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My Commencement Speech to the Class 2014 Graduates of the Naval SPED Center

This is the transcript of my speech delivered last March 29, 2014 which I got after transcribing the audio file of my speech. Naval SPED Center is my elementary Alma Mater and I was invited to be the guest speaker for their Commencement Exercises/Graduation Ceremony this year. This year’s theme, as set by the Department of Education (DepEd), was “HINDI NATITINAG ANG PUSONG PILIPINO” to highlight the resiliency, especially, of the Filipino students as they persevere in their studies despite the devastating calamities that struck the country last year.


… with some of the Class 2014 Graduates. Credits to the owner of this photo.




To our beloved Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Pedro T. Escobarte, Jr., our Division SPED Coordinator Dr. Catalina P. Cordeta, our Naval North District Supervisor Mrs. Charita Bernardes,  our PTA Board Member Rebecca Gutierrez, our beloved principal Mr. Herman Donato, our administrators, teachers, parents, guests, and to our dearest graduates, isang mapagpalayang araw po sa ating lahat!


‘Di natitinag ang pusong Pilipino

Perhaps you are now wondering why I uttered those jokes?

First, of course, I want to keep you awake so that you could listen, appreciate and understand what I will be saying para di naman masayang ‘tong speech na prinepare ko para sa inyo.

Second, it’s refreshing to recall the follies, ang mga kabaliwan, we had during our elementary and highschool years. Throwback lang ang peg ano po?

And last but more importantly, I would like to point out and emphasize one of the reasons bakit hindi natitinag ang Pusong Pilipino, which is the theme of your Commencement/Graduation Exercises.

Bakit nga ba ‘di natitinag ang Pusong Pilipino?

Simple — because we, Filipino, laugh!

We laugh at our problems. As the old adage goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It energizes us as it allow our hearts to pump blood enthusiastically. It exercises our muscles. It releases our stress. It keeps us from ageing rapidly. It lets us feel hope. It’s one of our techniques to survival, especially, during aftermaths of disasters such as Yolanda.

Of course, how can we boost our morale to get up and move forward if we let sadness overcome us. I know many of us have experienced that when we are sad, say, frustrated from the results of our exams or perhaps brokenhearted, sometimes, we just don’t want to get up from the bed. Sometimes, we just want to sleep all the time. And that’s counterproductive! So, laugh! There’s nothing wrong with laughing at our problems.

But that doesn’t mean we just keep on laughing even though we feel hurt deep inside. If we feel like crying, then cry, but don’t forget to have some time to laugh. It’s just a matter of balancing things — the yin and yang. But that doesn’t mean, as well, that we only laugh at our problems. There’s no truth to the generalization that many Filipinos are poor because they only laugh at their problems. No. Laughing at our problems is just our coping mechanism but innate also in our nature as Filipinos are our fighting spirit and our faith, strong faith, to seek solutions or to overcome our problems.

My dear graduates, it has been four months since Yolanda struck our country and devastated Visayas. If you have seen the news clippings on the first few days of the aftermath (which, by the way, you can watch in Youtube), you could not see Filipino survivors merely lying down, feeling hopeless and helpless. No. Right after the typhoon left their areas, the survivors immediately ventured out to the streets to search for their loved ones and to find means how to survive the following days while waiting for aid. You could see Filipino Yolanda survivors walking hundreds of kilometers to find food, to seek safe shelter or to seek aid.

Perhaps you have seen in the news how Fr. Edgar Abusejo journeyed from Eastern Samar to Tacloban to get the world’s attention in order to give aid as well to the people in Samar. Or perhaps, you have heard the story of one alumna of La Naval who walked from Tacloban back to their home here in Naval after the typhoon ravaged Tacloban.

But the most apparent examples right now are YOU, dear graduates. I admire your determination not to let the disaster hinder your learning. I admire your perseverance so as not to let Yolanda steal your dream of graduating this year. Just like other students in Yolanda-stricken areas, I laud you for your persistence to catch up with your lessons. I’m sure some of you ay nagreklamo dahil mabilis ang pacing ng iyong lessons after the typhoon but look, here you are now, graduating this year, today!

That’s Fighting spirit! That’s faith! — two of the reasons bakit hindi natitinag ang Pusong Pilipino.

Last vital reason that I would like to emphasize kung bakit hindi natitinag ang Pusong Pilipino is also our innate collective spirit — the Pintakasi principle, the Bayanihan spirit. An overused but still true cliche says, “No man/woman is an island, no one stands alone” or as one of my favorite Filipino song goes, “Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang, walang sinuman ang namamatay para sa sarili lamang.”

Collective spirit, my dear friends.

I don’t have the luxury of time to share to you our experiences in the Balik-Bilran Network in our efforts to send relief goods here in Biliran but I would just like to tell you that in those times, everyday, I always have had goosebumps, tumitindig ang mga balahibo ko, everytime I see Biliranons and non-Biliranons alike helping us gather donations, buy and prepare relief goods and distribute them to the most needy areas. Indeed, through collective action, through our collective efforts, we can achieve victories.

The fighting spirit, the faith, and the collective spirit — these are the BASIC reasons why Filipinos are resilient, kung bakit hindi natitinag ang Pusong Pilipino, why we survived.


Tips para di matitinag ang Puso ng estudyanteng Pilipino sa mga pagsubok sa Hayskul at Kolehiyo

Now, allow me to share you, as well, some 5 basic tips so that you could survive the next levels of education — high school and college. Let’s start with No. 5.

5. Socialize

By “socialize”, I do not mean “magpaka-sosyal” ka like party here, shoppin’ there or buy the latest version of iPhone until mabuslot na ang mga bulsa ng inyong mga magulang. There’s a modern Filipino saying which says, “Pag MAYAMAN IPHONE. Pag mahirap IPON.”

But, of course, I know that you understand what I mean, which is: MAKE FRIENDS. Because they will be there for you, through ups and downs, through sickness and in health. They will be your secondary family, just like your school, whenever your parents are busy at work and your siblings preoccupied with their respective activities. You will learn so many things from them that the traditional school curriculum will not or has failed to teach you, or has failed to concretize abstract concepts that it has taught you. For example, it’s my barkada in elementary who taught me how to be brave, how to be confident. Without them, I could have not been here, speaking in front of you. Honestly, it’s my barkada who actually taught me how to cook.

But just a caution: well, not that I’m teaching you to be judgmental; don’t be judgmental but just a caution: be careful in befriending some persons. We have a sayin that goes, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” Do not haste in making friends because there are those who will turn your life into worse. Well, it’s okay to befriend them but experience-wise, it’s either you change them for better or it’s you who will be changed for worse. If you believe you are not capable of changing them, you may keep your friendship but learn to say no to their bad activities such as addictions. If they would ask you why and tell you, “I deserve an explanation.” Aw, kung nag-ala-Piolo Pascual-Starting Over Again sila, well, mag-ala-Tita Janet Napoles ka rin. Sagutin mo, “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.” But if they really compel you to join them in their bad activities, as well, then that’s the time that you get out from their circle.


4. Plan ahead BUT live the present

Remember the moral of the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper which we learned in our early elementary years? The story taught us to prepare, to plan for the future, right? But, life can also be so unpredictable that we cannot tell we would still be in this planet tomorrow or the next day.

Bottomline is: YOLO — You Only Live Once.

So, do whatever you can do at present as if everyday is your last, as long as what you do is within the bounds of what is just and proper. Wag yung porke’t sabi nila na YOLO, magpapakalasing ka na o maninigarilyo ka to the highest level. Maraming temptation sa hayskul at college. Learn to resist them.

As another famous quote goes: every day is a gift from God, that’s why it is called present. This principle is the reason why I grabbed this opportunity to be your guest speaker. When I learned about the invitation, I actually had apprehensions such as I had still to prepare for our final exams week. So I told myself, next time na lang siguro but then I was quick to realize, there wouldn’t be next time.

In high school and college, many opportunities would knock at your door. Grab each and every opportunity BUT before grabbing it, objectively consider and assess first your capacity and other circumstances — kung kaya mo ba talaga, kung di ka ba talaga nag-iilusyon lang; else, you might suffer the tragedy that befell Icarus.

Of course, one of those opportunities is the opportunity to have a lovelife. So, to our dear parents, alam na man po natin na that’s inevitable, well, to many highschool and college students.  Alam kong naranasan niyo rin po yan. But, let’s be quick on this matter:

For girls, be as wise as Nena. Nena’s suitor, one day, told her.

Suitor: Mahal na mahal kita. Lahat ng kaya ko, ibibigay ko. Handa akong mamatay para sa’yo..
Nena: Hmmm. Atika ko doh! Beh, kung tinuod man kaha na, sample beh! Sample! Sample! Sample!!
Ayun, natakot si Suitor kaya di na siya nagpatuloy.

For boys, be faithful to your girlfriend:

Ingatan mo ang taong MAHALAGA sayo.. Mahirap na baka… ANGKININ ng CHINA.

Or these could apply to any gender. My point is: don’t haste. Wag magmadali. Porke’t trending sa Twitter ang lovelife nina Chichay at Joaquin ay magmamadali ka nang maghanap ng jowaWag magmadali kasi Hindi porket nagtext siya sa’yo ng ILABYU, ay dapat kiligin ka na.. TANDAAN:Wrong spelling WRONG.”


3. Have Fun while learning; Love your Education

My professors would always tell our class that when we love our education, it would just be easy for us to understand our lessons. Don’t go to school just because it is an imperative routine. Don’t go to school just because it is a norm, an obligation. But go to school because it is part and parcel of our lives.

Think not of getting high grades for popularity or for better jobs or careers in the future but think of searching questions that are socially relevant such as: why many Filipinos are poor, how to treat AIDS, how to increase productivity in farming, how to eliminate corruption. Think of questions such as those.

Love your education. Do not waste it because if you do so, you would be wasting not just your parents’ money but also the people’s money, you being Iskolars ng Bayan, pupils of a public school funded by the people.

Now, aside from learning within the four walls of the classroom, we can also gain learning in various extra-curricular and non-curricular activities. Engage yourselves in those activities — run for the student government, join in your school publication organization, direct a stage play, join in religious organizations, volunteer in extension services for the poor and marginalize, and many more. For it is through these activities that we would be able to apply what we have learned during our formal classes. Without these activities, we wouldn’t know the realities in our society. We would remain very much idealistic.

But, learn also how to manage your time. Aside from balancing your academic and extra-curricular activities, avoid spending much of your time in unnecessary things. For example, spend less of your time for Facebook or Twitter or Internet in general or DOTA. Wag tularan si Nena:

Nanay: Naku anak!!! Lumabas ka dyan sa kwarto! Nasusunog ang bahay natin!
Nena: Waaaah! Nay! Sandali lang! Ipopost ko lang sa FB!
Nanay: Bilisan mo! At buksan mo na din account ko.. share mo!!

The moral of this story, my dear graduates,  is: kung FB ka lang nang FB, Twitter ka lang nang Twitter o DOTA ka lang nang DOTA, malamang, sunog din ang kinabukasan mo!


2. Have Faith; Believe in yourself

There will be times when challenges will come in your way — difficult exams, numerous class projects, complicated relations and all — and you will be tempted to thing it’s the end of the world! But I tell you, NEVER QUIT IMMEDIATELY. If you do not know what to do, then, you may pray to God, ask for the guidance of his Holy Spirit, have faith in God and have faith in yourself, just like when you were still a child learning how to walk or climb the stairs.

Just like a child, continue taking risks. Don’t be afraid to commit mistakes or to fail. Because when you are afraid to do so, chances are you tend not to go beyond your comfort zones; thereby, depriving yourself of discovering more of your capabilities, discovering more of your talents and skills. Thus, you would remain stagnant at ang isang stagnant water ay pinamumugaran ng mga lamok. So, do not be stagnant. Be adventurous. Have fun while learning.

We have a saying that goes, “faith without action is dead”. Kaya’t sabi ni Conrad Hilton:

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.

So, push lang teh! Ako, honestly, ako’y muntikan nang di maka-graduate last year kasi 2nd sem na gumana ang utak ko for my thesis. But to cut the story short, all I had were faith coupled with action kaya’t nakagraduate pa rinBasta wag agad mag-quit.

Also, NEVER EVER CHEAT. You may have not cheated in your entire elementary life as SPED pupils but let me tell you frankly, in high school where follies would intensify, there will be many temptations to cheat. Again, as an honest confession, my high school classmates and I cheated a lot of times. But when I entered UP, alam niyo, nakakatakot na mag-cheat sa UP kasi you either face expulsion or public humiliationPeople kasi are expecting you to be intelligent bilang isang UP student. Only then I got one of the most important realizations in my life: we all don’t need to cheat to get good grades, we all don’t need to cheat to achieve our dreams or goals in life.

As what our UP Motto says: HONOR and EXCELLENCE, in the Service of the Filipino People. Honor comes first. So, don’t cheat kasi kapag naging habit yan ninyo, you could grow like the corrupt public officials we have — God forbids! But as you can see, many of public officials considered as corrupt were actually achievers in school; they were part of the Cream of the Crop.

That’s why, I would like to emphasize, that intelligence or excellence at school is NOT a measure of one’s worth. Before excellence, there must be honor and dignity in every thing that we do.

So, if you have, indeed, cheated for the past 6 years, tamang-tama! It’s Lenten Season! For the Catholics, take time to have a good confession and repent from your sins. But, Pedro misinterpreted the word “repent”.

One day, Juan encountered Pedro in front of the latter’s house.

Juan: Pedro, bag-0 lage and pintal sa imong atop? (Pedro, ba’t bago ang pinta ng bubong mo?)
Pedro: mao nay advice ni Fr. Jose sa misa gahapon. (Yan kasi ang advice ni Fr. Jose sa misa niya kahapon.)
Juan: Unsa man diay iyang sulti? (Bakit? Ano pala sabi niya?)
Pedro: Ingon siya: “repent your sin!” Maong gipintalan nako’g bag-o akong atop. (Sabi niya, “repent your sin!” kaya pinintahan ko nang bago ang bubong ko.)


1. Do not be self-centered

Now, the last but the most important tip that I would like to share to you is that do not be self-centeredOffer your intellect and skills in serving the poor and the needy, dedicate your education to your family, to the society and to God.

Do not waste your life for selfish interests. Mind you, maraming buhay ang nasira dahil sa mga pansariling interes ng tao. Many lives were destroyed because of greed.

Wag makipag-kompetisyon sa iba. Don’t compare yourself with other people because, experience-wise, it creates a lot of insecurities; it creates division; it destroys relationships. One of my law professors once challenged our whole class to help those who failed in one of our major exams to catch up. So, instead of competing with one another, help one another because that’s what our society needs.

We all don’t need to compete with one another in order to excel. Life is NOT a race; it is, but, a journey. My undergraduate and law professors would always remind us to compete with ourselves, instead.

Also, do not be arrogant. Porke’t you graduated from SPED, from Sci-High, from UP; porke’t matalino ka o marami kang alam; o, porke’t successful ka na — do not be arrogant. Stay humble and down-to-earth. Never forget to thank your very supportive parents and teachers kahit ganyan sila ka-strikto because without them, you would have not gone this far in your lives. Do not forget them and all those persons who supported you when you are already successful. Ika nga nila: ang taong di marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay… malamang, nagse-selfie!

Lastly, as Iskolars ng Bayan, do not forget to give back to the people who funded your education. Sabi nga sa isang advertisement: para kanino ka bumabangon? Para kanino ba tayo nag-aaral? Our intelligence and skills are WORTHLESS if we only keep it to ourselves for our selfish interests. I tell you, there is so much happiness in using our intellect and skills in serving the people. There is much loneliness when we only use them for our own pleasure.


My dear graduates, friends, I would like to end my speech in a very personal manner.

When I arrived home from my Law classes on Tuesday night last week, I checked upon my Facebook and I was notified of a PM (private message). When I opened it, it was from Ma’am Linao which read, “Congratulations!”. Then I thought, before I continued reading, “wait. what’s this congratulatory message for? Did I pass the bar exam??? Because it was the same day when the 2013 Bar Exam results were released wherein, as you have seen it via television, 5 from my Alma mater UP and 1 from my present school UC (Univ. of Cebu) topped. So, if you wanna pursue legal profession, enroll either at UP Law or UC Law. Advertise2x din tayo ano pag may time. But going back, I thought: how can it be a congratulatory message for passing the Bar when, in fact, I am still taking up Law. So, I continued reading until I got the message — that I was chosen and invited to be your guest speaker now.

Thereafter, I kept on asking ‘why me’? I never graduated with flying colors from this school, from this  Alma Mater. I haven’t yet obtained titles like Doctor, Engineer, Atty, PhD, MA, LLb, etc. And so I thought busy siguro sina Clemens (our Class Valedictorian) or all other past Naval SPED valedictorians. Yet, I was quick to realize, we don’t really need awards and titles to inspire and motivate other people. What we need are real-life experiences. It’s like love. How can you effectively advice and inspire someone who is broken-hearted to move forward if you haven’t  been dumped by someone or if you haven’t tried getting “basted”.

So, my challenge now to you, dear graduates, is to learn from the mistakes of my generation and be an inspiration to everyone, especially, to move the people in creating positive change in our society and in this world. Then, this world will soon become a better place to live not just for your generation but for the generations to come, as well.

So, dear graduates and friends, thank you so much for this opportunity to speak before you. Congratulations and mabuhay Class 2014! Congratulations to the parents and teachers! Padayon! God bless!


… with the Class Valedictorian Jois Jamil Castro Linao (the boy at the right side).