Thursday, April 7, 2016

Muhammad Ali and National Service*

To our Campus Director Ma’am Lorenza Elena S. Gimutao and her staffs and faculty members and the NSTP-CWTS Professors Melinda Santos and Jonathan Mariano, our NSTP-CWS Candidates for Graduation, friends, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning.

Let us give first ourselves a warm round of applause.

It is particularly gratifying for me to be able to impart some words to those whose success we celebrate today – the NSTP-CWTS Graduating Class of 2016. They who are able to complete this unique, innovative, and worthwhile program of service to our nation.

As we all know, our government instituted on 23 January 2002 by virtue of RA 9163, the otherwise known as "National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001". Lumping together the spirit and intention of NSTP-CWTS is summarized in just 7 letters: S-E-R-V-I-C-E. Service isn’t an obligation, but rather, a grace. People nowadays define greatness in terms of position, honor, and glory.

Our world defines greatness in terms of power, money, intellectual brilliance, athletic ability, and good looks. But Jesus, the One who served best in human history, defines greatness in terms of service. We, being an ordinary human being must be involved in service, community service in particular. But sometimes, we serve for evil and cruel intentions, purposes and goals of individuals and even groups.

I am a fan of boxing so allow me to quote the great Muhammad Ali who said that: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Just to share, in 1967, Ali was drafted to national service in the US army to be deployed to Vietnam but refused to enlist. This refusal led to his arrest, trial and conviction for draft evasion. His refusal was grounded on human rights and his religious beliefs calling himself a “conscientious objector”. According to the lower Court, Ali violated the Universal Military Training and Service Act. Ali's boxing career dived out of control after his arrest, with the New York State Athletic Commission suspension of his boxing license and the World Boxing Association stripping him of his world heavyweight title. This also banned him from boxing in the United States. After he was acquitted by the US Supreme Court through tedious court battle, his boxing career started to flourish and became “The Greatest” even more.

In the Philippines, we then have PD 1706, which is providing for compulsory national service thus called National Service Law which was drafted in 1980 and signed into law by then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. This was the prevailing national service act before the enactment of NSTP Act 2001 or the RA 9163. Today, citizens are no longer forced to join the ranks of the army but instead undergo a program aimed at enhancing civic consciousness and defense with various components specially designed to enhance your active contribution to the general welfare. Through this Act, the compulsory ROTC completion is suspended. The term “service” or even the word “defense” (as in “civil defense”) went beyond military parlance. In this course, you attended to various seminars and trainings, both technical and values-oriented, aimed at serving the community. To serve is to risk something. If we do not risk our life and limbs, our time, talent and treasure, it is false service hence, a self-service. (Self-service may be acceptable in a restaurant but a unthinkable in a massage parlor! )

Kidding aside, Muhammad Ali is now 74 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease but still serving humanity. As Muhammad Ali was one of the first athletes to use his status as a vehicle to transform sports into larger societal issues through Ali’s six core principles: Respect, Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Spirituality and Giving,- all manifested by SERVICE.

One year is not enough to make a difference but we, no doubt, were able to inspire and educate people in our little ways. And even when NSTP-CWTS is over, there are still a lot of venues where you can commit yourselves in service despite the odds, when you face the main event, the life beyond school.

Thank you for the invitation and keep on punching, keep on serving!

Congratulations and God bless to the great sons and daughters of your Sintang Paaralan , ang PUP na inyong gabay, paaralang dakila at pinagpala….


(*Inspirational Message rendered on the NSTP Graduation and Recognition of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)-Sablayan Campus on April 7, 2016)

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