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Acceptance Speeches of Dr. Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido

Acceptance speeches of Dr. Christopher C. Bernido and Dr. Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido on the occasion of the Conferment of Honorary Doctorate by Holy Angel University on April 25, 2012

Dr. Christopher Bernido

Dr. Arlyn Sycangco-Villanueva, President of Holy Angel University, Sis. Josefina Nepomuceno, former President of HAU, members of the Board of Trustees of HAU, the 2012 graduates of HAU, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.

It is, indeed, an honor to be here standing in front of you today. The conferment of a Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, by the biggest Catholic university in Central Luzon, the Holy Angel University, makes me feel that I have been picked out of nowhere and asked to join a list of distinguished individuals who have been previously conferred doctoral degrees by this university. I, therefore, humbly accept this honor to be part of the Holy Angel University family as it faces new challenges in the 21st century. As I grow older, my appreciation for the importance of universities and colleges in the life of a country could only grow exponentially. Education not only attacks the roots of poverty, but also prepares a nation to survive and compete in today’s interconnected world.

The present educational environment worldwide is undergoing dramatic changes. Germany, for instance, recently reduced not only the number of years required in their basic education, but also the number of years needed to earn a university degree. The U.S., on the other hand, is currently struggling with problems in their K to 12 Basic Education, and grappling at the university level with a growing lack of graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. It is estimated that the US would need 1 million more STEM graduates than what they would be producing in the next decade. No less than US President Barack Obama commented that, “the nation that out-educates us today - will out-compete us tomorrow.” Unlike the western world, on the other hand, China and India are witnessing a rise in the number of students going into the STEM disciplines, thereby, signalling an Asia-Pacific dominance in the 21st century.

This rapidly changing educational environment has been spurred by globalization anchored in modern science and technology. Globalization and modern science have perturbed and made transparent the educational landscape and underscored the importance of performance indicators and measurement of outcome among educational institutions. Today, anyone can look at a country’s performance in the TIMSS, the PISA, or the worldwide ranking of universities with clear cut criteria based on a performance matrix. Underlying today’s mindset at the university level is research, innovation, flexibility and relevance. This is true in education as well as in many other areas of endeavor.

Education today means dealing with a new generation whose brains are wired differently as a result of a rapidly changing environment in which they are immersed. Social networking, the YouTube, electronic textbooks, and many others have changed the preferences and taste of our students. The time is indeed ripe to change the methods in educating the next generation. We cannot continue to mold the 21st century mind with 20th century methods. We cannot continue to put new wine into old wineskins.

Universities, colleges and the whole educational system are now at the crossroads. In the traditional model, a university or school can only be as good as the calibre of its faculty. It follows that if a university, or a country, is rich then it could recruit and hire top-notch faculty members and thereby produce top graduates. This old traditional set-up normally favors rich countries or well-to-do schools and universities. Fortunately, two important factors which level the playing field are slowly challenging this traditional viewpoint. First, results of neuroscientific research allow the design of an educational program which is less dependent on the calibre of the faculty. Second, globalization and an interconnected world have made easy the diffusion of knowledge.

Globalization has allowed top universities in the West to tie up with universities in the East. Oxford University or Cambridge University, for instance, has strong academic ties with universities in Singapore. Modern technology, on the other hand, allows for instance Filipino students to access lectures by Harvard, or MIT professors.

The two factors: results from Neuroscience coupled with globalization are also responsible for what happened in our small school in the remote town of Jagna, in the island province of Bohol where minimal resources are compensated by a superior strategy to reach high targets. The first factor is more subtle, and the second (access to information) is relatively obvious.

An analogy of a strategy based on understanding of natural principles is that of flying. For centuries man wanted to fly, as exemplified by the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, but failed because the law of gravity always prevailed. Continued research and application of Bernoulli’s principle and Newton’s laws, however, have made easy flying two hundred people simultaneously from Manila to California in less than a day. It is the same in education. Proper understanding of neuroscientific principles could, therefore, allow a school or university to bypass the lack of high calibre teachers.

It is, therefore, my sincerest hope that Holy Angel University would be part of this continuing innovation in education as our country pursues its dream for the 21st century. Thank you and Laus Deo Semper.

Dr. Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido

The Most Rev. Paciano B. Aniceto, D.D., Archbishop of San Fernando and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Sr. Josefina G. Nepomuceno, distinguished Trustees, University President Dr. Arlyn Sicangco-Villanueva, members of the faculty and staff, parents, graduates, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, allow me to express my deepest gratitude for the distinct honor bestowed by the Holy Angel University upon my husband Chris and myself. We are doubly grateful since your President, Dr. Sicangco- Villanueva, in graciousness and humility, personally came to our small high school in Jagna, Bohol, to extend the invitation to this affair.

For me, being trained in the natural sciences, it is quite overwhelming to be recognized for work in the ‘Humanities’. You see, being blessed with parents, Papa Tony and Mommy Edith Carpio, who engaged me and my 13 siblings in family dinner table conversations about philosophy, law, religion, literature, history, music and the arts, the humanities have always occupied a privileged place in my heart.

Yet, confessing to feelings of inadequacy for this honorary degree and the privileges that come with it, I determined to manage these feelings by taking this as a source of encouragement to pursue the vision Chris and I have for the education and training of the young people of our motherland.

In popular contemporary language, Wikipedia tells us that, the humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences.

Furthermore, it states that, in the philosophical tradition [critique] is a methodical practice of doubt. The contemporary sense of critique has been largely influenced by the Enlightenment critique of prejudice and authority, which championed the emancipation and autonomy from religious and political authorities.

In a sense, this is what Chris and I have done for the past decades. We have been studying the human condition, in particular, the Filipino condition, using analytical, critical and scientific methods. We have questioned prevailing pedagogical dogmas and fashionable trends. This is so because, having been exposed to the lifestyles and intellectual intensity of academic communities in the advanced countries, it had become increasingly painful for us to see our own nation suffering in backwardness – in both economic and intellectual domains.

Yes, there may be a proliferation of five-star hotels and condominiums, five-star shopping malls and residential villages. There may be more access to the latest gadgets and links to the World Wide Web. Yet, squatters, now called ‘informal settlers’, and the rural poor, continue to live in subhuman conditions in many parts of our cities and provinces. Our airport services have been downgraded – reputed to be among the lowest in quality in the world. Chris has mentioned our poor performance indicators in internationally recognized measures of intellectual creativity in the STEM disciplines. Indeed, the list is long, and many have wondered what is wrong with us Filipinos.

The few Filipinos, young and old, who have distinguished themselves in various areas in global competitions, are not enough to balance the tens of millions who make up the Philippine image of mediocrity in an age of global transparency. We have been left far behind even by our nearest neighbors in Southeast Asia.

Chris and I thus set out to systematically determine what is wrong with us Filipinos. Then we endeavored to find low-budget yet sustainable remedies that would progressively bring the millions of our young people to globally competitive performance levels. Our vision has always been to have the average Filipino child from any part of the country – in Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao – perform at least as well as the average Singaporean, Chinese, German, or Finnish child. This should be in spite of lack of human and material resources.

Our small school in Jagna, Bohol, the Central Visayan Institute Foundation, clearly was a microcosm of the larger Philippine society. (Of course, we were helped in our endeavors by the fact that in Jagna, Bohol there is no night life, and we do our groceries 63 kilometers from where we live. The drive along the coast of the Bohol Sea allows many opportunities for deep thinking and contemplation.)

After a decade, it seems that we can offer a package of solutions contained in the CVIF Dynamic Learning Program. From experience and observation, from studies of recent results of pedagogical and neuroscientific research, from statistical analysis of extensive data we have accumulated so far, we can now say that with the right learning program, in a relatively short period of time, and at small cost to the Filipino people, we can have many of our young people performing at globally competitive levels, even in the proverbially challenging disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This is then the invitation and challenge I extend to you, our fellow graduates who have received academic degrees this afternoon. I invite you to join us in contributing as ordinary citizens to the building up of our beloved motherland.

For this, you do not have to go out into the streets to shout and raise placards. You do not need to join movements that advocate violent reform. All you need to remember is that, in a larger sense, being graduates of a Catholic university is a special responsibility. It requires ‘sanctification’ of every duty and task, every endeavor and enterprise.

Thus we cannot let our degrees be just passports to jobs for the highest incomes. Nor can we let the education we have received be simply laurels to boost our entrepreneurial investments for generating millions for ourselves and our immediate families.

For those who will set up their own businesses, Catholic education requires that products and services be produced or rendered in such a way that they redound to further human development, all for the greater glory of God. It means taking Corporate Social Responsibility to a higher sanctifying level, remembering what was said over two thousand years ago – “What you do unto the least of My brothers, you do to Me.”

For those who will join the academe, a degree from a Catholic university requires that every effort be exerted towards professional competence in teaching and research. Mentoring must be done in a Christian manner. There should be no place for terror teachers who find professional fulfillment in having many students fail their course. Neither should there be any place for dishonesty in exams and scholarly work.

For those who will work in the public or private sector, services have to be rendered in a professional and humane manner that maintains the dignity of the person being served – whether rich or poor, pleasing to the senses or not. It means feeling a sense of urgency in serving not only those who are rich and mighty, but most especially, those who do not even know that they have the right to demand service from public servants.

For those who will eventually become government officials, may you be the new breed of professionally competent Filipino leaders who truly wish to serve through their position. Our nation has long suffered from dishonest and corrupt officials. But it has also long suffered from well-meaning honest but incompetent officials.

There is much to do for our country to achieve a place of dignity in the community of nations. There are many challenges to overcome. Nevertheless, I believe Filipinos working together can achieve this. After all, we have been shown a shining example of Filipino strength, fortitude and unfading hope by you, the people of Pampanga. You rebuilt what was devastated by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. And this you did in a relatively short period of time, defying dire predictions of many.

May all Filipinos then be given the grace by Divine Providence to respond to present national challenges for love of God and our nation, the Philippines.

Laus Deo Semper.

Date Posted: 06-14-2012