Life of Honor
Living a Life of Honor
by Prof. Leonor Magtolis Briones, Chairperson, Board of Trustees, Silliman University
(Speech delivered during the Honors Day Ceremony on February 9, 2015 at the Silliman University Gymnasium.)
Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor”
Thank you for the very kind introduction! There is a rumor that the University had difficulty finding an honorable person to invite as speaker so they had to make do with me. People of honor are difficult to find these days. Recently, our “supply” of honorable people was reduced by 44 heroes who gave their lives and died in the most horrific manner to protect us Filipinos from the most dangerous terrorist in Asia.
My one qualification as Honors Day speaker is my being an Honor awardee myself during the first Honors Day ceremonies, fifty-eight years ago.
In the name of the Board of Trustees of Silliman University, I congratulate each and everyone of you, recipients of academic recognition and other awards for leadership.
The honor which the university bestows on you likewise belongs to your parents, members of your family, as well as significant others who made it possible for you to study here in Silliman University.
As an Honors Day awardee, I too remember the time when I marched up the stage to receive my award. I can't recall who the speaker was and what he or she said. I can't even remember whether the guest of honor was a man or women! I was too excited, and too thrilled to be with my best friends and be part of an elite, select group of the brightest in Silliman University to listen to a “tigulang” talk about honor. The excitement of wearing grownup clothes, shoes and hairdo, as well as wearing make-up for the first time was certainly more important than listening to a speech. I wore lipstick for the first time on Honors Day and that for me was the more important event!. I will therefore forgive you if you promptly forget what I will say this afternoon in one hour!
WHAT IS HONOR?
Honor is generally defined as respect and esteem which is bestowed on an individual, a group or an institution. It is synonymous with distinction, recognition, privilege, glory, kudos, cachet, prestige, merit, importance, illustriousness,notability, respect, esteem and approbation. Imagine, all these words refer to you!
In Cebuano, the word for honor is “dungog” or kadungganan. In Pilipino, the word is “dangal,” just as the motto of SAF is “Dangal ng Bayan”
There are many categories of honor awards.The honor which is bestowed upon you is for academic performance and for leadership.
LIVING WITH HONOR; DYING WITH HONOR
Honor is not given to everybody. It is only for an elite group, a select group , just as the SAF is made up of elite policemen. In the Middle Ages in Europe, knighthood was associated with a social class known for honor and loyalty , chivalry and prayerfulness.
In Asia, we are all familiar with Bushido and the samurai of Japan. Honor is so important to them that they would rather die than give up their honor. Death is preferred to a life of dishonor. Remember the movie about the “47 Ronin” who committed ritual suicide after avenging the death of their Lord? The Kshastriyas of India and the Youxia of China also illustrate the importance of honor to these elite warrior classes.
For hundreds of years, guilds and fraternal organizations pledged to honor their society, community, country and God most of all. Masonry, for example, goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. Until now, they make the same pledge of honor.
The university is bestowing honor to each one of you. You don't need to die for honor like SAF 44 but when the time comes for you to leave the university, you must live a life of honor.
Honor is the most precious thing a man or woman can own. As in ancient sayings, it is like a pearl without price.
BUYING A COMMODITY CALLED HONOR
All of you have worked very hard for your awards of honor, but it is not necessarily so in the outside world. Nowadays, honor has become a commodity which is bought and sold in the market.
Yes, instead of a goal or mission which one strives to obtain, honor is now a commodity to be bought and sold in the market like a pair of shoes , a new shirt a beautiful bag or the latest electronic toy.
In academic and other social institutions, people now buy honor. Students, faculty members and researchers who want honor and recognition spend huge sums to obtain and gain academic honor. I know of educational institutions where people cheat, fake others' signatures and hire other people to write their essays, master's theses and horror of horrors, their doctoral dissertations. They steal the work of others which they claim as their own, for the honor of academic excellence and recognition.
In Manila, one can buy a fake diploma with latin honors from forgers in a particular street. You can choose what latin honor you like–cum, magna or summa cum laude. In many places, free samples of medicines are openly bought and sold by honorable people.
In art, the practice of fake paintings, sculpture, literature and other forms of art happen time and again. The object? To gain awards and honor by cheating!
These days, honor is also gained by bribery. Those greedy for honor bribe judges, manipulate records to become outstanding actor, beauty queen, distinguished alumnus or outstanding public official. In sports and contests, bribery and cheating are resorted to, to get the desired medal, award and trophy.
Perhaps, the most blatant, scandalous and most shameless buying of honor is in politics. During elections, candidates openly bid for and buy votes to purchase the honor of being called “honorable”
I grew up being warned time again and again that women who lose their virginity outside of marriage will lose their honor. Women and men who sell their bodies are called prostitutes and deemed without honor.
Ironically, those who sell themselves to get a share of public funds ; those who manipulate contracts and steal people's money and those who mock the constitution are called honorable.
If there are buyers of honor, it is because there are sellers of honor. Voting is done not only during elections but also in the halls of Congress and the Senate, the Sanggunians and the barangays. Voting is done during biddings for billions of pesos in contracts and projects. These are done by “honorables.”
Official positions which give honor are also bought and sold. During the Spanish period it was done openly ; positions for tax collectors , for example, were sold to the highest bidder. At present it is not talked about but the public knows these practices, anyway.
They say everything has a price. Every person can be bought for the right price. Yes, even honor is no longer priceless; it has a price–whether it be a vote for a decision, looking the other way when a shennanigan is happening, when a contract is being awarded, and keeping silent when corruption is happening.
HONOR AND PRIDE
Honor is identified with pride. Sometimes it can even be about arrogance. Proverbs 15:33 reminds us humility comes before honor. It is very easy to be puffed up with pride. But those who are truly honorable tend to be the most humble. As Matthew 23:12 says, “He that humbles himself (or herself) shall be exalted.”
It is time to wind up. The certificates have to be distributed. The selfies and fotos have to be taken. The celebrations must begin. You are eager to move on. Yes, you are being honored by Silliman University today. It is a very special gift. Cherish it.
Let us all pray that when you visit the university fifty years from now, you can say that you kept your honor!