(Youtube link courtesy of Dennis Gorecho)
The greatest and most powerful message I was exposed to from my stint at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) at Diliman, was not about reciprocated love, but the power of unrequited love for country. That is the pure love for country and one's countrymen and women that does not ask for payback, for positions, power, privilege or treasure. That message of the sacrifice of the nation's greatest treasure - its youth - is inscribed at the base of our Immortal Oblation and I had the chance to read it as an undergraduate in U.P. Diliman and it still reads thus:
Nasaan ang kabataang mag-aalay
ng kanilang kasibulang buhay,
ng kanilang adhikain at sigasig
sa kabutihan ng bansa?
Nasaan ang siyang puspusang
magbubuhos ng dugo
upang hugasang lariat ang ating kahihiyan,
ang ating mga kalapastanganan,
ang ating kabalintuan?
Tanging yaong dalisay at walang bahid
ang karapatdapat na naging alay upang
matanggap ang kasalantaang ito.
Binigkas ni Padre Florentino sa El Filibusterismo, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, 1891:
Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land? Where are the youth who will generously pour out their blood to wash away so much shame, so much crime, so much abomination? Pure and spotless must the victim be that the sacrifice may be acceptable, Where are you, Oh youth, who will embody in yourselves the vigor of life that has left our veins, the purity of ideas that has contaminated in our brains,the fire of enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts? We await, Oh youth, come, for we await you!
- Dr. Jose P. Rizal
How many have gone before us in the prime of their youth and given it all up for their country? How many are preparing themselves to do so, even as we speak? We can only watch in awe and try perhaps to follow these examples, in our own small ways. But maybe this love is not so unrequited after all.
As the days grow into weeks and the weeks into months and into years, we come to appreciate the sacrifices of those, including the youth from U.P. who fought the Japanese in World War II, who were present fighting the Marcos dictatorship during the first Quarter Storm. We recall them marching in EDSA I and crying in outrage against the bumbling buffoonery of Joseph Estrada or the Machiavellian machinations of Gloria M. Arroyo to stay in power. We watch them today, acting as watchdogs against government excesses and fighting still for many unresolved injustices, and how can we not fail to be moved by this?
And so, the love is not unrequited after all. We love these youth: their health, happiness, and futures were and continue to be sacrificed for that most abstract of concepts: the People and the Nation.
We love them with a bright fierceness of appreciation for what they have done across the continuum of time. We love them with hearts that are filled to bursting with the unspoken emotions of sympathy for mothers who have lost sons and daughters; for brothers and sisters or young lovers untying their psychic bonds over the fundamental choices of whether to reform and change the system or to join it.
I think about all the youth who have given it all up, and of course, being from U.P., I am especially touched, by those who came from there. I think of their hastily abandoned graves in some forlorn mountain pass, the political or state-sanctioned murders of those who tried to change things; but also of their victories: More progressive laws passed, dictatorships toppled, injustices corrected, bridges built, patiens cured, and progress, learning and literacy brought to the far corners of the land.
In the dead of the night, I sit bolt upright, and think of this love of many of these youth in their untold numbers, and yes, it is not unrequited: For I and many others love them back for what they have tried to do for us, for all of us; imperfect though the results may have been. And yes, Rizal was right. Their love was pure, and it did manage to wash away many injustices, but many more sacrifices will be needed to make this country a better place.
In the dead of the night, unable to sleep, I contemplate the enormity of all of this.
And a single tear trickles down my cheek.