Thursday, September 4, 2008

In A Time of Great Uncertainty: Unrequited Love for Country

As our senses reverberate with the news of the armed conflict in Mindanao, the realities of the skyrocketing cost of living, and the diaspora of our countrymen in search of perceived green pastures overseas, an institution dares to reiterate its stand that the greatest thing a Filipino can do today is to love his/her country, no matter what the state it is in.

The call for unconditional love for country may run counter to the popular pastime of government and institution bashing. Even the token Philippine delegation to the 29th Olympics in Beijing who brought home some recognition in the exhibition sport of wushu and also broke some regional and local marks, was not spared from the brickbats.

Such is the point of the Centre for International Education (CIE), a 23-year old school with campuses in Cebu and Makati cities, which prides itself as The School for Leaders. It believes that the Filipino should not just roll over and die when subjected to the myriad of difficulties, both natural and man-made, that it is going through at this time. Rather, the Filipino should use these adversities to polish itself and become better persons, individually and a better nation, collectively.

This phenomenon is best illustrated in the creation of the pearl, the only precious gem that is created from a living organism – the oyster. Seemingly secure at the ocean floor, the oyster’s shell of protection is breached, and its tender tissues violated by irritants called “teredos”. In an act of survival, the oyster coats itself with nacre, putting its original form to rest, but in time resurrecting as the shiny gem called the pearl.

CIE celebrates the Filipino’s resilience and other positive values by publishing two books: “The Legend of the Pearl of the Orient”, and “The Pearl Principle: Ang Diwa ng Perlas ng Silangan.” The books are written by Prof. Nelia Cruz Sarcol, founder and concurrently president and chief executive officer of CIE.

The Legend of the Pearl of the Orient is an illustrated storybook that depicts the perilous journey of merchants from prehistoric China in search of wealth of the neighboring lands by which to trade. Shipwrecked, they are guided by the like glitter of lights from the islands of what are now the Philippines. They think that the lights come from legendary mermaids who are said to possess pearls that have extraordinary glitter. However, the shipwrecked traders are rescued by the island’s inhabitants, who showed them that the greatest treasures are found in the hearts of the people.

The Pearl Principle: Ang Diwa ng Perlas ng Silanganan probes deeply into what could be a workable modern-day Philippine ideology. Through its “Ten Tenets of the Pearl Principle”, it presents its worldview “that is rooted in the transformation of adversity into a gem of a life … as in the creation of a pearl.”

The launches will be held in Cebu City on September 20, 2008 at the Casino Espanol de Cebu and Makati City on September 30, 2008 at the Makati Sports Club.

Within the classrooms of CIE, The Pearl Principle and love for country are embraced right into the academic mainstream and taught to every student. The essence of caring for the community and the country is best reflected in a programme called the Gift of G.O.L.D. It essentially means the”Giving of One’s self to those who have Less and are Disadvantaged.” While the acronym reflects giving per se, the concept goes far beyond the old ways of charity.

Today, the Gift of GOLD has been integrated into CIE’s Basic Education academic programme, from Levels 7 to 12 (equivalent to Grades Five to Fourth Year High School). Under this program, the children learn the basics of business, learning practical skills to come up with marketable products and eventually set up a small enterprise. The difference in the way CIE does it is that each class will be putting up an enterprise with an economically-disadvantaged family as partner.

By creating micro-enterprises with beneficiary families, these families are helped to liberate themselves from poverty. At the same time, CIE students are developed to become social entrepreneurs, primed for leadership to become future captains of industry who open opportunities for others to grow.

The Gift of GOLD defines the kind of leaders that CIE grows and primes; the very one described in the CIE Vision: “CIE is a veritable institution in the Asia-Pacific that develops and nurtures influential generative leaders who champion the upliftment of the quality of human life.”

“Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas. Gagawin ko ang lahat upang siya’y maiangat sa pagkakasadlak.” This is a pledge that Teacher Nelia and other advocates of The Pearl Principle solemnly swear to. If more and more Filipinos would just keep the essence of this pledge to heart, then perhaps the Philippines will be able to conquer the adversities of the past and the present and subsequently shine forth to the rest of the world.

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