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Tribute to Rizal High School

3 December 2011

Speech of Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
24th Grand Alumni Homecoming and General Assembly of the Rizal High School Alumni Association, Rizal High School,
Pasig City
3 December 2011

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!

To Vice President Jejomar Binay, Rizal High School Principal Josephine Cruz, Alumni Association President Kapitan Eriberto Guevarra, School Administrators, teachers, the jubiliarians, all the Rizalians in attendance, distinguished guests, a warm good afternoon to all of you.

I am honored and delighted to serve as keynote speaker of this 24th Grand Alumni Homecoming of Rizal High School here in Pasig City. And I thank you for inviting me to share this day with you, a year before this school’s 110th Anniversary.

Before anything else, let us all acknowledge and give a big hand to the hosts for this year’s gathering, the golden and silver jubilarians, batches 1961 and 1986, respectively, in cooperation with batches 1971 and 1981.

When I got the invitation to speak before you, I did not hesitate to accept it, because I felt that this was my perfect opportunity to get to know Rizal High School and have the chance to personally visit this historic educational school, which was once hailed by the Guinness world records as the largest secondary school in the world in terms of student population from 1992 to 2002. At the time the institute was educating about 25,000 students per year.

However, i recently learned that since 2003 the distinction is now being held by the City Montessori School in Lucknow, India. Ok lang po yun; we have no reason to feel bad. Natural lang naman. Tandaan po natin, India is the second most populous nation in the whole world. Let us give India the chance naman to accommodate and educate their massive youth population. No need for us to compete!

Also, that distinction of your school had to be left behind because of your school’s inevitable and necessary growth and development. Its many annexes became schools in their own right. And so today, Rizal High School’s main campus has a more modest school population of 9,374 students.

In any case, let us give credit to your fellow alumnus – that mysterious but legendary alumnus – only known as Mr. Ballesteros, for writing to the Guinness world record to take notice of this singular feat of your school. Maybe Mr. Ballesteros should, himself, be most deserving of an award from this school, alongside this year’s awardees. At least, maybe let us try to get a hold of this enigmatic man and get to know him by his first name as well!

I felt it was quite providential that I had accepted the invitation to come and speak before you today. Because when I did my research by asking friends and colleagues for information on Rizal High School, in order for me to really get to know more about your institution, I came across some serendipitous information that made my little research more interesting.

I knew that your valedictorian in 1936 was a gentleman named Mario Marcos, who became a successful lawyer. Frankly, this is the first time I heard of this man, our family namesake. Nevertheless, even if I have not met him, I am certainly very proud of an outstanding Marcos!

In addition, my research team was assisted by Ms. Annie Marcos Velasco, from the administration office, who in turn introduced the researchers to your Mr. Emmanuel Tolentino Villamarin, master teacher of social studies, and who I understand, is a big fan of my father’s and a genuine Marcos loyalist! He proudly recounts of having led and played with the Rizal High School drum and lyre group during a campaign sortie of the Marcos-Tolentino ticket held in Pasig city in 1985. Let me thank you very much for your kind assistance to my father’s campaign!

Lest I forget to mention, this institution has been a breeding ground of outstanding graduates who have distinguished themselves in various fields. Among your distinguished alumni are past luminaries of the Philippine Senate, like former Senate President Neptali Gonzales, former Senate President Jovito Salonga, and former Senator Rene Saguisag.

It’s also well-known that the revered national artists – Lucio San Pedro and Carlos “Botong” Francisco -- are alumni of this institution.

You should all be proud of those men who were all molded in the classrooms of this great institution!

I noticed from your program that the theme of your homecoming this year is “reunite, rekindle, remember.”

That is great for fellowship. But more than fellowship, a homecoming is also a time for celebrating the great adventure of education, and the invaluable contribution that your alma meter makes every year to the strengthening of our nation.

Nothing makes our country and our people more proud than the great importance that every Filipino family traditionally attaches to education.

Sadly, however, our capabilities to educate our young people have not kept up with the yearly increase of our school population. It is a sad commentary on our nation that every new school year finds our government less and less able to supply the needed new classrooms and teachers to meet the new demands.

This is a crisis our government and our society must absolutely meet. And failure in this sphere would be inexcusable.

It is therefore a call for congress and the executive branch to agree that the challenge of educating our young is the defining challenge of our time. And education is the best economic policy of all, as our biggest national resource is our human resource.

It is in our human resources – our people – where we are most competitive in the world. And we are competitive to the extent that we educate them well.

The other day, there was a New York Times story which reported that the Philippines has surpassed India as the new call center capital of the world. The newspaper went on to say that many international companies find Filipinos as the most ideal and capable to man this outsourcing enterprise. Filipinos are prized for their ability to speak english and their adaptability.

As we were being commended for this distinction, the media was also filled with stories about how we now have the worst airport in the world – the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Emergency efforts to upgrade the air terminal have suffered setbacks after much controversy and publicity. And now we are left to hoping that some experts sent by Singapore can do something to relieve our distress.

This will be especially saddening for those of you who have come from foreign lands to attend this 24th homecoming. Like you, I cannot understand why the Philippines, the 12th largest country in the world, should have the world’s worst and shabbiest airport.

Discussions of issues like this are inevitable in your celebration because all of you naturally want to assess – not only how everyone is doing, how your classmates are faring, but also how things are in our country. And where our country is going.

Inevitably, you will come face to face with the dramas that transfix the nation today – the saga of President Aquino’s efforts to jail president arroyo, the landmark Supreme Court decision on hacienda Luisita, the many battles in court and in the Comelec, and so forth and so on.

The litany of contentious issues is long. And you can exhaust yourselves debating them. But don’t use up your homecoming time for these!

Just remember this is not for you to fix.

All these vexations and headaches should not make us despair about our country. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, let us believe that reason and the law will prevail.

Ironically, I happen to believe that this is a pivotal time for our country. I consider this a time when, if we make the hard decisions and pursue our course resolutely, we can rise to a position of honor and respect in the world.

Let me therefore conclude by congratulating everyone for taking time off their busy schedules to go back to their beloved alma mater for this grand reunion. I am certain that all of you will enjoy reminiscing the happy and naughty days in your corridors and classrooms. Today, you’ll once again spend time here joking, teasing and making kulit each other! Make sure though that if there is already a memory gap, don’t let your senior moments deny you the fondest memories in your beloved Rizal High School.

Again, congratulations and may you continue to stay true to the principles that made you reach your dreams and aspirations. Let me end by reminding you not to forget that in all your best achievements and successes, these would all not have been possible had it not been for the hard-earned investment of your parents in sending you to Rizal high school and most especially for the divine guidance that brought you to greater heights.

On that note, let me wish you all a most happy homecoming! Maraming, maraming salamat at Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!

Mabuhay ang Rizal High School!