GRADUATION MESSAGE: Go blaze your own trail towards a peaceful and developed Mindanao

(Message delivered by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., during the 53rd Commencement Exercises of the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City on 20 June 2018)

Every visit to Marawi City is a homecoming for me. Each homecoming reminds me of the different stories of different people under different circumstances during an enemy’s failed attempt to breed terrorism in this proud and peaceful city. My every return is meant to honor the heroes who sacrificed their lives to liberate the then beleaguered city and to reaffirm the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ commitment in rebuilding Marawi.

Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., Armed Forces Chief of Staff, addresses the graduates of the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City on 20 June 2018. PHoto by SN1 Donald H. Viluan/PAOAFP, posted on the AFP FB page

However, this morning’s visit is pleasantly special as we do not only look back to remember history. Today, Marawi City leaps forward with so much positivity in reaching what we can easily consider as a new milestone in its post-siege era. And as a soldier who has spent most of his tour of duty in Mindanao, I am truly overwhelmed to witness a major development which positively indicates that Marawi City is indeed on its way to reemergence as a community.

MSU as refuge

Setting foot on the grounds of the Mindanao State University – Main Campus always gives a deep sense of genuine pride and honor. I can vividly remember the time when this university dared and opened its gates to carry on with its academic schedule despite its proximity to the ongoing firefights in the Main Battle Area.

Such brave act became the symbol of hope among Maranaos and even among our soldiers that Marawi City will soon recover and return to its normal state. Such determination only proved that the Mindanao State University will never cease to be a bastion of academic pursuits and excellence. Such tenacity inspired even and especially our gallant soldiers to finish and win the fight for the sake of the fulfillment of the dreams of these students who mustered all the courage to finish their education.

The unmatched drive of your students in valuing their education also brought out the best in us. Looking back, it was very challenging to secure and protect the MSU from the external and internal threats that prompted us to deploy additional troops to augment the security. We knew then that we cannot afford not to sustain the reconvening of classes as this will lead into oblivion the hope that has just been re-ignited. For all these, the AFP strived hard to defend, protect and preserve this university from the footholds of war.

Beacon of Hope

Barely a year after it reopened, I now stand with admiration and amazement before the more than 2,000 proud graduates of MSU and their parents. I take pride in celebrating with each one of you as you finally reap the sweet fruits of your sacrifices and hardships in earning your most coveted college degree.

Further, I am filled with joy in knowing that our soldiers were part of fulfilling to preserve more than 2,000 precious dreams and ideals. And I am much prouder to see the realization of these dreams for these are testaments to the sweat, blood tears of our fallen heroes that their sacrifices were not in vain.

Your march towards the commencement of a new chapter in your life, one that is now full of promises and potential, shines brightly as a beacon of hope for all of us. It reminds us all of your resilience to hold your ground, endure the challenges and weather the storm. It is a ray of sunshine after the storm, signaling that brighter days are coming for everyone.

Message and Challenge to the Graduates

Ladies and gentlemen, today, two thousand students bring us hope in their success. Today, we welcome a new batch of young leaders who earned not only a ticket to effect peace and progress in Mindanao, but also to the entire nation as well. Take the lead in inspiring your fellow youth towards the folds of social justice. After witnessing the wrath of terrorism that showed no respect to religion, culture, gender or race, I know how deeply driven each one of you has become in combatting violent extremism and armed conflict across the region.

Commit yourselves towards the peacebuilding and development initiatives of the government in Mindanao. Give your fair share in the all efforts leading to the full recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi City. Stand out as an MSU alumnus by becoming Bangsamoro leaders of strong moral fortitude. We need more teachers, administrators, and government officials who will be committed in serving the public with honesty, integrity and professionalism. Carry the torch for your Alma Mater by being the best in your chosen field and give your fellow state university and science college graduates a fair and healthy competition.

Contribute in filling in the gaps by involving yourself in community building. Share what you learned and be part of the solution rather than instigating additional problems. Remember that you are all educated youth – be aware of your social responsibility to institute urgently needed social changes. Give a part of your heart for humanitarian cause by giving more life, hope and reason for existence of the marginalized sectors of the community.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. speaks before students of the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City who braved the then still raging war a few kilometers away from the campus, to complete their courses and eventually graduate on 20 June 2018. Photo by SN1 Donald H. Viluan/PAOAFP, posted on the AFP FB page

In doing all these, cultivate a mindset of favoring collectivism rather than individualism. While we as individuals have inalienable right to live in our own accord or preference, we as individuals also belong to a group or society which endeavors for its greater good.

And finally, continue to be the beacon of hope to the Mindanaoan youth. Hope – that despite the trials that you and your beloved city endured, there is light behind the darkness. I enjoin you all to remain as testaments of hope – that no enemy or fight can ever dampen the spirit of an inspired Filipino heart and soul. I hope that all of you, will take this path. Congratulations and I wish you all the best. Let us give our graduates a warm round of applause.

Gratitude to the Parents

Let me however emphasize that the triumphs of all graduates will never even be close to reality if not for the hard work, perseverance and dedication of their loving and supportive parents.

Thank and congratulations to all of you as well. Thank you for not losing hope and for entrusting your sons and daughters to MSU to pursue their studies despite the crisis in Marawi City.

Batid ko at nakatitiyak ako, na alay sa inyo ng inyong mga anak na nagsipagtapos ngayon ang kanilang tagumpay. Maraming salamat sa inyong hindi mapapantayang pagmamahal at pag-aaruga. Let us give these parents and guardians a warm round of applause.

Where seeds of change are sowed

For decades, Mindanao State University is esteemed as a place where seeds of change in Mindanao are sowed. It serves as a paramount provider of quality education among Mindanao’s future leaders who are empowered to uphold peace and development in the region.

All these I say to you with genuine faith that the graduates of this esteemed university are capable of bringing lasting change in Mindanao. True to your graduation theme, “Role of Education and Social Justice in the Pursuit of Lasting Peace in Mindanao,” you have molded these youth to become vital partners of the community in nation building. Although the road towards achieving this may seem daunting for their age, I believe that because of the quality education you instilled them, there is no problem we cannot solve, no goal we cannot reach, and no hope we cannot attain – all you have to do is to have faith and believe.

Blaze your own trail

In closing, allow me to thank all of you for inviting me to be part of this very special and meaningful event. I came here to celebrate with everyone and inspire all of you. But in the end, it was all of you – graduates, proud parents, dedicated faculty and staff and the ever resilient Marawi community- who inspired me with your perseverance, commitment, hard work and positivity. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.

Rest assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is always here to help  you overcome every obstacle and defeat every enemy in order to keep this region peaceful and protect the people from harm. Congratulations, graduates! Go blaze your own trail towards a peaceful and developed Mindanao.

Thank you very much. May you have a wonderful day ahead.