This is the full text of my speech during Malabog National High School’s First Junior High School Completion Rites on March 17, 2016. I am an alumnus of that school.
Thank you, Ma’am Celma, for the kind introduction!
The scene: very much like this, the difference is that it was dark. People were quietly seated, eager to know and to see what the silver screen would show. A rumbling sound was heard, a sign that the movie was now going to start. The rumbling was then understood as the coming of 322 fresh-from-grade-school youngsters into the school known as Malabog National High School. The marching came in varying forms—some were willing, some were hesitant, some surprised, but there was that small push that literally brought them toward the gate. The gate was still closed, but when it was opened, what appeared to them was a completely different world, waiting to be discovered, explored, and eventually to be enjoyed.
The next scenes came fast-paced, showing these 322 individuals savoring the kind of life only this matchless world could offer them, their faces revealing hints of sorrow, pain, failure, tiredness, strength, determination, joy, and fulfillment. And as they were about to reap the fruits of their hard labor, the flick just stopped, and the screen showed a big question mark, leaving the audience in total surprise.
The fresh-from-grade school youngsters in the anecdote are no other than you, dear students. And that bizarre world where that short tale is set is your school, Malabog National High School. That’s something highly obvious, but what I—and the rest of the guests to your important occasion—cannot take is that all of you will come out of this school with that unnerving question mark.
To our respected school principal, Mrs. Celma Miraran, distinguished guests, members of the faculty and staff, to my former teachers, members of the barangay council, our beloved parents, guardians, and the students who are soon to become junior high school completers, good afternoon.
I am honestly pleased to have been invited to address the completion rites of the first batch of junior high school in my alma mater, Malabog National High School. I can remember being told by my fourth year adviser Mrs. Hannah Escobedo that I would have my turn to address students in a similar ceremony, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. Two weeks ago, Madam Vivian Pangan sent me a message on Facebook to tell me I had been unanimously chosen by the faculty to deliver this message to Class 2018, for which I am deeply honored.
It was 24 years ago when I stood on a stage in this school to deliver my salutation before my 300 plus batchmates, the class of 1992. I was wearing a white toga and spoke on the theme “Bayan Muna Bago ang Sarili”, the speech I wrote myself, with these parting words: “In thought, in word, and in deed.”
I should seek forgiveness from my teachers because I barely knew what I meant that afternoon of April 3, 1992. I stood on that stage because I felt compelled to deliver a speech as it was part of the rites, coupled with the pressure that I needed to represent the whole batch in paying the highest of respects to everyone in the audience including our parents, including my mother. When I went back to my seat, I felt relieved that it was over. The feeling was probably due to the fact that while it was a moment to rejoice over the completion of my four years in high school, I thought that there was that unnerving question mark as to where I was going. I thought that one wrong move would have meant one big failure.
But there’s no point in soaking myself in the uncertainty of things. A question mark represents doubts, worries, and indecision, which are parents of that big hounding crap called failure. A quote says, “Time doesn’t wait. Indecision will only let opportunities slip by. Pick a path and walk confidently with your heart behind every step.”
A lot of you will agree with me that studying is difficult. You worry not only about your homework, evaluation tools, and projects, but also about how you would suffice your needs. I am sure too that some parents here almost wanted to give up sending you to school, because what good will doing so bring them if you had nothing to eat when you come home? What if the next day you won’t be able to come back to school anymore because you had no money at least for transportation—never mind that you didn’t have anything to buy yourself some crackers or a glass of synthetic juice?
I take pride in having experienced that. My siblings and I would come to school with barely anything to keep us alive the whole day; but mother or anyone she could request to bring us food to school on midday saved us from fainting due to hunger. My pair of shoes in fourth year was a donation from a family friend who said that I deserved them for studying hard—and harder. During a Christmas party, I was in school uniform while everyone was wearing their best, and it felt really bad that I rendered a song number while some classmates laughed at what I was wearing. The list is long—it’s probably pretty much the same if you try to list all your troubles to the point of forgetting your blessings.
Of course, everyone in this ornate hall knows that I didn’t give up. I would not have been here right now. I actually wanted to be a nurse because the whiteness of their uniform intrigued me, and because I looked after my dying lolo during my junior year so I thought I had enough inspiration to become one. I also wanted to be a journalist because I thought that my school paper experience was a strong foundation. But I became a teacher, and the simple joys teaching brings—like some random student comes up to me to tell me she finally understands sentence patterns or thanks me because I gave him a good advice on being an illegitimate child—translate to fulfillment.
And so partly, I was able to get rid of that question mark.
That’s the same question mark which the screen displayed in that movie house in the anecdote, and it suggests the reservations that have bothered you for the last four years because of the big change in the educational setup in the country. I know, too, that even your parents had some objections to the curriculum shift, as two more years means additional burdens to them.
It’s actually a mutual understanding between families and the Department of Education in terms of burdens. A budget of Php 411.58B for 2016, higher by 28% than the 2015 budget is now being utilized to hire additional teachers, fund school feeding programs, construct 47,553 classrooms and technical-vocational laboratories, and train teachers to equip them appropriately so they can handle senior high school classes.
I want to tell you about a world literature character who is a personal favorite. Let’s call him Don Quixote. Don Quixote is a commoner in a village, and he is so fond of reading books about ladies, squires, knights, and chivalry that one day he decides to become a knight, but let us set him apart from the Knights of the Round Table because our protagonist isn’t even a knight. He wears a helmet made up of basin, he carries a very brittle sword, he has a horse that looks weak and sick, and he has a squire named Sancho, who only goes with him because of food.
Because knights are supposed to perform exploits, Don Quixote, one day, sets out on a journey and finds himself gaping at giants that he draws out his sword, rides on his horse, and attacks the giants with all his might, only to fall on the ground and to be told that what he was trying to fight were not giants but only windmills. When he recovers from the fall, he sets out on another journey with his horse and squire to continue living his fantasy that he is a knight. And he repeats the cycle continually, because he has a formidable spirit. He doesn’t really care about what happens to him in the process for as long as he is willing to help anyone in need and earn pogi points from his lady love called Dulcinea, who is also an imaginary character.
For the reader who does not know how to see things in a different perspective, Don Quixote is just another character who lost his sanity. He is just someone worthy of a good laugh for mistaking windmills for giants, friars for evil magicians, and a herd of sheep for an army. He is funny for trying to free prisoners on a march to the galleys. He is a crazy old man who is consumed by his fantasy that he is a knight.
But for someone who sees people with meaning, Don Quixote represents any one of us in this crowd. He is one who tries to fight the odds that come upon him. He fashions adventures and exploits and he fights his enemies. And as a social antagonist, he endeavors to make his voice heard in an ocean of powerful people.
Believe me, but each of us nurtures a Don Quixote in us. Every day we actually get to meet windmills, evil magicians, an army, and they come in the form of temptations, laziness, corruption, environmental problems, indifference, cruelty, and ignorance. But these should not cripple us. Just like the venerable don, we are expected to charge these enemies with all our might.
Kabataang Mula K to 12, Tagapagdala ng Kaunlaran sa Bansang Pilipinas—that’s this year’s completion rites theme. Now I want to ask you, what do you plan to contribute to the Philippines? You can only answer this question if you reflect on how you have prepared yourself for the greater endeavor, which goes beyond the realms of the self. You might have constantly heard your teachers to study well and serve the country when you can.Yes, it goes beyond the self—for what would your success mean if you won’t give back.
But for now, think of the many options you are presented with. I learned that MNHS is going to offer several strands for the senior high school program, and I am fervent the school has taken initial steps to help you choose the strand that suits your needs, your personality, and your interests. If until now you still haven’t made that crucial choice, then you really need some pat on the back. Because you cannot succeed with indecision hovering at you. You have to find your niche, and when you’re at it, seize the day, do your best, and succeed.
That sounds easy, doesn’t it? But let me share Dodinsky’s words in his book, “In the Garden of Thoughts.” He says, “Do not plant your dreams in the field of indecision, where nothing ever grows but the what-ifs.”
What if you never really entered high school—then you wouldn’t have met all your wonderful classmates and teachers each of them has a role to play in your present and few others in your future.
What if you didn’t come to school regularly—then you wouldn’t have experienced the fun of learning and doing it with people whose dreams and ambitions resemble yours.
What if you never really listened to your parents when they gave you that little push—then you wouldn’t have realized that they were right after all, for how can they go wrong when it comes to your welfare?
And what if you never really believed you could push yourself even more—then you would never have realized your full potentials as a person, that you can do more, that you can be more.
In the process, as you go through your senior high school experience, you will meet more what ifs, but seek the wisdom of your parents and teachers. They know what’s best for you. They will help you find the answers, they will help you finish that movie which suddenly stopped with that bothering question mark. And for that, give them a resounding applause.
And speaking of thanks, allow me to express sincerest thanks to my loving mentors who helped me in more ways than one.
My English teachers—Madam Ida Alamares, now the principal at Ponso NHS in Polangui, for being my school paper adviser and for the crispy English that wowed me the first time I heard her speak in class; the late Madam Judith Pagador, whom I clearly remember for her very moving “After this our exile” explanation.
My Math teachers—Madam Lourdes Marjalino in statistics, Sir Leonardo Nasol in geometry and trigonometry, and the petite yet really powerful woman Madam Emma Morasa in advance algebra—for helping me love formulas, square roots, cosine, and standard deviation.
My araling panlipunan teacher, Madam Carmen Brigola, who was really strict and organized that she would always start her new lesson with PAKSA so we would be guided as we went about it.
My ever jolly Filipino teacher—Madam Virginia Loria, who made me enjoy Noli and El Fili by her unique way of pointing out truths and lessons and those relatable discussions and debates on love, people, and society.
My PEHM teacher, the gorgeous Madam Eva Cortezano, who made all of us sing in music class and who was really beautiful even if she was pregnant that year, and who has remained beautiful like Dawn Zulueta who doesn’t age.
My CAT teacher Sir Hilario Revilla, who allowed me to teach my fellow classmates on discipline and respect instead of marching under the big blue sky with that wooden rifle.
My English elective teachers—Madam Mercy Baldon and Florian Lomibao, for their impeccable grammar skills, and Madam Conchita Ferwelo, for teaching us how to present ourselves in public.
My class advisers—the late Madam Herminia Esporlas, who was also my practical arts teacher for two years and who would let me do the marketing for the day’s snacks at the canteen so I would have free meals and who tried to engender in me some green thumb to grow daisies and roses on the plots which used to sprawl across this quadrangle; and Madam Hannah Escobedo, at the same time my chemistry and physics teacher, who unconditionally loved my classmates and me, who supported me in my endeavors as a busy student (even coaching me for an oratorical contest in Tabaco NHS), and who until now has not stopped encouraging me.
And to the other teachers, the non-teaching staff, our principal then, Dr. Leticia Gonzales, and those I might have forgotten to mention. I cannot thank you enough.
And to everyone in this meaningful occasion, the teaching and non-teaching staffs, the guests, the parents, and of course, the students, thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity. I am humbled.
Congratulations and God speed!