University of the Philippines Los Baños


Dr. Ramon Jesus E. Paje 
Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Commencement 
Speaker, 42nd Graduation Day 
University of the Philippines Los Baños 
April 26, 2014


Isang makakalikasang hapon sa inyong lahat!

Congratulations to everyone for being a product of this great institution, which had been adjudged as one of the best agriculture and forestry universities in the world.

Whatever your profession, you will always navigate in a journey for a purpose – and that is, towards a worthy life. Everyone was born in this world for a purpose. But how do you find a worthy life? How do you find that purpose?

Maybe after graduation, you will do a little soul searching. And I believe that you will find your purpose because of the seemingly insurmountable challenges that face your generation. Let me cite a few of these challenges that will define your generation.

First, experts in government tell us that we will need two more administrations as well as ten or twelve years more to sustain the growth that the present administration had already accomplished. This task falls on your generation, for you will be the work force to deliver this goal. And this growth should be inclusive whereby growth is enjoyed not just by a few rich circles but experienced by majority of the poor.

Second, there is a dearth of ‘smart’ regulations to cover the breakthroughs in science, technology, medicine, and telecommunications. When I was abroad in the U.S. last month, I saw that they were already using drones to handle cameras for shooting, but this was not allowed in New York where the regulation was not yet applicable. In Singapore, the debate on the definition of the word “mother” has reached even the Supreme Court. This case was highlighted when a couple decided to store in a hospital a dozen of impregnated cells or zygotes or fertilized eggs. However, a few years later, they divorced. The question now is who owns the zygotes? The Supreme Court of Singapore must direct the definition and somehow pass a new regulation.

Another challenge is climate change. This is one of humanity’s biggest threats because it threatens our life support system.

Other issues include security and other support systems. In Berlin, I was informed that one serious issue now facing the United Nations is the implementation of agreements such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We are experiencing this not only in the West Philippine Sea, but also in many other places in the whole world. And of course, there is tremendous threat to food security and other support systems.

Your generation will be facing all these seemingly insurmountable challenges. But I also believe that these are opportunities for you to define your niche and your careers.

Also, do not involve yourself in conflicts and petty quarrels in the workplace; it is a major source of decay and unproductivity in any profession or any endeavor. Develop the capability to build bridges out of the stones that your critiques throw unto your path. Collect these stones and build bridges and pillars that will expand your base of influence. Fortify your footing that will allow you to launch to a much better area, a much better career. Rise always; rise above any conflict.

So find your passion, find your purpose early on. It is when you are challenged that you shine. For it is said that when you are sailing in the open seas, and you lose sight of the land, then you begin to see your stars. You must also find your passion because even if you study the great countries in the world, it is still the total realization of these passions and purposes in life that will build the nation.

Imagine if Einstein did not develop his passion for e=mc2; we will still be in the 18th century. If Edison did not pursue his passion for discovering electricity, we will be in darkness 12 hours a day. If Bill Gates did not pursue his vision for the World Wide Web, if Steve Jobs did not develop iPod and iPhone, or if Zuckerberg did not develop Facebook, life would be “miserable indeed’ as my daughter puts it.

If all you - 2,000 graduates - will realize your purpose and passion in life, you can just imagine the kind of development we could achieve for our country! Multiply that in every university in the Philippines; we will have such a strong force!

Let me end with this anecdote. A young boy wanted to challenge a wise old man in order to gain the respect of the villagers. Holding a small bird in his hand, he went to the wise old man and asked: “Is the bird in my hand dead or alive?” If the wise man would answer that it was dead, he would open his hand and allow the tiny bird to fly. But if the old man would say that it was alive, he would crush the bird dead in his hand.

The wise man looked into the boy’s eyes and answered: “Young man, the answer to your question is entirely in your hand.”

Young men and women, you have learned in this University the basic knowledge in life and the tools for critical thinking. But it is still for you to decide the future. The answers to your questions are entirely in your hands.