Atty. Oliver M. Tuazon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Universitas Foundation, and the other members of the Board of Trustees;
Mr. Isaac Tambunting, Project Manager of the Inquies Pro Lege Summer Course and the entire staff of Inquies Pro Lege;
the select graduates of Inquies Pro Lege 2018 and their families;
friends of Universitas:
Konbanwa! Or as you say it in Filipino, Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat!
Before anything else, allow me read to you a few lines from a famous Japanese poem entitled “Ame ni mo makezu” by Kenji Miyazawa,
“What’s a little rain,
A little wind, a little snow,
A little heat in summer,
If you’re strong?
All I ask is to grow to be
Who doesn’t demand too much,
Never loses his temper,
Always wears a quiet smile,
Eats his three bowls of rice a day,
A little soup, a little vegetable,
And forgets about himself. …”
When I was asked to be the Speaker for tonight’s graduation, I was informed that the primary objective of the Inquies Pro Lege is to provide its participants with a holistic approach to the study of law. Its goal is not only to form intelligent lawyers, but to form lawyers who are ready to serve their fellow countrymen, and to stand for what is right despite the odds. In short, to form lawyers who are competent, with good character and upright conscience, in keeping with the mission and vision of the Universitas Foundation.
This initiative is both noble and indispensable. The Philippines, as a developing nation, needs the active cooperation of good people. It needs more ethical and upright professionals occupying positions of power in both public and private institutions. It needs more men and women of strong moral fiber to steer the country towards the harbor of genuine peace and prosperity, and of national harmony.
The benefit of your national progress would not be confined to your territory, but would also reach the international community in the long run, beginning with the nations your country has intimate ties with. After all, no man is an island. I wanted to say, no country is an island too, but of course you understand that figuratively, because there may be some smart alecks among you—mga pilosopo—who will say, the Philippines is composed of 7,107 islands!
Among these foreign countries which have a steady and warm relation with the Philippines is Japan, my country.
The bonds between Japan and the Philippines go back decades of friendly and peaceful cooperation. Since 1977, when former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda delivered a historical speech at Manila Hotel and pledged that Japan would build up a relationship of mutual confidence and trust with Southeast Asian countries, we have become your country’s largest dornor of ODA, major investment source and major trading partner. We are happy to note that Filipinos visiting Japan reached 420,000, five times increase in just five years. Within the past year, our government has renewed its commitment to support the present Philippine administration in its programs, and in the rehabilitation of the battle-torn Marawi City.
In the hands of your leaders lie the fate of these peaceful and friendly ties that bind us. Therefore, Japan, and the rest of the international community, have a stake in the Philippines’ quest for progress.
As young Filipino scholars of the law, you have the capacity to contribute to this project of building the Filipino nation. You are equipped with the tools to understand the systems and rules that govern your country. You belong to the fortunate minority of Filipinos who have the means to undergo the rigors of legal education, and therefore, your fellow citizens look up to you as models to emulate.
In a few years, you will become full-fledged lawyers. You will then be faced with tremendous responsibilities that affect not only yourselves, but other people’s lives too–your clients, the institutions which you serve, and possibly, the larger community around you. You will be more directly involved in contributing to the common good.
As law students, and as future lawyers of the Filipino people, you carry on your shoulders the burden of becoming morally upright individuals, who do not compromise truth and justice for the sake of convenience.
But, as you will later on realize, the journey to live an honest and conscientious life is easier talked about than done. It is a struggle filled with trials and temptations. It requires one to go against the current, to resist the forces of corruption. Needless to say, doing this requires strength. At times you may fail, but this should not be a reason to be discouraged.
We don’t need to look far for a model and inspiration. The stories of our own nations give us valuable lessons to learn.
Both Japan and the Philippines have a long history in dealing with great natural calamities. Geographically, both Japan and the Philippines belong to the Pacific Ring of Fire, making the two countries vulnerable to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Typhoons, tsunamis, flashfloods and landslides are common occurrences in our respective territories.
We can hardly forget the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake in record to have hit Japan, with a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale. Similarly, we remember with keen memory the devastation brought by the Super Typhoon Yolanda as it made landfall in the Eastern Visayas in the early morning of November 8, 2013.
As we mourn the losses we have incurred due to these calamities, we also marvel at how our experiences with these tragedies have defined who we are as nations, as peoples. The historian Gregory Bankoff used the term “Cultures of Disaster”. Indeed, our long histories with disasters have been instrumental in shaping our present cultures and national identities. They have shaped not only the architectural design of our buildings, but our social values and attitudes as well.
In Japan, there is the concept of “shikata ga nai,” which can be translated as “it can’t be helped”. And there is also the concept of “gaman” which embraces the virtues of self-restraint, patience and perseverance in the face of suffering. Both these concepts show the strength of character of the Japanese people, born of the cycle of devastations that we have experienced.
In the Philippines, you have the phrase “bahala na”, which may have been a contracted version of “bathala na” and it implies entrusting the uncertainty of the situation to a higher being, to nature, or fate. It shows the courage and strength of faith of the Filipino people in the midst of tragedy. Aside from that, you also have the concept of “bayanihan” which implies assuming another person’s burden. It shows your spirit of communal unity and cooperation in the face of problems.
From the Japanese, the Filipino people can learn the importance of self-discipline that enables us to withstand suffering. From the Filipino people, the Japanese can learn the value of prayer, reliance on God, and concern for one’s neighbor in times of hardship. From both our peoples and their collective experience with disasters, we learn the virtue of resilience: the strength to recover from difficulties.
This same dynamic is applicable in our individual battles to overcome our personal defects, and to become noble citizens of our respective countries. Trials and temptations will arrive like calamities, whether we like them or not. We can allow them to defeat us, or to despair when we are defeated. But we can also choose to face them, with acceptance and faith, with patience and perseverance, and allow them to transform our character, to sculpt our identities. To quote the words of the novelist Haruki Murakami, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”
If each of you resolve to face with integrity the challenges and temptations that come with your everyday life, and allow these experiences to mould your character, then, for sure, a promising future lies ahead of the Philippines as a nation. Its steering wheels will be at the hands of good people like you, who will lead it to its true and proper destination.
To end, I address this challenge to the graduating batch of Inquies Pro Lege 2018: May each of you strive to grow and become strong, upright lawyers, for your country and the international community. May you all remain as honest and righteous Filipino citizens, even on days when there is a little rain, a little wind, a little snow, or a little heat, and as the poem ends, learn to forget yourself. Yes, many times, when we learn to forget ourselves and think more of the others, of the service we can give to others, then we will learn to be happier in a deeper way, and as a consequence, our society improves and becomes a better place to live in.
Bago po ako magtapos sa aking talumpati, gusto ko po kayong batiin sa inyong sariling wika. Pinag-aralan ko po talaga ng husto ang salitang Filipino para lalo akong maging tapat na alagad ng diplomasiya sa ating mga bansa. Bilib po ako sa mga batang tulad ninyo na humahanap ng panahon para mga ganitong gawain katulad ng Inquies Pro Lege. Sana ay mas marami pa kayong madala sa mga kaibigan, ka-klase at kapitbahay ninyo sa mga gawain sa Universitas Foundation, para mas marami pang mga kabataan ang maging matalino, masipag, mabait at tapat na tulad ninyo, at ito ay tunay na magdadala ng progreso sa inyong bansa, at ito rin ay makakatulong sa inyong pakikipag-ugnayan sa mga tao sa ibang bansa, katulad sa mga Hapon na tulad ko. Marami pong salamat sa pag-imbita ninyo sa akin at Mabuhay po kayong lahat. Congratulations! Omedetōgozaimasu!
NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.
Be our partner in forming principled leaders!
Universitas is a non-stock, non-profit organization relying heavily on the financial support of donors like you. Donations of any amount are very much appreciated, and would form part of the funds to be used for education, research, social welfare and outreach, and other endeavors aimed ultimately at the formation of future leaders who are competent, with the right character and a well-formed conscience.
Support Universitas today, and it only takes a minute!