Arman Ali Ghodsinia stood proud before thousands of graduates at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Sunday to declare that he is a “living proof” that members of minority groups can also excel on a platform of “equality and mutual respect.”
Ghodsinia, a BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology summa cum laude, urged his fellow graduates not to forget other Filipinos facing a major threat in Mindanao.
“Here I am standing in front of you today as a living proof that members of minorities like us, Maranaos, can also do well and contribute effectively to the societal growth, if given the same opportunities and rights like many other Filipinos,” he said in his valedictory speech.
Ghodsinia’s mother hails from one of the four royal houses in Lanao del Sur. His older sister, Farah, also graduated with honors from UP.
“We, members of the Filipino minority, are your brothers and sisters too. And on an equal platform and mutual respect, we can all work together towards a stronger and more united Philippines. I believe that one of the ways of achieving this is by improving our educational system and curriculum,” he said at the 106th commencement exercises of the state-run university. “We call for a truly inclusive education that strengthens the collective ties of our nation.”
This year’s commencement theme was “Pagmamalasakit: Empathy and caring for one another.”
Ghodsinia’s valedictory address comes after more than a month of fighting in Marawi City between government troops and the IS-linked Maute Group.
“The lives of our fellow Filipinos, both Muslims and Christians have been put at risk. Many of our brothers and sisters have been forced to run for their lives… once again, the road to sustainable peace is blocked,” he said.
Ghodsinia shared to his fellow Iskos and Iskas (male and female scholars) how his mother, Mariam Alonto Ali, witnessed her own mother and younger brother’s death due to a sickness that could have been cured had they enough money to pay for the medication.
“It is painful to live in a society where people seem to be left behind and forgotten because they do not have enough money,” he said.
Ghodsinia said his mother spent a portion of her life in the province. She decided to transfer to Metro Manila where she met his father, an Iranian.
Plans after graduation
Ghodsinia is set for an internship abroad to widen his involvement in his chosen profession, but he promised to return to the Philippines.
“I will return to the Philippines to give back to the nation… bilang iskolar ng bayan, may responsibilidad sila (students) na ibalik sa bayan yung pinag-aralan nila (as a scholar of the country, these students have a responsibility to give back what they’ve learned),” he said.
“We have diverse backgrounds, we have our own problems, but we as graduates of this university, have the responsibility to give back to the Philippines especially now that we are in a crisis,” he added.
Ghodsinia admitted that he was affected by the crisis in Marawi City since some of his relatives used to live there. However, the tragedy served as an inspiration in writing his speech, which allowed him to pay tribute to his family.
Ghodsinia said he and his family were planning to visit Marawi City once the situation there improves.
His mother said she knew that her son would graduate with top honors because he was diligent and was always focused in his studies.
“Malaki na yung kutob ko bago pa sya pumasok sa UP, kaya nya maging summa cum laude dahil nakikita ko sa kanya na masipag sya. Sinasabi ko lagi sa kanya na gawin mo ‘to, gawin mo ‘yan kasi nakikita ko na kaya nya (I had a strong feeling even before he enrolled in UP that he could become a summa cum laude because I saw how industrious he was. I always told him to do this and that because I could see that he could do it),” she told The Manila Times.
“Talagang seryoso ‘yan sa pag-aaral. Nakita ko na sa kanya na ganyan ang mangyayari sa kanya (He took his studies seriously. I knew that this moment will come). “What I wish for him, someday, ay sana magkaroon din sya ng pamilya, mga anak na gaya sa kanya (What I wish for him, someday, is for him to have his own family, and children like him.)
When asked about his preparations for his speech, Ghodsinia said he repeatedly read his piece and even did a last-minute editing.
“Nakakakaba (I was nervous) but I tried to be calm and be sincere as I could since minsan lang ito (this happens only once),” he said.