Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Serve the People!"

I walked pass the University of the Philippines Diliman Theater today and saw a big signage that says, “Serve the People”. It got me breathed deep and smile.

It changed the course of my life. Twelve years ago, when I entered the university, I know I was reared to “serve the people” when I’m eventually ready to be born to the real world. I guess, it’s safe to say that we all were and still are as students of this premier state university.

If you would categorize the students by their affiliations and the university activities they are mostly involved with, you’d classify me as the “activist”. I was a member of an “activist group”. My family wasn’t afraid of the idea that I might join some sororities because they know that would be the least I’d engaged into. What they were scared of, though, was seeing me in a national tv joined a rally being dispersed by policemen through fire truck water hose, policemen bat, and/or worst gun fires. Indeed. We boycotted classes to march to the Senate, Mendiola, Congress and Malacanan Palace to speak for the masses. Broadly speaking, it was the rallying cry that students be vigilant and fully participate in exercises protecting and upholding the rights, the voice and welfare of the Filipino people, not only for nationalistic expression but also as our way to pay-back for our education as “iskolar ng bayan”.

When I left the university, I entered the corporate world. Many times I felt so empty because I couldn’t find a connection between my job or what my company does or how it contributes to alleviate the lives of starving children in the streets, the homeless families, the child laborers, the peasants living below the poverty line, and many other social issues I observed with my very own eyes. And I can’t just get used to it like it’s normal and just what life is. It shouldn’t be how life is. Feeling useless and irrelevant to this world was the crappiest feeling I had to bear while working convincing people to patronize some products they don’t really need.

Having all this in my mind, I decided to quit my job and considered working in the government. I remember a friend told me, “if you want to change the system, be in the system”. I thought it makes sense, but I never imagined I could change the “system” or even make a slightest difference. I just thought I have to be in the system and do my job. So, I applied for a position in a government agency and luckily got a place in it. Of course, there are many ways to serve the people not just by working in the government, but for me it was the nearest and the most relevant that I can do. But, hell, it’s not the ideal job – even for someone who’s determined to work for it – or the most inspiring office to work in as I’m sure you all can figure-out or imagine.  Nonetheless, I strongly believe that its existence is vital in maintaining a society that, hopefully, purports equality, justice and development.

For now, this is where I belong and I believe where I can serve the people best.

To all graduates, be one of us in building the nation, SERVE THE FILIPINO PEOPLE.

P.S. Looking back at my old days of street demonstrations and now being a government worker, I can honestly say that it was something that I shouldn’t be totally proud of. I think there were things I didn’t completely understand before: processes, laws, and, basically, how the government works. I believe there are smarter and more effective ways to do it. Let’s not fill students out with incomplete information and agitate them to bring a (sometimes stupid) banner in guise of service to the people. Enough with all the sweeping and romanticized (and sometimes out of context) battle cries. Let’s educate them more because I believe they can do better and truly be in service if they fully understand.

*In the picture (left, taken a few days ago) is The Oblation (Pahinugod), a concrete statue created by the national artist Guillermo E. Tolentino. This serves as the iconic symbol of the University of the Philippines, which depicts a man facing upward with arms outstretched, symbolizing selfless offering of oneself to his country. 

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