Valedictory Speech of Tirmizy E. Abdullah

Delivered during the internally displaced 10th Hooding Ceremony of the Mindanao State University – Marawi Graduate School at Iligan City on July 12, 2017. Trimizy is an alumnus of MPI and former secretariat volunteer. He was also a fellow with the KAICIID International Fellows Programme. Tirmizy was conferred this Ph.D. in Philippine Studies.

Bismihi subhanahu. In His Name be He glorified.

Assalamu ‘alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

Tirmizy at podium during Hooding CeremonyOur esteemed mentors, University administrators, our great self-sacrificing parents and family, family that make up our support system, friends, fellow graduates, may peace and the blessings of God, Allah be upon us all now and in the days to come. Good morning.

I pray before Allah subhanahu wata’ala that this momentous event, our hooding ceremony, serves a form of collective prayer for the reign of peace, justice, and harmony in Mindanao, in the country, and beyond, if not in the physical world, in our hearts at least. For dark clouds seem to loom not only in our land, but also in many parts of the world, especially in Aleppo, Syria and Mosul in Iraq. To the list of war-racked and war-devastated places must now be added our very own City of Marawi. Marawi is not just in our hearts. Marawi is our heart.

These days, our commitment to peace and humanity are again challenged and tested, perhaps, never as severely. We Mindanao State University (MSU) survivors are known to be champions of peace, harmony, and development in Mindanao. We have proven this again and again since the University was established in 1961 as a social laboratory, among others. This is the unique mission of the Mindanao State University. Moro Muslims, Christian migrant settlers and the Lumads live, study, and work together peacefully and harmoniously side by side in the campus. The Mindanao State University – Marawi exists as a powerful statement or message blared forth throughout the archipelago and the rest of the world, that peace, love, harmony, and friendship are possible for people from diverse cultural backgrounds, and of different identities. The basis for peace and understanding is already there. It is part of the very narrative of the MSU.

TirmizyAbdullahWe have heard, read and even experienced truly beautiful, inspiring and uplifting stories during this ongoing crisis and in the past like the Marawi / Lanao Uprising in October 1972 and the Martial Law of 1972, of how Muslim students and MSU employees protected, helped and sheltered their Christian friends. The venerable Prof. Ele, one of MSU’s pioneers, who happened to be stranded in Iligan then because of the blowing up of the Pantar bridge, entrusted her kids not to a Christian family but to a Mranaw Muslim family. In these times, there are students and employees of MSU providing assistance to hundreds of Muslims who have fled from Marawi for safety. I learned how a young English faculty member sought refuge in the home of a Christian colleague. Like our internally displaced hooding ceremony which Iligan City is hosting now. Thank you good people of Iligan. There are irrefutable evidences that we learned and lived what the University has taught us, values that it has imbued us with: peace, co-existence, harmony, and awareness of our common humanity.

Together, united and one in spirit, we MSU survivors, are gathered here in this solemn occasion and seize the moment to send our positive energy and prayers, and express our solidarity with the around 400 thousand innocent civilians of and from Marawi –the IDPs—who experienced the bleakest Ramadhan, distributed among evacuation centers here and in Cagayan de Oro, or crammed into houses of relatives or Good Samaritans, thinking of their homes and properties relentlessly bombed and dashed to pieces. We bow our heads in fervent prayer for friends like Fr. Terisito “Chito” Suganob, colleague Prof. Nikki Colina and the hundreds of defenseless civilians who were killed in cross fire since May 23, 2017. We stand in fraternal solidarity with those people cruelly discriminated because of their cultural identity and religion, here and in different parts of the world. This is a day of celebration, of jubilation, but deep inside me I am weeping. I feel so broken. I know you, too, feel the same way.

Also, I stand with you in the condemnation in strongest terms of terrorism and any form of violence in Marawi, in Mindanao, and beyond. I am a student of Mindanao history and can say categorically and with utmost confidence and certainty that our problem here in Mindanao will never be solved through wars and display of military might. There are no victors in war; woe is not only for the vanquished. The bell tolls for us, for entire humanity, because as John Donne reminds us, “another man’s death diminishes us.”

The challenge of religious extremism cannot be resolved through aerial assaults or airstrikes. The more we kill, the more the cancer ramifies or metastasizes, and the cycle of violence turns and turns like the gyre in the Yeats’ “The Second Coming.” It is ideology. Let us understand its local context, its roots –the historical injustices done against the marginalized, the Moros and Lumads. I strongly believe that one of the best ways to address this challenge is through meaningful education and that is precisely what the MSU provides; the potential for our redemption and salvation as a people is lodged in this goldmine –the Mindanao State University.

This is my first time to join an event outside Marawi City since May 23. I have been kept busy helping in the distribution of relief goods being sent by my good Muslim and Christian friends from abroad for the IDPs. I refused to see myself as a victim, and to wallow in self-pity and languish in despair. I am a resource. I am just applying what MSU has taught me –service to my fellow human beings. I am sure that many of us here are doing the same, each in his own way. Like what my friend has said in Facebook; “War is ugly. War is inhumane. It makes monsters out of men. But it also brings out our humanity.” We see the worst and the best or the noblest in man.

Fellow graduates, we have much to be thankful for. We can count our blessings even in these times that try men’s souls. In these academic groves (I mean the Mindanao State University in Marawi), we received a great education and opportunities. Thanks to the University administration under President Dr. Habib Watamama Macaayong Habib Macaayong. I proudly salute our University System President who never left the Campus since the beginning of the Crisis in Marawi, and other University key officials for their unwavering loyalty, commitment, and dedication to the mandate of our beloved University. Let me mention some of them: Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Dr. Alma E. Berowa, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (VCAA) Dr. Mariam M. Diron, Vice President for Planning and Development (VPPD) Prof. Rashid Paca, and the Graduate School Dean Dr. Minombao Ramos-Mayo.

Often on Graduation Days, we look outside, or far and wide, for heroes and survivors. We do not have to. We see them right here among us. I have seen in my years in MSU-Marawi that we do not have to look far and wide for inspiration. We do not have to start a search through the whole wide world like the knight in “The Quest for the Holy Grail.” Look into yourself, fellow graduates and survivors, and you will find that potential for heroic, that gift of selflessness and nobility, of the capacity to make an inspiring contribution to the good or well-being of others. Scale or magnitude never matters. We find the noble and the heroic in small and simple acts of kindness and charity.

Also, I would like to thank our professors. Please allow me to mention their names: Dr. Godiva E. Rivera, Chairperson of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) Graduate Studies Department, Dr. Moctar I. Matuan Moctar Matuan, my dissertation adviser, Dr. Ben J. Kadil, Dr. Guimba Poingan, Dr. Rebekah M. Alawi, Dr. Eugene F. Torres Jr., Dr. Zainal Kulidtod, Dr. Faina A. Ulindang, Dr. Nancy Disomangcop.

I would like to take a moment to thank my Philippine Studies – Professional Network Group (PNG) – my friends, comrades, and classmates. These great people taught me the power of working together. Please allow me to mention their names here: ISED Prof. Shaha Dianalan Mustapha Shaha Dianalan Mustapha, COMELEC Man Allan Macapundag Allan Mohammad Nor Macapundag, Philippine Statistics Authority District Supervisor Noraya Didaagun Noraya Dida-agun, DepEd Prof. Ameraida Macapasir Ame Ame M. Macapasir-Carim and Ma’am Lailanie Kapampangan Lailanie Kapampangan Abdul Hamidullah T. Atar Kayy Abbas Nor-ainnie Gubaten.

Our gratitude to our families. We are at a loss for words. In life we have our ups and downs and it is reassuring to know that we have our families in our corner, tirelessly supporting us all the way. They never give up on us. I am eternally thankful to my wife Norain Ain Bunsa-Abdullah, ma shaa Allah, she is a nurse and has been actively helping some of the rescued civilians in the Capitol Office in Marawi, my partner in my quest for Jannatul Firdaus. She strengthens more both my humanity and spirituality. Also, I am infinitely thankful to my beloved mother, Hadja Mufidah Bint Abdul Carim who, on her own, patiently taught me the calligraphy of life. I would not be here today without you.

Above all, we thank Allah subhanahu wata’ala.

I have one request from you before I end. Let us be silent for few seconds and let us remember, pray and send our positive energy to the marginalized, the IDPs, children, mothers who are now in the evacuation centers, to the people in the different parts of the world who are continuously struggling for their human dignity... Thank you.
Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen. Wassalaamu alaykum warahmatullah.

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