22 April 2012
When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years / Then they expect you to pick a career / When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear / A working class hero is something to be. This excerpt from the lyrics of John Lennon’s 1971 song “Working Class Hero” should remind the iskolar ng bayan of UP Diliman who are graduating today, 22 April 2012, of who they really are. On this day, you, the august iskolar ng bayan should not forget, amidst your accomplishment and rejoicing, that a lot of your batchmates had dropped out from the fierce competition in the academic market due mainly to brutalizing poverty. These “disposable youth” are now effortlessly ignored as the necessary “waste of the system.” You should therefore look at your graduation not only as a crowning glory of your personal determination but a gift to redeem the sufferings of the “disposable youth” so that we can create a society that truly cares and nurtures our young people!
As you place your sablay from right to left, you must remember that more than six million young Filipinos are out of school because of the high cost of education; 3,705 children are detained in the 1,500 facilities nationwide; and more than 10,094 Filipino children have been involved in various crimes. More and more prisons are being constructed to accommodate your generation when you grow to adulthood. And many of your predecessors, notably Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan, Ericson Acosta, and Maricon Montajes, who had fought against this system that consigns hundreds of young people to hopelessness, have either ended up in jails or had been liquidated by the fascist system they are fighting. Do not let their sufferings, hopes, and struggle be for nothing!
And if you decide to fight for a better world, you will confront very powerful forces. You must meet those forces with unity! Don’t let the system trick you into fighting and killing each other in the pursuit of profit and career advancement. Your batchmates are your brothers and sisters no matter their class, no matter their language, no matter their religion, the graduating iskolar ng bayan are your hope of winning this struggle! And if our nation possesses genuinely committed graduate in sufficient numbers, change will be inevitable!
Iskolar ng bayan, you have graduated from the most prestigious higher learning institution of our country, in which you received your first tempering. But you know very well that you will receive your real tempering in practical work, outside school. If many young people see their graduation as mere instrument to immediately join the job market and accumulate wealth, your UP education has taught you that the iskolar ng bayan who are any good do not sacrifice the grander vision of serving the people for simple acquiescence to what society expects of them. For whatever reason you may have for studying in the University, UP education has imparted to you that it is only by serving the people that you will find personal satisfaction while also pursuing your own personal development.
In her commencement address in 1975, Carol Castillo Pagaduan, a brave woman and a fellow iskolar ng bayan, uttered these words in the very place you are gathered today: “As we finally leave this university, we say to all those who will stay: Continue the struggle and see it through to victory. We pledge to do the same outside.” Indeed she fulfilled her promise, and we hope you do the same.
Mabuhay ang mga iskolar ng bayan! Maligayang araw ng pagtatapos! Maglingkod sa masa at sa bayan!