Thank you very much. Kindly take your seats.
Vice Governor Vic de Jesus; our board member and now OIC Governor, Agustin Dema-ala; Mayor Antonio Fungan of Lake Sebu; of course Vice Mayor [Floro] Gandam is here; Mayor Peter Miguel, my friend, of Koronadal; Barangay Captain Bernard Caad of Barangay Poblacion; Mr. Kenjave Mark Parlero, Executive Director of the Young Educators’ Convergence of SOCCSKSARGEN, Inc.; the Board Members and Consultants of YECS; the other speakers present; YES PH 2018; guests; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!
It is really a great honor to have been invited. The honor is really mine. I have always been excited whenever I am invited to a group of very young people. I don’t know if you’ve noticed: this is—with apologies to those who are within my age group. I don’t know if you have noticed, but all the members of my staff are very young people, and it’s deliberate. When I was looking for staff members, ang sabi ko sa aking—my Chief of Staff is only 32 years old. Si USec. Philip Dy. Sabi ko sa kaniya, we should choose very young people, kasi the idealism, the innovativeness, the energy is there. And I really think the future belongs to the young. Ang sabi ko—with apologies to people within my age group, because ano tayo, tayo na iyong nagtuturo sa kanila, ‘di ba?
I actually have a speech prepared, but when I was seated in front, I was asking your executive director, “Ano ba iyong age group ng mga nandito? Kasi parang ang babata.” Sabi niya depende daw kung anong tanong, kasi kapag UNICEF daw, below 40, pero karamihan dito below 30? Tama ba? Below 30? And I think this is an exciting time for all of us, and this is a great avenue for us to really introduce innovative and creative ideas.
This is my first time in Lake Sebu, but I have been in South Cotabato, I think, many times over. Kung hindi ako nagkakamali, four or five times already. But every time I go to Koronadal, I go to Tampakan, but in Lake Sebu this is the first time—and I’ve always wanted to go.
Gaya ng sabi ng nag-introduce sa akin, I was a practicing lawyer before I became a politician, but I was not in the mold of many practicing lawyers because I belonged to a non-government organization of lawyers who were helping the poorest of the poor. And the Sumilao Farmers were among our clients, so we joined them, not in the entire march, but in some portions of their march. That was my life’s work before.
But as fate would have it, I lost my husband in 2012. And when we lost him, I was thrust into this world. Ano ako, when I was thrust into this world, I really thought I was only here temporarily. When I was elected [as a] member of [the] Congress, I was looking at my term as a sort of a transition period for my party in Naga—so much so that we would have time to prepare for, you know, people who will take the place of my husband. But again, as fate would have it, my initial plan of being here only for three years lasted this long. I am in my fifth year already of politics.
And you know, I always tell young people that politics is not necessarily bad. Parati kasing tingin ng mga bata, masama iyong politika. Mayroon lang sigurong mga masamang politiko, pero ang politika dapat mabuti siya. It should be an avenue for all of us to do good. And having said that, parang we are looking up to our young people here to change the bad name of politics for all of us. Talagang puwede siyang maging vehicle for good.
But before I came over, I really requested the mayor to accompany us to Barangay Klubi, on top of the mountain, to visit the indigenous women weavers, because I have read about them; I know about the kind of work that they are doing. I know that they have proven that empowerment is something that is achievable. So I was given the chance to be with them this morning. But while I was there, I was talking to the mayor and the vice governor. They were telling me that Lake Sebu has the tallest zipline. Sabi ko, sayang wala na akong oras, gusto kong subukan. Kayo daw masusubukan niyo lahat. Sabi ng inyong executive director, wala daw excused—walang excused sa inyo, lahat daw kayo susubok.
Pero the mayor was telling me that it is only for the brave, kasi talaga daw napakataas. If you are brave enough to try it, you will be given the chance of parang viewing the Seven Falls. Iyong malakas ang loob will have the chance of viewing it.
And you know, I think, this summit this afternoon is very symbolic. It is very symbolic that is being held here in Lake Sebu. And that zipline is your symbol: that those who are brave enough to try things would be rewarded in the end. And education is very much like that, ‘di ba? Parang education is a difficult thing. Sabi ni Mayor, he was an educator before. I was also a teacher for 10 years. Alam niyo, mahaba iyong aking kuwento. Mahaba iyong aking kuwento, pero aksidente iyong pagiging teacher ko.
I got married very young. I got married right after college. And I got married to my first boss. Ano? Iyong asawa ko was my first boss, and because I was already engaged to my boss, I had to resign from work because it was already unethical to be in the same office.
And I was in Naga. Wala namang masyadong— I graduated in Economics. Wala namang masyadong opportunities na papasukan iyong economists. Ang mayroong teaching job. So I taught economics in a local university, while I was studying law. Nag-full time teacher ako during the day, and I was a part-time law student at night—while I was already married and was having children. So law student ako’ng paunti-onti. Matagal akong nag-Law. Pero when I was a law student, I was also a teacher.
Alam kong hindi madali. And I think it is more difficult now. I realized that when I was in Congress. When I was in Congress, the first order of the day for me was, ang target ko zero backlog sa classrooms in my entire district. So I would go to all these schools, kasi ang report sa akin ng DepEd kaunti na lang iyong kailangan, but every time I go to a school, may mga kailangan na hindi reflected sa tunay na sitwasyon. So you know, I asked DepEd if I could be allowed to introduce a new formula for them to make an inventory of the classrooms.
But when I was doing that, I was able to engage with a lot of schools, a lot of teachers, and a lot of principals na mga tunay na bayani. And one of those was an incident that I also accidentally found out. There is also an IP community in my district. Napunta ako doon sa isang IP community. Noong paakyat ako sa bundok, may nadaanan ako. It was a Thursday, Monday iyong opening of classes. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday—there were only three days left before the opening of classes. May nadaanan ako on my way na mga kumpol ng mga tao. So hinintuan ko sila. I asked them what they were doing there, and apparently they were parents and teachers. Sabi nila, “We’re building a school.” Sabi ko, “Ha? Saan kayo nagbi-build ng school?” Sabi nila, “Ayan po iyong bini-build namin.” Tiningnan ko, there were only eight posts. Iyong mga poste pa nila hindi pantay-pantay. Sabi ko, “’Di ba pasukan na sa Monday?” Sabi nila, “Kaya iyan, Ma’am.” So sabi ko, “Anong hinihintay niyo dito sa roadside?” Sabi nila, “Ma’am, hinihintay namin si Principal. Kasi si Principal pumunta sa bayan kasi bibili siya ng materials. Bibili siya ng materials na panggawa namin ng school.” Ang sabi ko, “Iwan ko muna kayo kasi bibisitahin ko iyong IP community sa taas, pero daanan ko ulit kayo on my way back.”
So on my way back, dinaanan ko, and nakita ko nga: nandoon iyong principal, mayroon nang small pile of nipa shingles, kaunting coco lumber, may mga pako—pero kaunting kaunti. So sabi ko sa principal, “Ma’am, sabi bumili ka ng materials.” Sabi ng principal, “Yes, Ma’am, ayan na.” Sabi ko, “Ha? Iyan?” Sabi niya, “Ma’am, kulang pa iyan, pero puwede na iyang pag- umpisahan.” So I was talking to the principal and I learned that they did not have money yet, pero somebody already pledged 10,000 [pesos] to them. Sabi ng principal, “Sigurado naman iyong pledge na iyon, in-advance ko na.
Nag-withdraw ako sa aking ATM, in-advance ko na iyong pera, binili ko nito.” Sabi ko, “Saan iyan makakarating?” Sabi niya, “Ma’am, puwede na iyan. Baka mayroon ka diyang mga lumang tarpaulin.” Sabi ko, “Aanuhin mo iyong lumang tarpaulin?” Sabi niya, “Iyon muna iyong pambubong namin. Itong binili namin na nipa shingles, puwede itong ano lang, parang half noong dingding”—half of the wall—“iyong half open na lang muna, saka na lang kami dadagdag.” So sabi ko, “Ma’am, nasa taas kayo ng bundok. If you will be using tarpaulin, ano, mahirap kasi mainit para sa mga estudyante.” Tiningnan ko iyong wallet ko. I opened my wallet; I had 12,000 pesos. Sabi ko, “Ma’am, ibibigay ko muna sa iyo iyong 10,000 [pesos]. [Mag]titira lang ako ng 2,000 [pesos] para sa sarili ko. Puwede bang ipandagdag mo?” And the principal was so happy. Sabi niya, “Ma’am, makakaumpisa na kami sa Monday with this additional 10,000 pesos.”
But you know I went home, I was really very much bothered na ito, estudyante, Grade 1 to Grade 6, and the principal had to shell out her own money, and the teachers and the parents are the ones who were building the school. And then I posted pictures of it on Facebook. I… you know, I shared my experience, I shared their story. And you know, in one week’s time I had 300,000 [pesos] as donations—donations from my Facebook friends. So iyong donations from my Facebook friends, I sent it—I was already in Manila—I sent it through the bank. Ginastos ng teacher, and I went back two weeks after, and pagbalik ko buo na iyong paaralan. Buo na iyong paaralan because of the 300,000 [pesos] donations and the 20,000 [pesos] from myself and from the principal.
Pero why am I telling you this? Because there are many similar circumstances all over the country, and principals and teachers are the ones not just spending money but, you know, exerting so much effort just for the children to be educated.
A few months ago I was in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and I also went to an IP community. Pag-akyat namin doon sa IP community, mayroong isang teacher na batang bata pa, siguro in her mid-20s. Buntis, six months pregnant. Pero para makapunta siya doon sa school, nagko-cross siya ng tatlong rivers. Sabi ko, “Paano ka nagko-cross? Hanggang saan iyong tubig?” Sabi niya, “Ma’am, hanggang upper thighs, pero kapag high tide, tumataas hanggang above my waist.” And she was pregnant, and she was doing it everyday—maglalakad siya several kilometers a day, you know, just to get there.
Kanina, I was in Barangay Klubi and they have their own kindergarten classes, and they have teachers na halos volunteer work lang. Nagpi-pitch in lang iyong mga kababaihan doon for their allowance. Pero still, they persist.
And you know, as I have said, this has been going on. This has been going on as I speak. This has been going on for some time. So it is not an easy job to be a teacher. It is not an easy job to be an educator. Resources are scarce, there are so many challenges, and you need a lot of courage and bravery to, you know, break the walls of mistrust. Sometimes ang problema iyong mga magulang, ‘di ba? Sometimes iyong problema iyong community na ginagalawan.
But you know, because you are very young, you have the power to innovate. Maraming problema pero kailangan mong mag-innovate para malampasan iyong problema. Hindi puwedeng iyong problema would be the reason kung bakit hindi mo magagawa iyong gusto mo. Just over lunch, I was telling Mayor Miguel—kaibigan niya iyong asawa ko. Ang sabi niya, “Tinuruan ako ni Mayor Jess kung anong gagawin.” I was telling him, sabi ko, “Mayor, alam mo iyong asawa ko kaya maraming natutunan.” My husband became mayor at the age of 29, wala siyang kakampi. Wala siyang kakampi; lahat ng malalaking politiko sa amin hindi niya kapartido, pati national government oposisyon siya. He was not getting any help anywhere, so he had to innovate. And mahusay siya dahil napilitan. Napilitan siyang humusay dahil kailangan. Kasi kung hindi niya hinusayan, walang mangyayari sa lungsod namin.
And pretty much most of you will be in that same situation. Iyong sitwasyon parati ng mga teachers, hindi ideal. Parating maraming problema. But you are young—you have the energy, you have the creativity, you have the innovativeness. And I hope you realize that that is power. Your age, your idealism, your innovativeness is your power to make a difference. Kaya sana huwag sayangin.
And I’m very glad that you have YES—hindi lang pala YES2018, kasi this is your fifth year already—but YES will be a platform where all of you will be each other’s support, and YES will be your support group to, you know, to push you to your limits, to make you innovate, to break barriers. Kasi that is the only way, and you cannot depend on us anymore. Kasi kami, patapos na kami. Ang gusto kong sabihin, while we are still serving you, the future is already yours—it’s not in our hands anymore. And what we can do is only guide you. Pero iyong gagawin, nasa kamay niyo na iyon.
And I hope hindi masayang every opportunity given to you. Kasi noon wala pang mga ganito, eh. Wala pang mga ganito na mga platform where you can have an exchange of many ideas. Pero ngayon nandiyan na.
Iyong kinukuwento ko kay Mayor kanina, iyong asawa ko marami siyang nasimulan kasi wala siyang ibang pagkukunan, and that was also the case as far as the education in Naga City is concerned. Iyong sa Naga, his first project was reinventing the Naga City School Board, where he expanded the composition of the school board. Iyong dating composition provided by law, in-expand niya iyon. And when he expanded the composition to include many other members of many other sectors, naging very dynamic iyong school board. Hindi na lang renaming ng paaralan, hindi na lang iyong mga usual na hinihingi sa school board, but it became a very proactive body na it changed the landscape of the education in the city.
And iyon ‘yong opportunities niyo. There is just so much that can be tapped around you. So ito, lalo sa Mindanao. Marami ngayong gustong tumulong sa Mindanao. Sana hindi iyon masayang. Sana you will grab every opportunity that is there, because it is not for you—it is for the children who are depending on you, who are looking up to you for inspiration.
So sana, many, many years after magkikita ulit tayo, and you will be the ones who will inspire us already, as you are already starting to inspire us now. So maraming salamat sa inyo. Kayo iyong mga bayaning tinitingala namin. Kaya mabuhay kayong lahat. Mabuhay iyong mga organizers ng YES2018. Maraming salamat sa pagod. And maraming salamat din kay Mayor—kay Mayor and Vice Mayor who are here—and the other city officials for the warm welcome given to us.
Maraming salamat po! Magandang hapon muli!