A Time to Mourn

I am part Bicolana on my Mother’s side, so the devastation wrought by Typhoon Reming this previous week tugs at my heartstrings with a heavier pull.  I just finished reading the latest article on Philippine Star’s Online edition regarding the declaration of a state of national calamity and my eyes almost welled up with tears.  I’m seriously debating about whether or not I will include this article in Mom’s daily dose of news from home, because she might end up even more depressed than myself.

I had offered to have her watch the newsfeeds from GMA 7 yesterday but after a half hour, she stood up and decided to go and rest, saying the news was all the same and it wasn’t good.  She kept repeating over and over again, Kawawa naman ang mahihirap.  (Pity the poor people.)

My Mom hails from a far-flung part of Bicol called Bulan in the principality of Sorsogon.  While Legaspi City is around 14 hours away by car or an hour away by plane from Manila, from there, you have to drive another 4 hours or so to make it to my Mother’s hometown.  Although my last trip there was practically 15 years ago or so when my grandmother passed away, I have never lost touch with my roots.  In fact it’s ironic that I am now learning how to speak the dialect as my Mom and I have taken to conversing in her native tongue for privacy.

I tried watching the latest feeds and I just had to turn it off because it was too much heartbreak for a people already steeped in poverty.  I cannot imagine how their Christmas will be like this year — considering many have lost family members and those who survived have lost their possessions and the roof above their heads.

I’m grateful that Mom’s town was spared from the wrath of the typhoon so we know our relatives are safe.  Every year, my mom throws a small party for the children in her little barrio, Barangay San Vicente where my uncle is the barangay captain.  They feed them with some party fare like spaghetti and she gives away clothes she buys from her own money.  Just a simple outfit for the kids to wear to mass on Christmas morn.  At least those kids will have their Christmas day — those who survived the wrath of Reming will probably wish Christmas away.

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One thought on “A Time to Mourn

  1. cora francisco

    Hi Dinna,
    I’m sending the speeches of Tony Meloto separately.He is a real hero.

    The Eagle Will Not Fly Without the Poor”
    By Antonio P. Meloto, Gawad Kalinga

    Ateneo de Manila University Commencement Exercises 25 March 2006
    I asked some members of the senior class last week why they chose me as
    their commencement speaker. I have no business empire. I hold no political
    power. And I am no academic genius. I am just an ordinary Filipino, a graduate of the Ateneo, who did not even excel as a student. just an ordinary man who loves to tell stories about the extraordinary things that people are doing for our country today.

    And they told me— because I represent a movement that presents hope at this time when many in our country are in despair. You are looking for hope in me, but I am here to tell you that this school and the other members of this university have been a source of hope and inspiration for me in the last three years.

    When Father Ben Nebres and the Ateneo Board of Trustees bestowed the Ozanam Award on Gawad Kalinga through me on July 23, 2003, they triggered A REVOLUTION OF HOPE in the Ateneo.sweeping the Ateneo from grade school, high school, college, to the Alumni… then leading the way for other universities, corporations, government institutions and Filipino organizations abroad to follow their example and joining the bandwagon for nation building. The Ateneo is showing the world that “The eagle will not fly without the poor”. Thank you Father Ben for your great love for our country and for inspiring the young to make a difference in the lives of our people.

    Caring for the poor and restoring the dignity of the Filipino in his own country have now become an urgent mission for Filipinos here and abroad. This is not just healing for our country’s poor and neglected but it is healing for me and many like me as well.

    Unknown to most of you, for 32 years it wasn’t easy for me to return to Ateneo. I didn’t come to the reunions and homecomings, simply because of a sense of guilt of a person who grew up with the suffering poor but later forgot them after I got an Ateneo education. I was so focused on epackaging and building up myself that I forgot the accompanying responsibility that came with the privilege of an Ateneo scholarship. I forgot the poor. I left them behind. I left them like so many others before me.

    There are many who blame the rich and powerful for the plight of the poor. I know there is basis for the accusations but I cannot bring myself to blame them. How could I expect them to love the poor whom they do not know when I grew up poor and yet forgot to help them, too.

    I realized my great shortcoming as a Filipino in 1985 when I joined Couples for Christ. It was then that I found my faith and grew a conscience and decided to live a righteous life. to correct the mistakes and the injustice committed to our country and to our people by people like me. Couples
    for Christ taught me to repent for my sins and to be genuinely sorry for the things I failed to do for my country and for my people.

    I am really sorry for the state of things, because of my failure to do something about it. And many are now sorry, just like myself because of this state of degradation. But feeling sorry is not enough. Sorry does not restore beauty, sorry does not restore dignity, sorry does not restore the
    plan of God for man. Sorry begins it, but sorry is not enough.

    What needs to be done is to bring sorry to action, to convert regret to reform, to lift apathy to compassion and development. We who have not done well by the talents and treasures we have been gifted with, we who have abdicated our responsibility of shepherding the poor and the young to their birthright of enjoying the treasures of a beautiful and abundant country, we
    who have seen the errors of our ways and are sorry — we must now restore what we destroyed. or allowed to be destroyed.

    Because the Ateneo is a Christian university which believes in the mission of forming students to become persons for others, the principle of good over evil goes beyond the fundamental understanding of right and wrong. It is not enough not to do wrong. To battle evil, we must do good. The path of reform and transformation for Ateneans. for Christians, must be one of peace. It must believe that good is more powerful than evil, and only in the exercise of good can evil be eliminated. Thus, the path of reform and transformation, personal and social, must be a path of good works.

    Build homes. Build communities. Build capacities. Restore dignity. Restore abundance. Restore beauty. Restore peace. Build and restore, build and restore. And you did! The eagle has landed in Payatas. Because you could not bring the poor of Payatas to Ateneo, you brought Ateneo to the poor of Payatas. In this once desolate place, you restored dignity, you have brought back hope!

    The former squatters now have security in their land. You transformed 200 shanties — the slum and the garbage have now become a beautiful middle class community. Crime has virtually disappeared. Former streetchildren are now in school. The idle have been motivated to find employment and are now living productive lives. Nawala ang sindikato sa lupa, sa tubig, at sa ilaw. You have transformed hell into a piece of heaven. all because you cared, you shared and you learned to work together. The grade school worked with their parents, the high school students gave up their parties. the college students gave up their weekends. And the Alumni from all over the world also helped.

    I salute and honor the eagles of Payatas, especially Steph Limuaco, former President of the Ateneo Student Council and now full-time worker of Ateneo for Gawad Kalinga, students, parents, the caretaker team from CFC and Mayor Sonny Belmonte who not only paved the way for the poor to own the land in Payatas but also paved the roads.

    Again you performed the same miracle in Gabaldon!

    The surviving flood victims who were once squatters living in dangerous areas now have their own land in sites that have been cleared as environmentally safe and their own sturdy homes. Now the people are growing their own food and planting trees. Land for the landless, homes for the homeless, food for the hungry. For this I honor Mark Lawrence Cruz, the 300-strong Team Gabaldon and Mayor Mandia. You washed away the mud of despair and brought out the gold in the poor of Gabaldon.

    Gabaldon is part of a massive rehabilitation and reconstruction effort called Kalinga Luzon that goes beyond the usual relief operations after the calamity. Malaki ang tulong dito ng 3 Atenista in helping 40,000 survivor families of the Luzon typhoons and floods. Secretary of National Defense and NDCC Chairman Avelino “Nonong” Cruz , Smart-PLDT Chairman Manny Pangilinan
    and former Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo.

    This afternoon I invited the proud leaders of Payatas and Gabaldon, together with the mayors of Cabiao, San Isidro, and Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija who have also benefited from the help of Ateneo. They are here to witness the graduation of a new breed of Ateneans and Filipinos who not only have the brains but also the heart for our country and our people.

    The journey to rebuild our country is just beginning and moving towards massive upscaling with the entry of corporations, national government agencies, LGU’s and Filipino organizations abroad.

    Corporations too are searching for a deeper and better __expression of corporate social responsibility. Rival corporations are rising above business competition to help. P&G and Unilever, Jollibee and McDonalds, Shell and Petron, Pfizer and Wyeth and Smart-PLDT. and over a hundred others Sabi ng Shell “Kung may layunin, malayo ang inyong mararating”. Sabi ng Smart “We’re not just building homes, we’re building a nation”.

    Both campaigns are inspired by the spirit of Gawad Kalinga, the spirit of being a person for others -going beyond conventional charity towards helping the poor become better stewards of their families and their communities. Converting our human resource from liability to asset, expanding the market base by empowering the poor make good business sense!

    This afternoon we have with us the country chairman of Shell Philippines, Mr Ed Chua, who is from La Salle and the president of Pfizer, Mr. Gerry Bacarro, who is from Ateneo. Both are firm believers of corporate social responsibility geared towards nation-building. It is our hope that the stiff rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle in basketball will be elevated to a higher level of nobility of building the most number of houses and communities and educating the most number of poor children.

    My fellow Ateneans, when you leave this campus, many of you will join these corporations and will be happy to note that they have a keener sense of social responsibility and a work environment that will nurture your

    In the field of governance, more than 300 mayors and governors have chosen the same path of nation-building. Hundreds more will join this year and members of Congress are being inspired to do the same. Many of you will be the future mayors, governors and members of congress. and again will be happy to note that your predecessors have begun the path of building and restoring our country.

    Even Filipinos abroad have found a reason to hope and a way to concretize their love for the motherland. Many have gone beyond sending resources. They themselves are coming home to help build the nation of their dreams. Bicolanos helping Bicol. The Ilonggos helping Negros and Panay. The Cebuanos helping Cebu. And the Fil-Am doctors are going beyond the usual medical
    mission and are building healthy communities as a way of giving back to a country that they have never stopped loving.

    When you care for others, especially the weak and the powerless, you will be amazed at how God will take care of you and the people you love. Today I thank God for my wife and my five children who have joined me in this mission to help restore this beautiful land. This is the best legacy I can give them. I honor my son Jay, who at 22, left his job and an exciting life of fast cars and beautiful girls in L.A. to help the typhoon victims of Bicol. and my son-in-law Dylan Wilk who left his country England, his family and friends, his extravagant lifestyle – his Ferrari, his Porsche and BMW. in exchange for the poor families in this country that he has learned to love and care for.

    And of course, the nameless and unrecognized workers and heroes of
    other Ateneo initiatives like Pathways, Tulong Dunong, Jesuit Volunteers of the Philippines, Leaders for Health and other NGOs and cause-oriented groups who love this county. Today there are tens of thousands of them. Tomorrow there will be millions. Together we will build a slum-free, squatter-free, crime-free Philippines.

    And so in the same spirit of heroism, I urge you young Ateneans to do the same. After you leave this campus, there is no doubt that you will soar to great heights but it will all be meaningless if you fly alone. The poor do not have strong wings like you do and they need you to carry them, inspire them to discover their own strength and greatness. Sana eto ang walang iwanan.

    For the parents, as you have invested in the future of your children by giving them the best education possible. support also your children’s desire to invest in the future of this country. They will honor you even more if you value their aspirations for nobility and their dreams for a better country that will be a source of pride for them and their children.

    As we go through this defining moment of Philippine history, let us strive never to forget four things:
    (1) Never stop hoping for our country.
    (2) Don’t stop caring for our people.
    (3) Demand greatness of yourself as a Filipino.
    (4) Inspire greatness in other Filipinos.

    As you leave the campus to join the real world, let your vision and the power that you have discovered to change the world, define what is real to you. Make your love for this country and our people, especially the poor, your reality and your priority. Make it the foundation of your career plans, your dreams and ambitions for your children and the goal of any political or economic power that you have the privilege to wield.

    Wherever you are in the world, excel and prosper but remain connected to the motherland and dedicate your success to the fulfillment not just of your dreams but to the many in your country who have lost their capacity to dream

    Do not be content in finding artificial security in gated subdivisions when you can provide yourself a buffer of peace by caring for the needy around you. Nor be content with living in first world luxury in a third world environment and contributing to the discontent and the growing threats
    around the security of your own family.

    Give value to the land of your birth by sharing with those who for generations have been deprived of its use and abundance. Be a blessing to your children’s future by making it your responsibility to be father or mother to the abandoned and neglected.

    Be the healing of the soul of this nation and the fulfillment of the dream that we have forgotten.
    Be the proud Filipino that we are not yet, but soon will be.
    Be the hero who finds courage and the conviction that this country is worth saving, because it is a gift from God and that your life is meaningless if it is not dedicated to the fulfillment of a divine destiny to be a great people.
    Let me end this speech and send you off with a prayer.
    Dear God, pour out your blessing upon our new graduates. Guide them in their journey to greatness. Show your power and majesty to this troubled and sinful nation through these young Filipinos who will strive to live lives of righteousness and excellence. Make them healers of our wounded people and restorers of our broken land. Anoint them as the new generation of living heroes who will bring this country to our destiny of greatness.

    Mabuhay kayong mga bagong bayani ng bayan! Kayo ang bagong lakas ng pagbabago! Kayo ang magandang mukha ng kinabukasan!

    Another commencement speech from my favorite speaker.
    Long read but very touching and inspiring! Cheers.

    By Antonio P. Meloto, Gawad Kalinga
    U.P. Commencement Exercises
    National College of Public Administration and Governance

    22 April 2006

    Maraming salamat sa inyong paanyaya na magsalita ngayon sa napakahalagang araw ng inyong buhay. Hindi po ako nag-aral dito sa UP, pero dalawang tao na malapit sa puso ko ang nagtapos dito. Yong ama ko was a graduate 68 years ago in Business Administration, at ang pangalawang anak ko ay nagtapos sa Theater Arts in 2003. Ako’y tuwang-tuwa dahil ito ang pinakaunang UP graduation na napuntahan ko and it somehow lessens the guilt of not attending my daughter’s graduation dahil pinahalagahan ko ang misyon ko para sa mahirap.

    When I was invited by Dean Alex Brillantes to be your speaker I asked myself what could I possibly say to some of the brightest minds in the country, mga Iskolar ng Bayan, many of whom want to go into public service. I am not a politician. Since 1996, I vowed not to take on any political position, whether appointive or elective. Gusto ko lang magsilbi sa mahirap. I wanted to help the poor by caring for the least of my brethren as a Christian who was challenged to follow Jesus all the way to the slums. I wanted to learn how to care for the weak and the powerless who were victims of history and a political system that they thought they were helpless to change. So I speak before you as an ordinary Filipino who has discovered the potential of every Filipino to make a difference and to bring about meaningful change by learning to trust one another and to work together for the common good.

    Going back to my father, he lived a remarkably simple life although he was the contemporary in U.P. of two powerful people — former President Ferdinand E. Marcos and Ambassador Roberto Benedicto. I remember the times when he would talk about these two popular men and I often wondered to myself why he was happy to be a nobody — contented with his life as a public school teacher and later on as an accounting clerk who could hardly provide for six children. One thing about my father, he was scrupulously honest, although frankly, I would have been happier in those times for him to be more compromising so we could have more comforts in life. At age 81, he died without ever owning a piece of land… or building his own house… or driving his own car. He left us with nothing except his good name, the respect of his friends and the many lessons he taught me.

    The greatest one I learned is that the political power of Marcos and the business empire of Benedicto failed to bring our country out of poverty and to make life better for our people.

    It is not political power or wealth that builds a nation. Power and wealth are mere consequences of a strong nation. A strong nation is built by a strong people — people who are determined to work hard, people who are willing to sacrifice for one another and the common good and most importantly, people with integrity.

    U.P. has produced many people with integrity like my father. And it is this value that I want to highlight for those of you who want to go into public service or any field of human endeavor. Integrity is what we have lost as a people. We no longer trust our institutions. We lack confidence to succeed in our own country. We have lost the respect of other countries. Integrity is what we have to regain. Intelligence, competence, talents, skills we have in abundance because we are a gifted people but they are meaningless without integrity.

    My father almost failed in me when I took the path of selfishness, wanting only to help myself gain the wealth and power that I never had. I compromised the values and integrity that he taught me to achieve my personal ambitions. But God intervened in my life in 1985 when I joined Couples for Christ and discovered a beautiful plan for me, for my family and my country. My family and I cannot grow at the expense of others but in fact achieve it by helping others find their own security and quality of life.

    Our selfishness has created the mess that we are in. Worse, we are caught in a vicious culture of blame. Yes there is basis for blame. Many politicians have not kept their promises… many of the rich have not shared their wealth… some Church leaders have failed to practice what they preach… many Filipinos have abandoned their country… and even the poor have been criticized for not working hard enough.

    At the rate we are blaming each other, everybody is to blame. Lahat naman nagkulang at lahat naman tayo ay nagkasala. But blaming alone never solves the problem. It does not build homes for the poor. It does not feed the hungry. It does not restore human dignity. It destroys friendship. It poisons the spirit. It kills hope. Instead of looking for fault in others let’s look at ourselves —- what we have done wrong, what we have failed to do. We need to change…but for me, change begins with myself.

    We have destroyed so much of ourselves and our country that me changing myself is not enough… that you changing yourself is not enough. We have to inspire change in many others… and, we have to change together. Change will not come easy, that’s why we need to encourage and we need to honor all the good examples around us. We need to invite everyone to come on board. Poverty is so massive that our response to it cannot be small. We cannot rebuild this country if we do not engage every sector of society including government. It is counter-productive to judge all government officials as corrupt. In dealing with dishonest men, just be honest.

    We cannot change people if we make them our enemies. Engage them and bring out the best in them.

    While many are accustomed to the path of blame, we have to discover a new path, build a new culture of honoring those who do good.
    In Gawad Kalinga, we work with National Government agencies and over 300 mayors and governors and we have been inspired by their sincerity and their determination to help the poor in their towns and provinces. Last year, we discovered a lot of outstanding local government officials in our effort to rehabilitate victims of calamities and conflict. The popular image of politicians as trapos and corrupt has not often been our experience. In working together, most of them have shown sincerity, deep concern for their constituents, and honesty in their dealings with Gawad Kalinga. If we maintain our integrity in dealing with them, they can be encouraged to respond to us in the same way.

    We have partnered with over a hundred corporations and many prominent families and individuals. They are not the insensitive, selfish, greedy people many have always painted them to be, when they are given the chance to show their concern and express their generosity. Many of them have adopted Gawad Kalinga as their opportunity to make a difference, and many more will do the same because of their example.

    Itong nakaraan lang na typhoon sa Luzon, kailangan natin ng 400 hectares para sa mga 40,000 families na nawalan ng bahay at nawalan ng mga mahal sa buhay dahil nakatira sila sa delikadong lugar. Akala namin mahirap kumuha ng lupa for relocation but in 2 months we were able to raise 507 hectares in 12 provinces. Hindi pala madamot ang Pilipino kung sila ay naniniwala.

    The religious sector is likewise not indifferent. A number of churches are responding with boldness to the call of nation-building by restoring the dignity of poor Filipinos. Bishop Soc Villegas took the initiative to build the Cardinal Sin GK Village for the informal settlers in Punta Sta. Ana; Bishop Precioso Cantillas is helping in the rehabilitation of landslide victims in Southern Leyte; Archbishop Ramon Arguelles is providing Church land to informal settlers of Lipa City; and today, CBCP President and Archbishop of Jaro, Angel Lagdameo, is opening Church land in 5 vicariates to host Gawad Kalinga communities for the poorest of the poor including many Church workers.

    The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches had not been less generous when they partnered with Gawad Kalinga together with NDCC (National Disaster Coordinating Council) and DSWD in building new communities for the typhoon victims in Luzon. And
    now, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, more popularly known as the Mormons, have volunteered their services and offered their expertise and resources in providing water systems in GK communities all over the country.

    We are seeing a miracle in progress as different churches transcend their differences to work together to build a nation by helping the poor rise from poverty. This emerging unity is an affirmation of the Gawad Kalinga spirit of non-discrimination in the choice of whom to help and working with those who want to help.

    Pwede rin magtulungan ang Muslim at Kristiyano.

    Tomorrow I am flying to Camp Abubakar. Five years ago there was an all out war that destroyed an entire Muslim community. Mahigit isang libong pamilya ng mga kapatid nating Muslim ang nawalan ng tahanan. Tomorrow we will see 200 houses rising from the ashes of war. Together with Barira Mayor Alex Tomawis, DSWD and SMART, Christians and Muslims are building peace and friendship by building peaceful Gawad Kalinga communities in Camp Abubakar. This is also happening in 20 Muslim communities in Mindanao.

    Millions of Filipinos have left the Philippines and we thought they had deserted us. But then again, this is not true. They have not forgotten. They have not stopped loving the motherland. Many are not just giving resources to build homes and villages but are actually coming home to help build them themselves. The Kampampangans helping Pampanga and Tarlac… the Batangueños helping Batangas… the Bicolanos helping Bicol.. and many more helping the provinces and towns of their birth. They are making true the words of Isaiah, “Your sons and daughters will come home to rebuild your broken cities.�

    We gave life to the spirit of negativity, pessimism and divisiveness in our country and succeeded in convincing ourselves that we are hopeless. When we are in an attack mode in pursuit of even the noblest causes, the natural reaction is to defend and fight back perpetuating an environment of conflict.

    We need a more radical response to our present predicament. Radical means to be different and to be passionate. Passion for change is oftentimes fueled by anger but passion that is more powerful is fueled by love… Love for God & country… Love for God & our poor countrymen. Pwede rin maging radical by following the path of love and the path of peace.

    The University of the Philippines has always been known for being radical. It has produced outstanding men and women who risked their lives, their families and their future to fight injustice and corruption… most of them driven by a sincere desire for change. Despite the long history of militancy however, this university that has produced some of the most powerful leaders, politicians, businessmen and prominent advocates of many causes has not lifted our people out of poverty and our country out of corruption.

    Is it possible for U.P. to champion a new brand of radicalism to what we already know? One that entails engaging all sectors of society without judgment or discrimination, following the path of peace and the true spirit of bayanihan to concretely find solutions to our problems.

    Instead of Ibagsak, can we try Itayo? Instead of away, puede bang magtulungan? Instead of unahan, puede bang walang iwanan?Lalong-lalo na sa mga matatalino, magagaling at mayayaman… yung mga mahirap na hindi makapasok sa UP, pwede bang balikan natin? Huwag natin silang iwanan.

    Even as we exercise our right to speak up and even criticize what we believe is not right, can we as vigorously honor what we see is good? Can we build and restore this country, where no Filipino is an enemy… where we will rise together because the weakest and the powerless among us will not be left behind?

    Are you radical enough for this? Let me answer for you.
    Yes, you are. This brand of radicalism already exists in U.P. but not recognized and honored enough. U.P. has Pahinungod which has done a marvelous job of stirring the spirit of volunteerism but it needs to be mainstreamed, sustained and embraced as a way of life. U.P. has given birth to many NGO’s and cause-oriented groups that are sincere in their desire to help our country.

    Three things that we need to recognize about beingradical:
    Working together to build peace in times of conflict is radical
    Fraternities fighting each other is normal.
    Fraternities workingtogether… that is radical. When people unite, transcend political, religious and cultural differences and work together for the common good… that is radical. That is what Upsilon and Beta Epsilon, Beta Sigma and Alpha Sigma are starting to do in Gawad Kalinga. I honor Eric Pasion and those who started Gawad Kalinga Youth in U.P. for being builders of peace.

    Working for the good of others at the sacrifice of greater opportunities for self is radical.

    When people leave their high paying corporate jobs to give their time to serve their country — that is radical.

    Melo Villaroman, U.P. Business Economics ’84, retired early at age 42 as Director for Business Development for Asia of Procter & Gamble based in Singapore. When offered a higher position in Europe or the U.S. he politely declined and stated that his country needs him now.

    Eena Kanapi, U.P. Political Science ’92 is another radical spirit who left her job as Strategic Planning Director of a multi-national ad company to help the poor. Both are full-time volunteers of Gawad Kalinga, both are sharing their expertise in helping their countrymen rise from poverty.

    Promoting the message of hope in times of despair is radical.
    Maria Montelibano, first graduate of U.P. AB Broadcasting, multi-awarded TV Director and media specialist is heading a global multi-media campaign to communicate the message that there is hope for the Philippines if Filipinos can work together until there are no more squatters, no more slums, no more hunger, no more crime… where there is dignity and peace for everyone in this country.

    U.P. has produced a beautiful Filipino in my daughter, Wowie. She has put her love life on hold to host the sports-adventure show GamePlan that showcases the beauty of our land and our people and to volunteer for Gawad Kalinga, bringing her to the poorest and the most remote areas of our country Many from this university have helped us in this Revolution of Hope — Cris Vertido, Cheche Lazaro and thousands of nameless and unrecognized volunteers and partners throughout the country. We are excited with the offer of support of President Emerlinda Roman throughout the U.P. system nationwide and offer of help from Dr. Ledy Cariño and Dr. Alex Brillantes to mobilize UP-NCPAG for Gawad Kalinga. We know that many more from among you and your parents will come and help.

    I am asking all of you now to do what I ask every Filipino to do —
    Never stop hoping for our country.
    Don’t stop caring for our people.
    Demand greatness from yourself as a Filipino
    Inspire greatness in other Filipinos.
    No nation in crisis ever achieved victory without its young warriors leading the battle. Do not wait to be as old as me before you start to help our people and build our nation. Begin now. Like others in my generation I am here to admit the mistakes we have made and share the lessons we have learned.

    Our greatest mistake is that we keep leaving others behind, especially the weak and the powerless. Look at what we have reaped because of our neglect. And because we left them behind — this is the curse of poverty that you will inherit from us.

    For the last four years, kayo ang mga iskolar ng bayan. This nation did not choose you to be her scholars so you can just help yourself. This nation chose you so you can help others. Don’t forget the poor — the many others who will not have the privilege of a U.P. education. Go back to the towns and the communities where you come from and give land to the landless, build homes for the homeless and help grow food for the hungry.

    This is the foundation of nation-building. From there, it grows to productivity built from discipline and talent. Nation is not about business, it is about economy. Nation is not about political parties, it is about governance. Nation is not abou projects and programs, it is about vision. Nation is not about power and position, it is about leadership.

    Let me send you off with a prayer.
    As you go your way now, may God almighty light your path and embolde your heart. May you be the joy and consolation of your parents for all their hard work and sacrifice, knowing that you will be the future full of hope. May you heal the wounds of our nation and restore the dreams of our people. May you be the new generation of heroes that will bring our people to the promise land. May God be with you every step of the way.

    Apat na taon kayong iskolar ng bayan.
    Habang buhay kayong bayani para sa bayan
    Congratulations at mabuhay kayong lahat!

    Tony Meloto’s UP speech where he was interrupted


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