UP summa grad from Marawi echoes call for peace
As Arman Ali Ghodsinia spoke during Sunday’s commencement exercises at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, he stood as a representative of minorities whose voices he wished to be heard.
Beyond his rousing call for his fellow graduates to serve the nation, the Maranao summa cum laude also appealed for peace and empathy amid the crisis in Marawi City, where his mother grew up.
In his speech, the molecular biology and biotechnology graduate called for equal opportunity for all Filipinos.
“Here I am, standing in front of you today as living proof that members of minorities like us Maranao can also do well and contribute effectively to societal growth if given the same opportunities and rights like many other Filipinos,” he said.
“Regardless of religion, socioeconomic status or ethnic ties, anyone can excel if equal opportunities are available to all,” he added.
The 22-year-old was chosen from the pool of summa cum laude finishers to deliver the valedictory address on behalf of 4,610 UP Diliman graduates this year.
This was seen as a fitting symbolism as the fasting month of Ramadan ended and the fighting in Marawi entered its second month.
Following on the commencement theme of empathy, Ghodsinia reminded his fellow graduates that both Muslim and Christian lives were at risk in the crisis in Marawi.
But he also decried the underdevelopment of provinces in Mindanao that were supposed to be rich in natural resources.
“It pains me so much to know that many of the poorest provinces in the country are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.
Ghodsinia noted that despite his mother being a descendant of Datu Timbul Ali and coming from one of the four royal houses of Lanao, there remained a “painful paradox of poverty and inequity.”
“Growing up, [my mother] witnessed the death of her little brother and mother due to a sickness that could have been cured if only there was enough money,” he said.
Ghodsinia’s mother hailed from Marawi, where she spent most of her years growing up.
“There are those who cannot seek medical treatment due to lack of money, or go to school with an empty stomach,” he said. “This is a hardship experienced by so many Filipinos, whether they are Muslim or Christian.”
Truly inclusive education
Ghodsinia called for a “truly inclusive education” that could build “social cohesion” among Filipinos across different ethnic groups, regions and religions.
“As Iskolar ng Bayan, we have a responsibility to have empathy for the oppressed,” he said. “I believe empathy is ingrained in the character of every Iskolar ng Bayan, much like the Oblation that symbolizes the sacrifice of one’s self for our fellow Filipinos.”
In an interview with the Inquirer, his mother, Mariam, expressed hope that the fighting in Marawi would soon be over.
“It’s really painful because now there is nothing to return to after Marawi was destroyed,” she said.
Ghodsinia’s call for peace was echoed during the traditional lightning protest held by militant students and faculty members.
Aside from reminding the graduates to serve the nation, they also called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
36 summa graduates
There were 36 summa cum laude graduates this year. Summa cum laude, Latin for “with the greatest honors,” is the highest academic distinction for UP graduates with a weighted average grade (WAG) of 1.20 or better.
Williard Joshua Jose of the College of Engineering got the highest WAG of 1.058. His average grade was the highest recorded in the history of his college.
In addition, 337 were given the distinction magna cum laude (WAG of up to 1.45) and 1,016 cum laude (WAG up to 1.75).
During the ceremony, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno was conferred with an honorary doctor of laws degree. A professor emeritus from the UP School of Economics, Diokno also served as the commencement speaker.
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