassion” that he brings to the Filipino faithful. The visit of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, will certainly cause both a resurgence and renewal in the faith of the more than 80 million Filipino Catholics in the country.

But really, Pope Francis offers so much more profound lessons for us Filipinos, mapa-Katoliko man o hindi, which is why I am so very thankful that His Holiness had been blessed with the time and energy to visit our country, amid his very tight schedule and his physical condition. For everyone’s information, Pope Francis—Father Jorge Bergoglio—just turned 78 last December 17, which he celebrated with the crowd during his weekly General Audience. In fact, according to the Vatican Radio, Pope Francis really took time to blow the candles on the cake and sip the traditional Argentinian tea which were offered to him by the crowd.

I was blessed with the rare privilege of personally meeting Pope Francis last July 2014 in Rome. Kasama ang aking asawa at panganay na anak, naghanda pa kami ng aming script, dahil alam namin na Spanish at Italian ang pangunahing lenggwahe niya; pero nang dumaan siya sa harap namin, na-utal at natameme kami, at nakalimutan naming lahat ang aming script.

Pero nang dumaan siya, buti na lang naisigaw ko: “I am from the Philippines!”

Alam niyo ang sinagot niya sa akin?

Enero. I will go in the Philippines. Enero. I am coming in January.”

I was starstruck and petrified in my shoes! Ibang klase talaga ang aura ng ating Santo Papa na si Pope Francis!

Sinasabi ko nga na “pang-balanse” ang pagbisita sa atin ng Santo Papa, lalo na para sa ating mga kababayan sa Eastern Visayas, tulad ng Tacloban City at Palo, Leyte, na nasalanta ng supertyphoon Yolanda. Dahil sa pagbisita ng Santo Papa, makakapagdulot siya ng kakaibang pakiramdam ng bagong pag-asa sa ating mga kababayan: pag-asa na bumangon muli at ituloy ang laban ng buhay, sa kabila ng hirap at sakit na dinanas.

At marami pa siyang mga dala-dalang aral para sa ating mga Pilipino sa kanyang pagbisita.

For me, the first lesson that comes to mind is that of humility. When I met him, I was able to personally thank him for all his lessons of humility. Napakalakas na mensahe nito, lalo na sa ating mga Pilipino, na pinahahalagahan ang pagpapakumbaba. All of us may have seen or heard that Pope Francis has preferred simpler Papal vestments over the traditional and more ornate robes, and black shoes over the traditional Papal red shoes. Tapos, mas ginusto niya na tumira sa mas simpleng bahay sa halip na sa tradisyunal na Apostolic Palace na nakalaan para sa Santo Papa doon sa Vatican.

Siya rin ay maka-“masa” at pro-poor. And these attributes are reflected not only in his writings, especially in his first Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium”, but also in his actions. In short, he walks the talk. Kaya nga “People’s Pope” ang naging bansag sa kanya ng publiko. “Rockstar Pope” pa nga ang isa pang popular na tawag sa kanya.

This is because of his down-to-earth persona and ideals, which appeal to the popular “masa”. He is attuned to the needs, weaknesses and disadvantages of the poor. Perhaps this is because Pope Francis himself had previously experienced poverty, having been a former janitor and nightclub bouncer in Argentina. And leading by example, he prays that we all heed the pleas of the poor and disadvantaged with “respectful and compassionate listening”.

During his Papacy, Pope Francis wants the Catholic Church to undergo a paradigm shift: to be more pastoral, rather than merely doctrinal and dogmatic. He wants the Church to be like “a field hospital after battle”, which takes care of those battered and wounded in the battlefield. He also said that he prefers a Church, “which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” In short, he wants his Church— all of us—to go out of our comfort zones and, with sincere hearts, reach out and help our brothers and sisters who are in need.

A peacemaker, Pope Francis also wants and prays that all the people in the world treat each other as “brothers and sisters”. And this is his premise in his argument for world peace. The word that he uses is “fraternity”. Hindi ito yung “fraternity” na iniisip ninyong mga estudyante, kundi isang mas malawakan at mas malalim na kapatiran ng mga tao sa buong mundo, kahit ano pa mang relihiyon, o may relihiyon man o wala. According to Pope Francis, we are all brothers and sisters, Christians, Muslims, and Jew—a “people of many faces”. And this is not far-fetched, for according to him we all look up to Abraham, as a common father figure and great example of faith.

While remaining firm and true to settled Church dogmas, he does not exclude and alienate anyone from the grace of God. I will never forget Pope Francis’ very powerful statement—“Who am I to judge?”—when he was asked what he thought about homosexuals.

Even business leaders have a thing or two to learn from Pope Francis. He challenges the general worldview of business and economy, saying: “Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.”

One of his first orders as head of the city-state of Vatican, he ordered the audit and restructuring of the traditionally secretive Vatican Bank, which was then at the center of allegations of corruption, money-laundering, and even terrorist financing. He also implemented unprecedented changes in the financial operations of the Vatican in order to improve its cash flow and attune its practices and processes to global standards. He even hired finance experts from around the world to help him manage the Vatican’s finances. This reflected the traits of Pope Francis as a strategic and resolute manager and Chief Executive.

Pope Francis also does not shut the door to politicians and their “often denigrated” politics. In fact, Pope Francis is a source of inspiration to me, both in my private life and my life in public service.

In his Exhortation, His Holiness asks of God, “to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good…I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”

Indeed, whether viewed as a spiritual, religious, business or state leader, Pope Francis is a total package, and can be a source of inspiration, wisdom and hope to all of us here in the Philippines, both to the Catholics as well as to the rest of the 20% of the Filipino population.

Higit sa lahat, nawa’y maging inspirasyon si Pope Francis sa ating lahat dito sa DMMMSU, lalo na sa ating mga pinarangalan ngayon, mga estudyante, mga guro, mga empleyado at mga administrador.

Makakaasa kayo na ako, bilang inyong Senador ng ating Republika ng Pilipinas, ay taos-pusong mamumuhay at magtatrabaho nang alinsunod sa mga mahahalagang payo at pangaral ng ating Santo Papa: na tunay na makinig sa tawag ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga mahihirap at mga naaapi, upang mabigyang-lunas ang kahirapan at pagdurusa sa ating bansa at lipunan.

So, let us all make this significant milestone of our Philippine history a more meaningful and richer experience for all of us. Let us take the opportunity to learn more about Pope Francis a.k.a. Father Jorge Bergoglio, his life, his person, his theology and virtues, from news account and from his very own messages and writings, all of which can be found in the internet, particularly from the Vatican website.

Kahit nandirito tayo sa dakong Norte ng Pilipinas, sa lalawigan ng La Union, at hindi kasing-palad ng mga nasa Maynila o sa Leyte, tayo pa rin ay may kakayahan na makilala si Father Jorge Bergoglio o si Pope Francis, sa pamamagitan ng ating sariling pagbabasa, pagmumuni, at higit sa lahat, sa ating pananalangin.

Again, let me congratulate the DMMMSU family on its 34th Founding Anniversary! We all look forward to more years of public service through excellent and quality education in the Province of La Union!

We also thank Pope Francis for visiting our beloved Philippines, and for once again vicariously gracing our beloved DMMMSU’s Founding Anniversary!

Mabuhay ka, Pope Francis! Viva il Papa!

Mahal ka namin, Pope Francis, at ikaw ay aming ipagdarasal ka tulad ng iyong hinihiling mula sa amin!

Mabuhay ang buong DMMMSU family!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!

Dios ti agngina kadakayo amin!

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