(This is the valedictory speech of Nicole Rose Baculio, Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English, who graduated cum laude, Class of 2018 Valedictorian, and Outstanding Graduate Awardee of the School of Education of Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, delivered during the Academic Convocation on March 22 at the XU Gymnasium. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo)
To University President Father Roberto C Yap of the Society of Jesus, members of the Board of Trustees, honored guests, faculty, formators, staff, parents, relatives, and my fellow graduates, good morning.
Last May of 2017, as I switched online on my social media account, news about the outbreak of war in Marawi flooded my newsfeed. I chatted with my co-officers in the Central Student Government to plan on what to do, and on how to respond. It was the longest night of my life. I felt like I was compelled to do something. I was not able to sleep well knowing that kilometers away from home, there were people watching their homes turned into ashes. I was disturbed thinking that the cicadas were gunshots and bomb explosions near the city. My thoughts wander to a land I have never stepped foot in. When half of the world is suffering, half of it is continuing the mundane pace of life. In Ateneo, we were taught to find God in all things, and in situations like these, God is telling us to do something, so that sleepless night urged me to fight for a cause, and to volunteer in Tabang Marawi. My fellow volunteers and I packed goods and personal necessities. We received donations and distributed them.
We asked for updates, and I personally looked for progress over the news but still, every time a 6x6 truck filled with soldiers ready for combat passed by the highway, I was crippled with the thought that while I was enjoying every piece of comfort, thousands of people were suffering. Every night, I asked myself, what help have I done?
One of the reasons why peace continues to be elusive is because of the ongoing use of violence to achieve one’s ideological, religious, and political goals. Violence — violent extremism in particular — has agitated our archipelago and the world. However, it shall not stand victorious over the resilience and courage of Filipinos. Now, as Ateneans, how do we respond to this call? I am inspiring you to do "Three Ms" for Mindanao, for the country, and the world.
First, make Magis love in action. We always think of Magis as "the more" but now, we have to make Magis a way of manifesting love and through that, we will be able to go the extra mile. Amidst the challenges brought about by violent extremism and other issues in the society, we must continue to face everything with love because through that, we will be able to overcome any kind of violence. While the Marawi siege happened, the concept of love was almost forgotten because anger and violence overshadowed it. Fr Arrupe SJ said, “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything,” and I can say that it means being in love with our home, Mindanao, stay in love with our fellowmen no matter how diverse we are, and let that love decide the peace that rules our homeland. Through love, we can overcome adversities.
Second, manifest genuine service for others. A few days from now, I will be a teacher. Some of us here will become engineers, businessmen/women, agriculturists, journalists, scientists, psychologists, nurses, computer experts, and tech-voc specialists. It is our greatest challenge to live out our values and principles beyond the portals of Xavier Ateneo. Violence can be fought when teachers become more sensitive to the individual needs of others, when doctors and nurses become more compassionate and caring towards their patients and their families, when engineers provide quality designs and solutions, when agriculturists innovate for agricultural sustainability, when businessmen and women give more importance to labor development, when computer specialists develop programs to help mankind, when tech-voc specialists find ways to enhance their skills in their respective fields, and when public servants manifest what service truly means. Therefore, when we go to our respective fields, remember that genuine service is uplifting the dignity of others, and it is not a mere charity work. Through service, we can build a more humane society.
Lastly, meet the world with a wider perspective. Today, our world needs professionals with eyes open to variations of reality and with open minds. It needs people who will advocate for peace in the expanse of threat and risk. When I volunteered for Tabang Marawi, and read poems as a tribute for our soldiers, I think I have not met much of the world yet because when we meet the world, we ought to continuously respond to its call for peace and service. There are voices waiting to be heard, and we have to widen our perspectives to fully listen to these voices. When we listen to them, we will understand why people are oppressed, why people fight for their rights, and why people battle against violent extremism. Through a wider perspective, we can be empathetic citizens in this world.
In order to counter violent extremism, let us remember the three Ms: Make Magis love in action; Manifest genuine service for others; and Meet the world with a wider perspective.
We are Ateneans, and we are called to be advocates of peace and for peace, who are precursors of justice, ingenuity, and integrity. Above all, the foundation of peace is faith that does service for others.
My fellow graduates, if you will bump into an Atenean ten years from now, do not hesitate to ask him/her this question, “How do you truly respond to the call?” My best answer is, “Love what you do dearly. Extend service to others genuinely, and see the world more clearly. Through these, we will be able to set the world on fire.”∎