Inaugural Address of Rev. Fr. Cristopher C. Maspara, OAR
27 June 2012
Good afternoon to everyone. It is a great honor for me to address you today on my Investiture as President of this distinguished institution. It is both a personal and spiritual moment for me. I thank my brother-priests behind me. I see this not that I am ahead of them, but that they are here with me to support me and to come to my aid at all times. I especially would like to speak of my gratitude to my brother-priests who also had been chosen to lead this institution as Presidents in the past: Rev. Father Lauro Larlar, OAR, now the Prior Provincial, and of course, my immediate predecessor and my classmate, Rev. Father Anthony Morillo. My gratitude comes with an immediate prayer that I may celebrate your work as well as I witness the next path this institution shall take.
I also would like to thank everyone who came today: my family, relatives, friends, honorable guests, the lay administrators, faculty, office staff, and students. I also would like to express my gratitude to those who organized these ceremonies. I have seen you work during the years that we have been together. I am certain we shall have many other opportunities of working together still. I have nothing to give you, but the faith that He who sees those doing service in secret shall reward you greatly. Let me say, your rewards are already prepared in heaven.
Preparing for this speech, I am led to reflect on five aspects; thus, my thought that the title of this speech must be Five Senses. The first is the SENSE OF RITUALS; second, the SENSE OF HISTORY; third, the SENSE OF COMMUNITY; fourth, the SENSE OF THE TIMES; and fifth is the SENSE OF MISSION.
Allow me to share my thoughts about the first: A Sense of Rituals.
The inauguration of a new president would tend to focus on the individual assuming the position; thus, such an individual is tempted to examine himself whether he is worthy. At this point, I am such an individual. This ritual of installing a new president both amazes and humbles me. Archeologists understand that rituals have significant meanings in the communities they are found. Such rituals connect these communities to their history, to their very meanings, their foundations. This, thus, amazes me that I shall follow after the 20 Presidents who came before me. This ritual of installing a new president ensures the continuity and sustainability of our institution.
Upon installation of a new President or a new leader, people would tend to begin asking what vision will the new leader set for himself, or for the school. There are many other questions that shall follow. When I think of these questions, I am led to do what those who shall come after us shall be doing in the future: I look back to those who came before us. This constitutes the second point of reflection: A Sense of History.
I envision a continued effort to clarify and establish our roots, our history, so that we may look and move forward into the future with more certainty and a complete sense of Sebastinian identity. Without being firmly rooted in our past, our future shall be weak: as branches and fruits to the roots of a tree. In this light, I encourage more studies or researches in the line of edifying our roots, and incorporating these in the education we give to our students.
This makes me wonder what thoughts came to Father Constancio Peña, Rector of the community of San Sebastian in 1941, when the school opened its doors for its very first students. I do not suppose there was a ritual as grand as we are having now when he took the daunting task of building the colegio de segunda enseñanza. But, I believe, the Spirit Who inspired the community of Augustinian Recollects back then to work on its educational apostolate is the very same Eternal Spirit moving us today and every day.
I marvel at Fr Peña’s courage and hope. I marvel at what his vision showed him. I wonder whether he already perceived what the institution shall become after building it from practically nothing. I wonder what he must have felt upon seeing the probabilities of war that shall ravage the country. I wonder what he must have felt when they had to close the school by December of that year, when war broke out.
In 1945, the San Sebastian High School reopened with Father Gregorio Espiga at the helm of its post-war administration. From the rubbles and sufferings that war caused, the school began again to shoot forth bright streaks of hope among the students that it shall cater to. Then, as the cliché goes, the rest is history. It shall be a history not freed from challenges; not freed from problems that may have posed doubts among its constituents; not freed from mistakes borne out of personal, human pride, but it shall be a very rich history nonetheless. It shall be an institution that shall become an active player in shaping the lives of students it has touched and molded, including the lives of individuals its graduates have, in turn, touched and influenced. It shall be an institution that shall find its role in shaping the very leaders of the various sectors of this country.
The third point: A Sense of Community. I am humbled by the thought that I, as well, shall bear with me the same task of leading this institution of higher learning. But I am assured by my faith in our community, by my faith that we are a community, by my faith that what is important is the We and not the I. I assure myself that I shall not be alone. The work shall be a collective one. The work shall be our work, and our means every one of us. There lies, as well, the beauty of having rituals such as this one. It becomes a manifestation not just of my commitment to deliver what I am expected to with the authority vested on me, but the entire community’s commitment to its very ideals and core values. Your coming today does not only mean, to me, a show of curiosity and celebration of one individual’s humble ascent, but a show of each individual’s commitment to participate and to get involved in shaping the future of our beloved institution. Because of that, my heart is filled with gratitude; and out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I, therefore, speak to you now not as an individual representing myself, but as an individual representing all stakeholders both past and present. I speak to you with the intent of my predecessors in mind and in heart. And I speak of gratitude to all of you who came to commit today. Today, together, we shall begin filling the next pages of history. These pages shall be filled with stories that are exciting. In order to be significant and moving, let us not pray – not even hope – that our stories be freed from conflict, from challenges. No. Instead, let us brace ourselves as we allow these challenges to come as they shall fortify us, purify us, like gold tested on fire.
Bracing ourselves necessitates understanding and having the third sense: A Sense of the Times.
My presidency comes at a time when the nation’s integrity is at the risk of being questioned and doubted. We all were witnesses to the impeachment of the individual seated in one of the highest positions in the land. This poses a lot of questions. In fact, this may also be seen as an affirmation of A long-held belief that the Philippines has corrupt officials and workers in its various ranks. This must lead us to ask: what type of graduates are we producing? When they come to the workforce, do they become part of this rotten system; or do they become conscientious workers contributing to the re-shaping, changing of this culture and image of corruption? This must remind us of our roles inside our classrooms and our halls. This must remind all of us educators that our dedication must not only be towards opening minds, but more importantly forming hearts with Gospel values.
My presidency also comes in a period of continuous advancement in technology. It is both an opportunity and a threat. Due to these advances, the world has indeed become a small village. International linkages – and other opportunities for skills- and knowledge-sharing – become much plausible. Said advances, though, also lead our students to acquire certain values that do not reflect the very values that must be taught in a Catholic educational environment such as ours. Through the worldwide web, our students are exposed to certain realities that question our faith and morals. We, therefore, as their mentors must also learn and practice responsible use of technology so we may properly guide those who look up to us as bearers of truth and of faith.
My presidency comes at a time when the K to 12 program of education shall be implemented in the country. It is a program that is born out of long researches and evaluations of the fruits of Philippine education. I would say it is, therefore, an exciting time for Philippine education. Every move for change poses apprehensions, yes; but it also presents opportunities. With this change and opportunity do I challenge our community of educators to replenish their zeal for creativity and passion. It is an opportunity to create and re-create. It is an opportunity to become an active participant in touching and shaping the future of this country, and the world.
My presidency also marks the beginning of the ten-year countdown to our Diamond celebration. Ten years from now, SSC-R Manila would have served the country and the world for 75 years.
We shall continue what my predecessors have done in the hope of molding the College into becoming a reputable Center of Development and University in the future; thus, our accreditation efforts and other development strategies. The past administrations had been working towards PAASCU accreditation, and as you very well know now, we have reached Level 3 for our Arts and Sciences and Business Administration Programs, Grade School and High School Departments; Level 2 for the Hotel and Restaurant Management, Tourism, and Computer Science. We shall ensure that these accomplishments are not laid to waste. Instead, it must stir us to double our efforts in developing academic programs and equip ourselves with more capabilities to serve our community.
We must be challenged and motivated to produce graduates equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills that shall propel them towards excellence in whatever field they venture. Our programs must be so designed that our graduates may be at par with graduates of other institutions.
We are ready. We are on our way.
In order not be led astray,we must always also bear in mind and heart A Sense of Mission.
Clothe yourselves in the armor of light. This light, of course, must come only from that Eternal Sun – that Eternal Light – that never sets: our One and True God. Within the walls and halls of our institution, we must carry this light and keep it aflame. We must harness this flame and use it to set our students’ hearts on fire for the sake of service, for social responsibility, for excellence. This may guarantee that, once they go out of our turfs, they shall be ready to spread light especially in the darkest corridors and annals of our country. We must consciously mold our students into becoming warriors, a force for good.
We are called to be light of the world.
Finally, in union with our forefathers, with all those who came before us, and those who shall come after us, let me end by again declaring the “true motives behind the Augustinian Recollect Order’s decision to establish Catholic schools here in the Philippines,” as written by Father Pedro A. Garcia in his salutatory circular dated April 14, 1940. He wrote:
In Christian towns where people have known the Maker of their souls, [we] want those beliefs to strike deep roots through education by opening schools that – together with the knowledge that constitutes the fountainhead of human science – aim to further deepen the Christian roots of all those who attend their classes. Let us now tread this new path with resolve and enterprising spirit, hoping that – if it is for the greater honor and glory of God – He may bless our efforts and sacrifices.
This motive must remain our motive as well.
Once again, thank you very much.