Friday, May 15, 2009
(A speech delivered at the 12th Commencement Exercises of my colleague and friend Edwin's administered language school.)
I am overwhelmed by the privilege of having to stand before an audience and address it about two things that are both hallmarks of the contemporary times, the globalization age. We have heard so much about globalization that we can easily dismiss it as among the most abused words of the present period, much in the same manner that “centennial” was the word of the year in 1998 and “millennium” had its heyday at the turn of, well, the new millennium. However, we can do more than satirize the term and the people who seem to mention it once every 20 seconds, especially when our lives are all caught up in the phenomenon whether we are conscious of it or not.
If you or someone you know had been, is, or plans to be an Overseas Filipino Worker, that’s a sign that globalization has struck this side of town. If you studied or are studying English to shore up your linguistic skill, again, globalization is creating its impact on you. Not that it’s bad to migrate especially in consideration of the scarcity of well-compensating career opportunities hereabouts, nor to try to master the colonizer’s language to make it our own, but globalization has its ugly hair of snakes overshadowed by the more prominent, beautiful Galema face. It is failing to fulfill the promise of progress equally among developed and underdeveloped countries, since the profits of capitalism hasten the social developments of the multinational companies’ countries of origin only, small enterprises all but die being pitted against giant corporations, cultural imperialism increasingly erases our identity and slave-master relationships make a notorious comeback via neocolonialism. It appears that social justice remains an elusive dream among idealists, an escapist propaganda of fantastic fiction, some figment of an artist’s imagination.
But ladies, gentlemen and people from alternative genders, the present-day, like the previous ones, is a challenging moment to appropriate globalization in our very context in our vigorous bid to refuse being swallowed whole by this fresh systematic imperialist violence. We can localize the global, and we can look up north for the Japanese’ style of glocalization, or turning something Western into an entirely indigenous thing. While we do not own the capital and we risk being branded elitists and colonial-minded for speaking our Waray-, Iloko-, or Kinaray-a-accented English with American or British twang, we can be catalysts of change and paragons of excellence right in the midst of pro-Western globalization. Now, perhaps you are wondering, “What is he blabbering about? He is just twentysomething—too inexperienced to lecture about life!”
I expected that this audience would be composed mostly of youngish people, and much as I desire to colonize your attention and for you to take my words seriously, some of you might be itching to return home, eat buko pie, surf the Internet, cheer on as Ingrid recovers the supermarket from Marlene, sleep, or chat with your crushes somewhere out there. So much for transforming the world, for achieving the best. There can only be one Jose Rizal the province of Laguna will ever produce for the entire history of the world and last you looked, the nation’s hero is someone who will retry a hand at politics after reigning in the boxing ring. With the right advisers, machinery and virtues, who does not deserve to become a leader of the people? However, we need not all turn into politicians to do that, in much the same way that not all of us can become world-class boxers without the right training and temperament. In your own way, regardless of the degree, you can make a difference.
How, you ask. It’s a giveaway: excel. In all you do, be your best. You can be your best if you focus yourselves on it. Do not let distractions like envy for others’ talents and success or fear of failure defeat your purpose. If you so much as rest on your current laurels or yield to your tendency for mediocrity, time will come when personal rust will have covered you. Pursue what you plan to attain, but never be too naïve as to ignore external cues that you cannot dismantle certain things altogether. Not all of us can turn into beauty queens, but certainly we can perform our best in showing the beautiful people that we actually are by being kindhearted, by caring for mother nature, by respecting the law, by upholding the dignity in every person, by showing filial piety, by taking up advocacies that will improve gender relations, poverty conditions, socio-cultural awareness and the like. The possibilities are endless. If you have not believed before that you can excel, do so now. Practice this belief often, with such frequency that it will become your personal philosophy. Trust me, putting your faith into action engenders the paragon of excellence in you.
As for becoming a catalyst of change, yeah, sure, it’s easier said than done. What can you do, there is just one you, unless you are Krystala, Dyosa or Darna and the distressed masses will only have to rely perpetually on you. However, the conventional wisdom of strength in numbers is true, but each single element should prove excellent enough to contribute to the desired change. I repeat: you can make a difference, no matter what kind of identity you cultivate so long as you ascertain the asset that you are. Do not follow the tracks of others who were born into and then departed from this world without leaving lasting impressions. You are not here in this institution and all the institutions you have been parts of if you are no more than gainfully employed skilled worker materials. By doing your best in your respective institutions, you are in the process of helping contribute to institutional growth, which in turn responds to the required functioning of the integrated elements of a nation-in-progress. Who says then that you cannot change the world? Alone, yes, but even if in your lonesome you get to inspire colleagues to maximize their fullest potentials, there goes the agent of transformation that society’s wildest fancies are made of.
How shall these challenges intersect with the issue of globalization? I say yet another contemporary cliché: think globally but act locally. This can mean that as you attempt to excel and to catalyze change, the world will ultimately be your stage as well as benefactor. Nonetheless, do not limit yourselves to this personal meaning of mine. All the same, in realizing your global competitiveness and capacity for social transfiguration, do not forget your roots. Look back at your country, see that it also reaps the rewards of globalization and make it proud for actualizing the quality citizens of the world that you all have become.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!