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Andres Bonifacio College

College Park, Dipolog City, Philippines 7100

by admin on 04 4th, 2012
 Service Without And Beyond Measure

Service Without And Beyond Measure

(Address of Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. (ret.) at the 66th Commencement Exercises of the Andres Bonifacio College, Dipolog City, 28 March 2012)

I wish to express my profound gratitude to the Andres Bonifacio College (ABC), especially to CONCON delegate Ernie Amatong, for extending an invitation for me to witness this 66th Commencement Exercises of the College.  Delegate Ernie was not satisfied with my phoned acceptance.  He, with Atty. Ephyro Amatong – a Master of Laws degree holder from the famous Harvard University in the United States of America – personally came to my humble home in Quezon City to ensure that I should not back out.  He had long wanted me to visit your college.  Some years back he invited me to be a commencement speaker; but my demanding work as Chief Justice proved to be too strong a reason to decline the invitation.

It must be part of God’s plan that I should visit Andres Bonifacio College.  Mr. Amando Borja Amatong, its founder, and my father had almost the same dream, the same vision: to make poverty the inspiration to follow the righteous path of selfless service to God, country and fellowmen.  An enlightened way to do that is through education and to provide education to others, especially in the rural areas where the poor and underprivileged in the unpredictable course of civilization would have no opportunity to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, ignorance and illiteracy.

Mr. Amando Amatong and my Papa were children of poor parents.  The former was the son of a fisherman, farmer and tuba gatherer of the town of Dalaguete, Cebu.  My father was the son of an illiterate farmer and tuba gatherer of a very remote barangay Colawin in Argao, a town adjoining Dalaguete. Both Amando and my Papa worked hard to finish their elementary grades, with Papa to travel on foot 18 kilometers every Sunday and Friday through valleys and mountains, crossing a river eleven times, for his elementary education at the poblacion.  This was the same difficult ritual his children down to me did to complete their elementary education.  Both Amando and Papa became public school teachers with Amando ending up as District Supervisor and Papa as Schools Division Superintendent.  While Amando put up the Andres Bonifacio Institute in 1940, Papa remained in the public schools, but wherever he was assigned he worked hard for the establishment of elementary schools in the remote areas within his jurisdiction.  He was the first to organize adult education classes and was responsible for opening the first barangay high school in Cebu – that of my barangay Colawin.

Amando got married to Felicidad Mabanag Sybico in 1927; my father married Josefa Gelbolingo of the barrio of Talaga at near the boundary of Dalaguete and Argao, and a public school teacher who after graduating grade 7 taught in Ginatilan, Cebu, for almost two years.  She had to walk more than seventy kilometers for about a day to reach Ginatilan from Talaga.

Amando and Manang Edad had eight children; Papa and Mama had seven.  Their children, through their sacrifice and prayers and teaching by example the Christian values of faith, hope, service and love, became successful in their chosen fields of endeavor and role models in their service to God, country and fellowmen.  Their grandchildren continue to preserve their legacies.

The Amatongs did more for the Andres Bonifacio College.  Started as an Institute with only first and second year high school offerings and vocational courses in typing and stenography with only six second hand typewriters, five faculty members and seven students, it has grown into a college with now fifty five degree and diploma programs and an enviable record of quality graduates many of whom topped the board examinations in various courses.  All the five of the College’s first law graduates – which include 1971 CONCON delegate Ernie Amatong, passed the Bar Examinations of 1953 – the year when I graduated from high school.

I understand that lately the ABC inaugurated its modern five-storey Science and Technology Building.  Soon, it will inaugurate its seven-storey Graduate and Professional Schools Building.  It maintains 3.5 hectares Farmer’s Village and a 20 hectare farm.

For all these endeavors, the ABC is now reputed to be the “Pioneer Builder of Leaders”.  I can now assert without fear of a dissenting opinion that it is a true and authentic ABC in accessible, affordable, and quality education.  For all these endeavors and many more, Manang Edad was conferred the national award of Outstanding Mother of 1986 by the National Federation of Women’s Clubs of the Philippines.

Today, at this very hour, on the occasion of the 66th Commencement Exercises of ABC, I give tribute and homage to Amando B. Amatong and Manang Edad for living a life dedicated to love and selfless service to God, country, family, and fellowmen in the field of education.  They led a life ever mindful of the exhortations of St. Paul to the Corinthians: Be on your guard, be firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.  Your every act should be done with love.  (1 Corinthians 16); and that while faith, hope, and love remain, the greatest of these is love.  (1 Corinthians 13)

It is this love of Amando and Manang Edad and of their family that made possible this historic event we now witness and celebrate.  I would say that without them we would not have this milestone in the life of our graduates and even that of our own.  Mrs. Davide and I would now say: We came, we saw, and were conquered and inspired by their noble and exemplary life.

To the graduates, I envy you for being inheritors of the greatest gift Amando and Manang Edad had left.  Congratulations for such a privilege. Congratulations to those who graduate with honors and special distinction.  You made Amando and Manang Edad doubly happy and proud.  You graduates have kept alive and impregnably fortified and glorified their vision of what education should be.  The great Greek philosopher Plato, in his Republic, said that “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.” In his Phaedo he said: “The soul takes nothing with her to the other world but her education and culture, and these, it is said, are of the greatest service or of the greatest injury to the dead man, at the very beginning of his journey thither.”

The famous American educator John Dewey solemnly asserts that “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”

Anna Jameson adds: “The true purpose of education is to cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us, to develop to their fullest extent the capacities of every kind with which the God who made us endowed us.”

This is the kind of education envisioned by Amando Amatong and Manang Edad in founding ABC and which their family faithfully pursued and will continue to do with unequalled passion.  This is the education ABC has implanted in your hearts, minds, and souls.

I should likewise congratulate many other people for the unfolding of the historic event we are celebrating.  First, I congratulate the parents and loved ones of the graduates.  While they did not actually toil in the classrooms, the graduates could not have endured without the love, support, sacrifice, sufferings of their parents and loved ones.  They would be the same people who will give the same love and support as the graduates join the rat-race and confront the realities of the complexities of the “modern” world.

Second, I congratulate the President, the Trustees, the Deans and Heads of the various colleges and the members of the faculty of the ABC for it is beyond question that they played an invaluable role in the laying and cultivating the values and academic, technical and vocational foundations to enable our graduates not only to earn their livelihood but also to live a life worthy of human dignity and in the selfless service for others as envisioned by Amando Amatong and Manang Edad.  It is my fervent prayer that they not forsake their commitment to education and the role of ABC as the Pioneer Builder of Leaders.

And now back to you dear graduates.  This commencement exercises mark the end of only one – yes, only one – stage in your lives, and I am confident that you eagerly await the opportunity to fully accomplish what you have carved to be your future.  However, before you plunge headlong into reality, allow me to share a few words of counsel if only to ease what may otherwise be a rude awakening.  You will have to make many choices, some more or less difficult than others.  My message is simple.  Whatever you choose, after graduation, you must recall the fundamentals of life, the lessons your grandparents and parents taught you as a child, and these values that serve as foundation or anchor as you walk through life, namely: fear and love of God, love of country, the pursuit of excellence, perseverance and humility.  We are in the midst of the Lenten season for the year 2012. This coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday and the following Sunday would be Easter Sunday.  This is a season when the thoughts of purification and conversion and love and service should be closest to our minds and hearts.  Thus, when I speak of God, I refer to the belief in a highest and ultimate good, the epitome of man’s potential.  Psalm 107 of the Bible says God is good, his love endures forever.  The Cross on which Jesus hangs is the salvation and redemption, and Jesus assures us that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt. 11:30). The timing then of this commencement exercise with the Lenten season is part of God’s plans for us.  We must remember that through the prophet Jeremiah God says: For I know well the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe.  Plans to give you a future full of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

As to love of country, we have many roles to play and many tasks to accomplish.  In this regard, never forget that your College is named in honor of Andres Bonifacio, the great Plebeian, one of our national heroes who organized the KKK.  Andres Bonifacio overcame extreme poverty to demonstrate patriotism and love of country in its highest form.  He was Amando Amatong’s model.  I only wish to stress that we all can make our unique contributions to our beloved Philippines and that what all matters is that we choose to do so, and having made that choice, we give nothing short of our best.  Hence, pursuit of excellence in whatever we do and however we do it, is simply non-negotiable.

Of course, the path to excellence is far from smooth and easy, entailing as it does much sacrifice.  Therefore, when despair seems to be the only option, perseverance is a quality we cannot do without.

There is, moreover, the quality of humility.  The Book of Sirach of the Old Testament says:  Humble yourself  the more, the greater you are and you will find favor with God.  For whatever greatness you may achieve, for whatever milestone you may reach, bear in mind two things: (1) that everything was not for your personal glory; and (2) that you could not have so without the guidance of Almighty God.

With love of God, love of country, the pursuit of excellence, perseverance, and humility as your guiding stars, I am certain that you will make your Alma Mater – the ABC – proud of you as you pay tribute to its tradition and pay homage to the memory of our Amando and Manang Edad.

Never forget that the dictionary defines the word “commencement”, as in 66th commencement exercises, as, first, a beginning; and, second, ceremony of degree conferment.  Clearly, of these, it is the first which is of greater importance, for, after all, the latter is but a ritual, worthless without the commitment and resolve to remain true to what the ABC has taught and bestowed upon you.  Always heed that you, the graduates, are our country’s future.  You are the capital from which profit may be earned or lost; while whatever ABC has taught you is the seed, you, the harvest. What could be the harvest would eventually be measured by how you act and conduct yourselves in our world and in our country and society which are now confronted and burdened with crises of every kind, nearly unparalleled in proportions, and perhaps never imagined to simultaneously occur.  Poverty; hunger; injustice and oppression; war; terrorism; crimes; diseases; human trafficking and child abuse, which are the modern day forms of slavery; illegal drugs; earthquakes; tsunamis; floods; nuclear radiation; and irreparable damage to the environment.  To these are added hopelessness, desolation, fears, moral decay, spiritual bankruptcy; and in the government service, graft and corruption tops the list of violations of the public trust character of a public office.  Betrayal of the public trust is no longer an uncommon occurrence.

Yet, you enter an era of great promise for our country.  We are now in the midst of economic recovery and modernization and development.  The Filipino standing across the globe is rising and promises to continue to rise.  A new breed of young political leaders with inspiring idealism is emerging.  And the citizens’ vigilance and outrage against graft and corruption and immoralities are aflame.  We have recently elected a President who won overwhelmingly on the battlecry “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

How fortunate you are to graduate amidst these contrasts of happenings in our country.  This can make you heroes, if you choose to be what the ABC has prepared you to become.

Let me end with a compliance of what Dean Evelyn Luna, the chair of the Invitation Committee, has ordered me to do:  to impart a message on “The Judiciary’s Critical Role in Upholding Good Governance.”  It is a subject which may help our graduates as they seek their role to become heroes amidst the contrasts I have just mentioned.  Whether you like it or not, the Judiciary is an indispensable democratic institution.  In our governmental structure of three branches – the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary – the Judiciary is often seen as the weakest.  That may be true.  But the Judiciary is and remains as peoples’ last bastion of justice, freedom, liberty and democracy.  The Judiciary is their first and last resort for the protection and preservation of their rights.  As long as the people come to court for the redress of injured rights, instead of taking the law into their own hands, our democracy is preserved, and the rule of law is thus strengthened, or we rely on the equality of the law instead of the arbitrariness of the powerful.  Indeed the courts are a venue for realizing that true governmental power resides in the people.  Before the courts, the contestants are ultimately not individuals or citizens, but the people’s rights.  Even the laws written by Congress or the measures implemented by the Executive will be measured against the people’s rights or laid down in its Constitution.  Before the courts power resides in the people.  Thus, public trust and confidence in the Judiciary is necessary for a strong democracy and for the rule of law.

Realizing these, immediately upon my appointment as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on 30 November 1998, I promulgated my Vision-Mission document: The Davide Watch: Leading the Philippine Judiciary and the Legal Profession Towards This Millennium.  The vision: a judiciary that is independent, effective, and efficient, and worthy of public trust and confidence; and a legal profession that provides quality, ethical, accessible, and cost-effective legal service to our people and is willing and able to answer the call to public service.  All throughout my stewardship as Chief Justice, we pursued judicial reforms under the most comprehensive reform package ever adopted: The Action Program for Judicial Reform, or APJR for short. This became a World Bank and Asian Development Bank model.

The APJR is the key to good governance in the Judiciary and even to our country for it involves the rest of the government and our people.  All the people are stakeholders of the justice system.  Those in the Judiciary must, therefore, be model public servants who must at all times uphold the public trust character of public office.  Section 1 of Article XI of the Constitution provides: Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with justice and patriotism, and lead modest lives.

When I retired as Chief Justice on 19 December 2005, much more had yet to be done under the APJR.

Finally, I shall conclude.  I want you dear graduates to be great heroes.  Ralph Sockman says it well: “What makes greatness is starting something that lives after you.”  I say start it now.  Joseph Hall says: “Everyday is a little life, and our whole life is but a day repeated.  Therefore, live every day as if it were the last.  Those who dare lose a day are dangerously prodigal, those that dare misspend it are desperate.”

Above all, as Jesus said in the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt. 5:13-15), be the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World.

Again, congratulations dear graduates, the President, Trustees, Deans, Members of the Faculty and officials and personnel of ABC, and the parents and loved ones of our graduates.

Let the Lenten season bring us closer to our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Joy of Easter.

Thank you.


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