A Response: Heritage Builders 2014

In the literature room of Silliman High School in the late 60’s was posted these lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s, “A Psalm of Life”:

Lives of great men all remind us 
We can make our lives sublime, 
And, departing, leave behind us 
Footprints on the sands of time.

This deeply profound statement, beautifully captures the legacy of our Heritage Builders whom we honor today. For indeed, by their loyalty, faithful service and unwavering commitment to “dear old Silliman”, they have indelibly left their footprints on the sands of this great University’s institutional memory.

Paradoxically, the nature of sand is that it shifts with the passing of the tide, forever erasing any marks which may have been etched upon her surface. So often, too, do we also forget the achievements and the contributions of earlier generations of Sillimanians with the passing of the seasons and our preoccupations with sustaining Silliman University for the future.

But the secret of Silliman’s enduring and relevant existence, which sustains her through generations who pass through her portals of opportunity and service, is the culture of gratitude among her constituents.  Through the Blessing of Remembering, we bring to the consciousness of our present community at Silliman the legacy of her heritage builders who, like the first founders, set the “Sure Foundation” in terms of character, values, and faith which is the distinctive Silliman Spirit in all of us. Today, Silliman University is the great institution of faith proclamation and academic excellence which plays a significant role in our nation building, because it not only remembers and honors her founding in August of 1901, but especially because Silliman University recognizes and equally honors all those who have been, and others who will be, a part of her unfolding history.

My parents, Joe Montebon and Virgie Demerre, exemplify the heritage builders whom we honor today. They studied at Silliman, began serving her even as working students, and built their careers and family around the University. Like so many others, they experienced the whole range of service and serving at Silliman: as students, as faculty, as staff, and even as administrators. In my father’s case, also as a policy maker in the Board of Trustees. As they gave to Silliman and dedicated their lives in service to her, they received so much more. For as they went through the Refiner’s Fire during their days at Silliman, they not only endured the trials and testing of the age, but they became transformed into new creations by God’s grace at work in this blessed campus by the sea.

At Silliman, our heritage builders received not only the opportunity to serve; they received a life transforming faith. A faith which they professed, have passed on, and lives on, reverberating through the halls of Silliman University. This is the Silliman Spirit. It survives structures and monuments, because it builds much more; it builds up people’s lives. We praise and thank God for all of Silliman’s Heritage Builders. Steve Green, the gospel singer puts together the significance of the example left by the Heritage Builders for the rest of us to follow:

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

As we all participate in the unfolding history of Silliman University and the enrichment of her legacy, let us ascribe all honor and glory to Author and Perfecter of Our Faith, Jesus Christ. Happy 113th Founders Day to all!

About the author :

Jose Riodil Montebon

Elementary (1967); High School (1971); AB Political Science (1974);

Director, Salonga Center for Law and Development Faculty Member, College of Law