Friday, September 22, 2006

The Transforming Power of Vision

Lest we become dismissive of the power of vision, it behooves us to remember that the Dumaguete that we know today is the product of a visionary enterprise.

Over a hundred years ago, David and Laura Hibbard wife established the Silliman Institute in Dumaguete, choosing it over Manila, Cebu, Zamboanga, and Iloilo. That decision set off a chain reaction that was to establish Dumaguete as a center for learning in the Visayas. This is a story that we already know well.

Hibbard might not have explicitly written a vision statement but it's hard to imagine that he did not hold one close to his heart. The Dumaguete of that time was a small town, a poor cousin to Bacolod, a land of sugar farmers and fishermen. Of what significance would a school in that town be, except perhaps as an act of foolishness or Christian charity?

Without a vision, that small class would have ambled along on the languid pace of Dumaguete, perhaps growing by a few students a year. Without a vision, the Hibbards might have been satisfied that they were performing their simple Christian duty. Yet in a little less than forty years' time, Silliman had become a university.

Not to overvalue the impact of Silliman nor to disregard the contributions of other institutions, but imagine what Dumaguete would be now if Hibbard had passed it over for another town? Or imagine what it would be if Hibbard had been merely been content with a pusillanimous dream for his school? Perhaps we might just be another quaint colonial town in the shadow of Bacolod, content with the measly scraps from sugar dreams. One only need to look at wayside towns along the coast struggling to make their mark in the world.

Complacency is anathema to greatness, but that's the trap into which we fall when we say that the city has already reached its ideal state, when we say that no more need be done. Without a vision, there is nothing to transform ourselves into, and Dumaguete will remain the Dumaguete that it is now.

So then, the question: what dream do we follow? Among that multiplicity of possibilities, which do we want to become? A center for tourism? A capital for business process outsourcing? A beacon for education? If so, how should that education be different from the education that our schools are offering now? Or is it something else entirely? It's not so much of a problem to have many conflicting visions than to have no vision at all.

Like Hibbard, the adopted son of the city, we native sons and daughters need to dream.

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