Commencement Exercises of Bulacan State University

Thank you very much for inviting me to be your commencement speaker. I know how important this day is to each one of you here—the faculty members and administrators; the parents and guardians; and of course, the graduating students. Today is truly a milestone and a very memorable day in your lives. And I am happy and honored to be part of this special occasion. Congratulations to all of the graduates!

I like going to graduation ceremonies such as this, because it is refreshing to be in the company of young people. Looking at the beaming faces here fills me with inspiration, since each one of you represents potential, promise, and possibility.

Binabati ko ang mga magsisipagtapos ngayong taon. Kasama na rin ang kanilang mga magulang at mga guro na naging malaking bahagi ng inyong journey sa inyong pag-aaral ng ilang taon hanggang marating ninyo ang pinakahihintay ninyong araw na ito.  Together with all of them, we hope that this moment will bring you closer to the realization of your cherished dreams and ambitions in life.

As a parent, I share the mixed emotions of mothers and fathers here today. Parents work hard to provide their children with good education, because we believe that it is a valuable inheritance – something that can never be taken away by anyone; something that cannot be diminished, but can even enhanced.  That is the beauty of the gift of education.

Malaking kaligayahan sa aming mga magulang na mapagkalooban ng magandang edukasyon ang aming mga anak. I am blessed that I was able to do the same for my three children—Paolo, Mark and Camille. Wala ng mas maganda at mas makabuluhang pamana ang maibibigay natin sa ating mga anak kung hindi ang maayos na edukasyon. Hindi katulad ng materyal na mga bagay, ito ay hindi mananakaw at mawawala kailanman. Hindi rin ito mauubos o mababawasan, ito ay maaari pang dagdagan at pagyamanin.

Kaya naman, katuparan ng pangarap ng mga magulang na makita ang kanilang mga anak na makapagtapos dahil magiging puhunan ninyo ang inyong edukasyon upang maging mabuti ang inyong kinabukasan.

At syempre, meron din naman dito na nakapagtapos dahil sa kanilang sariling sikap, saludo  tayo sa kanila. Palakpakan din natin sila.

Realidad ng buhay na hindi lahat ay kaya makapag-aral o matapos ang kanilang pag-aaral. Kaya nabanggit ko kanina na mapalad kayo. Iyan dahilan, kung kaya bilang magulang at isang mambabatas, naniniwala ako na napakalaking tulong sa mga pamilyang Pilipino ang libreng edukasyon sa mga state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Naisabatas na naming sa Senado ang Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education o ang Republic Act No. 10931. It will subsidize the education of all students in SUCs, local tertiary schools and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-accredited institutions.

In short, libre na ang tuition fee and other fees ng mga students of the 112 SUCs simula pa ng second semester ng school year 2017-2018. Kaya ang inyong mga nakababatang kapatid at kamag-anak ay pwede na rin mag-avail ng free tuition fee sa mga SUCs.

Noon pa man ay talagang prayoridad ko na ang edukasyon kahit noong ako ay congresswoman pa.  I was the chairperson of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education. During my term I led the passage of 28 bills promoting high quality education as well as advanced systems of education such as the ladderized approach and open-university.

Now, as a senator, prayoridad ko pa rin ang edukasyon. I authored and passed ‘Open Learning and Distance Education Act of 2014’ Ladderized Education Act of 2014. Kailangan rin ng ating bansa ang iba-t ibang forms of education, kasama na ang tinatawag na TVET or tech-voc. Malayo rin ang mga narararating ng mga estudyante ng mga informal type of education.

Marami rin ang nagpapasalamat sa akin dahil sa pinursigi ko ang pagbibigay ng TESDA ng scholarship grants para sa agricultural training or courses. TESDA has allotted 750 million pesos to pay for the tuition of students in the farm school now numbering 1,955

  Bilang kasalukuyang chairperson ng Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, prayoridad ko rin na tulungan ang mga farmers, farming families at communities na magkaroon ng access sa education and training.

Lagi kong ipinapaalala na ang ating bansa ay isang agricultural country, two-thirds ng ating population ay directly o indirectly involved sa agriculture. At hangad natin na ma-maximize ang full potential ng agriculture. Higit sa lahat, gusto natin iangat ang antas ng pamumuhay ng mga magsasakat at mangingisda na nanatiling isa sa pinakamahihihirap sa ating bansa.

Mataas ang poverty incidence sa mga agricultural communities. Kaya kung seryoso tayo talaga na labanan ang kahirapan, we have to focus on solving poverty in the agricultural sector. Small farmers need to learn capacity-building strategies and approaches to get them to operate their farms as agri-businesses and to make them competent and competitive in it. Continuing education and training is the key.

Based on studies, among the barriers that keep Filipino farmers from being more successful are lack of technical expertise, inadequate access to socialized credit and lack of mechanization and financial literacy or business sense.

Isa-isa ng nabubuwag ang mga balakid sa pag-asenso ng mga Pilipinong magsasaka at ng mga agricultural communities, katulad dito sa Bulacan . At katulad ng nabanggit ko kanina, edukasyon at training ang susi sa ating pag-unlad.

Iyan ang dahilan kung bakit sinisiguro ko na ang mga panukalang batas na aking isinisulong at ipinapasa sa Senado ay may may component ng scholarships. Katulad na lang ng extension of the utilization of the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or ACEF, ini-allocate namin na ten percent (or around PhP500 million) of the fund will be used for a comprehensive scholarship and attractive grant for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine education, to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

At dahil meron din mga nag-aalala dahil ang Pilipinong involved daw sa pagsasaka ay tumatanda na, with average age of between 57-58, gusto rin namin engganyuhin ang mga kabataan to be more interested in agriculture. Napakaraming mga oportunidad para sa mga kabataan sa agriculture—katulad ng agri-business, farm tourism, mechanization at iba pa.

Katulad ninyo na nagtapos ng mga kurso na related sa information and communication technology, malaki rin ang pwede nyo contribute. In general, I really believe that science, research and technology play a very important role in solving various problems in various fields or sectors. I have seen that for myself in my discussions with people from different fields of endeavors and expertise—whether in agriculture or environment.

As you know, I chair both the committees on Agriculture and Environment in the Senate. I am also the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology. So as I have seen how science and technology coupled with research and education have paved the way in solving most of the challenges and problems in the both sectors.

Ang mga kabataan ang pag-asa ng agriculture sa ating bansa at magpapalago nito. Nasa inyong mga kamay din ang future of food o food security. Kaya ini-encourage namin ang involvement ng mga kabataan sa agriculture. At least, kampante kami na nasa mabubuting kamay ang kinabukasan at hindi magugutom ang next generation of Filipinos.

Sa inyong pagtatapos ay may mga panibagong hamon pa rin kayong kakaharapin. Karamihan sa inyo ay maghahanap na agad ng trabaho, at dahil sa kwalidad ng edukasyon na nakuha ninyo dito sa Bulacan State University ay pihadong magiging employed naman agad kayo.

This university is really focused on high-quality education and has built a reputation for being a premiere educational institution here in the area and has been producing high-quality graduates every year.

But not all graduates will be successful in landing jobs. You need to know that, not to be discouraged, but to be ready for the challenges that await you out there. The unemployment rate is still high. Pero hindi lang naman paghahanap ng trabaho ang option na available sa inyo. There is always the option to go into entrepreneurship. In fact, I hope, many of you will go the entrepreneurial way.

My husband, former Senate President Manny Villar and I as well as our three children are all advocates of entrepreneurship. We have been promoting entrepreneurship as one of the most effective tools to overcome poverty. Hindi naman kami mayayaman noon, dahil sa sipag at tiyaga, kaya umangat kami sa buhay. We also had humble beginnings. Like many entrepreneurs, we also started small.

Ang real estate company namin ay nag-umpisa bilang maliit na gravel and sand company. Nang mag-resign si Manny sa kanyang trabaho noong 1975, umutang sya sa bangko ng P70,000 and with our P20,000 savings,  bumili kami ng dalawang second-hand trucks na ginamit namin sa pagdeliver ng graba at buhangin sa mga real estate developers. Sa awa ng Diyos at dahil sa aming sipag at tiyaga, napaunlad namin ang aming negosyo, to what it is now. The rest, as they say, is history.

We have been calling out for a new generation of entrepreneurs. And do not worry if you start small. It is better to start something small and make it big. Remember, 95 percent of the businesses in our country are micro and small enterprises and they provide more than 65 per cent of employment.

Wealth and a high majority of jobs are created by small businesses started by entrepreneurially-minded individuals or groups of individuals. Many of whom go on to create big businesses. Kaya huwag kayo matakot na mag-umpisa sa maliit.

The Filipino youth of today are more resilient. Alam namin na buo ang mga loob ninyo at di agad sumusuko. Rest assured that we are behind you. Patuloy kaming mamumuhunan sa inyong mga kabataan. The youth (with age ranging from 15 to 29) are a key component in the growth and development of the Philippines. After all, the youth comprises 27 percent or about 27 million of the country’s population.

So set your goals and work hard to realize them. Be change-makers. Keep in mind that you have the power to make a positive difference. The youth have one of the highest potentials in breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty. Hindi lang kayo change-makers, mga poverty-busters kayo.

Kayang-kaya ninyong tapusin ang kahirapan once and for all. Malaki ang papel ninyo para maingat sa kahirapan ang inyong mga pamilya at ang ating mga kababayan, para ang susunod pang mga henerasyon ay makalaya na sa tanikala ng kahirap. Sipag at tiyaga ang gawin ninyong puhunan sa inyong kinabukasan.

Hangad namin lahat ang magandang buhay para inyong lahat. Congratulations again and God bless all of you!