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    Fires That Light Our Path

    5 September 2016

    Keynote Address during the Conferment Ceremonies of the 2016 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos, Metrobank Plaza Auditorium, Makati City

    Thank you very much for this privilege to speak before you today. It gives me great joy and pride to address all thirty awardees for this year’s “Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos.” You are our modern-day heroes who have gone beyond the call of service to create ripples of change by offering your lives for the good of this country. Please join me in giving our dear teachers, soldiers and police officers a well-deserved round of applause. Mabuhay po kayo!

    Heroism has always defined our inner core as a nation. For hundreds of years, we have witnessed how countless Filipinos have offered their lives in the name of freedom and independence. Sifting through the pages of history, we have come face-to-face with men and women who bravely waged wars against oppressors and staged the most peaceful of revolutions to topple down a dictator. Through faith and unity, we have proven to the rest of the world that might and power can persist without bloodshed and violence.

    Courage runs in our blood, passion burns in our hearts and service fuels our spirit. Such is the inimitable character of the Filipino hero.But heroic deeds need not always unfold in grand and majestic gestures. Many times, they take place in the most ordinary of ways. Just look around and you will realize that we live in a time where heroes (and even saints) walk in our midst.

    From battlefields to the four corners of the classroom, heroism reveals itself in everyday, simple acts of bravery, kindness, commitment and unwavering faith. It breathes life from honest service, faithful duty and moral leadership. This is what we are celebrating today.

    For more than fifty years now, Metrobank has gone from being one of the leading banking and financial institutions in our country into a shining example of how public and private sector partnership can effectively contribute towards nation-building.

    Tracing its humble beginnings from a small bank in Binondo during the 1960s, it continues to transform itself by giving back to the community and providing avenues to showcase the lives of outstanding Filipinos in various fields of service.

    Hoping to inspire others to act, cooperate and be the change they themselves are looking for, Metrobank has taken the lead to keep the fire of heroism burning in our hearts for the next generations to come. The Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT), the Country’s Outstanding Police Officers in Service (COPS), and The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) are a testament to this commitment. It is befitting then, that we pay tribute to these noble men and women who have lit up our way with their stories that burn ablaze with courage, hope, determination, and persistence.

    They say that teaching is no easy task. It requires you to clock in more than the usual work hours, pour out your sweat (and tears), invest your heart and soul, and in some cases, even shell out your own resources. Teaching is a tough profession. There are days when you would have no choice but to spend more time making lessons plans and preparing for class instead of being with your families. Teaching, at all times, can be quite demanding. But you, our dear teachers, never gave up.

    One does not only teach to earn a living, as many of you would know. As Dr. Katherine Bustos puts it, “The essence of being a teacher is learning hand-in-hand with students, [and] discovering new horizons together.”

    Teaching involves bringing out the best in everyone. By introducing innovations and new ways of learning, teachers hope to encourage students to be creative and critical. With every new course material, learning aid or class activity, the teacher hopes to inspire the student to grow wings and take flight. Nothing gives more fulfillment to teachers when they see that their students are finally able to reach heights beyond their dreams.

    This is what the business of teaching is all about. It is never giving up and believing that your students can excel in their own way. It is about giving more than what is expected from you. It is generosity to the point of pain.

    I know this for a fact, because I was brought up by a mother whose life’s passion is teaching. She was a teacher all her life and, now, at the ripe old age of eighty, still teaches at the graduate school, two days a week, finding joy and deep meaning in her vocation as an educator. It is her contagious passion and energy in teaching which also inspired me to be a teacher for ten years, while I was taking up law.

    Some might be wondering, despite the not-so-high salary, the everyday exhaustion, and the many responsibilities and obligations that come with it – why do our teachers still choose to give? Where do they find meaning and purpose? Perhaps the answer is found in every student whose life was changed because they had passionate and generous teachers.

    In his book, Tuesdays with Morrie, best-selling author Mitch Albom shares with us the beauty and profundity of the teaching profession. He asks: “Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a raw but precious thing, a jewel, that with wisdom, could be polished to a proud shine?” I am sure that the students of our ten SOT awardees this afternoon would reply with a resounding “Yes!”

    Among the ranks of our uniformed men and women are also unsung heroes who have put their lives on the line to keep communities safe and free from crime. These brave souls, who have sworn to defend our country at all costs, are beacons of courage and self-sacrifice. You have our deepest respect and admiration.

    Everyday, our brave police officers take on different high-risk missions and assignments, exposing themselves to different elements at the cost of losing their lives. Being a police officer is not easy. But how many of us actually thank them for a job well done? Or have we grown too cynical that it is difficult for us to see that there are still good men and women in service? Or have we become too afraid of them to even care?

    On the other hand, our soldiers have been given the responsibility to protect our territorial borders and face threats that trample upon peace and stability in our land, especially in war-torn Mindanao.

    Some of our awardees this afternoon have led several combat operations against the Abu Sayaff and other terrorist groups. Others have provided technical and medical services to areas as far as Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Some were involved in rescuing victims of human trafficking and giving aid during natural calamities. They also continue to advocate for peace, initiating several peace talks and negotiations with local communities. Through all of these hardships and challenges, our soldiers kept their head up high. Their game was strong and they stepped up in every situation. Giving up on their sworn duty was never an option.

    When my husband, Jesse, was DILG secretary he did his share in trying to make sure that our police officers were given the care and attention that they deserve.

    It was during his term when the PNP Integrated Transformation Program – Performance Governance System, also known as the PNP Patrol Plan 2030, was launched.

    This new system pushed for greater transparency, lessened corrupt practices among the upper ranks, and guaranteed that police officers on the ground would have the necessary funds to spend for day-to-day operational needs such as gas allowance and repair costs for mobile patrol units. Care and personal concern defined Jesse’s brand of leadership.

    For Jesse, care and personal concern for the ordinary policeman was the least we could give to anyone who is willing to take a bullet for us.

    When I was invited to the PNP Flag-Raising Ceremony in Camp Crame last month, I brought up the importance of building the stability of institutions that keep peace and order. Looking at the current set of awardees for COPS and TOPS gives us much hope that our men and women in uniform will continue doing great work in pushing for programs that promote partnerships with local communities.

    By organizing volunteer groups for crime prevention and disaster response, feeding programs, public consultations, youth engagement, infrastructure projects, and medical missions – our awardees were able to build communities based on mutual trust and support. They are living proof that authorities need not use brute force or abuse their position in order to prove their legitimacy. We have learned that respect is something which is ultimately earned and not imposed.

    My dear awardees, through your example, we have seen how real strength emanates from engaging people on the ground, and understanding their needs. This is genuine and heartfelt governance at work.

    Police Senior Superintendent Susan R. Jalla could not have said it any better: “Anyone can be brave if the situation calls for it, but having a good heart separates the grain from the chaff. Our humanity demands that we be kind and have a good heart in order to have peace and understanding for a better world.”

    The message for all of us is clear: real heroes do not bank on fear and physical strength, they stand on a much higher moral ground rooted in competence and compassion. Inspired by their stories, let us then descend into the world and be with the lost, the last and the least of our brethren.

    They say that the brightest flame flickers in the darkest of nights. My dear awardees, your lives have become fires that light up our path to greatness. During times of self-doubt and hopelessness, may we remember your stories so that even the most reluctant of us would boldly step into the light and burn with a passion to serve.

    Indeed, we live in a society of everyday heroes. And many of these giants are with us this afternoon – offering their shoulders so that we may stand on them and see beyond ourselves. Let us not hesitate to answer their call and choose our people.

    My dear awardees, your pains and sacrifices have turned into light. Thank you for guiding us and igniting the flame of heroism in our hearts.

    Maraming salamat po and congratulations once again!

    Posted in Speeches on Sep 05, 2016