AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

“Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.” These are inspiring words of former US President Barack Obama that we should keep to heart and mind for the coming days.

What does the future hold? This election fever has come into full swing and although we know what lies ahead, everything around us seems to be a blur. Social media platforms are swarmed with fake news, the campaign trail continues to woo the electorate with promises no end, the fuel price hike has made life more miserable and the pandemic is still a roller coaster ride for all. What makes our lives frustrating are the political candidates who tolerate and encourage their supporters to blatantly lie and spread fake news, not to mention distort our history.

But, despite all these, the resilience and unwavering faith of every Filipino overpowers the feeling of helplessness. This is the first time I’ve seen such a huge crowd in the streets, plazas and auditoriums for pre-election activities. There is a certain wave of emotion from people braving the rain and the scorching heat of the sun while standing for very long hours. Well, yes, people are fighting their own battles but it is also quite obvious that people are becoming hopeful for change.

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On a hopeful note, I would like to congratulate my mother, Dr. Preciosa S. Soliven, who founded Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center (OBMC) 55 years ago. This year’s anniversary theme – “Not just to survive, but to bloom and thrive” is her message to the youth.

What is noteworthy of the school’s success is the line-up of alumni who have made a mark not only in the local but also in the international realm. Their struggles and victories are echoes of the Filipino everyman’s creativity, will and strong spirit. Despite their youth, their lives and bodies of work exemplify the mission and vision of OBMC. They have become productive citizens and contributing forces to our country and to the world.

Our youth can definitely make a difference! They are innovative, imaginative and risk-takers. The younger generation is living proof to what can be achieved to improve our society. If we work harder and work together, we can make this country great again.

Allow me to inspire you by the stories of some of the OBMC alumni who will be awarded this year: (1) George Royeca, Angkas founder, a social entrepreneur empowering and professionalizing motorcycle drivers; (2) Ezra Acayan, an award-winning photo journalist documenting both tragedy and hope, death and the affirmation of life; (3) Dr. RJ Naguit, a doctor whose fearless activism aims to better the lives and health of the poor and disenfranchised; (4) Rachel Alejandro, a pop entertainer who has chosen to produce the culturally edifying film, “Larawan;” (5) Ayesha Merdeka-Alonto, an educator working for the advancement of Islamic Filipinos; (6) Atty. Evecar Cruz-Ferrer, an internationally-recognized humanitarian lawyer; (7) Dr. Ian Soriano, an academician and a doctor with continuing contributions to the field of gastrointestinal and bariatric surgery; (8) Dr. Czarina Acelajado, a US-based internist who is recognized for her ground-breaking research in hypertension; (9) Joey Africa, a visual artist whose creations speak for wholeness and empowerment; (10) Felipe “Bot” Jocano Jr., a teacher, an arnis expert and practitioner who has furthered public interest in the Filipino martial arts; and (11) Filipina pilot Chezka Gonzales, a single mother who pursued her dream to become a pilot and life coach.

These eleven honorees have stories and victories that weaved a common thread that binds all of them. Their accomplishments are measured not by personal gain, but by the empowering effect they have on the lives of others. They no longer measure success through material fortunes, recognitions and power. Their success is measured through the social change their passions bring about; through the transformed lives their dreams realize; and through the inclusive, culture-based efforts that they begin in the communities they are drawn to.

For their teachers, these alumni are a source of pride and validation for the quality of their work. For the students, who are most affected by today’s influencer- and celebrity- driven culture, these young men and women are worthy role models and exemplars who stand apart for their truth and their integrity, their serious sense of purpose as well as their humility.

And of course for all of us, these young lives are proof that the times we live in, no matter how dark and hopeless they may seem, are a chance for us to light the way for others. And in lighting that way, we can all achieve the fullness of our nationhood.

The youth of today show curiosity, self-reliance, initiative and personal drive that continue to fuel their journeys into a larger world, a more dynamic forum of ideas and personal visions to which they now contribute.

More importantly, they see the better world that we can all make. In this era of fake news and historical revisionism, in this crucial period when we are all trying to reclaim truth, decency and freedom, these exemplars show us what we can make of this fragmented and divided world.

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In the dark times of despair, when the people are lost and government continues to be dysfunctional; when the people cry foul and justice is not served; when people in power continue to take all that we have given; our taxes spent for the wrong reasons; when our poor brothers and sisters, who we unconditionally help, fight for the wrong reasons; when we find ourselves at a standstill between good and evil, what do we do?

Look around and hear the people sing. They are marching to have their voices heard. As the song in Les Miserables goes: “Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of the people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart, echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start – when tomorrow comes!”

Hope springs eternal! Let us all continue to be optimistic. Better times lie ahead.


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