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Speech at the 37th Commencement Exercises of Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU)

10 April 2015

Naimbag nga malem kadakayo amin!

Maraming salamat sa pagkumbida sa inyong lingkod at kapwa-Ilokano, upang makasama kayong lahat sa masayang okasyon na ito. Na siya namang napakahalaga sa buhay hindi lamang ng mga magigiting na mag-aaral na nasa ating harapan ngayon, kundi pati na rin ng kanilang mga magulang.

Mariknak met ti sobra nga ragsakyo ita nga kanito.

With this ultimate emblem of self-improvement, we are reassured by the fact that our graduates are now decidedly armed with a very crucial and important tool to survive their own personal economic challenges awaiting them in the real world out there.

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

But, my dear graduates, 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 hope that you are merely saying “goodbye for now”, and not “good riddance”! …Pero baka naman ang isasagot lang sa inyo ng professors niyo ay—“the feeling is mutual”!

Kidding aside, your graduation from this institution 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 partners in nation-building!

This is why we find the term “commencement” relevant to our reflection today, its technical meaning in the field of education notwithstanding. Moreover, your graduation is akin to a “Moving-Up” ceremony, which— though commonly associated with pre-school and grade school students—is really what graduation is all about. These capture the real essence of your graduation as rightly signifying a “new beginning” or a “bagong simula” for you.

After all the merrymaking and reverie of your graduation, you will soon be confronted with the perplexing—and sometimes disheartening—question of how to start establishing an independent and self-sustaining life for yourselves. You will then begin to reflect: “How do I possibly inject or implant myself into the system with a view to deriving the best possible economic benefits for me and my family?”

Verily, finding our right place in the bigger scheme of things of our society and economy poses a bigger challenge.

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

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 Engineering, Accountancy, Health Sciences, Agriculture, Forestry, Industrial Technology, and others, 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 boards, your calculators and balance sheets, hit your books and review for your Board exams. I believe, the earliest schedule is already this month, for those aspiring to become certified electronics and electrical engineers and technicians! 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! Dahil hindi pa tapos ang boksing sa inyo!

On the other hand, some of you are particularly groomed for self-employment and business, like those of you here who took up business courses. With spot-on ability to analyze consumer demand and feasibility of businesses, coupled with creativity and innovation, you can become successful, creating economic value and jobs in the process. Just remember to apply for your business permits, pay your employees right, and pay the required taxes! You would not want the BIR knocking on the doors of your store in the future!

In short, my dear graduates, your graduation signals that 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.

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 and time to learn all of these insights than HERE in our revered institution, and also NOW before we finally leave its 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!
In fact, the January 2015 Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority reports that the Ilocos Region has posted a rate higher than the national average: an eight-point-five percent (8.5%) regional unemployment rate.

Also, according to the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), 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! Lagyan natin ng kaunting "battle of the sexes" na anggulo! Among our unemployed Filipino workers, sixty-six percent (66%) of them are males and thirty-four percent (34%) are females.

Ibig bang sabihin nito ay talagang mas magagaling masisipag ang mga kababaihan?!
Datayo nga lallaki, umannugot tayo?!
(Mga kalalakihan, papayag ba tayo dun?!)

Then, when we do get hired, we shall 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", of retrenchments and layoffs, even abusive employers, etc., etc.

(Ano ba ‘yan!)

Huwag tayong papayag na masupil at mapigilan ng mga ito ang ating mga pangarap! At mas lalong huwag tayong pumayag na basta na lamang matapakan at mayurakan ng mga ito ang ating mga karapatan!

Let us prepare ourselves for all 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), the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and other offices are there to precisely help us guard against violations of our labor rights and uphold our interests under the law. Let us also efficiently make use of the benefits offered by existing social legislation, such as our PhilHealth, Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System and Pag-IBIG Fund!

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. However, I believe that we should not be alarmed. I am comforted by the fact that the courses offered by our beloved University are directly attuned to the list of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) of in-demand and hard-to-fill jobs in our economy for the years 2013 until 2020!

Nonetheless, at best, before we set out for our job applications, it is prudent that we first assess our present skills and competencies, to assure our increased chances at employment—or better yet, at continued and fulfilling employment.

First, for possible government employment, you may have to review and take the Civil Service examinations, to determine if you 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".

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!

Dapat ket nalaing tayo met nga agsarita ti English ken ag-“Slang”!
(Dapat magaling din tayong mag-English at mag-“Slang”!)

The Ilocos Region is being primed to become a destination of business process outsourcing (BPO) and information and computer technology (ICT) companies, led by Ilocos Norte’s very own San Nicolas and Laoag City.

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 beloved University have more than adequately prepared us in mustering these skills.

Dakayo, adda kadi kanyayo dagitoy nga kalidad?! Siyempre adda! Ilokano tayo kunamman! Nakermet ken nalaing!
(Kayo, meron ba kayong mga kalidad na ito? Aba’y dapat! Ilokano tayo! Matipid at magaling!)

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! If working overseas 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, in fact, most especially, here in our very own beloved home province of Ilocos Norte.

Sa larangan ng industriya, turismo at agrikultura na lang, napakarami na ng oportunidad at napakalaki ng potensyal ng ating mahal na lalawigan!

Let us remember that Ilocos Norte acts as a gateway to various tourism and industrial hubs in the North. We are assured by our beloved Manang Gov. Imee that the developmental framework and necessary infrastructures are being set up and laid down. These shall support and absorb the volume of the demands of the tourists, but also those of business prospects and initiatives, which are being attracted and pumped into our beloved province—thus, practically guaranteeing the development and prosperity of our province!
On the other hand, government and private sector shall be relying on YOU, as they will surely be needing strong and able warm bodies to accomplish all these plans and activities calculated to induce economic progress in our communities. So let us all be prepared to jump aboard this high-momentum train! Sakay na at baka maiwanan pa tayo!

All we have to do is to level up our skills, and assiduously look for these golden opportunities available to us out there. 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 University.

So we have to shape up to keep up with the cruel and competitive world 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.

Saan nga daytoy ti leppasna, no di ketdi ti rugi ti dakdakkel nga karit iti biag tayo!
(This is not the end, but only the beginning of other challenges!)

Saan tayo koma nga mabanbannog ken agsari maddeng, ngem ketdi ad-adda pay koma iti ganaygay tayo nga mangituloy nga manggaw-at kadagiti arapaap tayo!
(We should not get tired and stop. We should all strive to reach our dreams!)

Adu pay ti masapol nga aramiden tayo. Isu nga agtultuloy koma ti pigsa ken kinagaget-tayo!
(Marami pa tayong dapat gawin. Dapat puno tayo ng sipag at lakas!)

Iti likudan dagiti nadadagsen nga pannubok, saan tayo koma nga maawanan ti namnama!
(Sa kabila ng mga matitinding hamon, huwag tayong mawawalan ng pag-asa!)

Kangrunaan-na, saan tayo nga bay-bay-an ti pagiliantayo!
(Higit sa lahat, 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 continue to work hard to be PRODUCTIVE!

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

Kadakayo nga padak nga nagan-nak, nagbungan dagiti adu nga anus ken sakripisyo yo, ket ita makuna tayon—“Nalpasen!”
(Fellow parents, your efforts have borne fruit; now you can say with a sense of relief—“Tapos na!”)

Last but not least, let us not forget to congratulate and thank our educators and administrators! Kudos for yet another job well done! Under your clear and consistent vision and leadership, may you continue to shepherd and maintain MMSU as a true center of educational excellence, as well as a first-rate shaper and supplier of great minds, in the North!

Once again, congratulations!
Mabuhay ang Mariano Marcos State University!

Laglagipenyo nga kanayon, napateg kayo amin iti Pamilya Marcos!
(Please remember that you are always in the hearts of the Marcos family!)

Dios ti agngina kadakayo amin!

Manen, naimbag nga malem kadakayo amin!
(Again, good afternoon to all of you!)