This post contains my challenge speech to 700+ government officials, employees who attended the SERVIAM Conference for Servant Leadership, chaired by Cardinal Chito Tagle, which was held at the Grand Ballroom of Crowne Plaza in Ortigas on July 2-3. I was representing the youth sector in our panel with Mike Enriquez (Media), Riza Mantaring of Sunlife (Business) & Mrs. Juanich (marginalized sector). Congratulations to the entire Serviam team for a very successful event and may you continue to inspire and move our leaders to become true servant leaders!
I would also like to thank my friends Joren & my Baboy group (Dani, Charles, Joni, Kira, Carms, Moe, etc.) who gave me brilliant insights that helped me compose this speech.
Veritas, Integritas, Justitia
A friend of mine told me a story of three rooms in a well-known school.
The first room was a small audio-visual room, with less than 100 seats. It was used primarily for small classes that needed a venue for watching videos, displaying Powerpoint presentations, and affairs that required face-to-face activity. Meetings were often held in that room.
The second room was mostly an office, a center for publication and scholastic activity. It was dedicated to a great alumnus of the school. It was a place of solitude and silence.
The third room was the grandest of the three, with at least 200 seats and tables. It was large and wide, and was the most coveted room of any class that wanted to have a big event. Lectures of very important guests were often held in it. It was almost an amphitheatre, though instead of a stage you had a big judges’ bench for mock trial play.
The names of these three rooms are, Veritas, Integritas, and Justitia, respectively. And the school involved is the Ateneo Law School.
My friend told me that while the rooms were simply named after a virtue, he always believed that the purpose and the usage of the rooms gave more meaning to the name than the students thought otherwise.
We all know what Veritas commonly means. It means truth. The root is “verus,” which means “true,”.
Aptly enough, the first room that I mentioned, that was used for intense discussion and video was named after Truth. It was a room for organizational meetings, wherein leaders and members hashed out their objectives and methodology for the school year, debating with each other and engaging ideas head-on, face-to-face.
This was a room that encouraged one to learn, to be educated, to form an opinion with basis and defend it if necessary.
Hindi ba yan naman dapat yun pangunahing adhikain ng mga eskwelahan? Para matuto at maunawaan ang ibig sabihin ng “truth” or “totoo”?
As someone represeting the youth sector so jaded by the past and present, but still clinging to the HOPE promised by the future, it seems to me that the leaders of today and tomorrow have to show a desire for the Truth, Veritas. Not only for their own knowledge but also to inspire others to walk the Path of Truth.
Ano ibig sabihin nito? Dapat alam natin ang katotohanan at isinasabuhay natin ito. We want leaders who practice attentive leadership, with eyes wide open to see the joys, sorrows, desires, needs and dreams of the common man and woman. See it in the streets. Feel it. And please, do something about it.
Meron akong kakilala na nagsabi sa akin na gusto niya magtrabaho sa gobyerno. Tanong ko, “Bakit?”. Sabi niya, “pangarap ko yun para makaahon ang pamilya ko, mabigyan ko sila ng makakainan at mapaaral ko sila.” Nag-isip isip ako. Tama nga naman siya. Walang problema run.
Meron naman akong isa pang kakilala na nag-sabi sa akin na gumagastos siya ng daan-libo hanggang milyun-miyong piso para mangampanya upang maging konsehal sa isang siyudad. Tinanong ko “Bakit ang laki ng ginagastos mo?” Ang sabi sa akin, “alam mo parang investment lang yan sa negyosyo. Puhunan ito. Pag nanalo ako, ROI na or balik na pera ko.” Kamot ako ng ulo. Lumubog ang loob ko at talagang nalungkot ako. Ano ba klaseng mga public officials ang meron tayo?
Kaya nga tayong tinatawag na “public servants”, kasi tayo ay dapat mag-serbisyo para sa taong-bayan bago ang lahat. Hindi para tayo ay makinabang sa resources at kapangyarihan na mayroon pag nasa posisyon. Parang marami na nga ang nakalimot sa tunay na kahulugan ng “public service”.
Maganda ang sinabi ni Cardinal Tagle sa isa sa mga Leadership Seminars na ginawa ng Charis Foundation, at hinding-hindi ko ito makalimutan. Sabi niya, “the higher you go up the organizational ladder, all the more we should lower ourselves and serve more.” Imbis na gumaganda ang kotse, dumadami ang alalay, puro utos ng tao, dapat lalo tayong mag-serbisyo habang tayo ay umaangat. That is the irony of servant leadership. Jesus himself was a leader and king, but he served the people, he even washed their feet and even died on the cross. Yan ang totoong leader.
Integritas comes from the root word “integer,” which refers to something whole, complete, perfect. We often know this word as “integrity.” Put simply, integrity is the result of having character, of knowing, saying, and acting with just one moral compass.
The room Integritas was designed for solitude and self-reflection, which I think is an ideal setting for building one’s character. Character is designed internally, after all. But once designed, it must be published and expressed to the world.
I think that integrity is something that the youth hunger for so much in our leaders. We have seen time and again politicians go back on their word, come up short on their promises, and overall swing from one side of the political fence to the other just because of a power-shift. We have seen officials compromise principles they have sworn oaths to defend because of greed or fear. If there is anything the youth cannot stand, it is hypocrisy, dishonesty, corruption.
Kapag ang isang tao ay honest or hindi nangungurakot, ito ay hindi ibig sabihin na mayroon na siyang integridad. Incompetence is also a form of corruption. It is corruption of the will. Part of Integritas is excellence, not having a “pwede na” attitude.
For instance, there is a study on the speed of doing business across Asia, and we are one of the lowest. Then finally now, we have a test case that it can be done in 15 days only. Kaya naman pala eh! Keep it up! Pero bakit ngayon lang? Bakit parang kapag sa private sector parating mas mabilis ang pag proseso ng mga bagay bagay? Kapag privately funded ang isang national sports team, nakakakuha ng gold medal sa international competitions. Kung kaya ng private sector, siguro kaya rin natin.
Only a person of integrity will have the credibility to tell his/ her underlings to work hard and honestly. Parang sa basketball lang yan, kapag tamad o makasarili ang coach o team captain, ano kayang klaseng kultura ang lalaganap sa koponan?
I hope you do not see our demands as too harsh, but we youth are easily discouraged. When we see rules being flouted, being bent by our elders, we lose respect for both the rules and our elders. Do not create in us cynics.
We have a great deal of respect for leaders who continue to educate themselves. We also have a great deal of respect for leaders who are honest and cannot be corrupted. Combine that, and the respect we can give will know no limits.
There’s a famous Roman saying: “fiat justitia, ruat caelum” or “let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” This is such a dramatic line, of course, but resonates with a very human need: fairness. In a land of fairness, people are willing to be patient, to persevere through hardship, because they know that their suffering and pain will somehow be fairly compensated, be it through excellent services, an increase in jobs, and societal stability.
I think we need to get rid of some notions that justice means an equal result for anyone. It does not. Alam niyo, naintindihan namin na mahirap talaga maging public official. Imagine, ang baba na nga ng sweldo and you are serving the people every single day but then you never get enough credit for it. Ang sasabihin pa sayo, “eh kasi trabaho niyo naman talaga yan eh, dapat lang!” Unfair diba? Well, even if we don’t get recognized for it, ok lang. Kahit mababa pa rin ang sweldo, idaan sa legislative o sa executive branch. It is definitely not an excuse to be corrupt or inefficient.
Remember the Justita room? Engrande ito at puno ng litrato ng mga alumni ng Ateneo Law na naging Supreme Court Justice. Pero sa kwarto rin na ito, makikita sa bintana ang kahirapan at ang nakakalungkot na kalagayan ng mga bahay sa Makati at Mandaluyong. From there, you see the people who need justice and mercy. We need to provide hope for the marginalized by giving them shelter, education, by treating them with dignity, respect and love. That is mercy and justice.
Before I end, I just want to say that many of us decry the seemingly degrading morality of the youth today. We cite TV, social media, games, and simple laziness as something so prevalent among the youth. I agree with you. But let me ask you, are you a role model to the youth around you? I urge you to please be Knights of Honour, Knights of truth and face the dragons of our time. And we, the youth, will follow you. Sasabihin ko sa inyo na ang kabataan ay parating naghahanap ng idolo o ehemplo. The youth is hungry for role models. And we will not often find the right ones in Hollywood or on TV. Pero sana, sana naman ay makakahanap sila dito sa atin.
Alam niyo ba na ang Time magazine ay tinawag kaming mga kabataan na makasarili, tamad at entitled, lagi na lang “I deserve this and that”, pero ayaw mag trabaho. Siguro may konting katotohanan. But on the flipside, we are also very idealistic, very tech-savvy, creative and passionate. Do you agree? We dream of a better world. We are passionate about so many things. Sports, music, arts, video games, movie stars, our careers, our social life.
My challenge to you is… how do you channel this idealism, creativity and passion to productive use for the betterment of the individual and the nation? How do we promote a culture of sacrifice, service and giving instead of always receiving?
I urge all of you who are here today to see if you mirror a faithful follower of Christ, to see if you are being an instrument of Christ. Nothing I have told you will sway the youth from cynicism if they remain words. We are a frightfully energetic lot, but we are also prone to depression if we see our world run by those without a conscience.
And in everything, love. Love will push us to do more for our country than we ever thought possible. Love will let us conquer our enemies and even our own weaknesses, because someone who loves has no true enemies. Love allows us to live out our 3 pillars. Veritas, Integritas and Justitia.
Let love define our leadership. That is our challenge. Remember the words of Jesus: “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21)
Maraming salamat po!