This is the full speech of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles during the Mid-Year Commencement Address of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology on Thursday, January 24, 2019 at the MSU-IIT Institute Gym.

(Recognize school officials and other guests present) Assalamu Alaikum. Greetings, peace and good cheer in our Lord. Maayong aga. Isang napakagandang umaga sa ating lahat.

Bago ang lahat, I would like to take this moment to thank all of you; first our beloved Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol and the University Board for allowing me the honor of being your speaker today. Pasasalamat din sa inyong mga magsisipagtapos sa araw na ito—dahil sa inyong pagtitiyaga at pagsisikap na makarating sa araw na ito na, para sa akin ay hindi isang pagtatapos, kundi isang maluwalhating pagpapasimula ng isa na namang panibagong yugto sa inyong buhay, para sa Diyos at para sa bayan.

And this occasion could not have come at a better time for the citizens of Mindanao State University and the Iligan Institute of Technology, because this week marks a truly critical and significant period in the history of our shared community––our Mindanao; the campaign for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL.

Whether one supports the BOL or not, the measure signifies the bold steps being taken by the administration of our first Mindanaoan Chief Executive––President Rodrigo Roa Duterte––to secure a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. And––ladies and gentlemen of MSU––education, higher learning, and vocational aptitude have everything to do with the success or failure of our President’s noble mission; for Mindanao and the entire country, summed up in 10 major fronts.

This 10-Point Socio-economic Agenda of the Duterte administration calls for heavy investments in human capital development, including health and education systems, and the matching of skills and training to meet the demands of businesses and the private sector. Also in the agenda is the promotion of science, technology, and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity towards self-sustaining, inclusive development.

The ultimate objective of this agenda, as spelled out in the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan, is a future wherein “every Filipino enjoys a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay.”

Security. Prosperity. And Peace. These are big words to fulfill. Yet, these are all achievable if the foundation for inclusive growth, a high-trust and resilient society, and a globally-competitive knowledge economy, are established by 2022.

And in these critical efforts of government, state universities like MSU and the graduates it produces play crucial roles.

The Philippine Development Plan is supported by three foundational pillars of malasakit, pagbabago, at patuloy na pang-unlad. Compassion. Renewal, and Continued Growth. These are the very philosophies espoused by the MSU and the IIT; the same values that make every one of you graduates a vital and decisive cog in the country’s development machinery.

Ano ang ibig sabihin nito? Ibig sabihin ng ating Pangulo at ng ating pamahalaan, na napakahalaga ang papel ninyong mga graduate; napakahalaga ng gampaninng inyong Pamantasan, sa kabuoang adyenda ng pag-unlad para sa ating rehiyon at bayan.

When you get out of this gymnasium, after all the ceremonies, speeches and honors, think ahead of getting a job; putting up a business or furthering your studies. But plan and do that with a mindset of a contributor, of an important stakeholder; of an important part of a big team. That team is Team Mindanao. That team is Team Philippines. Mahalaga ka sa bayan mo.

I am sure you know that already, graduating now as proud Iskolar ng Bayan. And as Filipino scholars, you are bound by that unspoken vow to give back to your country. That, dear friends and fellow scholars, is part duty, part privilege, all honor.

As someone who grew up recognizing the value of education, and as someone who was also an Iskolar ng Bayan in my four years in Philippine Science High School, I know this by heart. This is why during my three terms as representative of the First District of Davao, my office tried to assist as many scholars as we could; this is why I was an outspoken supporter and co-author of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law; and this is why as Chairperson of the Committee on Appropriations I worked to ensure funding for free college tuition in our state universities and colleges.

This landmark legislation (Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law), signed by President Rodrigo Duterte August last year, was a major breakthrough, not just for education advocates like myself, but a victory for parents who just want a better future for their children; a triumph for you and the 1.3 million students enrolled in the over 100 SUCs in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao; and a win for the 104 million Filipinos who, with their taxes, are betting on all of you to take our country to greater heights.

In my opinion, you are all better investments than a lotto ticket. Mas sigurado ang return on investment.

Because I know that by sending the very best young minds to school, we are also investing in creating the kind of citizens who would commit themselves to the welfare and future of our country. The kind of Iskolar ng Bayan who, without fear or favor, commit themselves to continuing the perpetual mission of seeing this country to another day of glory and redemption. Dahil walang katapusan ang rebolusyon para sa kapayapaan at pagbabago ng bayan. At kayo, mga kabataang mag-aaral, ang nasa harap ng digmaang ito.

The road ahead is full of potholes, bumps, and unexpected turns. But when you get out into the real world, where there is no room for practice and simulation, you will get to know the thrill of the challenge and the joy of winning. Your first job. Your first venture. Your first million. But not without a purpose.

Frederick Douglass once said, “A man is worked upon by what he works on.” Hinuhubog ka ng iyong gawain sa buhay.

It is your purpose that molds you into what you can become. Modern-day philosopher and strategist Ryan Holiday said, “If your purpose is larger than you; if your purpose is to accomplish something, to prove something to yourself—then suddenly, your choice becomes easier. Because your choice is now bigger than you.”

Kapag pinili mo ang bayan, nang una at higit sa lahat; kasama na diyan ang pamilya mo, kaibigan, at pamayanan mo; alam mo na ang pinipili mo ay mas malaki sa iyo––sa sarili mong kaligayahan, sa sarili mong kagustuhan, at sarili mong kapakanan.

And that, my dear graduates, is the decision I leave you with today: Will you choose to serve your country, and keep in mind the mission of an Iskolar ng Bayan beyond the walls of the university?

Are you ready to be molded by the work and mission of patriotism––in your work, in your first business, in your living as a peaceful, responsible citizen; aware that everything you say and everything you do reflects the honor and future of your
Motherland––of Mindanao and our country?

Handa na ba kayong maging tunay na Pilipino—sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa?

I hope that in the years to come, your actions provide the answer, and that answer is a resounding “yes!”

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