Opening Remarks of University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council Chaiperson Atty. Romeo Cabarde, Jr. during the Bergoglio Awards last March 20, 2017 at the Finster Auditorium.

 

Good afternoon to all.

To the University President, Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ, Administrators, Awardees, and Honorees of the First Bergoglio Awards of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council, to all our beloved partner organizations and communities, guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen –

Six years since the UCEAC was established by our President, Fr. Joel, we now come together as one community in celebration of what we have collectively done in fulfilling the vision and mission of the Ateneo de Davao University – in celebration of service in the heart of our mission to promote the common good through social justice.

The best way we thought of honoring this creative mission-driven service is to recognize the efforts of exemplary institutions and/or individuals for their inspiring work to empower peoples and communities. Hence, the Bergoglio Awards was born.

The Bergoglio Awards, pioneering this year, is an annual recognition ceremony of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council as a means of honoring all of YOU, in grateful appreciation of your contribution to the promotion of the common good especially for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the excluded. This award honors Pope Francis, who being a Jesuit himself and even before becoming the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, has been characterized by humility and outspoken support of the world’s poor and marginalized people. He has also been involved actively in areas of political diplomacy, inter-religious dialogues and environmental advocacy eventually leading to the birth of evangelii gadium, amoris Laetitia and laudato si, which informed and inspired the awards we are giving today.

At the onset, allow me to congratulate and thank all of you who are here – awardees, honorees, partners and supporters – for continuously holding your torches high enough so that others may see the light especially when the last hope is wrestled from their hearts by the curse of darkness. You are all a blessing to Ateneo de Davao University. But more than us here in Ateneo, you are all God’s gift to the communities we serve. You are the living reminders that once we choose hope, anything can be possible. Therefore, in the name of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council, daghan kaayong salamat.

The Bergoglio Awards today signifies that somehow, UCEAC has come a long way. We had very humble beginnings and by that I mean, we began our work literally not knowing what to do. It was the 6th of July in 2011 when Fr. Joel convened the appointed members of UCEAC in the shortest of meetings we had with him where he told us: “as a council, you only have four mandates. To coordinate, to recognize, to celebrate and to promote outreach and advocacy in the university.” Puzzled, we asked, “what do those mandates mean Fr.?” He simply replied, “it’s all up to you to define” and then he said goodbye and left the room.

I think the council members will agree with me when I say that it was a “dear-in-a-headlight” moment for us. We did not know where to start knowing that the university had no known documents or policies in community engagement at that time. All we had was the passion to serve the people and the communities. It was our heart for service that kept us going and our faith in the university’s mission that fueled our initiatives. We always believed that love in action means service to the world. Love is the doorway through which the human soul passes from selfishness to service. Indeed, our work is not about us, it is not about the council, it is never about the university – it has always been about the people in the margins!

Today, I can proudly say that, at the very least, we have set the structure of the council and the university’s direction in its engagements and advocacies a lot clearer, with eight (8) policy documents in place, an office work ethic cultivated, and partner networks nurtured. I am confident that whoever assumes leadership of the council, he or she will have the fundamental arsenal to continue the struggle for people’s empowerment. Let me take this opportunity as well to thank the members of the council and the staff of the office, who have been so generous and kind of their love for the people we serve. You all have been my mentors and you gave me the space and time to define my own brand of leadership. Thank you for bringing out the best in me.

More than anyone else, we would also like to take this Bergoglio Awards as a platform to pay tribute to one person who inspired us all to be men and women for others. Our dear University President, Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ. His inaugural address as President of AdDU still rings loud and clear in my ears. Fr. you said:

“I am happy that the people I have encountered here at the ADDU are not lazy horses, but wild steeds, passionate in their desire to respond to the problems of society. I am certain as President I will not have to be pushing them from behind. What I think I will be doing is pulling them together, helping them to run together, and not apart from one another, and certainly not against one another! What I think I will be doing is clarifying to where we are all running together and why, bringing to bear the concerted, thunderous power of wild steeds running together onto the problems that challenge us.”

To this Fr. we say: we have been tamed by your leadership – one that is marked by genuine heart for the people and the planet. We have run and continue to run towards the future – one that is characterized by the fruits of what you call transformative education. We have been together, concerted in facing the challenges ahead – informed by your call to find the common good through social justice. To you we also say thank you for being the leader we rightfully deserve – for being the inspiration that Mindanao needs.

But the running does not stop here. We are still fraught by the challenges of environmental degradation, conflict, displacement, killings, corruption, discrimination and other forms of social ills. I therefore pray, that we remain steadfast in the causes we are fighting for. Through the inspiration of our honorees and awardees, may we continue to stand by the tenets of the common good and social justice. Let us continue to work together because –

– et tamen factum non est, our duty is not yet done! Congratulations once again and good afternoon to all!