Friday, June 16, 2017

Commencement Address: Together we move towards a progressive tomorrow

Neither can we stop time by “holding the hands of the clock, nor conquer space by confining ourselves within walls.” Without exception we “pass this way but once.” - avr
Sabay-sabay na Hakbang Tungo sa Maunlad na Kinabukasan

By Dr. Abercio V. Rotor, Ph.D.
 Guest of Honor and Speaker
   Grade 6 Graduation Ceremonies, April 7, 2017
San Vicente Integrated School, San Vicente Ilocos Sur

San Vicente Integrated School today as it was during my time some sixty four years ago - same building, same playground. Where has education changed and gone? One can only surmise what lies ahead of these school children. It is the duty of us, we who have spent the formative years of our lives in this school, to guide our younger brothers and sisters, our children, and grand children.
Many years ago I was sitting where you are right now – proud, hopeful, and filled with joy and inspiration. In my time, it was also graduation in this school, then San Vicente Central Elementary School. That was in 1953. How many years would that be since then?

While you are counting the number of years, let me tell you a story. It’s about Juan Tamad in Philippine folklore when he was young - probably of your age. One day a kindly gentleman, a balikbayan, found Juan loafing under a mango tree. After a friendly introduction the gentleman gave Juan an unsolicited piece of advice.

 “You see Johnny, when you go to school and finish your studies, you will meet  people and visit places here and abroad. You will find a good job.  And you will free yourself from the cares and worries of life.” The gentleman paused, waiting for a response.  But there was none.

So he continued “You will simply enjoy the leisure of life.” The balikbayan flashed a friendly smile, thinking he had driven well his point.

The simpleton momentarily stopped scratching the ground, looked at this new mentor and casually spoke. “And what do you think I’m doing now, Sir?"
Whatever happened to Juan Tamad is well known to us Filipinos for we have accepted him as a comic character, but in real life Juan Tamad and his kind ended up a failure.

The story has similarities with a story, Rip van Winkle, written by Washington Irving in the late 17th century.

Rip van Winkle was a very lazy person, a henpeck husband who left home and went up the mountain alone on a leisurely hunting adventure.  He did not return until twenty years later. He fell asleep for twenty long years!

When he found his way back to his village nobody recognized him. He was now very old and looked very strange with his old clothes and long beard.  He mentioned names they could not recall. Finally he asked the villagers, “Who am I?” as if he was still dreaming.  

Everything had changed, it was a new era. America was now an independent nation. Madam Winkle had long been gone. When he finally reached his old home that was virtually falling apart, he saw a young man idly scratching the ground with a stick.

“I am Rip Van Winkle!” The old man introduced himself.  Exasperated he cried “Can’t anyone recognize me?” He paused and took a closer at the young man, examining him from head to foot. He looked familiar. "Who are you?" he asked.

“I am Rip van Winkle,” came a wry answer. He was Rip van Winkle Junior.
Now let me continue my message to you.

Between 1953 and 2017 – that’s 64 long years -  the world has vastly and irreversibly changed, and in fact, in this span of time which included the second  part of the twentieth century considered as the industrial and modern age, and the beginning of this new millennium –  our world has been moving on a course different and momentum faster than at any time in history.  This is the kind of world you are going to set foot as you study further, and as you prepare for your career and future.

This is the challenge of the theme of your graduation: Sabay-sabay na Hakbang Tungo sa Maunlad na Kinabukasan. (Let’s move together towards a progressive tomorrow.)

But what is graduation really?

Graduation is springtime.  It is metamorphosis. For you who are graduating today, it is the beginning of a voyage into a world that is uncertain and as rough as the sea itself.  

For me on my part, it is coming home from that world that you are going to seek. In Pilipino, “Patungo pa lang kayo, ako’y nakabalik na.” Like the biblical Prodigal Son I am back home to the arms of my father, our venerable patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer. There at the altar of his church is written, Ur-urayenka Anakko. (I am waiting for you my child.) Yes, I have come back to his longing and loving embrace.  

What have I to tell you about that world believed to be full of promises of fame, riches and pleasure? What’s really in store in that world I saw, and a part of it, for sixty-four long years?    

Let me tell you, it is not a comfortable one.  In fact it is a very serious world; it is on the other side of fantasyland in comics and movies. It is the real life and there is no other choice. It is not the kind of world associated with the folkloric  character, Juan Tamad, or the world of Rip van Winkle who woke up after twenty long years, a stranger to his home, neighbors, and even his own son.  

It is a postmodern world – a world of the future we seem to be living today.  Everything  is changing very fast, and we are adrift without defined direction and goal.  We seem to be living in extremes. In our search for true happiness we experience deep sorrow. Glorious victory and devastating defeat.  You will realize the value of time to move forward, and a time to retreat. A time to be with others and a time to be alone – to meditate and reflect before moving ahead again. Uncertainties lie at every crossroad, and you cannot simply stop at the middle. You must decide and move on. 

Neither can we stop time by “holding the hands of the clock, nor conquer space by confining ourselves within walls.” Without exception we “pass this way but once.”

In life, we pass this way in a hurry; we live on fast food, crave for instant products, instant relationships, and ride on fast transport moving from one place to another, yet always looking for freedom and a destiny. There is always that sense of urgency as if we are in a race, a race without a name. 

Which leads me to tell another story.

A young man was driving a caleza loaded with coconut (buko). “I’ll be late and I won’t be able to sell my coconuts,” he said to himself.  Whereupon he saw an old man on the roadside. He stopped and asked. “How can I reach the marketplace the soonest, Apo Lakay (old man)?”

The old man glanced at the fully loaded caleza, smiled and said, “Just go slow, Anak.”

“Crazy,” the young man muttered and cracked the whip sending his horse to gallop not minding the rough and rutted road  The nuts kept falling along the way so that he had to stop now and then to pick them up.

The old man was right after all.

Graduation just doesn’t send you off, much less if you think you are unprepared.  You have yet another phase of study ahead. Just don’t indulge in wistful thinking and careless haste. Stop worrying, look ahead and listen to your calling. Examine yourself not what people think of you, but what you can see in you - your potentials.  And remember there is always something you can be at your best, something over and above that of others. You have your forte. It is a gift the benevolent Creator has given you – even if you did not ask for it.

I refer you to the eight realms of Multiple Intelligence. It means the intelligence of a person is spread out in eight areas. No one is grossly judged or denied when it comes to mental faculty. As you grow up you will realize how gifted you are in certain realms that compensate for other realms you may not be as gifted. You will realize the interconnections of realms that compose your talents. In other words, talents are a combination of related realms.  And what is most surprising is that talent is not the sum or total contribution of such realms, but of their synergistic effect. Synergy is a mystery. To illustrate, if your right hand can carry fifty kilos and your left can carry another fifty kilos, you think your maximum carrying capacity is one hundred kilos?

Wrong. You can carry much more – with will and determination.  That is synergy which emanates from the human spirit.

Now what are these realms of intelligence?  As I enumerate them, rate yourselves - each one of you – accordingly to assess your own potentials.  Graduation is a time to assess your capabilities and know yourself before you pass through the gate of your school and face the realities of life.

Not in this order or sequence, the realms are: interpersonal (intelligence of human relationship), intrapersonal (intelligence of spirituality), kinesthetics (athletic intelligence), linguistics (intelligence of languages), dialectics or logic (intelligence of philosophy and mathematics), music (intelligence in auditory art), spatial  (intelligence in visual arts), and naturalism (intelligence of good relationship with the natural world).

Please always bear this in mind, there’s no normal person who is flatly denied of intelligence. “Walang tao na bobo,” pardon the word. “Meron lang mga bagay na mahina siya. “ On the other hand, there are areas he can excel. This is the law of compensation.  Build of this strength and strengthen those you are weak. And remember there are early bloomers and late bloomers. You may be closer on either side or in between these extremes.  And remember, there is nothing late as long as you live, as long as the sun rises and sets.  

Dr Jose Rizal, our national hero, is the epitome of multiple intelligence. He was prodigiously gifted. But the ultimate expression of such gifts was his deep commitment to a cause – a noble cause - for the good of his country and his people. Greatness is in dedicating our gift of intelligence to such purpose, not only for our own good, but more for the betterment of others. They call this virtue selflessness.  It is selflessness that we can best offer our prayer of thanksgiving to our benevolent Creator.

Allow me to tell a final story.  It’s about three workers. 

Three workers were engrossed doing their assigned tasks when Rajah Soliman, then king of Manila during the pre-Hispanic era, arrived at the construction site. He was so casual in attire that no one recognized him as the king. While inspecting the progress of his project he came upon three workers. After observing them for some time, he asked each one of them what he was doing.

The first worker said, “I am making a perfect block of stone to make a solid and strong wall.” The king nodded with a smile and commended the worker.

Then it was the turn of the second worker. “This is my source of living to support my family so we can live decently.” The king nodded and commended the worker.

Finally, it was the turn of the third worker. The king asked him the same question.

“I am building a fort.” he said with a sense of pride. The king nodded and smiled.

At the end of the day the king called for the third worker who answered, “I’m building a fort.” The king made him overseer of the whole project.

Guess what happened to the first and second worker?

The king called for them, too. He made the first worker architect of the project, and the second, head of the king’s household.

And they all live happily ever after. ~

Congratulations to you the graduates, your parents and teachers, and to all those who contributed to your success, and the success of this occasion. Last but not the least, congratulations Principal Beatriz Riotoc and staff of San Vicente Integrated School, my alma mater I will always love.

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