Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Michaela Fudolig, Of Youth, Innocence, Fidelity and Freedom

After four years of academic peace and anonymity suddenly 16 year old Michaela Fudolig is a celebrity. Graduating after having completed the course requirements for a BS Physics degree with a weighted average of 1.099 is no mean feat. But graduating from college at the tender and innocent age of sixteen is truly a wonder. The young Fudolig not only graduated with the highest honors but she also is the Valedictorian of UP batch 2007. She was given the honor and privilege of addressing the entire range of graduates from pre to post graduate levels, whose ages would probably range from 20 to 60 or older.

Michaela reminds me of a scene in the life of Jesus when his parents thought he got lost when in fact he wandered into the temple and started talking to learned men there. We have seen various pictures of the child Jesus confidently addressing a crowd of older men struck with awe and wonder at such prodigious intelligence. Those pictures carry a wealth of meanings which the adult world needs to ponder and better, apply to their lives.

Michaela addressing the crowd of University officials, professors, guests of honor, graduates from AB, BS to MA and PhD levels recreates the fascinating picture of the young Jesus talking to learned men.

Michaela’s picture on the front pages of Newspapers shone with the grace, beauty and innocence of a young lady. As I contemplated the picture, I saw something more than this exemplary and gifted individual. I looked at her eyes and saw the eyes of other Filipino youth, innocent, wholesome, full of eagerness and full of promise.

Interestingly, the two institutions that were involved with Michaela’s education, Quezon City Science High School and the University of the Philippines agreed to shield the young lady from Media. For four years her existence was secret and perhaps even sacrosanct. Even her classmates seemingly cooperated and supported the plan.

What was Michaela shielded from? Media? What ultimately does this mean? Media is not only the usual tri-Media of radio, TV and print or the omni-present IT. Media stands for the adult men and women of a world driven by values not all too friendly and helpful to youth.

The young Jesus fascinated the elderly scholars not only with his wisdom and eloquence. There must have been something more, something behind the face, the words, the diminutive build and even perhaps a rather squeaky voice. There must have been the inviting and fascinating power of innocence, the almost total absence of guile. Jesus spoke and discussed unaffected by the usual materialist, consumerist and pragmatic values expressed by the adage, “Time is Gold.” Jesus spoke freely. He spoke for free. Jesus spoke in a language devoid of political underpinnings and manipulation. Jesus was no one’s candidate or prodigy. He was neither a business or political pawn. He was powerful precisely because he was free. Lastly, Jesus was no child sensation. He did not have a talent scout who scheduled his appearances and decided which contracts to accept or reject. Jesus’ brilliance was neither staged nor contrived. It was innate and flowed from a mysterious source deep within.

Michaela and Jesus have something more in common. Both have good parents. Michaela’s parents Tony Fudolig and Lyn Dimaano made sure that their gifted daughter enjoyed a healthy and balanced life. While Michaela was already enrolled in Grade One at four years old, her mother brought her to nursery class every afternoon. Regular family trips to parks and a house full of friends provided the necessary support to a life that could have easily been eaten up by academic rigor.

Later in the day, Joseph and Mary found Jesus. Mary complained, “Son we have search for you the whole day. Why did you leave us without telling us where you would go?” To this Jesus seemed to give a strange answer, “Why do you search for me? Am I not supposed to do my Father’s business?”

While Tony and Lyn as well as thousands of parents listened to Michaela, I wonder whether they too may have seen her and their children and understood her and their words in a deeper light? I am certain that Michaela’s speech echoes Jesus’ own words. I am sure Michaela and her fellow youth sense and wish to obey an inner voice that pushes them beyond home, family, country, friends and even self. I pray for the Filipino Youth…for fidelity, courage and the freedom to live out what they deeply hear and what they truly are.

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
April 24, 2007


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