(SCHOLARS OF THE COUNTRY, HEROES FOR THE COUNTRY)
By Antonio P. Meloto, Gawad Kalinga
University of the Philippines (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 (Thank you very much for inviting me to this very important day
in your lives. I did not go to school here at U.P. but two people very
close to my heart finished here. My dad graduated here in Business
Administration 68 years ago and my second child finished Theatre Arts here
in 2003. I'm very elated, as this is the first U.P. graduation I've
attended and it somehow lessens the guilt of not attending my daughter's
graduation because I put more importance on my mission to the poor).
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 (scholars of the country), 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 just wanted to serve the poor). 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
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
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
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 (We all had shortcomings and we
all made mistakes). 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 (The past year here in Luzon,we needed 400 hectares to 40,000 homeless
families who lost loved ones because they lived in dangerous areas. We
thought it would be hard to find land 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 (We found out Filipinos were generous if they
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
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches had not been less generous
when they partnered with Gawad Kalinga together with National Disaster
Coordinating Council (NDCC) and Department of Social Welfare and Development
(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 (Muslims and Christians alike
can still help each other).
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 (Over one thousand
families of our Muslim brothers and sisters lost their homes). 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
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
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 (You can still be 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
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 be a hero for one another) to concretely find solutions to
Instead of Ibagsak (down with), can we try Itayo (up with)? Instead of
away, puede bang magtulungan (fighting, how about helping)? Instead of
unahan, puede bang walang iwanan (being first, how about not leaving anyone
behind)? Lalong-lalo na sa mga matatalino, magagaling at mayayaman. yung
mga mahirap na hindi makapasok sa UP, pwede bang balikan natin (Most of all
to the bright and rich. the poor who could not attend UP, could we come
back for them)? Huwag natin silang iwanan (Let us not leave them behind).
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
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 Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and cause-oriented groups that
are sincere in their desire to help our country.
Three things that we need to recognize about being radical:
Working together to build peace in times of conflict is radical.
Fraternities fighting each other is normal. Fraternities working together.
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
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
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
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 (you were the
scholars of this country). 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 about 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 embolden 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 (For four years you have been scholars
of this country).
Habang buhay kayong bayani para sa bayan (Be lifetime heroes for this
country)!Congratulations at mabuhay kayong lahat (and long life to all)! >
> Tony Melotoâ€™s UP speech where he was interrupted
> 10 times with
> applause and received a standing ovation in the end!
Read more: http://forums.mukamo.com/miscellaneous/7635-iskolar-ng-bayan-bayani-para-sa-bayan.html#ixzz2GLHM3Qyz
sa mga kapwa ko ISKO at ISKA...
we were the cream of the crop...
we were the chosen ones...
we were given the highest honor of attending the STATE UNIVERSITY...
we were also given that much responsibility...
don't ever forget that!
UP naming mahal!