I still cannot believe that it has been 13 years since I sat here and listened to our commencement speaker and that 16-year-old me had no idea I’ll be giving speeches multiple times in my lifetime and yet here I am. So, let me start by thanking God for giving us another day to live and for this opportunity to be together in one of the most wondrous occasions of your lives. Also, I’m extending my thanks to my Alma Mater for inviting me. It is a great honor to speak at the 1st K12 commencement exercises of Rizal College of Taal.
To our graduates, I’m sure you’ve been told this many times already but let me congratulate you. Of course, we cannot go on without applauding your parents, guardians and loved ones who have been your support and inspiration all the way. At this point, may I please request the parents to stand up. Graduates, please try to look for your parents and tell them “Thank you and I love you.” Also, let us not forget to praise the sacrifices of our teachers and the whole school community and all their efforts to make you learn all that you need to.
Maybe many of you are wondering why, in a special event like this, it is I, a nameless person, who is in front of you and not a more famous personality. Don’t worry, I’m also asking the same question. But, I believe our God has a purpose for our meeting today and whatever that is, I’d like to praise Him and pray we’ll soon find out. I am a newly licensed physician and a medical technologist by profession but currently, I am more active in my teaching career which permits me to travel throughout the Philippines. I’ve been teaching Medical Technology board exam subjects for 8 years now, thus majority of what I’ll talk about is based from what I’ve observed from our students.
There is a quote about graduation that says “There is a good reason they call these ceremonies “commencement exercises”. Graduation is not the END; it’s the beginning.” Truly, finishing our studies is just one chapter in a more complicated subject called life and hopefully all of you are or will be ready to face its challenges. I’ve always thought about life being like a game we play – you level up when you gain experience and when you level up, the next stage gets harder. Question is – are you ready for the next battle? There’s a lot to say and I don’t want to bore you so I’ll summarize my key points with these three life lessons.
Lesson #1: Appreciate Yourselves
First, I want you to put your hand on your chest like this, and tell yourselves “All is well.” That’s from my favorite movie ‘Three Idiots.’ It’s a movie we all can relate to and is even better than my speech.
Now, tell yourself “Congratulations self, maganda/gwapo ka na tapos graduate ka pa!”
Then tell your seatmates, “Uyy, ganda/gwapo mo mukha kang magiging magaling na abogado, doktor, teacher, atbp. ah.”
How does it feel? Feels great right? Feels so ‘kilig’ when someone appreciates you noh?
That’s the message I want to convey.
Appreciate yourself and what you’ve accomplished even when you think it’s nothing compared to what others have. It doesn’t matter. No matter how many quizzes you’ve failed or how long it took for you to be finally able to march on graduation. It doesn’t matter. You still made it. In His perfect time. In your own timeline. That’s something to be proud of.
What we lack today is self-appreciation. The world became so toxic that no one ever bothers to tell us we matter and what’s worse is that we became so dependent on others to feel our self worth. That’s why we feel so small. That’s why in some youths, living everyday is like punishment. That’s why we cannot unleash our best mode and effortlesly go into our beast mode. We easily get depressed because we rely on others to feel we exist. The problem is not everyone is available, even our parents will not be able to appreciate us every single time.
But you know who’s always available? Yourself. “The person who you’re with most in life is yourself and if you don’t like yourself you’re always with somebody you don’t like.” – Mark Lewis.
So, let us learn to do that for ourselves. When you wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror, see how awesome you look and ask yourself what you can do today to make this world better. And if you get the chance, start appreciating others too. You see someone with good haircut, tell them. Instead of bashing, hating and bullying, which, thanks to social media, are now a lot easier to do, choose to appreciate. Just a simple appreciation can create a chain reaction.
Remember, you have a choice.
Choose to appreciate.
Lesson 2: Become A Better You
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” That’s an excerpt from my favorite poem Desiderata or Desired Things.
I really love the message. Truth is, we always tend to compare, because that’s how we are raised in this competitive world. But if we’ll do compare, we should only do it with our previous self, or what I’d like to call as our yesterself. Let us become so busy improving ourselves instead of comparing our timelines with the rest of the world. I believe I have my own and what’s important is I’m enjoying it. I’m in no rush. I started medschool at 23 years old, most people do at 20 or 21, graduated at 27, took my boards at 29. I have seniors who are younger than me but that’s okay. I recognize and respect them. My high school and college batch mates have started their own families already and I’m happy for them. I’m going to be 30 years old this year, still single but not available. Does that mean I’m a failure? Does that mean I am not happy? I’ve been asked also about how I handle having previous students as classmates in med. Well, I treat them as classmates. I didn’t really feel any pressure whenever they get higher grades than me because they really CAN. Just because I was one of their lecturers does not mean I should always be ahead of them. I don’t roll that way. I learn at my own pace and if others learn faster, why compare? If I didn’t graduate on the specified time or didn’t get my license the same time as my batch mates and I’m the only one left unlicensed, would I still be chilling? Of course.
I want to believe that I’ve learned how to trust God’s ever perfect timing. Bottom line is, don’t let other people’s life events be your standard. Don’t compare. Let me just reiterate that if you always do, you’ll end up becoming vain or bitter and no one likes that. Do your best to become better versions of yourselves every single day that will pass.
Remember, you have a choice.
Choose to become better.
Lesson 3: Dreams Do Come True
Upon graduating high school, and I know you can very well relate to this, people always asked me about my plans, what course to take, where to study, etc., then followed by their suggestions. “You should be a doctor” was one of the few. But then, that time, I didn’t want to be a doctor. In fact, it wasn’t my childhood dream.
I sat on my chair during my graduation without a definite plan for tomorrow and I believe I wasn’t the only one. If you didn’t have a plan, why not just listen to what people were telling you to do, you may ask. The answer is: I don’t want people to decide for me for they cannot possibly know what can make me truly happy. I want my own heart to tell me what I want and what I dream.
After a few thinking, I decided I wanted to take Tourism as my course. But when we visited my university to be – Centro Escolar University in Manila – and saw the list of courses, Medical Technology caught my attention, literally with sparks. One family friend asked me again, “Oh, anong course kukunin mo?” I answered, “MedTech po” and he said, “MedTech? Naku, mahirap yan, hindi mo kakayanin yan!” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and I chose not to listen to him. Few years went by and I topped the board exam for Med Techs. There are 3 things I want to emphasize with that story.
One… is it’s okay to have no definite plans yet, you don’t need to decide haphazardly just so you can say you have a plan. Looking back, I didn’t have any plans yet I’m still doing fine. What you need to do is pray that you’ll find out what God wants you to do with your life and when the time comes, don’t ever doubt yourself. Loss of self-confidence is one of the many uninvited guests that come into our lives and ruin everything. But again, you have a choice. You always do.
For example, when taking an exam, a student will more likely to hope to have at least 75% to pass it instead of thinking they can actually score higher than that. That’s how they usually see their capabilities and one reason they do is because of what they heard from other people – remarks such as ‘hanggang ganyan ka lang naman, wala ka nang igagaling pa, wala ka nang pagasa, ang pagpasa para sayo ay suntok sa buwan’ – which, unfortunately and sometimes unknowingly, are from their loved ones, friends, and yes, teachers. I know we are all aware that words cut deeper than the knife so I’d like to use this opportunity to remind each of us to use our words carefully for they create big impact in other people’s lives. Some people carry those all throughout their lives. There’s a saying that when you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will believe that it’s stupid and imbecile all its life. In the same way when we commend our students and motivate them, they’ll tend to do better and better each time.
The next time you take an exam, I want you to tell yourselves that you will perfect that exam – no matter how impossible it may look, thinking that way will surely bring in more positive results. Start believing in yourselves again. If possible, forget about the negative things you’ve heard from people and if not, maybe you can just use them as motivation to do things better. You can do greater things when you start believing that you can. Don’t doubt. As Iron Man of the Avengers said, “If I am not in my own team, who will be?” If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
Second point… if at this moment you already know what you want and got your whole life planned out, then good for you. All you need to do is carry out your plans and do your best to achieve them, of course with God’s grace and guidance. Believing in yourself is still a must most especially when you already know your dreams. Believe that God will never give you a dream without giving you abilities and qualifications to accomplish that dream. So, work hard and pray harder. And if ever life doesn’t go with the plans, don’t lose heart. Always believe that God teaches you a lesson you’ll need for the next chapters of your lives. After all, He’s the better planner than us.
In college, I aimed to graduate as Cum Laude but I lacked 0.03 to make it to the 1.50 cutoff. Being an achiever since kindergarten, I became so bitter. I even tried to console myself by saying if I studied at some other schools, I would already be a Latin awardee but God made me go through painful episodes of my life to learn greater things and value life and experience more than my academic grades. It’s good to have awards and all and make our parents, relatives and even neighbors proud, but in real life, people won’t ask how many awards you got in school, how many quizzes you passed, etc., What they will remember are your attitude and character and that clearly proves that your grades do not necessarily define what you can do and what you can be. I planned to become a Cum Laude, but God didn’t allow it. I was mad for awhile but you know what? He didn’t allow it because His plan was to make me a topnotcher in the medtech board exam and to jumpstart my career in teaching and to eventually see the purpose of my life.
You see, you may think you have the best plan in the world but in the end, when you surrender to Him, He will bring you to what you rightfully deserve. You have the choice. You always do. Choose to trust Him.
Third and final point of my lesson #3… is that people will always try to say something even if you do good and of course, if you do something bad. But again, you have a choice. You always do. So when they tell you you can’t, prove them wrong. Sometimes when they fail at something, they also wish people will fail too. It’s a sad cycle. Remember the family friend who told me I can’t survive MedTech? If I listened to him, and I shifted to another course, would I be happy? Would I be here? I chose not to follow his words, because it’s his story, not mine. People cannot dictate your story-line. Always think that you’re the main actors and actresses of your own movie – your life and God is the only director, not the people around. Follow your heart and be happy. It’s actually the most important thing I want you to realize.
At your age, maybe your definition of success is owning a lot of properties, becoming famous, earning big time and such, and don’t get me wrong, you can always strive hard to have those but ultimately you will realize that it is happiness – one that is authentic and genuine – that’s always worth the find. When you’re happy with your life, you will be contented with what you have and you will never be jealous of others which is one root cause of crab mentality. You don’t want that in your life. When you are happy, you will be able to do things you think are impossible. When you are happy, you’re gonna enjoy the ride life has to offer, even when the road is hard and challenging.
And at this point, I want to direct my speech to the parents.
I know that as parents, you want the best for your children and your family with the hope that soon enough, they will be able to help with establishing a better life for all of you but please, do not force them to do something they don’t really want. We only have one life, let them live it and enjoy it the best way they know how. I’m really thankful that my parents did not impose on me and just let me grow where I am supposed to. I had classmates who were forced to study medtech or medicine because their parents said so, but they weren’t happy. They weren’t doing good at school, some of them tried their best to cope up but I guess, if it is really not in your interest, it’s gonna be difficult to learn and so they tend to rebel. They were struggling so bad I couldn’t do anything to help them. I also worry for their future patients, if they cannot learn the proper way, how can they do their jobs which includes lives of the patients?
Now that I have a chance to somehow reach your hearts, I am humbly asking you to please support your children in their chosen dreams and future endeavors. Help them see their greater purpose and let God use them. They may not always tell you but I am sure that you are their greatest motivations and they will always strive hard to give back to you the soonest they can.
Remember: Dreams do come true and so dream on!
I guess I still have a lot to say but we don’t have all day so, because I’m a teacher and I like to summarize, let’s recap our lessons: appreciate yourselves, strive to be better versions and dream on.
I’m wishing that you’ll always yearn to learn more and become a bringer of positive vibes in this wicked world. Become the world’s hope. Be the better person. Choose kindness, even when it’s the hardest thing to do.
And always remember, in this life, there will be challenges and there will be difficulties. Do not pray to God to remove your life trials and adversities for they are inevitable. Ask God that He would provide you with the courage and wisdom equal to the challenges. For when He equips us and when go through it, we emerge stronger and wiser. (I’m borrowing these from Sir Francis Kong)
Again, congratulations to the graduating class of 2018 and I pray for your success in any aspect of life and may God provide you enough.