(A valedictory speech delivered before the graduating class of 2010 at the University of the Philippines—Diliman with assistance from speechwriter Lloyd Luna)
Wow. What can I say? We’re all here. And we’re all for one thing: that diploma.
Thank you.Do you guys feel the heat? Oh, yes. The rumor isn’t a rumor at all. We’re now getting in what geniuses call global warming. And former US Vice President Al Gore is coming to Manila to talk about the environment and maybe give some tips on “how to save the world.”
But it won’t interest us today, right? What I mean is, there’s much more important thing than talking about the environment. I think today, it’s much more important to feel what seems to be a miracle that we’ve all got here:
We’re now called UP graduates!
We’ve been hearing “congratulations” here and there. My suggestion is for you to reply like this: Greeting is good but we need jobs. “Congratulations” would come and go but the memories of us being here at least once in our lifetime is something that surely sticks to the mind and heart of every Iskolar ng Bayan.
My remark for today focuses on only one thing, certainly not about the environment. Many times, people have blamed the environment for their misfortune. It’s going to focus instead on being in the environment.
I say this because I don’t think people understand really when they read: “Keep off the grass.” (They love stepping on it); “Don’t pick flowers.” (They do especially during cost-cutting Valentine); “Post No Bill.” (Wala palang bayad ang pagdidikit dito e); “Don’t throw your garbage here.” (Oh, where else do I put these trashes?); or “Bawal umihi dito.” (Tingin sa kaliwa, tingin sa kanan at kapag walang tao, just do it.)
Believe it or not, I find it boring to talk about the environment or to even listen to whoever lectures about it especially when I’m ok with my subjects or my boyfriend or girlfriend still loves me and there’s no third party yet or my parents still do send me my allowances.
Perhaps it’s true: If it isn’t raining, you don’t have to fix the roof. If it’s raining, how can you fix the roof?
In the end, we are all affected by what happens outside and so let me share with you my one and only question about this environment thing—no rhetoric, just a plain question and a sort of analysis.
Why do we have to spend 12.9 billion pesos a year for our Environment Department?
Generally, I think the answers are:
One, our government officials needed to get more money that they think they deserve. Government service is business and in business, they need to profit.
Two, illegal logging is one easy way to make money. Just bribe your local officials and you’re good to go.
Three, we are never responsible with our own garbage and we don’t know the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegrable therefore we mix them up.
Four, we don’t fix our cars and we don’t go after smoke belchers (oppps, I’m sorry. Our government goes after them and then get some bribe and let them go.)
Five, we throw our trashes anywhere we want to (the easier and faster you get rid of it, the better).
Six, we solve our traffic problems by damaging our marine environment.
Seven, we don’t care about turning the power off when an appliance isn’t in use.
Therefore, we pay for our own irresponsible actions—all of us. Because we don’t care (and why would we?), we spend our own money for fixing “the environment.”
It’s unthinkable—unthinkable for a summa cum laude like me, unthinkable for any member of the Philippines’ best university (no, not the best state university. I said, the best university. No argument.)
Unthinkable? Yes. Listen up.
Instead of putting more money in education, we are forced to allot 12 billion pesos just to fix the environment, which we have destroyed and have been destroying, whether we are conscious about it or not.
This graduation isn’t about that diploma alone. I don’t think it’s only about marching and taking that fake scrolled paper. I think the challenge really is for us to go out there and start working to be in the environment.
Environment subject is a boring subject. It’s really boring—a waste of time, even.
But it makes some sense when we realize that it’s affecting every step that we make and every path we take. It makes sense when we go out on the streets, inhale polluted air and drink treated water. It makes sense when we can’t go out to work because every street is hip-deep flooded.
It makes sense when we are no longer sure about our food safety. It makes sense when you see your future children struggling to breathe, longing to touch real trees, and asking for fresh water and you don’t know where to get them.
It’s boring but it makes sense.
As we leave this institution for good, my prayer is for each one of us to also leave with nothing but a caring attitude. Many people won’t care about the world where they live in for many reasons—they have never cared and they probably will never.
But I believe we can or maybe we should.
Thank you and God bless.