note: Since today is National Heroes Day, allow me for the sake of posterity, to post a speech I had written and delivered in 1998 at the American Chamber of Commerce Philippine Centennial Oratorical Contest. I was a high school senior back then. I was glad to find this during my spring cleaning recently. I was blessed to have been one of the eight finalists for Metro Manila and Cebu. I just find it interesting to read my reflections from a decade back. Boy, my writing has gone a long way since then. Haha, I don’t think I’m as verbose, and I’ve put the use of Ciceronian triplets to a minimum! All things considered, I’d look back to this piece as a foundation for founding with friends, the UP Communicators for Governance, which was founded in 2002.
The entire Filipino nation celebrated 100 years of freedom on June 12th this year. We commemorated 36,525 days of independence, giving immense, solemn honor to the men and women — to Filipinos — who have shared their talents and sacrificed their very lives of for the sake of freedom, the gains of which we enjoy and value to this very moment. In this year of the Philippine Centennial, we celebrate a century of brotherhood. We celebrate a century of heroism. We celebrate a century of being Filipino.
The past century of independence, as well as the seemingly countless number of years of heroic struggle to attain it, have both been very meaningful to our nation. Both history and time have molded us into the Filipinos we are. Today, it is our turn to take the potter’s hands, and mold ourselves into the nation we want to be in the future. We shape the Filipinos of the next one hundred years. The future of our nation rests in our hands. This, my fellow countrymen, is the challenge we now face.
The destiny of the nation will be determined by Filipinos, especially by the youth. We, the Filipino youth, comprise only half the country’s population, but comprise one hundred percent of the future. We are the future professionals — future businessmen, future breadwinners, future laborers, future leaders. We have a countless number of roles and responsibilities to live.
But let us take some time to reflect on what we have become. The Filipino youth is entangled with corruption, with vices, with drug abuse. Many of us, not all, are trapped in an abysmal trench of confusion, deception, and of false despair. Many have lost their love for their families, with their hearts cluttered with sorrow, anger, and apathy. Many of us have, and are starting to lose that patriotism, that nationalis, which has invincibly bonded us as a nation for the past one hundred years.
So I ask each and every one of you today, is this the nation we want? If this is the predicament, what will be of our nation in the future? Is there hope?
I am a hundred and one percent confident that what we have today is undesired. The future of our country seems uncertain as of the moment, but there is great hope. As long as there is blood running through our veins, there is hope. And as we celebrate the centennial year of Philippine independence, we have been given that once-in-a-lifetime chance to revive the perishing brotherhood of Filipinos. We, the Filipino youth, play a crucial role in this celebration. Together as one powerful contingent, in one solid and unassailable force, we will all illuminate the way for our lost brothers and sisters, bringing all of them home to their sense of bayanihan.
The question that now arises is why we have a role in this year’s celebration of Philippine independence. First and foremost, the centennial celebration is being celebrated for us. We the youth, will be the most important beneficiaries of this occasion. It will provide us the necessary means of formation so that we, future catalysts of progress, will be guaranteed a good future. Secondly, it is my personal belief that it is a grave disrespect to our heroes — martyrs of the Filipino nation — to be insensitive and anemic not only to this years celebration, but all the more to the causes they have fought and died for. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and so many others have died for this vision of freedom. They were real Filipinos to every sense of the word. They have given their lives for us, even if they knew from the very beginning, that they will die with their visions, with realization that only Filipinos of future generations will be the ones who will enjoy this privilege of freedom.
Thinking of all of these, we can deduce and learn of many things from our heroes. Our heroes had a clear vision of what they wanted our nation to become. We too, must have a clear vision of what we want the future to hold for us. We need to consecrate our lives to a lofty or sacred cause, for not having one is being like a tree without a shadow, if not a poisonous weed.
So what kind of nation do we want? We want a nation of sustainable development, or real and admirable progress. We desire a God-fearing nation, one that is free from corruption. We dream of a nation of unity and solidarity. We want to see our nation attain the noble aspirations it has dreamed of for ages.
Ladies and gentlemen — fellow Filipinos, having a vision is simple. But living this vision is easier said than done.
We can live this vision by being God-fearing, law-abiding, responsible citizens, fulfilling our obligations well and wholeheartedly. Secondly, we need to study hard. By doing so, the light of knowledge and wisdom will set us and the nation free from ignorance. Study for your parents who work week in and week out to send us to school. Let us all study for our country, and in time, liberate our country from the clutches of poverty.
We also need to interact with our community and government. Let us share with them our concerns, especially the current plight of nationalism among ourselves. Through our voices, our youthful vigor, let us encourage action, prompting for a renewal of patriotism.
We have a long way to go until we realize our aspirations for our nation. Today, it is not enough to be determined and patient for us to be effective ambassadors of patriotism, but more importantly, we need heroism among ourselves. As heroes of modern-day society, we do not have to die as martyrs for nationalism, but we have to live for ourselves, our countrymen, and our nation. Let us live with faith, justice, and bayanihan. Let us use our freedom just as our heroes desired to use it. Let us be real Filipinos, true to ourselves and our nation. We the Filipino nation, trusting in God’s abudnant grace, need to move as one body, work as one team, act as one united nation to make our vision a reality.
Then, and only then, will we see ourselves realizing and living our dreams, reaping what we and our heroes had sown.