(Speech delivered by Anthony Rouben Valenzuela, a Mass Communication student of Adamson, during a public speaking competition in UP Diliman last November 22, 2008 dubbed “How A Hundred Years of Literature Affects Current Events.” Valenzuela, the current editor-in-chief of the official student publication, The Adamson Chronicle, won First Place. The piece was written by Prof. Jose Rizal Dapat of the Foreign Languages Department.)
In this time of worldwide economic debacle, where stock markets collapse, resources start to deplete, and everything is shaken and sifted, it is good to know that we Filipinos still have a way of entertaining ourselves through an escape like literature. Recently, I have received an e-mail about a Filipino version of Noah’s ark. It depicted the real situation of our beloved country. Allow me to share it with you.
“God appointed Noah to be His official spokesperson for his deliberate judgment to this country, Philippines. He gave him precise instruction about the flood, and commanded him to build an ark with accurate measurement. Years had passed but no ark was made. Disappointed, God called Noah for an explanation. Trembling, Noah enumerated the reasons why the project had been derailed.
First, he confirmed that the Mayor would only give him the permit if his nephew’s construction company would build it. Second, the congressman wanted 30% of the price as his commission. Third, the workers contracted formed a union and went on strike for higher pay. Fourth, all of a sudden, the left-leaning groups protested the selective inclusion of the people in the ark, especially the male and the female designations, which were offensive to the gays and lesbians. Fifth, the Senate had a hearing in aid of legislation and summoned Noah for a lengthy inquisition because he could not invoke executive privilege and confidentiality. Sixth, the Senate ruled that it violated the separation of Church and State. Finally, the President of the Republic of the Philippines would only allow it if a tarpaulin would be made to show that it was her project, “Towards a Strong Republic”, and so Temporary Restraining Order was issued on the project. With these, God desperately concluded that he didn’t have to send a flood to destroy this nation for “THIS NATION IS ENGAGED IN SELF-DESTRUCTION!”
Farcical but factual. As they recapitulate the current events in our country, the aforementioned also serves as the potboiler of the status, success and significance of our national literature affirming the reality that A NATIONAL LITERATURE CAN NOT RISE ABOVE THE MORAL LEVEL OF THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF THE PEOPLE FROM WHOM IT DERIVES ITS INSPIRATION.
Decades ago, Jorge Bocobo, the former President of the University of the Philippines, already foresaw this scenario of moral collapse and values disintegration in this nation. His thesis on college ‘uneducation’ affirms our philosophy being slanted to material well-being, our lack of independent judgment, our neglect for formulation of a sound philosophy, our inability to appreciate the beautiful, and of course, our dependence on printed materials and technical knowhow. But above all, college ‘uneducation’ reveals the fact that the most recognized and well celebrated schools in our country continually produce leaders, dignitaries, luminaries, celebrities and VIPs, who can be fully equipped with intellectual arrows and the best paper qualifications. They can put to shame the rest of the world in debates and battles of the mind, can memorize all the laws of the land and the pages of the constitution, can educate Juan de la Cruz in all aspects of learning competencies, but once put into power can become the epitome of graft and corruption in the high places and the embodiment of diabolic forces violating human rights.
Ladies and gentlemen, history has recorded; literature has testified the rise of our country through our heroes and its fall through our leaders, the birth and the death of the tree of liberty, the plight, problems, predicament, preoccupation and power of the Filipino people. A hundred years of our national literature reflects the spirit of these actions and reactions. Thank God for literature. Thank God for literary writers for allowing us to explore the highest and the lowest places in human society, for keeping us abreast of our country’s situation, for providing us with the sense of history and understanding the spirit of our nation, and for helping us discover our strengths and weaknesses as a people.
This is Philippine literature at its finest. For a millennium, it has been very much alive, shaping current events, influencing prevalent ideologies and societal dictates, fuelling our patriotism, promoting a sense of greater good and bestowing hopes and aspirations that this nation could inscribe in the chronicle of its soul. But at the end of the day, literature leaves a missing link, an empty chair and a blank page perhaps, for us to reset our priorities, revisit our national interest and somehow revise our nation’s history for the better—would you come and take part in this endeavor?