Nelson Mandela Day 2011

Chancellor Ceasar Saloma, Chancellor UP Diliman; Her Excellency Agnes Nyamande-Pitso of the Embassy
of South Africa, members of the diplomatic corps; UP officials, faculty, staff, students, guests and
friends,

Welcome guests to the University of the Philippines and its Film Center, proud co-sponsor of the
celebration of Nelson Mandela Day. We are pleased to honor the man who has steered the world to
a better place, where apartheid can and should be considered a traumatic event of the past, where
equality should reign supreme, where struggle is a necessary must in order to achieve a libertarian
vision and place for people, their country and the world.

What is, of course, interesting in this presupposition is that vestiges of apartheid, and massive racism,
inequality and injustice still loom over countries and the world. And thus, the struggle, like what
Mandela’s life has reflected, becomes necessary to be free or to have a working concept of freedom.

The University is proud to co-host this event, as UP itself, with its special place in Philippine society,
is a force for social change in the country. As Mandela himself has stated, “Education is the most
powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I remember this unassuming man during
the conferment of an honorary degree at UP Manila. He felt at home with the UP choir singing South
African protest songs, he wanted to dance. Mandela is definitely at home in UP, where issues of
struggle and peace, equality and justice ring an important bell.

The UP Film Center is the University’s strong cultural partner, showcasing films and festivals from
embassies of the European Union, France, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Korea, Iran, Spain and of course, South
Africa, and of the office of the Republic of China. In the past, through the Embassy of South Africa,
independent film producer Bridget Pickering screened her film “Courting Justice” and engaged UP
students and faculty in a talk at the 2010 International Women’s Film Festival. Under the academic
program of the UP Film Institute, the Film Center provides for film literacy in this part of Metro Manila,
showcasing international film screenings and festivals, and hosting flagship festivals, such as the Cine
Veritas or Human Rights Film Festival in December, the Asian Cinevision or the Asian Film Festival in
January, and the longest running women’s film festival in the country, the International Women’s Film
Festival in March.

The University has just started the yearlong celebration of national hero Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday
last June 19. This Filipino martyr had the foresight of a Philippine future, warning the nation even in
the present time about the need for a strong core foundation of values, institutions and practices of
freedom. In a letter to his friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal said, “We want the happiness of the
Philippines, but we want to obtain it through noble and just means. If I have to commit villainy to make
her happy, I would refuse to do so, because I am sure that what is built on sand sooner or later would
tumble down.” And like a sad repeating island, the nation remains bombarded with lingering problems
of corruption, poverty and injustice even in the present.

Rizal had an internationalist perspective, and would have drawn lessons from Mandela had he lived in

the same time period. Both were freedom fighters, and had a special place for education in the struggle
to be free. Both knew that the struggle for freedom is a continuing effort to be free, to exercise the
right to freedom. Mandela remains right in saying, “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have
tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after
climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here
to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.
But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my
long walk is not ended."

In the visionary life that is Mandela and in Rizal and all the martyrs and visionaries that came before and
between them, “Happy Nelson Mandela day to everyone.” May their lives steer more services for the
people in most need of change.