Bismillah . Rabiss

Moulders, mentors Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J., President of Ateneo de Davao University, your pro-Bangsamoro writings for this generation are for keeps. Dr. Gina Montalan, Academic Vice President Mr. Benjamin Lizada, Chairman of the Board of Ateneo de Davao University Bro. Karl Gaspar, CSsR, Dean of Studies at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute Atty. Manuel P. Quibod, Dean of the College of Law Dr. Renante D. Pilapil, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Dr. Jenner Y. Chan, Dean of the School of Business and Governance Dr. Patria V. Manalaysay, Dean of the School of Nursing Engr. Randell U. Espina, Dean of the School of Engineering and Architecture Dr. Annabel J. Casumpa, Dean of the School of Education

Striving and selfies, the age of contradictions, our time when quakes can be easily forgotten by the front page story of the next day.

I have so many stories to tell you. So forgive my halo halo, hodge podge narratives. I come from a community of Darangen traditions and deep lake folklore, eager to share what klieg lights would often ignore, to highlight about positive practices from the periphery. One mayor uses his personal money to add to the ira to settle deep-seated rido, one mother of 30 plus survives without a husband, in every corner a nurse passing the board is celebrated with printed ads.

We may be covered but the veiled also seeks to be unveiled of ignorance. Strange is the same…

My story of aspiring brings me when I took up MA in Diliman, it was nosebleed facing a French-trained professor. Only five of us around a table on Political Economy, we each had to pretend to sound smart. Eye-to-eye with the Professor was like melting under the Saudi sun. No hiding behind someone’s head.

It was the same in lawschool with heart pounding as a way of life . Rejected by 3 bar exams, UP College of Law and all broadcasting companies after college, I was a woman on fire. I was going to Pasay at the end of the MRT for law school and Quezon City on the other end for Masters. There was no law prohibiting taking two courses. Twice a week at UP Diliman when I should be resting from whole day readings, I commuted to and fro, siksikan sa MRT, dashing lines, found law books for the Masteral class. I was exhausted, secretly vomited and too thin.

So I honor your journey of sleepless nights, surviving the jungle of words, recitation, and thesis writing . Our zombie life in codals, highlighters, coffee five times daily , was like a Samurai awaking like an alarm clock finding the right defenses. We abstained and we forgot life, liberty and property in no lovelife, dating, etc.

Marching like you are doing today was the headiest feeling, nirvana.

So the value of higher studies. You bring context, pattern, trends into the conversations of fanatics. You shed light on pros and cons, you reason before affirming . A batchmate in bar exams may have suffered stroke or nervous breakdown but this diploma is very meaningful. Especially in a place where one out of 10 Bangsamoro can’t get to school. How do you dialogue with kids who denounce all forms of dialogue anyway? How do you contribute to a society which cannot understand many of the Western theories we are grounded on.

The aspiration for recognition is the same everywhere…

Before I get ahead on the BBL that hopes to address land dispossession, marginalization and discrimination, may I mention the unspoken and the non-tangibles that sometimes aren’t well defined. Trust is a big capital here. Come down to the Moro areas with projects but they do not sustain for there is no trust. Theory and fact must be complemented by long immersion.

That brings me to our work on Bangsamoro Law drafting, efficiency and diversity are what are offered. Co-management of governance by various mechanisms drives away the concentration of power from few hands. When I shake the hands of national officials, I think how could they act on the many hundreds of letters that pile up on their table. This archipelago must be brought together by technology and human talent which can be done through structural arrangements.

The BM bill and enabling peace agreement can only be successful if the professional can assist the non professional, if the haves can provide for the have nots, if you can choose the career working for communities.

My social consciousness wasn’t always this way.

I was born and grew up 15 years away from this country, studied and bffd with refugees from Palestine and Somalia and Ethiopia. Boarded a plane alone when I was 8 years old. I got lucky but the kindness of being fed and schooling compelled me to ask more of life. When school didn’t teach me about Bangsamoro, we travelled every Friday to Quiapo slums to see them. When lawschool didn’t expose me to jails, I visited them regularly. When youth policy lecturers were a few, kapal muks ako to volunteer my way around the regions.

When Muslim women wouldn’t face cops or soldiers, movements here fostered conversations. One old narrative tells of a woman deliberately slashing her face so that soldiers won’t find her attractive.

Rule of law is valuable in a society of factions, sections and islands. You must bring people back to principle versus patronage, science than opinion, technology than human time.

Social justice must bring back our trust in institutions which outlive us.

Working with communities heals you, touches you, deepens you. Do not let titles get u stuck to the desk life, a danger in heart attacks, and suicides of yuppies.

In so doing, passion is an ingredient in what we do, hyper they often tease me. But sitting in one seat is limiting in one forum, that is why it is a forum of life, you have to take other seats. Because often when you want to be a leader, you have to follow, be an assistant of a leader, when you want to stand up for a philosophy, you have to start as a neophyte learner of such idea.

There were times I would cry at the seeming less commitment of peers, feeling as I were the only left. Always on the verge of resigning from the various movements I joined.

There I learned to accept. I thought early on NOT to depend on the words and plans of one, but to take things as they come. Invest but also have contingency.

Freelance work worked for me. I could earn from emailing material such as editing them. I had control over my time. This I credit to my higher studies. Some don’t know your name, but they value your school.

So take it from me, recommit to the communion of life, serve back your community, for ain’t it wonderful to also die where you planted a legacy. Strange is the same.

On a closing note, I fell for an Atenean, did not come true, but thanks for this honor, a dream come true.

Congratulations! Go out into the Filipino sun and make your own sunshines, Sirs and Maams.

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