I was invited by my High School Alma Mater to the the guest speaker in this year’s Commencement Exercises. I graduated from Tarlac State University Laboratory School in April 2000, 14 years and a day (or two) ago. Below is the speech I delivered, reflecting on how our different then, and what they should aspire to become while in college.
To the members of the 2014 Graduating Class, the faculty of TSU Laboratory High School, ably led by Dr. Norbina Genever Castro; Dr. Maria Agnes P. Ladia, Dean of College of Education; Vice President for Academic Affairs; TSU President, undergraduates, parents, friends, alumni who are here with us, isang magandang umaga po.
Allow me to extend my congratulations. Today is a celebration of your four years of hard work. Apat na taon ng assignments, group work, pagbibilad kasama si Rizal para sa flag ceremony, club activities. Pagpila at paghihintay sa pagdating ng school bus, pagtambay sa may pathway. This is a culmination of a life spent together with your classmates and teachers. Salamat po for allowing me, allowing all of us here, to share with you this joyous event.
Receiving the invitation to be today’s guest speaker is an honor for a proud LS graduate like me. I remember my years in Sampu fondly. I was a Lab School student from 1996 to 2000. Nung mga panahon pong iyon, maraming pagbabagong nangyayari sa Pilipinas, na kung pag-aaralan, was a great influence to who I am and what I do today. Allow me to enumerate: 1996 was the centennial of Rizal’s death, 1998 was the centennial of Aguinaldo declaring Philippine independence and establishing the 1st Philippine government. Maraming activities na ipinatupad para ipaalala at ipagdiwang ang mga mahahalagang araw na ito. Common holidays and activities took this centennial commemoration as their themes. Filipino as a language was in vogue again; mas maging popular ang Tagalog news broadcast during primetime over the English newscast at late night. Karamihan sa mga jingle at branding ng mga pulitiko ay sa wikinag Pilipino. There was an emphasis on supporting Pinoy products, the tangibles, or you see and buy in the market, and intangible cultural expressions, like what you see and hear on TV and radio. Mas naging defined ang Pinoy youth culture as a brand with the creation and broadcast of teen and youth-oriented programs, like TGIS and Gimik. Naririnig mo sa radio ang musika ng Eraserheads, Parokya ni Edgar, Riveramaya at kung swerte ka, or at least pinanonood mo sa IBC-13 ang original run ng Ghost Fighter, kilala mo rin si Joey Ayala, Bayang Barrios, at Grace Nono pagkat ginagamit ang mga kanta nila for 13’s Station ID.
From 1999 towards 2000, the focus morphed from celebrating our history into a transition that affected our society in a grander scale – the advent of the millennium. The proud to be Pinoy and appreciation of Pinoy culture was further tweaked to the question, “What does it mean to be a Filipino in the new millennium?” Ang Internet and mobile connectivity ay bago pa lang po noon. Research of us means using the library and looking at the books at encyclopedias sa bahay ng mga kaklase mo. Wala pa sa aming may email address, and web surfing is not something we know how to do. Kakaunti pa lang ang may computer at laptop sa bahay, at ang kaklaseng may typewriter ang more or less may edge in preparing for the Technical Writing class assignments. By the time we graduated in 2000, wala pang 10 sa aming graduating class ang may cellphone.
You might wonder, “What is the point of such reminiscing? Meron nga ba, besides to show how outdated na ang inyong guest speaker?”
I’m sharing my experience in LS to drive home an essential point – we are the products of our times. The changes in our society, the politicians who lead and the laws they create and implement, the natural disasters that devastate, happy championships we celebrate, commemorations, advances in technology all contributed to how we understand the world at large. These stories, big and small, form our values, our dreams, our sense of purpose. We are the product of our interaction with different people, both those who matter and are part of our daily lives; even people we don’t encounter everyday but who’s decisions shape our reality.
The years I spent up in the hills of Lucinda Campus allowed me to grow into the person I am now, shaped how I view the world, and formed the foundation of my interests and capacities – keen on seeing how the appreciation of Philippine history and culture can help improve our society’s challenges and issues, interested in empowering young people through education, and lover of Japanese anime, long walks up and down hilly trails, and the music of Joey Ayala.
I want to ask our graduates, “Ano ang reality ninyo? What were your experiences habang nasa LS kayo? Anong mga pagbabago sa inyong pamilya, komunidad, sa ating bansa, maging sa inyong mga sarili at pagkakakilanlan, ang tumatak sa inyong kamalayan? What experiences in the past four years had an impact in your life now, and which experiences do you think would affect your perspectives and world views in the future?”
I am emphasizing the process of how our surroundings affect our beliefs, as it is an important part of how we form our identities, how we determine what is our life’s purpose and goal. Kung ano po ang nakikita natin sa ating kapaligiran, sa ating komunidad, dun nating huhugutin ang ating adhikain at pangarap.
When I was invited to be today’s guest speaker, isa sa mga bagay na tinanong ko sa aking sarili ko ay “Anong sasabihin ko sa mga estudyante? What am I going to share with these kids? Do I have enough; have I experienced enough to be able to impart something useful and insightful? Anong maibabahagi ko sa mga graduates that would prod them to reach for their dreams?”
Dreams. Pangarap. Adhikain sa buhay. Goals. Dreams and goals serve as directions to our life’s journey. Isa sa mga paborito ko pong quotes ay nagmula kay Gaspar Noe, a celebrated Argentine filmmaker. In an interview, when asked how he decides which projects he would do, he said, “I don’t have a career. I have dreams I want to achieve.”
In a sense, I can say my life is just like that – a series of dreams pursued and realized, both the big ones and small ones. In the journal I wrote for my 4th year English requirement for Ma’am Ladia, I remembered writing an entry called “40 things I want to do before I turned 40.” It included some things like “attend a concert that would end 2am onwards”, “get a passport and use it”, “learn a foreign language, and use it when traveling abroad”, “makaabot ng Mindanao”, and such. There were some things in that list that were easy to achieve, like the concert, and some things that I haven’t stricken out yet, like learn how to ride a bike. Meron pa naman akong oras para ma-tick off ang mga pangarap na hindi ko pa natutupad.
One thing I learned though was that dreams change. Katulad ng ating realidad, nagbabago din ang mga pangarap at adhikain. Malamang ang pagbabagong ito ay epekto ng ating pagtanda, pag-mature into informed and discerning individuals. Minsan, ang pagbabago ng pangarap ay dala ng pagbabago ng ating interests, desires, and wants. We evolve, consciously or not, gusto man natin o hindi, kasabay ng pag-evolve ng ating kinalalakhan.
Minsan, ang mas masakit, nagbabago ang ating pangarap kasi hindi natin naabot ang orihinal na pangarap natin sa buhay. Para bang experience ng unang pagka-basted, or breakup, times 100 lang na mas masakit. For individuals who are driven, who are told everything is possible only if you give 100% effort, masakit ang mga ganung karanasan. Daig pa ang nadulas sa corridor, or nagpagulong-gulong pababa sa tapat ng Montesorri all the way sa water station.
I am here to tell you na ok lang na pumalpak kayo. Failure is always an option. Okay lang na pumalpak sa maliit na bagay, like posting the wrong picture sa FB, even sa mga malalaking bagay, like failing grade sa college Math class ninyo. Trust me, madaming babagsak sa Math classes pagdating ng college – its not because mahirap na ang math lessons, but because, I believe, this is my theory and I stand by it, na nasa kontrata ng mga college Math teachers na unti-unting i-torture ang mga estudyante nila. Guguho ang mundo mo kapag natanggap mo na ang class cards mong may grading singko, pero ok lang yan.
Bakit po okay lang na pumalpak tayo? It is in the process of failure na nakikilala natin an gating sarili – our limitations and thresholds, how we respond to challenges and setbacks. Sa ating pagkakamali nakikita natin kung sino ba talaga tayo – gusto ba talaga natin ang babaeng bumasted sa atin or lalaking nakipag-break? Pangarap ba talaga nating maging engineer? It is in our failures and disappointments where we can clearly define who we are, what drives us, and with such clarity comes conviction; conviction leads to purpose; purpose to creativity.
Allow me to emphasize on two points: clarity and creativity. In such a time where information, and the world at large is at our fingertips, easily accessible, clarity is never more needed. Kailangan po nating ng kalinawagan sa maraming bagay – ano ang ating paniniwala, beliefs? What things do we considered most important sa ating buhay? What things would we consider non-negotiable? I am not only referring to religious beliefs here, but how we relate to other people. Ano ang inyong paninindigan sa usapin ng korupsyon sa local at national government, sa romantic relationships, sa marriage, sa environment? Ano para sa inyo ang mas mahalaga, and how would you rank them – money, security, your family now, your future family, and so on?
Disappointments allow us to refine our convictions and beliefs. Mas lalo natin nakikita where we draw the line in these world where it is quite easy to dabble in the greys. Kung titignan, parang madaling sabihin at maniwala na pwedeng “optional” ang paggawa ng matuwid, na “flexible” ang definition ng tama.
If clarity allows us to be resolute in our convictions, creativity challenges us to find ways to exercise it. Sa sitwasyong ito, I am using the word creativity to refer to the word’s purest definition, the act of making manifest ideas and ideals. Pagbibigay buhay sa ating kaisipan. When we create, we give ourselves the opportunity to express our thoughts and beliefs, to communicate and commune with other people around us. In creation, we form relationships and communities.
The next four or five years will be an avenue for you to achieve clarity and exercise your creativity. While in college, you will be tasked to move beyond your comfort zones and think as involved adults. You will be challenged to define your skills, and create new ones. Di ba nga isa sa madalas na binibigkas ng nakakatatanda, “Nasa college ka na, matanda ka na?” Education, kung pag-aaralan po natin ang kanyang root work, is an exercise of bringing forth what is within – ang natatangi ninyong kakayahan to become productive, responsible, creative, and collaborative.
Enjoy your college years then. Embrace to good and the bad. Be prepare to grow, to experience something new. Expect to be surprised, by something good and bad. Try to learn as many skills as possible. If you fail, don’t be too hard with yourself, but at the same time, don’t be too complacent at maging byline ninyo ay “Pwede na”. Sikapin pa ring maging best version of yourself habang nag-aaral kayo.
At the same time, remember that learning is not confined within the 4 walls of your school. Sa aking paglalakbay, marami akong nakilalang tao na maituturing na mas matalino at may alam pa kaysa sa ibang taong may doctoral degrees. I believe I learned more in the mountains of Bukidnon, sharing coffee with elders of indigenous people there than in some of my college classes.
I was asked to be here to inspire you to pursue and finish your chosen career in the tertiary level. Instead, let me inspire you to discover yourself while you’re earning your degree. Kilalanin ninyo ang inyong mga sarili at inyong realidad habang nag-aaral kayo patungo sa isang propesyon. Alamin ninyo ang inyo pangarap at adhikain, at hanapan ninyo ng paaran para maabot ninyo ang mga iyon.
Nais ko rin sanang magbigay sa inyo ng paalala habang ako’y nandito sa inyong harapan. Lahat po tayo ay graduate mula sa isang government educational institution. Ang pangalan po ng ating paaralan ay Tarlac State University Laboratory High School. Pera ng bayan, buwis na binayaran ng ating mga magulang, kapatid, kapitbahay, ang tumulong para tayo’y makapagtapos. Kung gayon, it is then our responsibility, our moral debt, to pay such blessing forward. Paano ang ating pangarap at adhikain sa buhay makakatulong sa ating bayan? It is our task to serve the public, in any way possible.
Baka ini-isip ninyo na ang aking talumpati ay isang confessional. Yes, this is a confessional and summation of the 14 years that has passed. This is also a tribute to an institution that helped me. Alam po nating lahat na may mga bagay na magbabago in the next few years. Things are in transition. The graduating class, are obviously, heading to different colleges and universities where they will spend four or five years earning a degree. Most of the Lab School teachers will transition to teaching collegiate classes after Lab School. Our school, will be closing its doors in a few years. Allow me then, to turn this confessional to a tribute. A tribute to the teachers who passed through its halls, who engaged the minds of the students who came in every June. Maraming salamat po sa inyong walang sawang dedikasyon sa aming edukasyon. This is also a tribute to every graduate who studied in Lab School, in all its forms. Consciously or not, you all left a mark in the halls of Lab School history. Ang inyong mga yapak ay maririnig sa hallway ng main building, sa S-building, sa canteen, mga alaala ng mga kabataang nahinog sa institusyong ito. And this is a tribute to the parents ng bawat alumni, for trusting the institution the big task of educating our society.
My task today is to challenge you to become the best version of your self – someone guided by your dreams and aspirations, unafraid of the trials and challenges that would definitely come your way. My task today is to remind you that we all have a purpose that would serve the needs of our society. My task today is to show you that failure and disappointment is not the end of the road in your pursuit of dreams. My task today is to be living example of individuals who are still dreaming, and are still striving to achieve it. I hope you’ll be inspired by us previous graduates, and even exceed our examples and expectations. Maraming salamat po, at muli, congratulations.