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    Investing in Our Generation’s Greatest Minds

    Message at the Philippine Science High School Foundation Inc. 40th Founding Anniversary

    SEDA Hotel, Vertis North, Quezon City

    Thank you very much. Thank you. Kindly take your seats.

    DOST Sec. Boy dela Peña; Dr. Reynaldo Vea, the PSHS Foundation Chairman; Mr. Isabelo Africa, PSHS Foundation President; Dr. Lilia Habacon; our PSHS Alumni, the members of the PSHS Alumni Foundation; my fellow workers in government; ladies and gentlemen: Good evening to everyone.

    When I sat down on my chair, Sec. Boy gave me a copy of the program for this evening, and the one thing I noticed is that this program is really invaded by everyone from Naga—[laughter]—the invocation is by Mrs. Teresita Carpio-Bacuñgan, who’s from Naga. [applause] The welcome remarks was by Mr. Hector Guballa, who is also from Naga. And I’m the third part of the program, I’m also from Naga! [applause]

    Anyway, thank you very much for inviting me to be with you this evening, as we celebrate 40 years of Pisay excellence and what it means to give back as a community to our alma mater.

    Just two days ago, last Thursday, we sent off my youngest daughter, Jillian, to NYU for college. She will be taking up Biomolecular Science at the Tandon School of Engineering of NYU. And Jillian was a 2018 Pisay graduate. [applause] I had a front row seat to her transformation from a clingy and timid 13-year-old, to an independent and confident 18-year-old by the time she graduated. After she finished grade school, she was supposed to enter the Pisay Bicol Campus as a high school freshman, but we decided against it at the last minute because we were unsure about allowing her to live away from the family at the tender age of 12. She forfeited her scholarship, stayed in Naga with me, and attended the Naga City Science High School instead. At that time, her father was serving in President Aquino’s Cabinet and was staying in Manila during the weekdays, with our two older children, who were already here for college.

    But as fate would have it, just two months into her freshman year, we lost her father to a plane crash. While the first instinct was for both of us to immediately transfer to Manila to be all together as a family, we eventually decided to allow her to finish the school year in Naga, thinking that it would be too much for a 12-year-old to cope with so many life-altering changes. When she eventually transferred, Jillian had to take the lateral entry test and competed with a number of other applicants for the few slots available in Pisay Diliman. So Jillian entered Pisay on her second year as a lateral entrant, not knowing anyone, still reeling from the loss of her father and to make matters worse, also lost a part of me, her mother, to the big, murky world of politics.

    It was a difficult year for all of us as a family, but perhaps more so for Jillian. But Pisay proved to be a sanctuary for her, as everyone she encountered—from the school head to the people at the registrar’s office, to the teachers and her classmates—everyone was just too willing to help.

    When I was coming in, I saw Linda Cordova—nasaan na si Ma’am Linda? I saw Linda Cordova, who is executive director—tama, Ma’am, ‘di ba?—the executive director of the alumni foundation. If you recall, you volunteered to be a surrogate guardian for Jillian while she was still adjusting to her new life. Magkakaibigan kasi iyong anak namin ni Ma’am Linda. Iyong anak niya ay napakahusay din na Pisay graduate.

    I was a Pisay parent for five years, considering that Jillian’s batch was the first one who graduated from Senior High School. In those five years, I realized that the value of a Pisay education does not lie in just challenging the students intellectually. It is, in fact, in training them to be empowered and empowering human beings; to seek knowledge not for the sake of knowledge, but to accept that it is their responsibility to create a better world; and to care for those who are not so privileged. It is allowing them to see the world as a universe of infinite possibilities and making them realize that there is no limit to what they can give back to the school and the country that nurtured them.

    Take for example Angel Palma, also a 2018 graduate from the Philippine [Science] High School – Bicol Campus. She and Jillian were classmates from kindergarten until the sixth grade in Naga. Angel had a very ingenious idea: she wanted to develop a technology that will mitigate climate change by creating an air conditioner that does not use ozone-depleting coolants. She called her invention the AirDisc.

    Angel discovered the technology when she was in Grade 10 at Pisay-Bicol, while working on an eco-friendly oven for a research subject. Years leading to her graduation from the school, she spent hours and hours developing what she hoped would be her contribution to society. Eventually, she was able to come up with the AirDisc, which uses low compression and high-volume air molecules to generate cool air instead of the usual hydrofluorocarbons that harm the environment.

    Because of this one-of-a-kind invention, at just 19 years old, Angel has already received various awards here and abroad. Now, Angel’s prototype is ready for commercial reproduction.

    Now more than ever, we need to invest in the minds of the young. Experts predict that our youth will become a major social and economic force in the next 40 years, but there are conditions for us to be able to reap this demographic dividend: our youth must be gainfully employed, and for that to happen, we need to ensure that they are well-equipped to face the world and its evolving challenges.

    There is also a real need to make the Filipino youth love, hunger, and thirst for science and technology, especially now that the world is entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We cannot just sit idly by because the world will not stop spinning for us. Government has to invest more in education, science, and technology if we want to keep up.

    This is precisely the reason why we are grateful that the PSHS Foundation, Inc., has decided to spearhead this event, in an effort to be more bold in assisting the school become even better through faculty trainings and capacity-building, student assistance in competitions, godparent program for the underprivileged, and upgrading of the school facilities.

    I am happy to know that your Gift Giving Project aims to constantly support Pisay’s vision to nurture globally-competitive Filipino scientists, guided by the school’s core values of truth, excellence, and service to the nation. As you give back to your alma mater, you are ensuring the sustainability of the projects and programs that will benefit the greatest minds of this generation.

    Imagine this: what if the future of our nation lies in the hands of young people who are constrained by poverty? What if they never get the opportunity to fulfill their dreams because they are not given the chance to reach their full potential? What if we neglect investing in our country’s best and brightest? We would do the world a great disservice if we do not set the stage now for the empowerment of our future movers and shakers among the youth.

    The Office of the Vice President has been actively engaging with youth organizations nationwide to harness their capabilities and create in them that spark of innovation, so that they can think of sustainable solutions to problems in our communities. We have personally seen how young people are becoming agents of change and paving their own way.

    Last year, we launched Angat Buhay Youth to complement Angat Buhay, our flagship anti-poverty program. Angat Buhay Youth provides a platform for young Filipinos to be advocates of their chosen causes. During the first run of Angat Buhay Youth, we encountered groups who chose to focus on specific causes, such as mental health, peace-building, social enterprise, and education. The most outstanding group pitched a program called Project Gifted, which benefited at-risk youth in Lipa, Batangas by using music therapy. Because of their successful pitch, the organization competed in Korea last year to present their project, and they succeeded. They were given additional funding to bring their project to fruition. They obtained their musical instruments and are currently rehearsing for their first recital.

    The Angat Buhay Youth Summit was such a huge success, that we decided to conduct regional runs around the country. The first one was held in Mindanao last July, where the most pressing issues are insurgency, armed conflict, and violence in the most vulnerable communities. The summit brought together 30 youth organizations, with the common goal of building a culture of peace in Mindanao.

    The group that stood out was Youth for Peace Movement of Davao Oriental, who pitched Bal’lay Duwaan, dubbed as a “happy hub” for children of New Peace Advocates. It is a transition shelter that aims to help in the reintegration of the children of rebels who are returning to their communities.

    While listening to their plans, we could not help but beam with pride at their commitment. That they have chosen to dedicate their lives for others gives us hope that our future is indeed in better hands.

    That is why we should never underestimate young people. They are the faces of this generation’s best minds. As they pour their heart and soul into their work, they become effective leaders, creative problem-solvers, and innovative game-changers.

    My hope is that one day, we will truly become a nation where young people can freely and fully become audacious dreamers, because society and the economy provide fertile grounds for their ideas. This will require our people to be open to new ideas—even dissent; to protect social and intellectual freedoms; to be more inclusive in the search for economic and political progress; to remember the lessons of the past in order to protect the gains of the future; and most of all, to see our nation not just as a collection of islands, but as a people who are brilliant and brave.

    And Pisay is the home of the brilliant and the brave. So thank you for all that you do for our country. We are very grateful for the Philippine Science High School Foundation, Inc., for your generosity and vision for the future. Thank you for your unwavering commitment and tireless efforts in investing in our young people. May you never grow weary in doing good because our young ones deserve our best. May this only be the first 40 years of genuine service, and the beginning of many more.

    Congratulations to everyone, and mabuhay po kayong lahat!

    Posted in Speeches on Aug 25, 2018