Editor’s note: The writer just graduated from grade 10 as a valedictorian. She is an incoming freshman at Ateneo de Manila as a BA-MA Poli Sci-Econ student. She said she rushed writing this piece the night before the deadline just to gain extra points in her literature subject. The theme of the essay content is what she wants her readers to know and read 100 years from now.
I’ve always been in an elevated position, on this honorary flagpole high above the country that I represent. I’ve always been honoured and respected wherever I go, but this credit is not mine. The respect that is given to me and to the country I represent is largely because of the people. It has been this way since time immemorial, and it will continue to be this way a hundred – or even a thousand – years from now.
From the beginning, when my country was just beginning to rise up from the bowels of ignorance, when the flame of revolution and the spark of nationalism were still being lit, I was there. I witnessed the struggle my people proudly bore as they waved me up high, high above anyconquistadores or any army. High above the greedy reach of foreign powers, there I stood. High above the reach of anything that will seek to soil this land, there I still stand.
Over the years, I have draped the bodies of heroes and martyrs. I have witnessed my country fall and rise again: over and over and over and over and over again. I have witnessed love and loss, victories and defeats. I have witnessed integrity and dishonesty, respect and dishonour. I have witnessed so much over these past hundred years: the vibrant blooming change, the slow but sure deterioration, but more than anything, I have witnessed the steady solid foundation of Filipino values rebuild itself from day to day.
Let me help you remember.
I was there, flying proudly, yet flying sorrowfully; when typhoon Yolanda swept into my country and devastated everything in its path. It left behind in its wake broken bodies, broken families, broken lives. But still I had the burden to fly high, although tattered and torn. I looked on proudly, albeit sorrowfully, as my people painstakingly gathered together the thousand pieces of their lives and put them back together like an enormous patchwork; if only to keep life going and say it was worth living. I saw first-hand the resilience and stubborn determination of the Filipino people in the face of adversity; and in that moment, flying high for them was no longer a burden, but a source of pride. In that moment, I represented the hope of Inang Bayan’s children: that amidst the wreckage and debris that used to be their lives, everything would be okay someday, somehow.
I was there, flying proudly, flying indignantly; when pork barrel queen Janet Napoles was brought before the Senate, the people, the nation to face penance for her crimes. I waved with all my might, straining to proclaim the triumph and victory of honesty and integrity in the political system. I echoed the cries of the people who took to the streets to proclaim the death of corruption. I cheered on the struggle of the people against the chains of dishonesty that had for so long shackled the nation. I reveled in victory with the people when those chains were finally broken, and integrity once again shone its light into the dark crevices of the political system. It was a freedom unlike the raw patriotism of the olden times, but freedom of truth is freedom nonetheless.
I was there, flying proudly, yet flying sadly; when Filipino workers from overseas returned to the country in shame. I had nothing with which to comfort them; only the semblance of a home and the representation of country they had worked and bled for on foreign soil. I could only reassure them by still flying high, showing them that with their efforts, they had built a nation. Through their sacrifices, they had provided for their families. Although circumstances were different, the fighting spirit and the Filipino blood that flowed in the veins of martyrs have manifested in these workers today. And so when they stepped onto Filipino soil, I waved proudly – to give them the honour that they deserved.
I have flown high in schools, in institutions, in foreign countries, in international buildings, in courtyards, in airports. I have represented my country in international games, conventions, and the like. These things of the past: Yolanda, the pork barrel scam – what do they matter today, a hundred years from then? I will tell you. I am still flying high, and it is largely because of my people’s values, my people’s morals, that have kept this country soldiering on.
I have witnessed the ebb and flow of Philippine history, and now – a hundred years on – I am still flying high.
The year is 2114, and as I look at this country I represent, I do not know whether to weep or laugh. We have gone through so much, and we are still here today. But in the process of moving on and standing strong, so much – so much – has been lost. I fly high on this flagpole as a representation of a country entirely different from what it was a hundred years ago. Change was inevitable – for survival, and for development. But as I look at this country today, I know that I have a thousand reasons to be thankful that I am still flying high.
I rejoice, for at last honesty has found its pedestal in the political system, and integrity is now as common as corruption was in days long past. I mourn, for the face of the country is not as it once was, once formed by nature yet now sculpted by the inevitable hand of development and progress. I rejoice, for at long last the youth of the nation have found their voice – not in irresponsibility, but in the maturity and enthusiasm for good that permeates today’s youthful society. I mourn, for stories long forgotten and tales that are now not told. I rejoice, for the leadership that presides over this country is righteous and just, and its people are no different. I mourn for certain elements of culture that have taken their obligatory place in the nation’s museums, no longer as vibrant as they were a hundred years ago.
But still I rejoice, for the people still remember! They remember where they came from, where their roots took hold and from whence their forests sprouted. Culture is alive, and although society has taken on a global feel, the essence of the Filipino still penetrates every aspect of the nation.
It is my hope that as the future progresses, the past will not be forgotten. May the Filipino values that lived in your lolos and lolas still be alive in you today. May you remember the hardships that your ancestors went through, so that you may not take for granted the victories you now achieve. May you not be swept away by the tide of damaging mentalities, but may you build each other up as a people and as a nation. May you commit yourselves to building this nation, that the tomorrow of your children and your children’s children will be better than your own. May you not think that age is a barrier or a hindrance to making a difference, when you can use it to your advantage. Wherever you go in this world, may you never forget that you are a Filipino in blood, in mind, and in heart.
May you continue to raise me high as your banner, but more than that – by actions, by faith, by words, and by heart – may you ensure that I am a banner worth raising. Not for my glory, but for your own. Not just for the sake of the past, not for the current satisfaction of the present; but for the hope of tomorrow, and the fulfilment of yesterday’s dream.***Karin Bangsoy