Friday, April 22, 2011

"CHE at 50: Communal Imaging of Its Becoming" by University Professor Emeritus Cecilia A. Florencio

"On Imagination, Commitment and Courage"

Keynote Speech delivered by University Professor Emeritus Cecilia A. Florencio
during the Recognition Rites of the UP College of Home Economics, April 15, 2011

Swiftly fly the years. To underscore this point, few can match the poignancy of “Sunrise, Sunset,” a song composed by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick for the much acclaimed musical production, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Here are the first two parts of the song.

Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play?

I don't remember growing older,

When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?

When did he get to be so tall?

Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?

As fast as time flies, so, too, the changes it brings – changes so profuse and diverse as to be unsettling. In “Did You Know” or “Shift Happens – Globalization,” a video created by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod, we are told that the amount of new technical information is doubling every two years. This means that half of what college students learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study. This is but one of many mind-boggling developments with life-changing implications.

We cannot stem the tide of modernization and globalization. But neither should we see ourselves utterly helpless in the face of what may be perceived as harsh and unsparing prospects. Preparing for our future, endowed as it is with ambiguities and uncertainties, will demand, among others, imagination, commitment and courage.

Future proofing, in the sense of “anticipating future developments so that action can be taken to minimize possible negative consequences and to seize opportunities,” will require mental sensing. Imagination is more than forming mental images. It is “liberation from conventional thinking... the spark that provokes the will into action,” according to JoAnn Franklin Klinker (American educator). For Albert Einstein, imagination is more important than knowledge - knowledge is limited while imagination encircles the world.

Years ago you must have imagined a day like today. Today is a realization of that imaging of yourself – dressed in graduation attire, marching toward the stage, receiving a UP diploma and proudly showing it to one and all. I wonder if that imaging included thanking your family and thanking the Filipino people.

It will not come as a surprise to me if you have started to imagine yourself in the years to come – who, what and where you want to be, and be with.
May I ask, is your world of imagination limited to you and yourself, or, to you and those you love? If it is, would you be so kind as to provide some space for our country. Look at our Philippine flag, imagine our Pilipinas of tomorrow. And then imagine yourself striving mightily to make our country truly a “bayang magiliw” and a “lupang hinirang.”

Again, may I ask, is your world of imagination limited to you and yourself, or, to you and those you love? If it is, would you be so kind as to provide some space for our university. Look at the UP flag, imagine our Unibersidad ng Pilipinas of tomorrow. And imagine yourself, its loyal son or daughter, unselfishly and diligently using your “galing at talino sa paglilingkod nang may dangal sa kapwa at bayan.”

Courage is a word found in both our national anthem and university hymn. We have courage when -

• We walk into corruption but do not yield to it and luxuriate. We fight against it.

• We walk into mediocrity but do not allow ourselves to descend to it. We inspire others to ascend to higher levels.

• We walk into injustice but do not ignore it. We work earnestly to correct it and to restore human dignity.

• We walk into false claims of heroism but do not leave these unchallenged. We stand up and remain unbowed until truth prevails and persists.

What would you say is the strongest, most generous and proudest of all virtues? For Michel de Montaigne (French writer), it is true courage. For Shakespeare, “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.”

I will now move my point of reference from our country and university to the UP College of Home Economics. The story of Home Economics in this country is no different from many other countries. From its original holistic and integrative approach to address the needs of families and households, the discipline soon broke up into several specialized areas, for compelling reasons. Unfortunately, not enough safeguards were put in place to deliberately interconnect the sub-disciplines with each other and to build reciprocal caring relationships between the mother discipline and her seven offspring. The consequences of the weak links became marked as Home Economics extended its context to include institutional households and communities for the sake of relevance to the larger society, as it was perceived at the time.

After many years of marginal living, our discipline is in the cusp of regeneration – and woe to us if we do not reawaken. “Fate is made up of our choices, our acceptances and our refusals,” says Marjorie East (leader in home economics).

There is renewed interest in the discipline, and there are calls for a return to Home Economics in many countries with different socioeconomic standing. There are several reasons for this welcome development. One of them is the increasing realization of the importance of greater attention to the family and to everyday life, and the value of integrative and interdisciplinary approaches to the multidimensional problems and opportunities of living in “exponential times.”

The challenges we face are unmistakable. We should pursue advances in knowledge and practice in each sub-discipline in ways that clearly bear the distinctive elements of the mother discipline and its historical roots, and are animated by a communal sense of its future. We should cultivate a deeper sense of scholarship. We should prepare ourselves and our students for humane and transformative leadership. Let us not forget that Home Economics evolved from concerns about the use of scientific knowledge and the need for social reform.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people with degrees like yours. What distinguishes you from all the others is this – UP Na, CHE Pa! Let this be our watchword.

The UPCHE is a college that –

• aims to develop the whole person, not only the intellect;

• has a clear values orientation, as indicated by its educative goals and common courses in family life, ethics and societal development;

• draws from a range of disciplines – blending science, art, humanities, education and management;

• generates as well as applies and shares knowledge; and

• does not have to belabour its relevance to both daily living and national development, linking as it does the home, workplace and communities.

It is the only unit in this university that can lay claim to the study of the elements that sustain life (food, clothing and shelter) and the elements that give meaning to life (relationships within the family, among families, between families and the larger community), for the enhancement of the quality of life and living.

I pray that you do not turn your back on your discipline and college. I pray that you carry the name of the discipline of Home Economics with pride (and thereby gain self-respect), and that whenever you think of the UP College of Home Economics, you see Pride of Place (and thereby be filled with gratitude).

As you receive the CHE pin, receive our congratulations on your graduation and also your commission as advocates of Home Economics. Let the public know who we are, not what we are not. By means of our actions, spoken words and writings, let us make true believers of them.

In a few months, the UP College of Home Economics will reach its 50th year, and 2021 will mark the centennial of the discipline of Home Economics in the university. Surely we have a lot to be proud of and be thankful for. But, just as surely, we have a long road to traverse.

In this connection, let me share with you my adaptation of our university hymn, with modified lyrics expressing the sentiment of the college.

HE ba ay mahal? Kolehiyo’y hirang?

Ang aking samo, sana’y inyong dinggin,

Galang at tagumpay, higit makakamtan,

‘Pag pinagalab inyong damdamin,

‘Pagpinagalab inyong damdamin.

As we contemplate building communities for Filipino families out there, let us re-build our CHE community, with the use of bricks and not straws. At whatever point we are at present in terms of our affection for our mother discipline, it is high time for all of us to come home and re-bond with her and our siblings. She will be just too happy to welcome us back (“prodigals”), and to give each one a robe of wholeness, a ring of distinctiveness and a pair of sturdy sandals to use for our journey together towards a viable future.

GO. Be dutiful daughters and sons of our country, our university and our college. Serve them with imagination, commitment and courage.


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