Keeping the Faith and Holding True to Our Mission


Synergeia Founding Chairman

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  • Be relentless, push and you will often succeed. 
  • Why should we push education all the more? … All of us.  We are here because we see the faces of these children.  Nakikita natin ang mga bata walking to school 3 to 5 kilometers.   Little children.  We see their parents sacrificing for them.  Why?  Because they hope in education for a better life.  So, how can we not give our best to make sure that the schools are good?  How can we not make sure that they really learn in their school?   Kasi kung hindi natin gagawin, mabibigo ang kanilang pangarap.  And how can we do that?  We cannot do that.  We cannot let go… We cannot let the dreams of our children, we cannot let the dreams of our mothers, be lost. 
  • Your own commitment to the dreams of the children is an inspiration for us.

Good afternoon.  Good to see all of you.  I am supposed to share with you about keeping the faith and holding true to our mission.

Keeping the faith.  Faith means continuing, ipagpatuloy, huwag susuko.  We heard so many inspiring stories of leaders who keep the faith.  Maganda the way Secretary Rex put it – being relentless.  Huwag susuko.  Marami mang hadlang ang dinadaanan natin, hindi susuko.

And we saw that we can win.  Sec. Rex showed that as Mayor of Valenzuela.  It took him nine years but within that nine years, he was able to reduce the number of non-readers.  Alam natin na napakaraming frustrated readers but he was able to reduce it.   Secretary Abalos was able to reduce malnutrition by being relentless. 

Are we inspired by that? (audience agreed) Yes! And because we are inspired, dapat we should also be able to keep the faith.

Of course, Ma’am Winnie Monsod was pushing them (the panelists in Panel 2) to talk about failures and problems.  You can always focus on the problems or, as I have learned in my life, you can focus on finding solutions.  There will always be problems.  Marami akong kaibigan o nakakasama na mga sigurista.  When you propose something, nakikita nila ang problema, susuko na.  But you cannot do that.  You have to find a way.  Be relentless, push and you will often succeed. 

But why should we push?  Why should we push education all the more?

I will tell you a my recent experience.  I went to Sulu two months ago.  My first time.  Synergeia has been in Sulu for so many years.  We had a very painful experience around 2018 or 2019 when a principal in one of our schools in Patikul was kidnapped.  Hindi nakabayad ng ransom and he was beheaded.  We were really shaken when that happened.

I went there because I read last year that it is peaceful now.  There was an article in the Inquirer that said there is a nightlife now, the children are out playing and people go to the beaches.  Milagro.  So I went.

I was with some Fil-Am friends who are doing tutorials for out-of-school youth, now totaling about a thousand.  In Sulu, there were some 100 young people, about 18 to 25 in age, whom we were trying to tutor to be able to pass high school equivalency and hopefully, get some IT skills and get a better job.

What struck us is all of them is their story.  Ganito ang kwento nila, ‘I had to drop out of school because of poverty.  Parang wala na akong pag-asa sa buhay.  Ngayon, nabuhayan ako, nagkaron ako ulit ng pag-asa.  You have given us hope.’  This effort to tutor them so they can be given high school equivalency is giving them so much hope.  Their faces began to light up. 

One of them, a young man in his early 20s, was imprisoned for seven years for a crime he did not commit.  He was finally released.  His education was very limited.  He studied in an Arabic school in Baguio, and he was teaching students.  He said, “I realized that my students need skills that I cannot give so I would like to get this high school equivalency and get a better education so I can teach them.”  What struck us was he was not bitter despite being imprisoned for seven years.  All he wanted to do was to learn something so he could educate others, and give hope to others.

Sabi namin, we have to succeed, we have to persevere, we have to be relentless.  Kasi looking at their faces, looking forward sila to this education in order to have a better life.  Ito talaga ang katuparan ng kanilang mga pangarap.      I remember their faces…how can you withdraw, how can you give up,  paano ka susuko?  I think this is what keeps us together.  We have to be relentless.  Bakit tayo susuko?

I have an older sister who was the directress of St. Theresa’s Quezon City.  She was telling my younger sister after my trip to Sulu that I am old and should not be travelling anymore.  But why do I travel?  Because of the young people like them.  All of us.  We are here because we see the faces of these children.  Nakikita natin ang mga bata walking to school 3 to 5 kilometers.   Little children.  We see their parents sacrificing for them.  Why?  Because they hope in education for a better life.  So, how can we not give our best to make sure that the schools are good.  How can we not make sure that they really learn in their school.   Kasi kung hindi natin gagawin, mabibigo ang kanilang pangarap.  And how can we do that?  We cannot do that.  We cannot let go.

We have to be relentless.  We have to keep the faith and be true to our mission.

Napaka-basic ng sinabi ni Sec. Gatchalian – make sure every child can read and make sure children are not hungry.  At naipakita niya na pwedeng magtagumpay sa reading at ganun din sa malnutrition.  Nakita ko si Vice Mayor Lorie and she said bumaba na ang number of wasted children sa Valenzuela.   

Whatever our situation, we need to continue.  I have been with Synergeia for 20 years.  An example of relentlessness is our President, Ma’am Nene.  She keeps on saying she will retire but she will not.  Hindi ka magre-resign, di ba?  (looking at Ms. Guevara)  Sinasabi niya pagod na siya but she is still here.

For the same reason, we cannot let the dreams of our children, we cannot let the dreams of our mothers, be lost.  Hindi natin pwede pabayaan sila. 

We are invited to keep the faith, we are invited to be relentless.  Ano mang nararamdaman nating mga problema, mga frustrations like corruption,  we have to go on.

Thank you for being here.  You are our inspiration.  They (Synergeia staff) are telling me we have to get 600 (attendees) but we have more than 850!    Your own commitment to the dreams of our children is an inspiration for us.   We are here to fulfill the dreams of the parents and of the children.  Everywhere we go, in education summits, we find out that they only have one dream.  They say ‘tanggap namin ang buhay namin pero pangarap namin na maging mas  maganda ang buhay ng aming mga anak.’  They accept their limitations but they have a dream for a better life for their children.  Let us not make that dream be lost. 

Wisdom from the Chairman

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Esteemed officials from our national and local governments, friends and colleagues in the education sector, partners in industry and civil society, ladies and gentlemen, good morning; maayong buntag; as-salamu alaykum.

Ano nga ba o saan itong Neverland?

According to its creator, James M Barrie, Neverland is near the “stars of the milky way” and it is reached “always at the time of sunrise.” And so Peter Pan, the main character, tells us that you can reach Neverland if you go “second star to the right, and straight on till morning.”

Alam niyo, mahina tayong mga Pinoy sa directions. Madali tayong malito sa north, east, south, west. Kahit alam na natin kung saan sumisikat at lumulubog ang  araw, parang walang bisa sa atin na tandaan kung saan ang pagsilang at pagpanaw nitong kaisa-isang bituin natin. Naliligaw pa rin tayo, kung saan-saan tayo lumiliko. Pag nagbigay tayo ng direksyon, tumuturo tayo na gamit ang  nguso. Minsan nga, kahit kanan at kaliwa, nalilito pa, ayan tuloy, maya-maya, nawawala.

Second star to the right and straight on till morning. Paano ba yan? If we look for Neverland with the eyes of grown ups, we will surely find it too far, too long a travel, expensive, elusive, unreachable. Never tayo makakatuntong sa Neverland. By our grown up senses, we will never find Neverland. It is quite apparent now that Neverland was never really meant to be found by grownups.

But if for the next two days, we will try to become children again, then perhaps we will find Neverland. If in this time together, if we could only put in a box our big roles and titles and worries, if we could only become small again and look at the world as we all once did, with the eyes of a child, then perhaps it will be possible to reach Neverland, that magical place of our childhood, that wonderful time of timelessness, that delightful place of trust and freedom and dreams.

To help us go back to becoming like children once more, I suggest we first put our hand on our navel. We do not often pay attention to this part of us. We take it for granted but navels are there to remind us that we were once connected to another person. Physically, organically we were once tied to our mothers. We came into this world after much pain, after someone else’s sacrifice and love.

I first learned of Neverland from my mother. I first met Peter Pan through her. My mother read the story of Peter Pan to us children in bed. When my sister became a mother, she in turn read stories to her children in bed. I am sure that my niece (her daughter) who is now herself a mother, she too is now reading stories to her child.

It is remarkable how a simple and intimate act of goodness, this act of reading stories to children at bedtime gets to be imitated and passed on to succeeding generations. Let this summit be a sort of bedtime for us, a time to recline and rest, a time to tell each other stories. Let it also be a time to listen with wonder and imagination, a time to be thankful for our stories of goodness and generosity, stories that have the power to fly us to Neverland.

Becoming like children, we will also recover something we may have lost over the years. Read a story to a child, and you will observe that a child never seems to weary of starting all over again. Read it again, a child will beg us. Hindi ito kulit ng bulilit. Mangha lamang ito ng musmos, manghang di maubos-ubos. Mangha is what we tend to lose when we grow old. To children, there is always something new to be found beneath the worn out words and pictures, always something fresh to discover, as if they are seeing it for the first time.

If we become little as children again, life will always be big. There will always be something in life to startle us. If today fills us with wonder, we can imagine what tomorrow will be like. Tomorrow will be new again. In the words of Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” a novel about children and friendship, “there is a way to be good again.” Or as one song has it, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow”, in joyful defiance of whatever the weather might bring.

And when the sun does come out, bungang araw. Bunga ng araw. Flowers and many good things open up with the sun. Children ripen with daylight. When the morning comes, we play. More outside than inside. We run, we climb, we stumble and gash our limbs, we cry, we fight but we do not let the anger last, we laugh, we sing and dance and we hold each other’s hands. We jump for joy when in a game of patintero, one of us makes it home. We do not have to be the one to make it to the finish line. Their success is ours to celebrate as well. Before we knew organization development, we already had a sense of what makes for teamwork  or teamplay. Before we learned to add one plus one, we already knew that it was more than two. Even as children, we already had a sense of that big word, synergy.

It helps to remember what we here in Synergeia once said of synergy.

Ang synergia ay ang pag-uugnay ng mga bagay-bagay para makapagbuo ng bunga na higit pa sa simpleng pagdadagdag o suma ng mga bahagi. Ika nga, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Halimbawa po: sinigang. Maraming sangkap ang sinigang pero ang lasa nito higit pa sa indibidwal na lasa ng mga sangkap, higit sa lasa ng sampaloc o kamatis o kung anu-ano. Ang musika ay synergy; sa saliw ng sari-saring instrumento, isang simponiya ang nalilikha. Ang bahaghari (rainbow) ay isang sinergia. Pati ang kulay puti. Hindi nagsasarili ang kulay puti. There is no such thing as a color white. White itself is a synergy of many colors. Ang tao ay isang synergia, ang kanyang halaga at dignidad ay hindi mauuwi lamang sa suma ng mga bahagi ng kanyang pagkatao. Ang barangay ay higit sa koleksyon lamang ng mga bahay. Ang isang bansa ay higit pa sa suma ng mga barangay o tribo, munisipyo o probinsya.

Walang synergy kung isang bahagi o sangkap lamang ang kumikilos. Ang kare-kare ay hindi lamang tuwalya; ang bahaghari ay hindi lamang bughaw; ang simponiya, hindi lamang dinadala ng pianista. Hindi nangyayari ang synergia kung may nagsasarili, may namamayani. Nangyayari ang synergia kung may pagbabahagi at bigayan.

Matagumpay po tayong lahat dito sa Synergeia kung ibinabahagi o isinasauli ang responsibilidad ng pagpapalaki ng mga bata sa buong komunidad. Ang responsibilidad ng pagpapaaral sa ating kabataan ay hindi lamang sa mga magulang o paaralan, hindi lamang sa DepEd o superintendent o pribadong sector o civil society. Sa Synergeia, pinaninindigan natin na ang komunidad ang dapat umako sa responsibilidad ng buong pagpapaaral sa mga bata.

Sa kanilang pag-aaral natuklasan ng ating mga propesor at mananaliksi ang isang importanteng pattern: mataas ang correlation ng learning performance ng bata at ng community participation. Sa madaling salita, if the community is engaged, the grades go up. If the community is involved, the students learn well. Oo, mahalaga ang pinuno, ang liderato, ang nagkukumpas, pero ang kahalagahan nya nagmumula lamang sa halaga ng mga bumubuo ng komunidad, sa kalidad ng kanilang kontribusyon at pagtiwala sa isa’t isa.

Mahalaga ang tiwala, ang social capital, ang level of trust na batayan ng pagiging isang komunidad. Mahalaga ang buong orchestra.

Concretely, this means that local chief executives take the podium in leading over non-traditional programs that keep children in school, programs that make them read well, programs that make good teachers, good instructional materials, programs that build the capacities of our parents. It means reinventing local school boards, broadening their membership and functions, instituting performance metrics, and making School Governing Councils work. It means that the governance of education, from planning to implementation, is made both participatory and transparent. Bayanihan po. Hindi po hari o reyna ang  ibinubuhat, hindi sariling bangko. Sa bayanihan, sa synergia, ang ibinubuhat hindi lamang bahay; ang ibinubuhat ay bata, paaralan, pamilya, buong bansa.

Sa tunay na synergia, mahirap alamin kung sino o anong sangkap ang may kagagawan ng kabuuan. Kung maganda ang musika, ito’y hindi dahil sa konduktor lamang. Sa tunay na synergia, nabubuwag ang pyudal na hawak at mababaw na pag-aako ng mga padrino. Ang komunidad ang nananagot; ang komunidad ang sumasagot sa kinabukasan ng mga bata. Sa tunay na synergia, katiwala lamang tayong lahat, katiwala (stewards) ng mga biyayang hindi natin sukat inakala.

Second star to the right, and straight on till morning. Kung ganito lang naman pala ang direksyon patungong Neverland, hindi na siguro tayo mawawala. Alamin lang natin kung saang banda ang umaga, makakarating din tayo sa Neverland.

Kung matanto lamang natin kung saang dapit sumisikat ang araw, at kung saan itong mga bunga ng araw, makakatuntong din tayo sa Neverland. Kung paroroon lamang tayo sa may silangan, kung lalapit lamang tayo sa kinaroroonan ng mga bata, hindi na tayo malalayo pa sa Neverland.

In the story of James Barrie, it is told that children are able to find Neverland because it was “out looking for them.” There lies the secret then to finding Neverland, this magical place of our timeless hopes and dreams. We can only find Neverland because it seeks us. Let us then look out for what is already out there looking for us. Let us look out for the children who are looking for us. Let us love them, as one song has it, till the 12th of never. And that’s a long, long time.

Maraming salamat po. At maaraw na bukas sa ating lahat.

Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ Synergeia National Education Summit

PICC, 21 September 2023