By Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.
Mocha Uson could have easily defended herself against those who trolled, spammed, and flamed her after she received an award from the UST Alumni Association, Inc. (USTAAI) She should have simply said that what she received was an award, not a REWARD.
A reward is given to compensate a good deed done by the recipient, as when a passenger rewards a taxi driver for returning her money that she had unintentionally left in the cab.
An award is freely bestowed at the sole initiative and prerogative of the giver who unilaterally sets the standards or criteria for the award.
Many people protested the giving of an award to Mocha because they thought it is wrong to reward someone who, in their estimation, had accomplished nothing remarkably good as a public servant. Also, since an award is a symbol of honor, they find it “disgusting” to award Mocha who, they are convinced, has nothing honorable in her.
But St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Honor est in honorante.” The source and origin of honor is the person who bestows it, not the person who receives it. Since honor lies in the one honoring, not in the one honored, by accepting an award the recipient simply recognizes the honor inherent in the one who confers it. The best that the recipient can do, as a way of thanking the donor, is to make oneself deserving of the award. If not, the recipient actually dishonors the one who granted it.
As St. Thomas further writes: “Only a good person is deserving of honor, and yet it is possible even for the wicked to be honored. Therefore, it is important that one aspires, not for honor, but to live a life deserving of honor.” Or, as Fr. Francis Martin adds: “Excellence is in the one honored — if the honor is deserved.”
Usually, controversies mark the selection of awardees because some judges act like Olympian gods who confer honor on those who do not deserve it, while they ignore those who presume to know better.
In the first, they boost the self-esteem of a person to encourage him or her to aspire for excellence. This seems to be the reason cited by the USTAAI for giving the award to Mocha.
In the second, they unwittingly instill anger in those who think that the award was a mistake. This was what happened to many of those who vehemently protested against the award to Mocha, loudly proclaiming their love for UST as their only reason for doing so. If one reads their impassioned statements and comments, however, they seem motivated more by their rabid hatred of Mocha than by their love for UST.
For indeed, how many of these “lovers of UST” raised their voices when UST was openly vilified and maligned after it figured in earlier controversies? Many media outfits are founded, administered, or staffed by UST alumni, but many Thomasian journalists and writers are silent about the university’s many achievements in many areas, while they immediately print or broadcast adverse news that damage its reputation. Many of those who claim to be die-hard Thomasian alumni have practically disavowed their connection with it, not even visiting or participating in alumni reunions or university affairs.
Many of us live and die without receiving any awards of recognition. If you think those hyped-up award ceremonies summarize the meaning of honor, listen to an awardee’s cynical remark: “If you live long enough, you get accused of things you never did, and honored for virtues you never had.” Would it not be better if people asked why no one has honored you, than why one has?