Journey to Life

Journey to Life

Journeying to Life
By Prof. Leonor M. Briones, Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines-Diliman & Chairman of the Silliman University Board of Trustees

(Note: Message delivered during the Summer School Graduation Ceremony of Silliman University held May 18, 2014 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium.)

One of the important functions of a Board Chairman of Silliman University is to be ready at all times to speak when an invited guest is not available.

Perhaps, among all the Board Chairs, I have delivered the most number of speeches during the past 12 or so years.  I have been graduation speaker, baccalaureate speaker, substitute speaker, church preacher, reflection and reaction speaker, necrological speaker, inaugural speaker, deliverer of opening remarks, closing remarks and in-between remarks.  Considering the number of remarks I have delivered, friends tease me that I am the most remark-able BOT chair, ever!

All these speaking activities should perhaps make me known all over the university. During the regular graduation rites last March, the honor graduates were honored with a luncheon.  They had their photos taken with the board members.  One mother was very thrilled and later asked her daughter, “Do you know kinsa imong tupad sa picture taking?” Why man? Kinsa man siya?” asked the daughter.  When the mother gave her answer, she just said, “Amo ba?”

If it is any comfort, U.P. is worse.  One of the professors of my College asked me to give a lecture to his class on public administration.  When he made the announcement to his students, one of them shrugged indifferently, “Bakit, buhay pa ba siya?”

For some of you, this will probably be the first and the last time you will hear and see your Board Chair. After all, who has the time to keep track of national issues when you have to listen to lectures, sit for exams, conduct experiments, write term papers and fulfill other academic requirements? Besides you can be so busy watching “Legal Wife” and “Be Careful With My Heart”, and “Ikaw Lamang”.  Then, there are the X-men, Spiderman, Superman and Thor. Tracking Kris Aquino's love life and Angel  Aquino's reconciliation with Lucky is tedious enough.  Nandiyan pa si John Lloyd Cruz, Derek Ramsey and Piolo Pascual. So much work!

Now that you will be officially graduating in a few minutes and embarking on your journey to life, you will take time to notice what is happening in the country and the rest of the world.


For those of you who are getting your masteral and PhD degrees, your graduation today is an important milestone in your lifelong journey.  Most, if not all of you, already have jobs.  Your new degrees will enhance your qualifications, ensure your place in your organizations, and add to your efficiency as you go about your tasks.

For those who need to undergo licensure examinations, your parents and supporters will need to finance your review, journey with you as you take the exams, and endure the long, agonizing wait for the results to come out. Dagdag na tiis pa. Agwanta pa gyud ug gamay.

For most of you, however, graduation is the start of THE JOURNEY TO LIFE. Like it or not, you have to start looking for jobs.  You owe it to your parents and supporters who bore the heavy burden of educating you. More important, you owe it to yourself to find a job, for your family and supporters, and for your own self-respect and esteem. Only then can you embark on your journey to Life.

You will likely be singing “On my own”, from “Les Miserables” after tonight.  The prospect is both exhilarating and, yes, daunting.


It is the unspoken duty of a graduation speaker to give you advice as you start your journey. I know that some of you want to journey to Cebu, to Manila or even abroad after graduation.  Others want to journey to Boracay or to Dipolog. Ang uban, hangtod lang siguro sa Silliman Beach or mantinir lang sa Boulevard! That is not the kind of journey I mean.

Life is a series of journeys from one stage of life to another.  All of us journey.  All of our favorite characters in the Bible went on a series of journeys–Abraham, his son Isaac, the brothers Jacob and Laban, Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon and all the major and minor prophets. The Israelites journeyed to slavery and captivity in Babylon and journeyed back to freedom.  Jesus Christ himself journeyed around Galilee preaching the good news of salvation. The apostles undertook incredible missionary journeys–Peter reached as far as Rome; it is said Thomas reached India and James reached Spain.

Modern Man has journeyed to the moon; eminent Mathematician and Physicist Sir Stephen Hawking believes we can journey back to the future.  Lately, I have been re-reading Frank Herbert's awesome science fiction, “The Dune Chronicles” which he describes as “the history of the future.” In the book, people journeyed from one universe to another.


Our first reading, which is from Judges 18:1-6, tells the story of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the tribe of Dan. You will recall that the Israelites had journeyed from Egypt to seek “the promised land.”  The tribe of Dan had not yet found the place where they would settle. What they did was elect five men to go ahead and search for a possible place of settlement and assess it. When they had found a suitable place, they asked a Levite to seek God's counsel in their behalf, whether their choice is good and will prosper them.   After prayers, the Levite answered, “Go in peace: the mission that you are on is under the eye of the Lord.”

As you commence on your journey to life, assess your prospects, make the best choice, and most important of all, pray and seek discernment on whether your decisions are the right ones.

The pressure on many of you new graduates is to find jobs. You cannot tell your parents and financial supporters, “mag PMA usa ko Ma, Pa.” Do you know what PMA means for the new graduate? No,it is not another course. It means “Pahinga muna, anak!!” Di pwede na yan.

The 2014 Summer graduating class will be among the 700,000 new graduates, many of whom will be looking for jobs.  The government itself has admitted that the present inventory of jobless people is 2.96 million. If we include the 700,000 new graduates, plus 15 yr. olds who drop out of school, we will have approximately 4 million jobless Filipinos.  The Department of Labor announced last March that 115,000 jobs have been created.  Think 115,000 jobs viz-a-viz 4 million!

The International Labor Organization, the World Bank, NEDA, civil society organizations recognize the same challenge: the Philippines has the highest level of unemployment in Asia.  We have a situation where our economy is growing, our credit rating is improving but unemployment is rising to dangerous levels.

The Israelites also faced hostility and danger in their journey to the Promised Land. You can take heart from the strategies of the Tribe of Dan–planning, assessment, discernment and blessings from God.


The first thing that the starry-eyed new graduate learns when he or she “leaves the halls of Silliman” is that the world is not like Silliman.  Saint Paul predicted in his 2nd letter to Timothy that people will  be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power!”

In Silliman, you were taught character, competence and faith.  The world will teach you the opposite. 

It will be a major challenge to hold on to the values  which Silliman taught you as you forge forward in your profession and career.

3.  ARMING FOR THE JOURNEY Ephesians 6:10-18

It is said, “forewarned is forearmed” When you prepare to embark on your journey to life–a journey which is fraught with danger and temptation. What should you arm yourself with? Do you need the superpowers of Superman, especially his x-ray vision and his strength? Do the girls prefer Supergirl? Or Batman? Better still, do you want to be one of the X-men, especially the character of Hugh Jackman? Who wants to be like Thor with his awesome hammer?

You don't need to be a  Gandalf or a Hobbit to survive in this world .  What you need is the armor of  God.  Let me close with one of the most popular admonitions of St Paul.  This is in our third reading: his letter to the Ephesians, and I read,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil and heavenly realms. Therefore you put on the armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephisians 6: 10-17

After tonight, you will commence on your great journey to Life.  We have nurtured, mentored and taught you.  We endeavored to keep you safe from danger and prepare you for the world.  Now go. Go with our love.