I am reprinting Prof. Liling Magtolis Briones's succinct and moving summary of our campus tour in Silliman University last July 10. Prof. Briones is a professor at the UP, former National Treasurer, and chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Silliman University. She invited us to the field of dreams, and we said "yes." Imagine waking up at 4 am, then giving three speeches that should not leave the young audience comatose?
I was happy to be with Adel, Gilbert and Erin. We may not agree on all issues -- we shouldn't -- and we may be supporting different presidential and vice-presidential candidates in 2010, but we talked about the issues from different perspectives. That, I think, added depth, substance and quality to the discussions.
I was tired but happy, only to know that next day, the faculty of the English Department and the undergraduate students were also waiting for me to speak. Uh-oh...
I am afraid we drove the Young Turks [Adel Tamano, Danton Remoto, Gilbert Remulla, Erin Tanada] to exhaustion. Imagine two small group discussions (meaning 200 young people as in the case of the Poli-Sci majors and standing room only in the College of Business Administration), culminating in an all-university convocation turned talk show that filled Silliman University Church to overflowing, attended by President Malayang, the Vice-Presidents and faculty?
All the questions were raised by the students. A persistent query was: the youth have been disappointed so many times. Is there still hope? Yes, there is still hope, answered Gilbert. The hope is in you, young people! We must reclaim government, was the rallying call of Erin. Everyone must have a seat at the national table! Make room for the marginalized! This was the message of Adel. Danton told stories of poor gays who care for their old and sick parents, beauticians who scrimp and save to send siblings to school, gays who contribute to literature, music and philosophy. And gays who help build this country and continue to do so.
Everything was discussed–-GMA, corruption at national and local levels, the search for oil in the Sulu Sea, gender equality, OFWs, employment for competent people from the provinces, alternative systems of government, and yes, recognition for gay organizations in the universities.
The four guys had to wake up at 4:00 A.M. to catch the first flights to Dumaguete. Upon arrival, they just grabbed a bite and started walking to the Udarbe Chapel, where more than 200 students waited for them. They hardly had time to catch forty winks before they met the business and economics students in the early afternoon. They were in the middle of coffee when they had to rush for the university convocation, like “a good Christian soldier,” according to Danton, describing himself.
I am a jaded veteran of countless symposia and talk shows. But I have never seen and heard before such a superb combination of panelists-–eloquent, knowledgeable, and brimming with fresh ideas –- but most of all, humble in spite of their degrees and positions. They said they came to listen to the young, and they did. They did not always have the same views-–especially on economic policies-–but they were one in saying that the youth must engage government and society, and that there should be room for everyone regardless of faith, religion, or sexual preference.
Yes, the young people and the rest of the Silliman community are very fortunate to have such an intense series of discussions with lots of laughter and teasing in between.
Next stop is University of the Philippines National College of Public Administraion and Governance. See you there!