The Moros had a long history of resistance against foreign intrusions. During the Moro Rebellion (1899–1913), American expeditionary forces and veterans of the Indian Wars took the "only good Indian is a dead Indian" mentality with them to the Moro land, and "civilize 'em with a Krag" became a similar catchphrase.
Our brave ancestors were profiled as "fierce savages" and the slogan "The only good Moro is a dead Moro" became very popular.
I think this kind of description and the other depictions of the Moros even before the Moro Rebellion were imbibed into the Moro psyche which ushered in a brand of culture to such a degree that when we tried to assert the injustices committed on us, the "natural" and "noblest" mode of expression albeit violently, was to run amok as juramentados or to be a "parang sabil". In the "extremists" lingo of today it is martyrdom undertaken as an unorthodox form of personal offensive jihad.
To associate greatness with death in the exercise of the right to self-preservation and self-determination is totally different with embracing the idea that we are only good when we are dead. The former is nobility, the latter is debasement. In nobility, there is victory. And with debasement, there is only defeat.
While we take pride in being "un-conquered", we must not lose sight that we have still many more battles to fight for. We have yet to win over literacy and numeracy. We are still battling malnutrition, under-development, unemployment. We are still locking horns with various socio-economic and political challenges. Fortunately for some of our forebears, they had still found the will to fight. They were those who had struggled to live to attain their maximum potentials. They were those who had attained greatness in their lifetime. Those were our excellent doctors, reputable lawyers, meticulous accountants, inspiring teachers and champion athletes. And others from different fields.
But there are still many in our midst still fighting their own little wars. There are still many leaders amongst us who can not take criticism more constructively. We still shout even if a lesser tone can better resolve the matter at hand. We still argue even if we are already in agreement. We resort to "rido" despite the existence of a judicial system. We easily and readily resort to violence to address our grievances despite the existence of peaceful mechanisms for settling disputes. In my view, truly most of us had slide down to that consciousness that we are no good unless we are dead. I believe this our greatest struggle. The one battle we may never win unless we undergo a major paradigm shift.
So to all of these, I say, "a better Moro is an educated Moro".
But what kind of education our school-children deserve to make them better?
We are the Department of Education. On our right shoulder is the heavy burden of educating every child in the ARMM and on our left is also the great opportunity to stop the cycle of violence and poverty that have been prevalent in our society.
To be in DepEd-ARMM does not entail teaching only our students literacy and numeracy. Our Madaris are not in existence for the limited purpose of making our children knowledgeable of our religion and make them more prayerful. It is our duty to teach our students to think critically. It is our obligation to let them know how to make better choices. It is expected of us that we insure our graduates are ready for the next level of education. It is the mandate of our department to make our students better children and responsible citizens of tomorrow.
The public expects us to produce better graduates. Graduates who have greater confidence and better chances of finishing college. Graduates who are most likely to succeed in life. Graduates who could eventually contribute to making further difference in our societies and communities.
That is why this administration will not stop its reform until every kindergarten graduate is able to read and write. We will not stop reforming until every graduate of our elementary level are more than ready for high school. We will not stop from doing good things until every senior high school we produced are either ready for college or employment.
We shall not stop until the trust of our people in our public educational system is regained. We shall not stop until every kid in every sitio is given quality education and the chance to have a better life through an enabling environment where he can maximize his potentials to pursue excellence and happiness. We shall not stop until every child becomes bold enough to live a life, to face personal and societal challenges with biting courage and foresight.
So, to our graduates, do your share in this great endeavor. Enroll in high school and pursue college. And do not be satisfied in just passing. Excel. It is when you excel that your chance to succeed is higher. Each and every one of you has the potential to excel and to succeed. Do not waver. Do not hesitate. Remember "the better Moro is an educated Moro." And an educated Moro is a discerning Moro---confident, dignified in character, achievers, leaders, tolerant---noble defenders of truth, justice and peace.
To our dear teachers, help us in this undertaking. Please spend a little extra time with your learners so they can master the required competencies. Always remind yourself and your students that comprehension, rational thinking and moulding of character is the bottom line. Convince your school principal to provide the training that you really need so you would become the ideal teachers every student would want to have.
To our principals and school heads, develop yourself into becoming transformational leaders, school managers whose goal is to ensure that all the students in his school are readers and can comprehend what they are reading.
To our district and education supervisors, please pay visits to our schools specially those in the far-flung areas because they are in most need of our attention. Focus on our teachers needs as well as that of our students. While you do the best practices in administrative supervisions, make sure that our teachers employ the best form of instructions to our students and pupils.
And let us not forget to tell our respective local government units and other stakeholders that we could not easily accomplish these tasks without their support and cooperation.
The time to prove that a "better Moro is an educated Moro" is here and now. With great pride, I would like to convey my appreciation to the teachers and school heads of Mamasapano and Raja Buayan districts for sticking it out with their students and pupils, and their graduates despite the ongoing hostilities. They have opted to conduct their graduation rites at their respective schools amidst the evacuees and the IDPs. For us, this is a gesture of sincerity to service, a source of unparalleled courage and inspiration that breeds a renewed hope to all of us to work even harder in laying the ground work for quality education in the ARMM and finally to prove to ourselves and to others that we are doing all of thiis for the betterment of the Moros. For truly the better Moro is the educated Moro.
My congratulations to all graduates of class 2015. Mabuhay po kayo!
ATTY. JAMAR M. KULAYAN