(UPDATED) The following is the valedictory address of BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology summa cum laude graduate Arman Ali Ghodsinia during the 106th commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines Diliman on Sunday, June 25. Ghodsinia hails from Marawi City.
With everything that has been going on in the Philippines – with the struggles in poverty, corruption, drugs, and most recently, the war in Mindanao – the call for peace becomes all the more necessary. Before you, I stand not merely as a young Maranao to graduate summa cum laude of this University. But before you, I stand as an advocate of peace.
I stand with you, my fellow Iskolars ng Bayan, as we express our solidarity to the Filipino people, and most especially to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. (READ: All religions should promote peace)
Indeed, today, we gather here to celebrate a significant chapter of our lives. After all the years of hard work, joy and pain, we beam with pride as we finally graduate from the country’s most prestigious state university, our beloved University of the Philippines.
They say we are the country's crème de la crème and today, together with our loved ones, we're all united in celebrating this collective feeling of gratitude and sheer happiness as finally, we're able to say that "Yes! Through honor and excellence, we indeed finally made it!" (READ: I survived UP)
But of course, as UP students, we know quite well how none of us operate in an isolated vacuum. Our university and our lives as 'Iskolar ng Bayan' are heavily interlinked with the beating heart of this nation. As such today, we gather here not merely as any graduating batch of youth, but as a graduating batch of Iskolars ng Bayan; Iskolars ng Bayan who deeply care about the fate of this nation, and the well-being of our fellow people.
Sa Filipino, ito po'y tinatawag natin na "pagmamalakasit". Napakagandang salita, hindi po ba? Pagmamalasakit.
Hindi ka nag-iisa dahil may nagmamalasakit sa iyo.
Hindi ka nakakalimutan dahil may nakikiramay sa iyo.
Kung iisipin, ang pagmamalasakit na ito ay nakaukit na sa ating mga karakter bilang Iskolar ng Bayan. Tulad na lang ng ating Oblation, nariyan ang tugon na ialay ang ating mga sarili, ang ating talino at talento – para sa ating mga kapwa Pilipino – lalo na ang mga kapwa natin na lugmok sa kahirapan o naiipit sa matinding kaguluhan.
Sa kasalukuyan po, alam nating lahat na patuloy pa rin ang gyera sa Marawi, sa ating mahal na Mindanao. The lives of our fellow Filipinos – both Muslims and Christians – have been put at risk due to the aggression of certain groups.
Ramadan just took place, and yet because of this siege, many of our brothers and sisters have been forced to run for their lives, and to fast instead in evacuation camps. Once again, the road to sustainable peace is being blocked. (READ: AFP to observe 8-hour 'humanitarian pause' for Eid'l Fitr)
Gaya na po ng nabanggit kanina, ako ay parte ng isang pamilya ng mga Maranao. Ang middle name ko po ay "Ali" dahil ang ninuno namin ay si Datu Timbul Ali. Isa po siyang magiting na Sultan na lumaban sa mga dayuhang mananakop noon. (READ: FAST FACTS: Marawi City)
Noon pa man, makikita natin na sagana sa likas na yaman at natatanging kagandahan ang Lanao – at ang maraming lugar sa Mindanao! Kung kaya, labis ang sakit na nararamdaman ko na malaman na ang ilan sa mga pinakamahihirap na probinsya sa ating bansa ay nasa Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
My mother, she comes from one of the four Royal Houses in Lanao. Nevertheless, against this backdrop of rich familial lineage, lies a painful paradox of poverty and inequity. A paradox which not many people know of. Growing up, my mother saw how difficult life could be. She witnessed the death of her little brother and mother due to sickness that could have been cured if only there was "enough money." This is painful.
How painful it is to live in a society as if people are just left behind and forgotten, simply because they don’t have enough money. (READ: New poverty data: Is poverty falling fast enough?)
'Yung ganitong kahirapan po, 'yung tipong hindi ka makapagpagamot dahil kulang and pera mo o 'yung tipong papasok ka sa eskwela na walang laman ang tiyan mo, ay kahirapang dinaranas ng napakaraming Pilipino – maging Muslim man o Kristyano.
But here I am standing in front of you today, as proof that members of minorities like us Maranaos can also do well; and contribute effectively to societal growth if given the same opportunities and rights like many other Filipinos. Here I am, speaking to you as proof that anyone, regardless of religion, socioeconomic status, or ethnic ties, can excel if equal opportunities are available to all.
We, members of the Filipino minority, are your brothers and sisters, too – and on equal platform based on mutual respect – we can all work together towards a stronger, more united Philippines!
And, I believe that one of the ways of achieving this is by improving our educational system and curriculum. As we gather today in the University of the Philippines, one of the bastions of education in our country, together we call for a truly inclusive education – an education that strengthens the collective ties of our nation.
In as much as traditional subjects like science and math are important, then so too are subjects that build on greater social cohesion among Filipinos of different ethnic groups, regions, and religions. My sister is a firm advocate of this, as she says how our history and social studies must be...truly collective and representative of the entire Filipino people – from Luzon, Visayas to Mindanao.
Now, this sister of mine, who once graduated magna cum laude too from this university and who is pursuing law studies here, is one of those who has greatly inspired me to care for others. There are many days and nights when she would just come to me and spend minutes – even hours – just talking about the different social and economic problems going on. (READ: Top issues and controversies under Duterte)
Minsan, sasabihin niya sa akin na, "Arman, sige na, ilang minuto lang kitang kakausapin tungkol dito" pero kadalasan ay tumagatagal ang aming pag-uusap ng isang oras o mahigit…'Di ba, Ate? I'm looking at you! Maglalabas siya ng mga hinaing tungkol sa mga isyu ng diskriminasyon halimbawa – nina Donald Trump at iba pa – o ng mga paghihirap ng milyun-milyong refugees sa iba’t ibang bansa.
Tapos, kadalasan ay matatapos ang aming diskusyon sa kanyang pagpapayo na, "Sige na, Arman…mag-focus ka na ulit. Galingan mong mabuti!" Grabe, hindi po ba? Kung ganito ba naman ang kapatid mo, na mula day one ng college ay ganito na magpayo sa'yo, paano ba naman po ako hindi magsisikap lalo para sa bayan?
Seriously though, I thank you for all the support, my dear Ate Farah, and may I keep the hope you’ve instilled in me, alive. To my parents and to my greater family both here and abroad; to the Ali clan in general, to Ate Ponne, Ate Mali, Ate Jam, to my Auntie Sora and Auntie Lala; and to my many wonderful aunties and uncles and cousins, I thank each one of you. You are blessings in my life.
To Dr Rey Garcia, who is a great mentor; and to my DMBEL family, to Daniel Paul Uy, J-Ann Lego, Ryan Timothy Yu, Carmela Cruz, Joanna Marie Sytangco, Argel Arenas, Jan Patrick Tan, Cyril Versoza, Myco Cabuco, Ate Krizelle Alcantara, Joshua Malapit, Kenneth Roquid, and Lorenz Chua, thank you very much. You are a huge part of my life.
To my professors in MBB, namely Drs Cynthia Saloma, Wilberto Monotilla, Cynthia Hedreyda, Pia Bagamasbad, Eloise Prieto, Jay Lazaro, Zenaida Magbanua, Ma. Anita Bautista, Vermando Aquino, and Ron Dy; and to my professors in other colleges, with a special mention to Ma’am Glecy Atienza, and Drs Jerwin Agpaoa and Nestor Castro, and to my batchmates, thank you so much.
Because time is limited, I'm not able to mention all of you, but know that deep in my heart, I pray that each of you who have extended kindness in my life be blessed all the more!
Sa aking mga kapwa Maranao: “Assalamu 'alaikom mga loks, pagari-ak'n. Giyaya achievement, parara'ktano langon!”
Bilang mga Iskolar ng Bayan, responsibilidad natin na magmalasakit sa mga naaapi. Kahit tayo ay magkakaiba, tayo ay magkakapareho pa rin. As a student of molecular biology, I know that everyone is made of up the same building blocks of DNA – adenosine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. Underneath all the external differences, we are all made of the same molecules that aggregated to form a human body.
Para sa mga magsisipagtapos na Iskolar ng Bayan, sana'y huwag nating kalimutang magmalasakit sa kapwa natin. Malayong lupain, amin mang marating, 'di rin magbabago ang damdamin.
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan! – Rappler.com