Light in the Dark

A passage from Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful book Hope in the Dark (which inspired the title of this column) came to mind as I started writing about the Traditional University Awards the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) will bestow on five men and two women today: “Cause-and-effect assumes history marches forward, but history is not an army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later, sometimes a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do; sometimes those millions are stirred by the same outrage or the same ideal, and change comes upon us like a change of weather. All that these transformations have in common is that they begin in the imagination, in hope.” 

These are not easy times for the country and the world. The climate emergency, the rise of despotism, the death of truth, the triumph of corruption, and other clouds have plunged us into darkness.

But there is light in the dark. Because history is in fact not an army that marches forward or backwards. Because there are people who imagine and hope. This we see in the lives of the latest Ateneo awardees: Mr Yohei Sasakawa, philanthropist; Mr Say Tetangco, banker; Bishop Ambo David, shepherd of Caloocan; Gloria Laureana Rosales, educator; Danny Dalena, visual artist; Boy De La Peña, government official; and Karen Tañada, peace worker.

I know four of the awardees quite well. Bishop David was a couple of years ahead of me in Ateneo de Manila University; today we sometimes speak in the same forums on Duterte’s war against illegal drugs. Mrs Rosales is a friend of my mother in Cagayan de Oro and I had frequent interactions with her. Secretary De La Peña is a long-time colleague from the University of the Philippines and we have collaborated together in my roles as former Dean of the Ateneo School of Government and former Executive Director of the Manila Observatory. I also had the honor of chairing the Government Service Award Committee that recommended De La Peña for this award to the ADMU Board of Trustees. Finally, Karen has been a good friend for decades, working together on peace issues. Because of this, I was asked to write the citation that will be read when the Award is conferred on Karen this afternoon.

I do not know Mr Sasakawa, Mr Tetangco, and Dalena personally but I know of their work. They definitely deserve these awards.

Look at how the Ateneo de Manila describes these beacons of hope:

Mr Yohei Sasakawa will be conferred the Doctor of Humanities Award, honoris causa. He is the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and the Government of Japan’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy. Indeed, he has devoted more than forty years of his life to the elimination of leprosy in the world as well as the discrimination that leprosy patients endure even after they are cured. ADMU highlights that among the beneficiaries of our awardee’s humanitarian work was the Philippines’ former leper colony in Culion, Palawan.

Mr Amando M. Tetangco Jr will be honored with the Lux in Domino Award, the highest honor the Ateneo de Manila confers on its alumni. He is the only governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to serve, with untarnished integrity, two six-year terms. An ADMU AB Economics 1973) graduate, our awardee has garnered multiple international awards for his management of the country’s financial system. His work has contributed to the country’s economic stability and growth. He is also being honored for his leadership in making the monetary and banking system more inclusive, benefiting not just the rich but also other segments of society.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David, Bishop of the Diocese of Caloocan, is being recognized with the Bukas Palad Award, conferred on and religious and church personalities and/or organizations for their outstanding work in proclaiming the faith. A theologian and bible exegete with a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Louvain, Bishop Ambo’s pastoral ministry, first as Auxiliary Bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga in 2006–2015 then as Bishop of Kalookan, has been marked by compassion and love for the poor and others in the fringes of society. The University highlights his courage in speaking out against the evil of injustice and violence perpetrated against fellow Filipinos, in particular the extrajudicial killings being inflicted in the war against illegal drugs. David is truly an ambassador for Christ, a shepherd to his flock and a church minister of reconciliation, the bearer of the Good News of God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion.

For the Ozanam Award, conferred on lay people who are exemplars of the faith, ADMU has chosen posthumously Mrs Gloria Laureana Rosales, founder of Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro. By establishing seven schools, one in Luzon and six in Mindanao, Mrs Rosales left an invaluable legacy of education to Mindanao. Before her death in 2009, Mrs Rosales was well known for her philanthropy. Her support of marginalized groups such as working students, Muslim women, rural villagers, drug users, unwed mothers and street children, as well as men and women of faith regardless of religious belief, reflect a life deeply rooted in love for God and His people.

Recognizing the role of art and culture in our society, the University confers the Gawad Tanghal ng Lahi to deserving artists and cultural workers. This year, ADMU is conferring this award on Mr Danny Dalena, a visual artist who worked as a political cartoonist for the Free Press and Asia Philippine Leader after graduating from the University of Sto Tomas in 1965. Mr Dalena uses his art to depict the social realities of his time and environment. Influenced both by social realism and impressionism, Mr Dalena’s paintings, drawings and sculpture depict everyday scenes in Quiapo, Cubao and Pakil, in the jai-alai, beer houses and churches. Through his art, he draws attention to what is often considered peripheral and ordinary in our society and makes them central and extraordinary.

The University’s Government Service Award this year will be conferred Secretary Fortunato de la Peña. Secretary Boy, as we call him, started his career in the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in 1982 while also teaching at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. He served both institutions in various capacities before he was appointed Secretary of DOST in 2016, as well as other national and international science and technology organizations. He is an advocate of research, e-governance and digital access to government services. He is a respected science administrator and is one of the frontrunners of the National Science and Technology Plan 2002–2020, which set the national policy framework and direction of science and technology in the country.

Finally, ADMU will be awarding Ms Karen Tañada with the Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan or the Public Service Award, honoring a lifetime of working for peace, a steadfast commitment for social justice and for women’s rights, and passionate love for the country. Karen comes from a lineage of heroes and heroines. But while recognizing the Tañada legacy of nationalism, leadership, and public service, it is Karen’s unstinting and unceasing work in peace building and the advancement of women’s issues that has defined her career and commitment in social development and public service that the University recognizes and honors with this Award.

In Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit concludes: “Hope just means another world might be possible, not promise, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.” Sasakawa, Tetangco, David, Rosales, Dalena, De La Peña, and Tañada has acted in hope and except for Rosales who watches us from the heavens, continue to do so. Let’s be inspired to do the same.

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