April 30, 2007

And a child shall lead them . . .


Because in this world of Manny Pacquiao (who should not speak at all but does) and Joker Arroyo (who should speak more often but doesn't), who cause us to despair and be despondent about being Filipinos, there is a need for "bright spots" and daily doses of inspiration, I unreservedly post this speech from, literally, the mouth of a "child."

All of 16 years old but now armed with a summa cum laude (GWA of 1.099) from the University of the Philippines, she says many things that should stir up the quiet revolution in each of our hearts; may her words disturb each and every one of us enough that we might, as she invites, trample new paths. I know they disturbed me again, out of the stupor and complacency I have been content to rot.

Mikaela Irene "Mikki" Fudolig, a refreshing and courageous voice in the concrete wilderness. Indeed, a child shall lead them . . .


Mikaela Irene Fudolig
BS Physics Summa Cum Laude
Speech at the Commencement Exercises, UPD
April 22, 2007

One of the things that strike me as being very "UP Diliman" is the way UPD students can't seem to stay on the pavement. From every street corner that bounds an unpaved piece of land, one will espy a narrow trail that cuts the corner, or leads from it. Every lawn around the buildings sports at least one of these paths, starting from a point nearest to the IKOT stop and ending at the nearest entry to the building. The trails are beaten on the grass by many pairs of feet wanting to save a fraction of a meter of traveling, no matter that doing so will exact some cost to the shoes, or, to the ubiquitous slippers, especially when the trails are new.

What do these paths say about us, UP students?

One could say that the UP student is enamored with Mathematics and Pythagoras, hence these triangles formed by the pavement and the path. Many among you would disagree.

Others could say that the UP student is naturally countercultural. And the refusal to use the avement is just one of the myriads of ways to show his defiance of the order of things. This time, many would agree.

Still, others will say that the UP student is the model of today's youth: they want everything easier, faster, now. The walkable paths appeal to them because they get to their destination faster, and presumably, with less effort. Now that is only partly true, and totally unfair.

These trails weren't always walkable. No doubt they started as patches of grass, perhaps overgrown. Those who first walked them must have soiled their shoes, stubbed their toes, or had insects biting their legs, all in the immovable belief that the nearest distance between two points is a straight line. They might even have seen snakes cross their paths. But the soiled footwear, sore toes, and itchy legs started to conquer the grass. Other people, seeing the yet faint trail, followed. And as more and more walked the path, the grass gave in and stopped growing altogether, making the path more and more visible, more and more walkable.

The persistence of the paths pays tribute to those UP students who walked them first – the pioneers of the unbeaten tracks: the defiant and curious few who refuse the familiar and comfortable; the out-of-the-box thinkers who solve problems instead of fretting about them; the brave who dare do things differently, and open new opportunities to those who follow.

They say how one behaved in the past would determine how he behaves in the future. And as we leave the University, temporarily or for good, let us call on the pioneering, defiant, and brave spirit that built the paths to guide us in this next phase of our life.

We have been warned time and again. Our new world that they call "adulthood" is one that's full of compromises, where success is determined more by the ability to belong than by the ability to think, where it is much easier to do as everyone else does. Daily we are bombarded with so much news of despair about the state of our nation, and the apparent, perverse sense of satisfaction our politicians get from vilifying our state of affairs. It is fashionable to migrate to other countries to work in deceptively high-paying jobs like nursing and teaching, forgetting that even at their favored work destinations, nurses and teachers are some of the lowest paid professionals. The lure of high and immediate monetary benefits in some low-end outsourcing jobs has drawn even some of the brightest UP students away from both industry and university teaching to which they would have been better suited.

Like the sidewalks and pavement, these paths are the easiest to take.

But, like the sidewalks and pavement, these paths take longer to traverse, just as individual successes do not always make for national progress. The unceasing critic could get elected, but not get the job done. The immigrant could get his visa, but disappear from our brainpower pool. The highly paid employee would be underutilized for his skills, and pine to get the job he truly wants, but is now out of his reach. And the country, and we, are poorer because of these.

Today, the nation needs brave, defiant pioneers to reverse our nation's slide to despair. Today, we must call upon the spirit that beat the tracks. Today, we must present an alternative way of doing things.

Do NOT just take courage, for courage is not enough. Instead, be BRAVE! It will take bravery to go against popular wisdom, against the clich├ęd expectations of family and friends. It will take bravery to gamble your future by staying in the country and try to make a prosperous life here. It might help if, for a start, we try to see why our Korean friends are flocking to our country. Why, as many of us line up for immigrant visas in various embassies, they get themselves naturalized and settle here. Do they know something we don't?

Do NOT just be strong in your convictions, for strength is not enough. Instead, DEFY the pressure to lead a comfortable, but middling life. Let us lead this country from the despair of mediocrity. Let us not seek to do well, but strive to EXCEL in everything that we do. This, so others will see us as a nation of brains of the highest quality, not just of brawn that could be had for cheap.

Take NOT the road less traveled. Rather, MAKE new roads, BLAZE new trails, FIND new routes to your dreams. Unlike the track-beaters in campus who see where they're going, we may not know how far we can go. But if we are brave, defiant searchers of excellence, we will go far. Explore possibilities, that others may get a similar chance. I have tried it myself. And I'm speaking to you now.

But talk is cheap, they say. And so I put my money where my mouth is. Today, I place myself in the service of the University, if it will have me. I would like to teach, to share knowledge, and perhaps to be an example to new UP students in thinking and striving beyond the limits of the possible. This may only be a small disturbance in the grass. But I hope you'll come with me, and trample a new path.

Good evening, everyone.



Easter and Desolation

. . ."as in a dry weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1, ESV)

In the midst of Easter, that is how I find myself--dry, weary, desolate, unproductive, not bearing fruit. Far from being a "tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit," (Jeremiah 17:7-8, ESV) I find myself a "shrub in the desert . . . in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited land." (jeremiah 17:6, ESV)

A wise person once said, "when the water in the hole runs dry, keep digging." And so I do. . . keep digging, that is. Because the hope that Easter brings endures in me, for I know that my Redeemer lives again and that is--or should be--enough for me.

I pray for the grace to realize that, in very personal and real terms: that Christ's resurrection, and the hope of life anew, life eternal, should be enough for me.

April 20, 2007

D.O.M., M.C.P.

What do you do with someone like Raul Gonzales?

Even as filipinos reeled from the realization that an American, who had come to love the country more than its own citizens, had been killed brutally and senselessly, this Raul Gonzales, desperate for a sound bite, blames Julia Campbell for allowing herself to get into a tight situation. He comes out in media saying that it was her fault for going to Batad alone; that's like saying that a woman who is raped asked for it--that's how bad his statement is, and coming from the Justice Secretary, it becomes much much worse.

Much as I believe in a God who is the perfect creator, the Raul Gonzaleses of this world make you want to ask God, "did you somehow miss a step here?"

But, there really is a rhyme to God's reason. The Raul Gonzaleses of this world are placed here to make us realize that we can--and should--be better persons than he; he is placed here to remind us that there are many other good people, in contrast to him; the likes of him are placed on this earth to remind us of that most difficult of commands, "love one another as I have loved you."

Indeed, if one can love a Raul Gonzales, then you would have taken on the Face of God already.

In the meantime, answering my question at the start of this post--first, make him apologize to Julia Campbells' family, all those poor people she worked with and for, all the women whom Raul Gonzales insulted by his callously chauvinistic remark, all the senior citizens of which he is one of the worst poster boys, all the filipinos, of which he is certainly among the worst examples; and then, after all these, FIRE HIM, now na!

April 13, 2007

MFN

After a brutal 40 days of lent, Easter, for me, is best summed up by Psalm 147:20 -- "He has not dealt thus with any other nation. . ." (ESV)

It speaks of undeserved but nonetheless abundantly given grace to a nation, a People, that deserves far, far less.

"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet. . ." (Psalm 8:3-6; ESV)

The Lord who is risen is He who "determines the number of the stars (and) gives to all of them their names" (147:4; ESV)--truly, the King, Creator, Owner of the Universe.

We are God's MFN (Most Favored Nation) and Easter serves to remind us--me--of that. "He has not dealt thus with any other nation." Indeed.

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Thank You Lord for not giving us what we deserve--for dealing with us, unlike any other nation, any other People; thank you for blessing us with everything within YOUR imagination with everything beyond OUR imagination. This Easter, may we live lives that reflect the healing, the restoration, the hope that Your resurrection brings.

April 09, 2007

Easter (according to John Y.)

Jopeng (a lay missionary brother from The Servants of the Word) and I groaned (simultaneously, albeit separately) when John said that now that it's Easter, it doesn't mean that lent is over--the discipline of lent is still there but it's coupled with the joy of Easter.

Lent. isn't. over. ?! Huh?

Trust someone like John Yocum, an Elder from The Servants of the Word with a Ph.D in Theology and with faculty stints in Oxford and currently at Loyola School of Theology, to put Easter in its proper perspective with his usual really softly spoken erudition. (He did say it with a smile on his face, so we weren't really sure if he was kidding, at first; later, of course, we knew he wasn't kidding.)

But no matter my reaction to John's earlier statement, it was something that was thought-provoking, insightful and life-giving--and it was something that was, ultimately, so simple you start to ask yourself why you never thought of it in the first place.

Just because it is Easter already doesn't mean that we go back to our old wordly ways; that would negate everything about Easter! That, in a very poorly-worded sentence, is what John meant (I think) by lent continuing despite Easter. It wouldn't be Easter if we all went back to our old lives--pre-lent; it wouldn't be Easter if we all started doing everything we were doing before lent came in. Easter is the season of new-ness yet that new-ness would be absolutely meaningless if we went back to our old ways. And that, in John 's exhortation, is precisely why we celebrate Easter because the old man has died and the new man has been born.

So, after collecting my jaw off the floor, I rejoiced!

Happy 2nd day* of Easter!



* John quipped that if we found lent brutal because of its length (bad pun mine, not his)--40 days--then Easter should be much more interesting because it is 10 days longer--there are 50 days of the Easter season before Pentecost; so that means there are 50 days of rejoicing without letting go of the discipline of lent.

April 07, 2007

China

Nothing makes you feel old-er than looking at old pictures.

I filched this from my ihada's (God-daughter) blog (this was taken during her confirmation rites at Miriam college), which I chanced upon while browsing.

China, the daughter of a very good friend Susan, doesn't look like this anymore--she looks much more beautiful now (of course, I'm biased being the Godfather and all, but it's also true) and she's all of 19 years old. I cannot believe it!

Of course, I also don't look like this anymore--I look older (he he he).

One thing I know, she is going to break a lot of men's hearts.

April 06, 2007

Waiting for Easter

Have you ever listened to different people talking about their lives and suddenly realize that they could very well be talking about yours as well?

I got that feeling while listening to a Good Friday recollection earlier.

Every word hit home--from Tito Eddie's opening statements; to Rosanne Romero's gut-wrenching and inspiring sharing (I do not think there was a dry eye in the room after she was done; yes not even the men) about living 21 years with MS and still having so much faith in God; to Maya Jacoba's sharing; to Fr. Dave Concepcion's homily about Peter's fall and redemption. In the vernacular, there is a word for it: sapul. And yes, sapul it was earlier. Each. word. hit. home.

Thank you, Lord, for speaking very clearly; thank you, Lord, for allowing me to realize how much I desire to be healed; thank you, Lord, for allowing me to realize the hope that I have in You.

I cannot wait for Easter.