Mr. Renato Jarabese, the school principal, the teachers, students, parents, and other members of the JLES family, good afternoon.
I want to greet all of you young achievers who are here right now. Yes, you heard me right. You are young achievers. Consider yourself extremely lucky because you are among the honorees today out of the several hundreds of JLES students for the past school year. You did a great job, that’s why you’re part of this year’s cream of the crop. Congratulations to your teachers and most importantly to your parents. Alam natin na kung anong saya ng mga mag-aaral sa kanilang tagumpay na nakamtan, doble pa roon ang kasiyahan ng ating mga magulang.
It is a great honor to be invited to speak before all of you this afternoon, exactly 10 years after I graduated here back in 2002. Ang sampung taon ay mabilis na dumaan. Dati, gumagamit lang kami ng Internet kung may school projects. Ngayon, hindi na kumpleto ang araw natin nang hindi nag-oonline sa Facebook at Twitter.
Ang ilan sa mga dati kong guro ay nataas na ng tungkulin, mayroon namang gaya ng aking tagapayo noong Grade 4 na si Bb. Daisy Falucho ay namayapa na, mayroon ring ngayon ay retirado na samantalang ang ilan gaya ni Bb. Rosemarie Villamor, tagapayo ko sa unang baitang, at Gng. Myrna Genovate, tagapayo ko noong ika-limang baitang ay nandito pa rin sa dakilang paaralang ito upang patuloy na manghubog ng kaisipan ng kanilang mga magiging mag-aaral sa mga darating pang taon.
Hinding-hindi ko malilimutan ang lahat ng aking mga naging guro sa bawat artikulong aking naipalathala, sa bawat parangal na natanggap at matatanggap pa, at sa anumang landas na aking tatahakin pagdating ng panahon. I will forever owe what I am today and what I will be in the future to everyone who has been my teacher, whether here in JLES, in Ramon Magsaysay High School, or in the University of the Philippines.
Taong 1996 nang ako ay pumasok sa Grade 1. Section 2 ako sa ilalim ni Bb. Villamor. Naaalala ko pa noon na madalas, sumasali lang ako sa pila kapag paakyat na ang mga kaklase ko. At sa tuwing magpapaalam na ako kay mama at isasara na ng guwardya ang gate, naiiyak ako. May isa ngang pagkakataon noong Grade 1, pasado alas 5 na ng hapon. Sinabihan ako ni Bb. Villamor na “puwede na akong umihi.” Ang pagkakaintindi ko, pwede na ako umuwi. Buti hinarang ako ng nagbabantay doon sa main gate dahil kung hindi, baka naligaw na ako.
It is funny to think about this now, but at that time, I am so afraid to be separated from my mother although we’ll be together again after six hours. This is one lesson I want to impart to you this afternoon. You will never achieve personal growth unless you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone. Paano natin matutuklasan ang hiwaga ng daigdig kung tayo ay takot na maglakbay rito?
Kagaya ng ilan sa inyo, nagkaroon rin ako ng pagkakataon na maging kinatawan ng aking paaralan sa mga panglungsod na kumpetisyon. Noong 2nd year ako sa Ramon Magsaysay, naging pambato ako ng paaralan sa isang division level quiz bee. Matinding pressure ang nakalaban ko, and to cut the long story short, I finished last in the top ten. I was so ashamed of myself. I let my trainers and the whole school down. Hindi nga ba’t kapag tayo ay lumalaban, dala natin ang pangalan ng paaralan? After skipping my classes for almost a week, how will I answer my classmates if they ask me about the contest? The future looks grim, or so I thought.
I was attending my Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) class one afternoon when my then Asian History teacher Ms. Precilla Manaloto asked me out of our class. Since the contest loss happened just a few days before, I was expecting her to admonish me. That was the natural thing to happen, right? But I was wrong.
She treated me to a lunch of rellenong bangus and fresh lumpia at a nearby restaurant instead. She said she also bore some responsibility for the debacle, and offered me golden words of wisdom. She reiterated her trust in me, saying that I can surely do better next time, and given my age (I was only 13 then), there’s still a long way for me to go (“malayo pa ang mararating mo”). Nine years later, her words are still with me.
Right now, I guess some of you have doubts about what lies ahead in the future. “Makakaya ko ba ang mga problemang aking haharapin,” you may be asking yourself. Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of interviewing Ms Gina Lopez, the managing director of Bantay Bata and Bantay Kalikasan. She shared to me this wonderful quote: “As you think, so you become.”
Regardless of the barriers, and believe me, you will never run out of those, as long as you believe in yourself and stay committed in achieving what you really want, there’s no way you can fail. Roselle Ambubuyog became blind at age 11, yet she graduated valedictorian in RMHS in 1997 and finished her college degree at the Ateneo de Manila University summa cum laude.
A young boy named Artemio Panganiban, meanwhile, supported his studies here at JLES and in V. Mapa High School by selling newspapers and cigarettes and shining shoes. He later on became the Chief Justice of our country’s Supreme Court. If Artemio Panganiban and Roselle Ambubuyog didn’t let poverty and disability hinder their path to success, will you let anything block your way to the future? As the song goes, “there’s not a star in heaven you can’t reach, if you’re trying.”
Sa kabila ng mga papuring inyong natanggap ngayong araw na ito, alam kong alam ninyo na hindi dito nagtatapos ang lahat. Ika nga sa Ingles, never rest on your laurels. Dahil kayo ay mga young achiever na, hindi na kayo kailangang habilinan na mag-aral pa ng mabuti. Ipagpatuloy lamang ninyo ang mahusay ninyong nasimulan.
Ang karunungan ay parang isang pananim na nararapat parating diligan upang mas mapayabong ito. Laging tandaan na sa huli, hindi lamang kayo ang makikinabang sa inyong edukasyon. Maaari itong maging susi para magkaroon ng mas magandang bukas ang inyong mga pamilya. At dahil sa inyong karunungan, nasa posisyon rin kayo upang makatulong sa ikauunlad ng ating mahal na bansa sa malapit na hinaharap. Sana ay hindi ninyo sayangin ang magandang pagkakataong ito.
*This is the full text of the speech I gave during the recognition rites of the Juan Luna Elementary School held last March 28, where I was the guest of honor. Apologies for non-Filipino readers of this the speech is mostly in Filipino, in recognizance of my audience that afternoon.
My special acknowledgments to Mr. Renato Jarabese, the school principal, Mrs. Alicia Sanchez, the one who invited me to be the guest speaker, and former advisers Ms Rosemarie Villamor (Grade 1) and Mrs. Myrna Genovate (Grade 6).