Aquino given honorary degree by Jesuit university in Japan
TOKYO—President Benigno Aquino on Friday received his second honorary doctorate in law, this time from Sophia University.
Mr. Aquino is the third outstanding Filipino to receive the award from the Jesuit-run institution here.
The others were the Jesuit historian Horacio de la Costa, who received the award in 1973 when he was an assistant government minister and adviser to the Society of Jesus, and Carlos P. Romulo, who received the degree in 1963 as president of the University of the Philippines.
During the conferment ceremony presided over by Sophia University president Tadashi Takizawa, the President was honored “for his significant achievements in the promotion of good governance and peace in the Philippines, which have contributed to the remarkable economic development of the country in recent years.”
University chancellor Toshiaki Koso and other school officials witnessed the conferment ceremony.
In attendance were 150 guests from the government, business sector, diplomatic corps, members of the Filipino community in Japan, and Filipino exchange students.
Both Koso and Takizawa paid Mr. Aquino a call before the conferment ceremony.
The ceremony coincided with this year’s centennial anniversary celebration of Sophia University, which was founded in 1913.
In September 2011, Mr. Aquino was conferred his first honorary degree in law by Fordham University in New York, making him the eighth Philippine president to be given the award.
It was the second award given by Fordham to an Aquino; the first was bestowed on the President’s mother, President Corazon Aquino, in 1986.
The Jesuit university has the same motto as Ateneo de Manila University: “Men and Women for Others, with Others.”
Ateneo is Mr. Aquino’s alma mater.
The conferment of an honorary degree on the President was proposed by Jesuit priest Ramon T. Villarin, president of Ateneo, in a letter to Sophia University on Jan. 21, 2013.
Mr. Aquino highlighted his Ateneo roots in his acceptance speech, dubbed “commemorative lecture.”
In his commemorative lecture, the President recalled the life of De la Costa. He said the priest was an inspiration to him and his late father, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
“As a member of a younger generation, both as a product of a Jesuit [educational institution] and as a Filipino, I am heir to the wisdom of Father De la Costa and to the wisdom of all the great men and women who [came] before me. I am duty-bound to continue where they left off, helping my country tread the path toward social justice and economic progress—pursuing not merely growth, but inclusive growth,” the President said.
Mr. Aquino thanked the Japanese people for their support to Filipinos affected by disasters like Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), which ploughed through central Philippines on Nov. 8, killing 6,000 people and displacing more than 4 million others.
The President cited two videos of Japanese nationals that went viral on the Internet during the aftermath of Yolanda.
One showed Shigehiro Matsuda, a young Japanese man engaged in relief operations in Leyte and Samar provinces who spoke Filipino fluently, and the other was of a Japanese preschooler who donated his 5,000-yen savings to the typhoon victims.
“I remember the Japanese showing great sympathy and support to my father as he made his last voyage home in 1983, before he was brutally assassinated,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said Japan was also one of the first countries to recognize his mother’s government, the first Aquino presidency, in 1986.
The President also pointed out that both nations helped each other during difficult times.
“Our countries never fail to help each other during times of disaster,” Mr. Aquino said, adding that he was “happy to report” that the Filipino people’s insistence on good government has been paying off.
“Where there was once apathy and helplessness, there is now a confidence built on measurable improvements. There is a palpable optimism among our people, among the international community,” he said.
Bearers of truth
He noted that “lux veritatis”—the words in the Sophia University seal—stood for the “light of truth.”
“All of us … must strive to be bearers of light in the darkest moments of our fellowmen, offering the illumination of comfort and company,” he said.
“But if we are to truly live in the light, it requires of all of us not just courage but also humility—the kind that fosters truth; that allows us to remember that we are all pilgrims—weak, fallible and vulnerable—who can reach out to each other to transform our individual weaknesses into an indomitable, unified strength,” he said.
The President is in Japan for the 40th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-Japan Commemorative Summit, a regional gathering that will allow heads of state and governments in Southeast Asia to discuss with Japan simmering tensions over their separate territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, East Sea and East China Sea.
The summit is a culminating event in a full year of activities commemorating 40 years of Asean-Japan relations.