Evelio Javier awardee Juancho Cajucom's speech to the AHS Class of 2013
Good evening again to everyone: administrators, teachers, parents, and my fellow graduates. I would again, like to thank all of you, our parents and teachers, for being with us seniors today. I believe today is a very important and meaningful day for us graduates, for it marks the end of a crucial stage in our formation, and at the same time, marks the first day of the greater part of our lives. As we celebrate the end of this period, we are grateful that you, our formators, are with us. After all, everything that we are today, all of our accomplishments and achievements, is a direct result of all the support you have given us and all the sacrifices you have made for us.
To my fellow seniors, I congratulate all of you once again. Today we reap the fruits of our labour; we receive the rewards of our own sacrifices. But as we leave the high school, I hope that we carry with us more than just the academic knowledge we have gained through our Ateneo education. I am sure that the formation we have received after four (4) years here is much deeper than that.
In all honesty, I didn’t really know who Evelio Javier was. I didn’t know what he did or why he is considered such a great hero. Because of my lack of knowledge, I had to do a little research, just to know who this guy was. Through my readings, I learned that Evelio Javier was an alumnus of the Ateneo, lived comfortably in the US for a few years, and then returned to the Philippines to serve his country upon learning the death of Ninoy Aquino. Then, in 1986, he was shot multiple times and killed in a bathroom stall, after being chased down by masked gunmen. His death sparked the People Power Revolution 11 days later.
In an interview with his wife Preciosa Javier, she expressed how she felt about his decision to return to the Philippines and go against Marcos.
“In February 1984, I learned about his decision to run for the Batasan in May. He seemed very happy with what he was doing, so I just kept saying Yes... He was not afraid for himself, but he knew he was being hunted.”
Now, there are many lessons we can take from his story, but I believe one moral worth mentioning is the way Evelio made decisions in his life. We are in a point in our lives where we, too, have to make important decisions. As we begin our college lives, we have to choose which college to go to. For some, their decisions are clear and set, however, there are also those who have difficulty deciding where they want to pursue their studies, myself included. And when I ask others for advice, they usually tell me, “Go where you will be happy.” Of course I understand the intention of those who answer me with this statement; after all, how can we be motivated to study and learn if we are not happy. And so now I ask myself, “Is my personal happiness the most important factor to consider when choosing where to go?”
This led me to the more philosophical question, “What is the goal of life?” Many philosophers believe that happiness is the goal of life, and that all human effort and thought should be devoted to achieve this state of happiness. And so again I ask myself, “Is happiness really the goal of life?”
After four (4) years of Ateneo formation, I believe that simple happiness is not the sole purpose of our lives. However, this concept is difficult to grasp because happiness can be viewed with multiple interpretations. I think one good way of viewing this is in the perspective of one of the greatest philosophers in human history, Aristotle. Aristotle describes authentic happiness as “an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” This view on happiness is very relevant and applicable even in our modern context. If we were to center our lives on achieving happiness, it should be centered on authentic happiness, rather than just pleasurable sensations, which we tend to confuse with each other. It is easy to seek for simple happiness that provides instant gratification, but it is difficult to pursue authentic happiness, which is for the greater good. This is mainly because living a life of virtue, a life dedicated to the betterment of the majority, demands sacrifice; and sacrifice entails a certain degree of suffering.
We all experience suffering, because in reality, life is difficult. However, it is how we view this suffering that influences our choices and decisions. We suffered the different tests and trials of high school in order to receive our diplomas today, but looking back now, can we ask ourselves, “What was all that suffering for?” Was it really just for us, or was it for the greater good? This success on our part will equip us for the future, ideally a future of service. Through our personal formation, we are preparing ourselves to be competent men for others; and it is this service that should bring us true joy. If we suffer for the greater good, suffer for something or someone you truly believe in or love, then we will find comfort and meaning in our suffering. I am not asking you to embrace suffering, but rather, to have hope that when we choose the more difficult path that leads to God’s greater glory, when we choose a meaningful life that may require us to endure pain and agony, we will find true and authentic happiness.
Recalling what Sir Jampao mentioned in one of our last reflections, he said that the Ateneo Way is going where you are needed most. If that is true, I believe that Evelio Javier truly exemplifies the Ateneo Way. When Evelio made the crucial decisions in his life, he did not prioritize his own personal happiness; he chose to endure sufferings for the welfare of his countrymen, and in that suffering, found true joy and happiness. I believe that this is the ideal formation the Ateneo education offers. Happiness should not be the central purpose of our existence; it should simply be the result of living a meaningful life. We should strive for lives that will cause positive change, and this should bring us authentic happiness.
And so, to all my fellow seniors, I encourage you to discern well. Choose not the path that will bring you personal happiness, but rather, choose the path that will allow you to bring happiness to those who need it most, and I assure you, that you yourselves will experience true joy. Thank you and good evening.