This is the text of my speech as a parent's response during the 63rd HS Commencement Exercises at St. Paul College of Bocaue where my daughter Kamille Marie was among the graduating students.
Exactly 28 years ago, I stood in front of my fellow graduating high school students to deliver my Valedictory Address. At that time, medals were rarely given, but I managed to bag 13 medals all in all, including the prestigious Gerry Roxas Leadership Award and President Ferdinand Marcos Medallion for Academic Excellence. I led the entire graduating class as we marched toward the stage. I knew my parents were so proud of me – of the accomplishments and achievements I worked hard for. I saw how their fellow parents approached them to congratulate them after the Commencement Exercises.
To me, it was the sweetest day of my high school life. To me, my high school life were my golden years of feathers in the hat. The medals I reaped represented the so many opportunities where I had discovered and honed my talents and skills, improved myself socially, intellectually, physically, academically, and spiritually. I gave my best when I was in high school. I gave them all to my parents.
Today, I now feel what must have been felt by my own parents when I was graduating from high school. I am now a parent of one of the graduating students, our very dear Kamille Marie, whom I consider one of the precious gifts of God to us – especially when she was born. I literally jumped for joy when I learned that my baby was a girl. Kamille was the newly born when Sue, her mom, suffered from post-eclampsia that almost cost her life.
Today as she is about to graduate from high school, I can’t help but feel proud of our daughter. She gave her best. We never pressured her to do so. My parents never pressured me, too, when I was in high school. My parents, especially my dearest father, simply motivated me to always give my best.
For him, there should never be a dull moment for learning. Every moment counted so much. I never fell asleep in my classes. I might miss the most important lesson of the hour. The library was my home. There was not a single book I’ve seen that I never opened, may they be books for college or for professionals. For me, there was more to what my teachers were teaching us in the formal classroom.
I could say that if others think that the most important lessons in life were learned when they were in kindergarten, I learned them when I was in high school. There is greater consciousness of the choices one makes once in high school. The lessons are more lasting. The relationships are more meaningful. Dreams become more realistic. Ambitions are more tangible. Morals are more concrete. Virtues and values are clearer. Choices become more definitive and predictive of what one becomes. High school life definitely has a great bearing in adult life.
That is why the choice of school for high school education matters. The Vision and Mission of a school matter. The professional competence of teachers matters. It is because our children’s views of the world and of their lives depend on how these have been introduced to them as they were growing up. What they will do to themselves and to the society where they will be would somehow be some reflections of how they had been raised.
Kamille, your Alma Mater, where I happen to be one of the teaching staff, is no ordinary one. It is a home to so many alumni who are now key players of the society. I need not mention names, lest, there may be some that I miss, yet are equally important. Through the years, St. Paul College of Bocaue has maintained its identity as a bastion of quality Catholic, Paulinian Education in this part of the country. Through the years, your Alma Mater has produced hundreds of graduates who are now productive members of the society, making a difference not just in their families but also in the world. Your teachers have prepared you well. They have equipped you not just with knowledge and skills needed to survive in the next ladder of education. They also taught you about our God whose immense love for us is unfathomable, immeasureable, unconditional and ever so pure. They taught you about Jesus and about salvation. To me, that is the most important of all. For what profits a man to gain the whole world but loses his soul!
I am so proud of you, my dear. You are graduating from a school where hard work is emphasized. You are graduating from a school where God is very much the center of life. That alone is the greatest Paulinian legacy that you can carry through thick and thin on the struggles of life. No matter how difficult life may be, God is enough reason to go on. God is enough reason to sail on.
Dear Sisters, my fellow teachers, for 11 years, our daughter has been under your maternal and paternal care. In behalf of my fellow parents, especially my fellow dads, I thank you most sincerely for teaching our children the necessary skills and competencies for them to hurdle a more challenging level of education. I thank you for teaching them about values and morals, discipline and order, perseverance and hard work, consistency and determination, care and responsibility, spirituality and excellence. Parents like me who are so busy with work and responsibilities may, at times, forget our children’s needs, especially at their most confusing moments and teenage adventurism. Thanks to the teachers and Sisters who are more than eyes and ears of parents. Through you, we are able to know our children better. Through you, we discover and hone their strengths, interests, skills, talents, and directions. Through you, we also learn their weaknesses, limitations, failures, flaws, softness, and Achilles’ heels. Together, we have produced them into who they are right before our very eyes – 279 candidates for graduation for having completed satisfactorily all the requirements prescribed by the Department of Education for a diploma in Secondary Education. Thank you so much, dear Sisters and colleagues.
Our dear children, as you are about to graduate from high school, remember, there’s no such thing as success in life. There is only hardwork. Medals, citations, awards don’t make a man. It is the heart and soul that know how to love, to give importance, to give the best, to be compassionate, to be humble that make a man. It is the person who recognizes that God is the ultimate source of all the giftedness in him.
When you would have become professionals yourselves, make a positive difference in the society, especially these days where you have so many professions to choose from. I am reminded of an anecdote where the children were asked what they would like to become when they grow up.
One child said: Paglaki ko gusto ko maging doktor upang gagamutin ko aking kapwa.
Another one quipped: Gusto ko maging engineer. Magpapatayo ako ng mga tulay at mga gusali para sa aking kapwa.
Another one stood up and declared: Ako magiging guro upang turuan ko ang aking kapwa.
Yet another proudly said: Gusto ko maging presidente upang mas maraming kapwa ang aking matutulungan.
On one corner was Juan Tamad. He finally stood up and told everyone: Ako naman, gusto ko maging kapwa.
And so our dear children, be instruments of change for the better. Explore the world, make the right, responsible choices. Be meaningful in your lives. Live for others. Share in the salvific mission of the Church. But come back to your Alma Mater. Attend reunions. Then and only then, perhaps, that you can truly and sincerely say “thank you” to your teachers and the Sisters who have brought you up well.
Good luck and God bless all of you. Congratulations, and thank you St. Paul College of Bocaue!