Speech at the 43rd Commencement Exercises of Rizal Technological University (RTU)

21 April 2015

43rd Commencement Exercises of Rizal Technological University (RTU)

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you in this very momentous occasion in the lives not only of our graduating students but also of their parents and loved ones.

I share in the abundant joy that all of you are feeling right now. Just like all of you here, I too am moved by this morally uplifting occasion. On the one hand, as a legislator and policymaker, I stand here as a firsthand witness to the high quality of State education in the Philippines. On the other hand, as a parent, I am also reminded of the importance of the unparalleled gift and legacy of education that we painstakingly strive to pass on to our children.

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.

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. 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 jumpstart 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 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 Accountancy, 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 your balance sheets and calculators, hit your books and review for your Board exams. I believe, the exam is already scheduled next month! 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 entrepreneurship. 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.

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%). Mas malala pa nga rito sa Kalakhang Maynila, na may unemployment rate na nine-point-three percent (9.3%)!

And then, of this beleaguered sector of our society, almost one-fifth (1/5th) of them are college graduates!

Moreover, 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?!
Mga kapwa kong lalaki rito, huwag naman tayong papayag 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, and even abusive employers who try to evade or circumvent the clear provisions of our labor laws, etc., etc.

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 confident of the employability and economic resilience of RTU graduates. I see 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!
Plus, we have entrepreneurship graduates, who, by their vision, innovation and creativity, can create the jobs themselves in the future! Sa kanilang magiging negosyo, sila mismo ang magbubukas ng mga trabaho para sa iba nating mga mamamayan! Just don’t forget to apply for your business permits, pay your employees right, and pay the required taxes! You would not want the BIR knocking on your doors in the future!

Nonetheless, 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".

Kayo, meron ba kayong mga kalidad na ito? Aba’y dapat! Kung meron, mabuti! ‘Ika nga:
“Eh ‘di ‘Wow’!”

Isang magandang halimbawa: ang Metro Manila ngayon ay ikalawa sa buong mundo sa pagiging destinasyon ng business process outsourcing (BPO) at information and communications technology (ICT) companies. Unarguably, this is because of the FIlipinos’ proficiency and adaptability in English—not to mention their uncanny ability to mimic Western accents!

Hindi lang daw tayo marunong mag-English; magaling din daw tayong mag-“Slang”!

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 that opportunities abound in the entire country, not only here in Metro Manila!

Napakalaki ng potensyal ng ekonomiya ng ating bansa at napakarami ng mga oportunidad na naghihintay. Kailangan lamang nating magsipag at magtiyaga upang ito’y hanapin at ito’y makamit at marating!

Government and private sector shall be relying on YOU, as they will surely be needing strong and able warm bodies to accomplish the plans and activities calculated to induce economic activity and development in our country. 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.

This is not the end, but only the beginning of other challenges! We should not get tired and stop. Definitely not at this point, when we are all expected to “commence” new and independent lives for ourselves. Marami pa tayong dapat gawin. Huwag tayong tumigil na mangarap, pero dapat mayroon din tayong sipag at lakas upang abutin ang mga ito! Dahil hindi naman puwedeng puro pangarap lang! We should all strive and work hard to reach our dreams and aspirations!

At sa kabila ng mga matitinding hamon ng buhay, huwag na huwag tayong mawawalan ng pag-asa! MAGSIPAG tayong palagi at MAGTIYAGA!

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! May kaginhawaan nating iisipin na mula ngayon, kaya nang tumayo ng ating mga anak sa sarili nilang mga paa. Nasa kanila na ang bola ngayon. Sila na ang magtutuloy ng kanilang bagong “pag-aaral” sa labas ng paaralan—sa tinagurian nating “Eskuwelahan ng Buhay”!

Last but not least, let us not forget to congratulate and thank our educators and administrators! Kudos for yet another job well done!

So once again, congratulations to everybody!

Mabuhay ang Rizal Technological University!

Hanggang sa ating muling pagkikita!

Maraming salamat po at magandang hapon sa inyong lahat!

Click to see photos from this event.