For its 77th commencement exercises, Xavier University has chosen to bestow a Doctor in Humanities, honoris causa, on Rev Fr Edwin Gariguez, a Roman Catholic priest who champions the causes of the indigenous peoples and the environment.
As honorary doctorate, Fr Gariguez will also deliver the keynote address at the University’s Academic Convocation on March 17.
A winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists, Fr Gariguez is a prominent figure against indiscriminate large scale mining in the Philippines. He is the Executive Secretary of CBCP-NASSA, the social development, humanitarian and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. He is also one of the convenors of Alyansa Tigil Mina, a countrywide coalition of organizations and individuals acting as a watchdog over violations in laws and policies related to the mining industry.
In 2009, Fr Gariguez led an 11-day hunger strike with members of Alliance Against Mining to protest the dubious issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate to a Norway-based mining company and to demand the government to investigate the environmental and social violations of the mining project. Consequently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched an investigation and revoked the mining firm’s permit, indefinitely putting a stop to the mine.
“The honorary doctorate is being conferred upon you in recognition of your life-long apostolate for and with the Indigenous Peoples intrinsically linked with caring for creation, our common home,” wrote Rev Fr Roberto “Bobby” C Yap SJ, president of Xavier University, in his letter to Gariguez. “Your ministry is an inspiring response to Pope Francis’ challenge “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Further, “The vocation you have patiently and perseveringly pursued in the peripheries has truly been serving the faith that does justice and ecological stewardship. You are a true activist and scholar for the Indigenous Peoples and the Environment,” Fr Yap’s letter said.
About 1,800 graduates from the Graduate School, Law, Medicine, the undergraduate colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education, Business and Management, Agriculture, Engineering, Computer Studies, Nursing, and the Center for Integrated Technologies are expected to receive their diplomas during the three-day Commencement Exercises on March 17-19 at the University Gymnasium.
Besides Fr Gariguez, two other distinguished individuals will be given recognition.
Damulog Mayor Romeo Tiongco will receive the Fr William F Masterson SJ Award for service to the community.
Tiongco is instrumental in bringing peace and order to the municipality of Damulog, Bukidnon, which for decades suffered from intermittent guerilla fighting among the military, militia groups and rebels.
He ran for mayor in 2007 outlining his campaign on the platform of peace and a demilitarized municipality to solve poverty. When he won, one of the first things he did was to embark on a peace journey from the town proper to Sitio Agong, the site of the heaviest fighting.
Tiongco ran again for mayor and won in 2010. He got re-elected for a third and final term in 2013. Between those years, he became a fellow of the Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program of the Asian Institute of Management, which helped him expand his program on peace and development to include justice. At the core of his agenda are the universal rights of children.
Meanwhile, multi-awarded writer, actor, visual artist and poet Frank G Rivera will be this year’s recipient of the Fr Francisco R Demetrio SJ Award.
Rivera, also known as the “makata sa cellphone” for his notable “textula” series or SMS poems, is being recognized by the University for his outstanding contributions to Philippine culture and arts.
He founded the critically-acclaimed Kambayoka Theater Ensemble of the Mindanao State University. He has also written several anthologies of dramatic scripts for stage, television, radio and film. He is a winner of three Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, four National Book Awards, and a number of Aliw, Gawad, CCP and NCCA Awards, to name a few.
Rivera’s trilogy of “Makata sa Cellphone: mga dalit, diona, tanaga, at iba pang tulang sari-sari’t mga bersong sala-salabid” books earned him a National Book Award citation in 2005. His poems and “textula,” which won the 2014 Timpalak sa Pagsulat ng TexTanaga and 2014 Tulaan sa Facebook-Diyona, are recited during political rallies, shared on social media, forwarded as text messages, and declaimed at school programs.
The awarding ceremonies for Tiongco and Rivera will also be held during the Academic Convocation of the graduating Class of 2016.