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Speech of Mr. Boy Abunda during the Ceremonial Entrustment of Firearms at the 8th Infantry Division
8ID Grandstand, Camp Lukban, Catbalogan City
October 15, 2011

Boy Abunda at the 8ID


Photo and Transcription by Emy Bonifacio, Samar


Maupay nga gab-I ha iyo ngatanan, maupay kita ngatanan. Damo nga salamat.

Hi Pvt. Ada kanina han pinapakianhan ni General Chan at he was being requested para kumulaw kun mayda hiya natitipuhan nilaktawan ako.

I was hoping that Private Ada would look at me and our glances would lock. Pero, waray ak nimo pagbigyan hin kahit sandali lamang. Pero dadating tayo diyan.

Maraming, maraming salamat. I donít know and God is my witness, I donít know what good have I done to deserve this honor. I donít know what I did in my life to deserve this honor to be in front of all of you. I have done a lot of speeches, so many speeches. Hindi po ako kinakabahan. Matapang po ako, Waray po ako. But, this is the first time, totoo ho yun. This is the first time that I will be talking before newly graduated soldiers. This is the first time that I am in front of young men who make me proud. I am weeping inside and cry. Sabi ko nga kanina kay Mayor Chan, kay Stephany, I am very emotional about certain things. I am emotional about my country, I am very emotional about mothers. Pag nanay ang pinag-usapan at mga tatay, akoż madaling umiyak. I am very emotional about family. I am very emotional about being poor dahil I came from there and I am aware of what you, young men, are going through at this point in your lives.

Maupay nga gabi! Gginab-i kita ngatanan. Ayaw ak niyo pag isge kay deri ko kasalanan. Cebu Pacific, I was about to fly at 9:20, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning to make it to the airport. Gin postponed nira ngada ha 11:55, nagin 12:30, nagin 1:20. An may kasalanan, so, Cebu Pacific, remember that. Thank you!

Gen Chan, thank you. Thank you very much for this opportunity. Sabi ko, I donít prepare my speeches. I donít know what to say until I arrive in places like this one. For the parents, bago ko makalimutan, dahil pag hawak ko ang mikropono, dahil pag pinahawak po ako ng mikropono, tulo ka adlaw, deri ko ini bubul-iwan. But I just want to say thank you. And I just wanna say I am proud of all of you. I miss tatay. Heís gone. I miss my mother. I thank you for your kindness. I thank you for your humanity. I thank you for your compassion. I thank you for your love of country. Damo nga salamat ha iyo nagatanan. Damo nga salamat ha iyo ngatanan. Thank you!

Thank you for making tonight possible. Thank you for making this evening possible, for you, for us, for our country. Maraming, maraming salamat. I cannot imagine what this world would be like without parents like you who are devoted, doting, caring, nurturing, loving to their children. The first time I was invited to speak before you, I thought, it didnít make sense. I figured why would I be talking to young soldiers? Until I came across some books, validated by a very short conversation I have had with Gen. Chan today. I am in awe for your compassion, of your genius, of your love for your country, general. I am coming out, I am leaving Catbalogan, am coming out of this experience a better person. I am coming out of this experience, loving my country more. And thank you for this opportunity.

It didnít make sense. I said, why am I speaking before you? I donít know anything about the military. But, I figured, when I read Clintonís book. Itís called, Giving. Bill Clinton. And he said, ďwe are so interconnected with each other. We should be celebrating our commonalities, rather than our interesting differences, because at the end of the day, we are so much alikeĒ. You and I. Today, as you stand there, I speak here, I say, whatís common between the two of us? You love your country, I love my country. You love Samar, I love Samar, with all my heart. You serve differently, I serve differently. So, I figured, bakit ba, kun ano kay ano nga anhi ako ha iyo atubangan? Naririnig ko ang sarili ko. Well, thatís good. Thatís an echo. Well, I see, that answers the question. We have more commonalities than our interesting differences. We are so much alike and that answers the question why I am here as your guest dito sa Ceremonial Entrustment of Firearms of the 8th division Stormtroopers division, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army. I am proud to be here. So, when you say, Philippine Army and Boy Abunda, thereís supposed to be strange, bed fellows. A long time ago, people would say what is the connection between soldiers and me? But, today it doesnít mean that way anymore. Today, weĎre friends.

Today, we are family because today is an important today. As you are entrusted the arms, you know that you are supposed to maintain peace and when you talk about peace and security, you are not just talking about peace. Mga nanay, mga tatay, when we talk about peace, we just donít talk about armed conflicts. We talk about poverty. We talk about social inequity. We talk about cultural biases. We talk about education. And, when we entrust the arms into your hands, we simply say that we trust you. And we do. We trust you with all our hearts. But as you have the arms and as we live our lives, you will have reminded that we will continue to talk. We will continue to negotiate because of our differences. We will continue to argue, we will continue to be different, we will continue to debate, but we will continue to listen. We will continue to listen to each other because then and only then can we have genuine peace and security. Mahaba pa ito and intro pa lang yun. I will just test my mic. Mic test. Okay, this is a better mic.

I wanna share some things with you, very, very quickly. Col. Espeneli, salamat sa ating conversation sa car on our way to Catbalogan. I had so much fun. A few things lamang and this goes to the parents, to the soldiers and to the new graduates. Una, I want to shout this out. I am proud to be Waray and I will not get tired saying I am proud to be Waray. I am proud to come from this island. I am proud to be Waray.

And I want to ask parents, I want to ask you, soldiers. For the longest time, weíve been trained, kumusta kayo? Waray. Kumusta kayo? Thatís better. Kumusta kita? Maupay Letís change the paradigm. Waray is wala, Waray should be maupay. So, every time, somebody asks you from then on and say kumusta ka? Donít say waray. Kumusta ka? Maupay. Alam niyo po, when I was very new in Manila, the first time I went to the Ateneo de Manila University, hindi po kami mayaman, pobre an akon mga kag-anak pero an amon amay nagtinirok hin gidadamui nga sensilyo para makabayad ako ha Ateneo de Manila. Sering han akon amay, you have to study in this school because this is where Rizal studied. But, I was so afraid to talk, I was so afraid to participate in class. I was so afraid to express myself simply because I was Waray. Nahahadlok ako, natatakot ako mag Bisaya. Natatakot akong pagtawanan na ang aking O, nagiging U, and aking I nagiging e. Natatakot ako na pag sinabi kong Manela, pagtatawanan ako. Pag sinabi kong Atinio, pinagtatawanan ako and I was so afraid. It was a fearful point in my life. Until I discovered that the best way to survive in a jungle is to stay to your core, is to stay true to your core. Eh, ano kung bisaya ako? Eh, ano kung waray ako? Eh, ano kung ang e ko ay I, kung ang o ko ay u? Thatís part of who I am. Thatís part of my core. I should be proud of my accent. Until I found that piece, sabi ko lalaban ako. And who would have imagined that one day I would be a television talk show host. So, today when I commit mistakes on television, when I mispronounce my words, I tell myself that in no way will I be defined by my accent because I am better than that. No one will define my dreams for my family and for my country, simply because I donít talk like people in Manila. Pero, tatanggapin ko po, for the longest time, I wanted to learn the Ateneo accent. I wanted to speak the tagalog like the Manilenos. Until I figured I will not, until I figured that I want to stick to my accent because it is my core.

This is a very inspiring story. Barbara Walters is the greatest living broadcast journalist in the world today. Do you know that to this very day, she cannot pronounce the letter R. She lisps. She was called Baba Wawa instead of Barbara Walters. And she has to strive for two straight years because she was so insecure about not being able to pronounce R. Until she realized that it was part of who she was. She worked hard, she was dedicated. Today, sheís the greatest living broadcast journalist.

The only thing I am trying to tell you, young soldiers, is be proud of who you are. Because who you are, is okay. Magsasaka ang tatay, nananahi ang nanay, mahirap ang pamilya, be proud of that because that is your take off point. That makes you who you are. Be proud, be proud. Thatís who you are.

Today, narito tayo, because we are entrusting arms to you. Letís talk about trust. Trust is basically believing in the honesty and the integrity of the other person. But, ang trust ay binibigay. In Philosophy, trust is given. You do not demand for trust. There are two kinds of experiences when trust is given. One is emotional. When I trust someone, when I trust you to carry the firearms that would protect me, I open myself for vulnerabilities. I open myself to the possibility that I will be violated. So that is a keep of faith, that is an instinct that tells me I will trust you because you love this country. Thatís an emotional experience.

The second experience is logical ang trust. Pinag iisipan. Itís a process. Can I trust this person? Do I have reason to trust this person? So, you calculate. Can I trust him with a gun? That becomes a logical process. But in real life, trust is given combining both, the emotional, the instinctual and the logical process. When you are entrusted to carry firearms, you are supposed to maintain peace. You are supposed to protect this country from internal and external invaders. You are not supposed to create bloodshed but to prevent it. You are not supposed to have power over another personís life but to have restrained from it. And young soldiers, whatever it cost, for the sake of peace, as you carry your firearms, we cannot give up on peace.

Whatever happens, you and I will do everything within our power to have peace.

The third word that comes into my mind tonight is integrity. Ano ba ang integridad? Mga magulang, soldiers, ano ang integrity? Again. In Philosophy, integrity is simply a sense of completeness, buo. Kaya may naririning kayo na may integridad ang material na ito, may integridad ang organisasyon na ito. Itís not inner sense of being complete and integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness of oneís character. You have integrity and that is the reason why you deserve the trust. Maintain that integrity because this journey is not going to be easy for you. It is not going to be easy for us. There will be times in our lives when we will be confronted with moments when our integrity is challenged. You go back to these moments and you say. What is this for my country? What is this for my family?

That brings me to my fourth point, the culture of accountability. Mayroon tayong pananaw na pag may nagkakamlai, pag may nangyayaring baha, may bagyo, we ask who is accountable? May mga words that come about like command responsibility. I know this is very strong in military training. I want to challenge this concept. I want to challenge the concept of accountability. Accountability should not only be applied when things go wrong. Accountability must be applied every day. When you do good things and bad things, you should be accountable for your actions. When in the morning, you say hello, good morning and you did something good, you are accountable for your actions. When you commit mistakes and you accept and apologized, you are accountable for your actions. Can you imagine a country, a world, a town, or an organization where everyone is accountable to each other?

That brings me to the next word, change. Madaming beses yan napapakinggan natin. Change is good but itís not always easy. But, do not be afraid to change what is wrong. Parents, donít be afraid to change what is wrong. You know why? In the olden times, people would say ayaw kamo pag pinakiana hit iyo mga anak. Pag nagkukurukayakan it mga lagas, it mga bata deri nakikisali. Thatís wrong. Especially, when you talk about things that has something to do with your children, ask your children. Inform your children on matters that concern them. Ang tawag diyan ngayon ay youth engagement. Nagpapakiana, nag-uusap para nagkakaintindihan. And that is important for us today. Change what is wrong. Challenge what is wrong.

In the last SONA of the president, kung tama ang aking alaala. Towards the end of his speech, he started to talk about changing the culture of negativism and cynicism as opposed to critical collaboration and a culture of hope and positivism. Sasabihin nila, bakit, are you depriving from me from my right to question, from my right to debate, my right to argue? No. Critical collaboration is, knowing that you and I, as we disagree, you and I have a common goal. What is that common goal? Itís the good of the country, itís for your good, itís my good, itís for the good of our children. So, when you talk about change, do not be afraid to confront things that you have been so used to but are wrong. Say, this is wrong and I have to change it. Patron, waray kuwarta, nangungutang kay kailangan magpakain. Change that. Live within your means. Thatís the only way to do it. You know what is happening in Japan today? You know whatís happening in Japan after that tsunami, that nuclear incident. In the prefecture and in the cities around where it happened, people live within their means. Waray nainom. Waray nag babar. Everybody behaves towards that direction of trying to recover. In a few months, Japan is back. Thatís what you call in military parlance, as discipline.

And letís talk about another culture. Letís celebrate our culture as integral part of our national identity. Sino ba talaga tayo? Sino ba ang Pinoy? Ethnic Nationalism. Col. Ellorda would know this. He was my classmate in Internal Relations and Public Diplomacy. Napakalakas. Ethnic Nationalism simply means that we identify ourselves as akoíy waray, akoíy ilonggo, akoíy Ilocano, akoíy tagalog. Tama lahat yun, but bottomline akoż Pilipino. We must work hard at softening the ethnic nationalism that we have. Okay. Celebrate that culture. Sino ba talaga tayo? Kultura is a way of life. Itís the way we think. Itís the way we act. Itís evolving, Paano ba tayo magalit.? Ano ba ang nagpapagalit sa atin? Ano ang nagpapasaya sa atin? What makes us dance? What makes us laugh? Go back to that culture. Celebrate it. That is good. Letís stop copying and letís stop blaming the 300 years of the Spaniards colonizers and the 50 years with the Americans. Thatís okay. Thatís part of the past. Letís not be haunted by the past. What is important is today. What is important is what we made of ourselves out of those colonizers. Let us not be defined and let us not be dictated by our sorry and by our lonely experiences from the colonizers. Who are you today? Self-ascription ang tawag diyan. Be proud of who you are.

Next, you can turn your wounds into wisdom. Thatís forgiveness. I was talking to Col. Espineli kanina and we were talking about the Balangiga. I cry every time I talk about the Balangiga massacre. That was the only revolt that we won during the Philippine American war. But, what we were told, theyíre not even returning the bells of Balangiga. Theyíre just in South Korea or in some base in Wyoming. Why canít they just return the bells that symbolized the bravery of the Filipino? Be proud of that. When I try to say turn wounds into wisdom, we are not perfect. We have our feelings. We have our excesses but thereís a way of turning wounds into wisdom. There is an expiration date to anger, so that you can transform that anger into a positive energy to lead you as better soldiers, as better people and that is very important.

Next is the art of making the impossible, possible. It is possible thatís how the Czech republic defines politics. Politics is the art of making that impossible possible. Why do I believe on this? That is my point. Nung bago pa ako sa Manila, lahat ng nakakasalubong ko. I was told many times over that I couldnít make it. I was told many times right in my face that Iím not going to make it because I was not mestizo, I was not guwapo, because I was not rich. One big time producer came to me straight to my face, if you want to try television, good luck and tough luck. You are not gonna make it. Masyado kang inglisero and may punto ka. I said, watch me. Today, they are still there by the side lines. I donít know what they are doing, but I am still here. I proved them all wrong. Why? For so long as you are at the side of truth, you will survive anything. It is very clear for me from the very beginning. Nung sinsabihan ako, hindi ako puwede, sabi ko, hindi, puwede ako. Nung sinsabihan ako na hindi ka uursa diyan sa negosyong yan dahil hindi ka maputi, hindi, puwede ako. It was not easy to reach where I am. Nagbenta ako ng lahat ng bagay na puwedeng ibenta, para lang mabuhay because I come from a very poor and humble beginnings. But what was I afraid to succeed? Tough luck. I said no, I am not afraid.

You, guys, young soldiers, you have to remember this. Sometimes, you do not succeed because subconsciously, you are afraid to succeed. Take that out. Take that out! Open your eyes and your minds to the gifts of the universe. Open your hearts to anything that is positive because God is kind and this universe is kind. Everything that you want is there. It is just a question of recognizing it.

Dalawang tao ang aking hinahangaan sa ngayon. Papalit-palit ang hinahangaan ko. Si Nora aunor lang ang permanente. Una, Nelson Mandela. He used to be the poster boy of democracy of South Africa. He fought hard for the african national congress. He is the father of democracy. He is already ninety four years old. Sabi ni Mandela, courage is not the absence of the fear. It is inspiring others to move beyond it. It is not bad to take a few steps backward in a fight. Robin Green would say the best way to win a war is not fight. Sabi ni Mandela, courage is not the absence of fear. It is inspiring others to move beyond it. Pag kinabahan kayo, kakabahan kami. But if you are in the forefront of the battle against insurgents, and foreign invaders, pag okay kayo, okay kami. Thatís how courage is to us. There is a story. Si Mandela ay nakasakay sa eroplano. Nasira ang engine. Everybody was panicking. Mandela was reading a newspaper. Pagbaba niya sa eroplano at hindi nag crash ang eroplano. Sabi ng mga tao, President, you were very relax. Sabi ni Mandela, are you joking? I was dying up there but I could not show fear because everybody was looking at me. If I started to panic, everyone would have panicked. That is courage on the context of leadership.

May isa pang sinasabi si Mandela and this is in the context of being young soldiers. Appearances matter and donít forget to smile. Appearances matter because in our struggle affects many things. Some people are nasty and cruel. Nagbibihis talaga si Mandela. Nagbibihis siya. Ipinapaalam niya sa kanyang mga kaaway, sa kanyang mga adversaries na nagbibihis siya. Pinaghahandaan niya. And he would always fight. Ang katuwiran ni Mandela there is direct connection between physicality and leadership, even at soldiers. You should be trained spiritually, psychologically and negotiations can start with a smile. Donít forget to smile.

Thereís is also one that I admire today. He just died. Steve Jobs. He invented the iPod and the iMac. Just before he died, he was delivering some of the most inspiring speeches in the world. One of the best quotes of jobs says,Ē Remember that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap for thinking that I am to lose anything. Life is short. Donít waste it living the life of another person. Donít be trapped by dogma, yung mga katalinuhan, philosophies which is living with the results of other peopleís thinking. Do not allow the noise of other peopleís opinions to drown your inner voice. Follow your hearts and your instincts because they somehow already know what you want to becomeĒ. Simply said, ano ba ang ating sinasayang na oras? We were born naked, we will end naked, so we might as well live to the best we can and the best way to do it according to Steve Jobs is to follow your heart. That is why you are here tonight because you follow your hearts. And I say thank you to all of you!

Young soldiers, ladies and gentlemen, when you talk about peace and security, weíre not talking about peace and security as a job of the military. This is ours, too. Atin din yan, thatís why I talked about community engagement. We have to engage each other, no matter how difficult it is, no matter how much disagreement we have. Sabi nga ng Russian saying, ďthe truth is born out of arguments so letís not get tired if we want peace and security.Ē And, the biggest solution, according to most glorious philosophers, ďin times of conflict, you look back at all the chances of loving. Had we loved, we wouldnít have killed each other. Had we loved, we would have understood each otherĒ. My favorite Philosopher, actually sheís not a philosopher, sheís a singer. Sabi nga ni Barbara Streisand, and General Chan appreciates this because he loves music. ďAs we live lives and recognize our differences, we have to remember one thing, we are different yet we are equals. There is that very, very important question that I want to share with you today. Why do we wait for storms and catastrophes to happen, to actually care for one another? Why do we have to wait for bad things to actually express our love for one another? That is one question Iíd like you to bring home. Bakit natin inaantay ang mga bagyo, ang mga baha, ang mga sakuna, for us to realize that we have to take care of one another? Because, you know what, if we donít take care of one another, who will?

Lastly, an excellent military is a reflection of an excellent citizenry. You do your jobs, we do ours. You watch us, we watch you. Whether you like it or not, whether I like it or not, it has been decreed by God that we are brothers and we have no choice at this point for peace and security to happen, but to love one another.

Mabuhay kayong lahat!  (Running time 0:32:52)


MGen. Mario Chan and Boy Abunda