“Leaders under construction,” is how Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogon addressed the 780 student leaders amassed at Baguio Teachers’ camp for the 50th National Rizal Youth Leadership Institute December 13 to 16, 2012.
It was indeed a golden celebration in the choice of speakers: Earl Valencia of Ideaspace, Inday Varona of ABS-CBN, Dr. Paul Dumol of University of Asia and the Pacific, TV host Lourd de Veyra, journalist Howie Severino, the Honorable Mayor Mauricio Domogon, and Sir Joey Lina , KGCR, Philippine Senator and former supreme commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal.
The celebration was also golden in the minds and spirits of the 2012 50th National Rizal Youth Leadership Institute (NRYLI) Conference graduates, many of them taking home trophies and prizes for oratory, extemporaneous speaking, essay writing, posters, singing and dance.
It was golden for the fifty years of leadership training organized annually by the Knights of Rizal in Baguio City.
NRYLI started as a series of lectures given mainly by Knights, but has evolved into a combined leadership exercise integrating lectures, team building, reflection and analysis. The whole is interlaced with animation singing and dance. The Organizational Change Consultants International builds the lectures around exercises to bring out the lessons.
Welcoming the delegates to his city, Mayor Domogon encouraged them to strive hard to achieve their goals and not let poverty and social hindrances deter them. “My borrowed barong for the junior senior prom was so old and tattered, my lady partner would not even touch it with her fingernails,” he said.
Domogon started as a poor man and worked his way through high school and college to earn his degrees. “After my successes, however, and many attempts, I never saw that lady again.”
Earl Valencia meanwhile spoke of attacking poverty through self-generated business, little start-up companies that can eventually thrive. Other smart and associated companies might also join in these endeavors, he said.
Inday Varona spoke of citizen journalism and how social media can be used to correct the wrongs in society. She also warned of the abuses of media and how to avoid them.
Dr. Paul Dumol recalled the words of Fr. Florentino in chapter 39 of El Filibusterismo, and interpreted this passage as reprimanding the youth of his own times for not responding to the call to “dedicate their innocence, their idealism, their enthusiasm to the good of the country. Where are they who will give generously of their blood to wash away so much shame, crime and abomination”.
Rizal had lamented the youth of his own generation. By the same token, Rizal’s work to lay the foundations of freedom and democracy of the whole archipelago of the Philippines was incomplete, the outlines and structure were there, but the reality was then, and still is now, that the Philippines is a country of ethnic and regional factions with small regard for genuine nationalism as he conceived it. The massacres of Mindanao exemplify this. Today we are still in the process of making that nation envisaged by Rizal.
Lourd de Veyra urged the young people to study Rizal and develop clear ideas about his philosophy and values. He showed a video portraying the misunderstandings of many young people about the national hero.
“You are the hope of the fatherland,” exhorted Sir Joey Lina, “if you heed the call of Dr Jose Rizal today.” He ended his plea singing the Impossible Dream. For encore, he sang This is the Moment to the rousing cheers of all.
The end of the leadership training featured a "deep dive" exercise, where each person teams up with his buddy (a relationship built up over the four days) and dives deep inside himself to see his strengths and weaknesses, his past and his past shortcomings or errors.
Guided by Leverage Works expert Sir Max Salazar, each participant seeks redemption, forgiveness, and resolve to do better. He tells all this to his buddy as his first determination to succeed in leadership. Without this inner resolve, a participant may complete the training, but will weaken as a leader the moment the initial enthusiasm wears out. Deep dive consolidates the training and embeds it in the spirit of each one.
NRYLI holds contests in oratory, extemporaneous speaking, essay writing, poster design, a special Rizal quiz, song and dance.
Like the songs and oratory, the essays speak out the sentiments and attitudes of the young leaders, the new Rizals.
Significant among the essays were three that dealt with the theme of racial and gender discrimination. The high school first placer, Clara May Riley of Eastern Visayas State University, Tacloban is a charming mocha-tanned girl with knotted kinky hair and a winning smile. Clara May, also winner in two Sayawitan groups, gives us excerpts from her brave piece:
“Different, unpleasant to many, a victim of racial discrimination who seeks fair and equal treatment, I bear my inquisitive mind into this cruel and unfair world. But beyond all the injustices and humiliations lies a brave, strong heart and mind, ambitious and passionate enough to dream. I am a Filipino daring to be as genuine as the others , a Filipino wanting to become a daughter of the motherland! . . .
“Society looks at me differently because of my complexion, and knowing this, I broke down. I hated myself for what I was and what I’ve become. But as years passed, I realized I was letting it overcome me. So I thought to myself. Hey, I am one of them, only that I am unique, I’m different! . . .
“I am a modernized Rizal and in my blood runs the same blood as Pepe. I am change, I bring change and I am the beginning of change.”
The college-level first place winner, Roderick Macariola, FEU East Asia College, Sampaloc gives us an imaginary encounter with Rizal.
“The first thing I noticed when I woke one morning was a gray box at the edge of my bed. I wondered who would send me such a package? I took a deep breath, grabbed the box and opened it to find: an overcoat, a fountain pen and a pile of letters tied with an old string. Alongside the box, there was a note in fine legible handwriting:
“Good day, young lad, I am Jose Rizal. I was overwhelmed living in your time and learned many things. I know you too want to be like me, so here, I give you some of my possessions, so you can learn to be me.
“The first possession I give you is my overcoat. Everyone knows me as ‘Rizal with the overcoat.’ This coat suits me as a traveler, a doctor, a geologist, a philosopher, but mostly as a hero. It is my identifying mark.
“The next thing in the box is my fountain pen. That was an important weapon against the Spaniards. This was my tool when I wrote my two novels, and up until my last poem. This pen will help you continue my legacy to make the Filipinos a powerful people and work for the betterment of our native land.
“The last possession I share with you are some old letters. They are from people, friends, family and colleagues who have helped me to become what I have become. Soon they will be part of your whole being too. You will learn the things I learned and strive for the goals I strived for and seek the legacy I sought.”
Fifty years. It is a long time, and we are still training young leaders and still building that nation conceived by Jose Rizal. We are getting closer to it.