Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Mrs. Pineda, Ms. Jao, Mr. Yu, Mrs. Alberto, members of the faculty, parents and guests, graduates, and fellow Uneans, a pleasant morning to all of you.
Before I start, I would like to give all the glory to God. I’ve been indescribably blessed with His grace, and I cannot but thank Him.
I stand before you today not because I am the best in this batch, but because this batch has brought out the best in me. I truly am very honored to have been chosen to deliver this speech, but I owe much to my batchmates. They certainly deserve a lot of credit.
On this momentous day, we, the graduates of Batch 2012, are about to write the last sentence of an unforgettable chapter in our lives. We put to a fitting end all these years of success and failure, of tears and joy, of laughter and heartbreak. We celebrate the glory of our victories after all our hard work, dedication, and perseverance. We reminisce both the wonderful memories that brought us happiness and the trying moments that taught us valuable lessons.
Indeed, we had a lot of fun. From field trips to cake fights, from crazy science experiments to comedic plays, from wildly energetic performances to frequent hang-outs, everything was simply amazing. Unfortunately, it all seemed to pass by like a blur.
Despite the good times, we also had our fair share of frustration and disappointment. We gave scintillating performances, but we also had cancelled ones. We delivered great plays, but we also bungled on other attempts. We tasted success, but we also tasted defeat.
Nevertheless, all these moments that we went through brought us even closer to one another. The excitement, the pain, the effervescence, and the perseverance all yielded the same result – our irreplaceable unity. All those triumphs and travails somehow knitted our hearts together with an unbreakable bond.
As we reflect upon everything that has transpired over our stay in Uno, we certainly have a lot to be grateful for. First and foremost, we should thank God, the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. He is the divine Architect who destined us to come together. He has ceaselessly showered us with undeserved blessings through His unfailing love.
Let us thank our dear parents for their unconditional love, support, and endless encouragement. They have been the immovable pillars of strength in our lives. Without them, we would not be who we are today.
Let us thank our teachers for being our “second parents.” Instead of giving us fish, they have taught us how to fish. They have cultivated the seeds that were planted by our parents. As such, we are now reaping the benefits of their labor.
To express our gratitude to God, to our parents, and to our teachers, let us give them a big round of applause.
For us, Uno has been both a second home and a miniature model of the real world. It has armed us with the essential weapons in order to attain excellence. It has been an arena for us to hone our God-given talents, to develop our natural abilities, and to enhance our newfound skills. For this, let us thank the entire Unean family. And to not let the countless efforts of many nameless heroes go down the drain, we should not just remember the lessons we have learned. We have to put these to good use, as the application of knowledge translates to success.
We started with little steps toward achieving our dream, and here we are staring at its fulfillment. Nonetheless, as we end our journey in Uno, we commence on yet another one, one that leads farther down the road in life. We dared to dream big; now, I challenge each and every one of you, including myself, to dream even bigger. I earnestly hope that as we look back and savor our past successes, these become fuel for the fire, stoking that burning desire within us that never dies out, the desire to succeed and to excel. We shouldn’t just rest on our laurels; instead, we should always aim to raise the bar.
The diplomas we are about to receive today aren’t just passports that will formalize our long-awaited entry into college. They should, instead, serve as constant reminders of what lies within us, of what we have achieved and what we are capable of achieving.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” In accordance with this, let us keep in mind that we should never be afraid to commit mistakes because it is only when we stumble and lose our footing that we learn to make better choices. Making the wrong decision is infinitely better than not making any decision at all. Errant decisions aren’t roadblocks that hinder us from moving forward. Instead, they are the road signs that remind us of our mortality, that our life is not in our hands, and that we should make the best out of it. Moments of regret may come, but these should only spur us on to make better decisions. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Moreover, as we go on our individual roads to success, we should not only seek our own benefit, but also that of others. We should be the selfless individuals our school has trained us to be. In traversing the paths we have chosen for ourselves, we should become catalysts for change, making a difference in the lives of others and contributing to the betterment of society and humanity as a whole. By becoming men and women for others, we not only help the people around us, but also ourselves, because giving is its own reward. The giving of ourselves for others is how life is lived to the fullest.
To close my speech, allow me to say that Uno High School has done its part in positioning each and every one of us on the launching pad. All we have to do is take off and propel ourselves to success, becoming not only the hope of the world, but also the very fulfillment of this hope.
Thank you very much and may God bless us all!
Monday, March 26, 2012
March 24, 2012
Honored Guests, Teachers, Parents, Students, Friends, and Graduates:
Good morning to all of you! Welcome to our fifty-second commencement exercises. Today we pay tribute to our seniors by acknowledging all the hard work that they have done for the school. Because they do everything with heart, these seniors are natural standouts. They have brought us much honor by winning various academic competitions, particularly in math and economics. They have displayed confident and effective leadership by assuming key roles in the student council, the newsletter, all our sports teams, and our new PULSE program. They were instrumental to the success of all the special events held in school. But perhaps even more impressive than the brilliance they have displayed during these special occasions is the inspiration they elicit every day from the way they have shown love, respect, and care for their teachers, the school staff, and fellow Uneans. Thank you, Batch 2012, for living up to the idea of what seniors should be, for showing to everyone that Uneans value not only accomplishments but also relationships.
For all that you are, seniors, we will try to give you the best sendoff that we can. But before you go, let me leave you with a few words of counsel. Adlai Stevenson, a great American orator and statesman, once told college graduates the same thing I want to tell you now, and that is “When you leave here, don’t forget why you came.” To simply think of today as the day you leave Uno defeats the very idea of graduation. You must rather think of today as the culmination of the Unean education you have worked so hard to attain. You are obligated not only to remember the essence of this education but more importantly to live it out every day. On your shoulders lies the fulfillment of the Unean ideals. Therefore, you must at all cost continue to pursue excellence in every aspect of your life, in your studies, in your future careers, and most importantly, in the development of your character.
Much has been said about excellence, that it is an attitude and a habit. More than these, excellence is going the extra mile and striving for what is noble. A runner sometimes wins a race by a fraction of a second. The person who goes beyond what is merely asked of him will always do better that one who simply fulfills his responsibility. Be proactive planners and visionaries who dream big and work to benefit the community instead of reactive followers and crammers who churn in mediocre work simply to meet deadlines. The notion that Uneans are crammers who do well is a myth that should be dispelled. A passing mark received on account of a fluke or the teacher’s mercy is nothing much to be proud of. Take pride instead of accomplishments that are the results of hard work and are true reflections of excellence. Lastly, do not measure success just by the high grades or titles you achieve or by the amount of money that you make. Measure success instead by the number of lives that you affect positively. Let the Unean values of love and charity be your constant guide in whatever road you choose to take.
Now go in the direction of your dreams and be the great men and women you are meant to be!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
And so I wait until darkness reigns.
I stand in the middle of the front lobby. A couple of light bulbs are lit to brighten a few corners of the school. I can hear the soft ticking of the clock hung high up on the wall. The time is 10:30 p.m.
Few other sounds can be heard. There is the constant crack of a hammer from the building construction nearby, a locker door slamming at the gym two floors above, and there is the slightest rustle of the wind telling me that the ghosts are out to play tonight.
I turn to begin my weekly Friday night prowl about the dark corridors of the school. I slip through the green metal gate of the first corridor. I pass a door or two, pausing in front of the next classroom.
I can see my reflection in the glass pane as I look through it.
There are small chairs stacked on top of rectangular tables positioned neatly around the room. An array of colored squares makes an interesting pattern on the floor. Tacked on the bulletin board are artworks obviously created by tiny hands.
It is a kindergarten classroom. This is where the journey had begun for most, a long journey that was altogether too short.
I step as close to the door as is possible. My heartbeats must have somehow reached my ears, as they are the only things I can now hear. The ghosts are about to make their presence felt.
And in they come, filling the darkness of the classroom and corridor with a flash of light. I can see them—images that are faint, faded, fleeting.
But the ghosts that come aren’t the dreary, creepy figures that frighten. The ghosts that come don’t moan and groan, nor do they walk with clanking chains.
They come in quick flashes of color, of light, of smiles, of laughter.
I see children taking out their snacks for recess. I see a game of tag played on the old red flooring of the back lobby. I see a seven-year-old girl giving a letter to her best friend.
I see math trainees playing Ice/Water without being caught. I see grade-schoolers rehearsing for a play, reenacting Lapu-Lapu’s heroism.
I see freshmen cheering as they watched their first basketball game. I see students filming their versions of a movie about a wimpy kid.
They are the ghosts of the past.
But they are not my only companions.
The ghosts of the future are there to join me as well.
I see the seven-year-old girl now grown up, probably in her early twenties. She is standing beside the teacher’s table, writing on the board while talking about run-on sentences and dangling participles.
Teaching must be a difficult profession. She looks tired and her voice sounds hoarse. I guess that’s part of the trade. But I look in her eyes and I see the sparkle. That, too, is part of the trade, the part that makes everything worthwhile.
The teacher suddenly turns towards the door and sees me peering in. She smiles and I smile back.
Funny. The lady looks a lot like me.
I continue my trek round the school. At each classroom I stop at, there will be that sudden flash and the arrival of more ghosts.
Every scene is different yet every scene is familiar.
Whenever my Friday night stroll ends, I always find myself back at the front lobby, listening to the ticking of the clock once more.
I turn towards the Panda that looks over the school day after day, night after night.
He sees more ghosts than I do, I’m sure. You can tell from his eyes.
He’s proud of every ghost he sees because he’s proud of the people they’ve become.
I look back at the Panda, and I nod my thanks.
I turn to leave.
This may very well be the last of my nighttime strolls in school, at least for quite a while.
My parents and I are migrating to Canada in a few days. It’s a trial trip. We’ll be staying there from five days to five years, I don’t know.
In the meantime, I am packing the ghosts in my suitcase.
The ghosts of the past are my memories.
The ghosts of the future are my hopes.
They go wherever I go.
The ghosts of the past provide me with reasons for coming back.
The ghosts of the future give me the assurance that I will.
Five days, five weeks, five months, or five years, I will.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I have to admit that there’s nothing quite like seeing a substantial grade and feeling a sense of fulfillment after spending one whole night studying, reviewing, and, more often than not, memorizing. Still, I can’t help stopping and thinking about what I have been doing for the past twelve years. Have I actually been learning in school? Or have I been just answering questions in tests, just filling in the blanks?
I always find myself getting stressed over a bad grade, ranting when I get a 99 for a careless mistake, and almost feeling depressed when I fail. Now that I think about it, why make a big fuss out of numbers? Why bother aiming for that elusive 100 and begging the teacher for “plus points” when one actually doesn’t learn anything?
Perhaps grades are like mirrors that reflect one’s diligence or even intelligence, but I don’t think they are enough to depict how much you’ve learned. A 100 can be the product of a night’s hard work, days of practice, the so-called chamba or luck for others, or the sheer genius of those lucky few. 80 plusses? Not enough for the overachievers but a true blessing for many. Meanwhile, a failing grade may seem like the end of the world for the grade-conscious, but now, I realize I should look at a failing grade as a lesson that will always make a mark on me. Failing should not be something that leads to despair and hopelessness but rather a stepping-stone to improvement. What’s wrong with getting a 60 plus when one can learn something from it? That failing grade can even push one to exert more effort and do better. At the end of the day, I think one learns more from mistakes than from accomplishments.
Yes, getting good grades and passing tests do give us a sense of fulfillment, but I believe that what’s more important is for the lessons we study to light a fire inside us, give us something to think about on our way home, and, even better, ignite our curiosity to learn more. Yes, getting good grades and passing quizzes are great, but seizing the perfect opportunity to acquire endless knowledge should be our reason for coming to school. That’s what school is for. That’s real education.
We squeal with delight upon knowing we get bonus points. We scramble and line up at the canteen to photocopy a test guide. Both are mere aids to pass tests. A student who receives a perfect score after memorizing words from a test guide has nothing to be proud of. A student who attains honors but cannot apply school-taught concepts in real life is hardly praiseworthy. We must look beyond test guides, beyond bonus points, beyond textbooks. We must not cease to remember that lessons are there not to be memorized and written blindly on an answer sheet. Again, getting good grades is nice. By simply memorizing words and hoping not to forget them when it’s time to take the test, however, we are ignoring the beauty that lies behind Chinese culture and history, the unique feeling of contentment we get from answering a tricky math question, and the wisdom we gain from reading stories with beautiful lessons.
Sometimes, we get so hung up on getting good grades and passing tests that we fail to see the beauty of knowledge and the real meaning of learning. As we get older, go through the stages of school, finish college, and get over those stressful grades, we must still have relentless passion for seeking knowledge and being curious about our world.
I think this is how we should look at tests and grades. Maybe it’s time to change our perspective and approach to getting an education. After all, a life spent learning is a life well-spent. Learning is better than studying. Listening and asking questions are better than plainly sitting in class and waiting for the bell to ring. Understanding is better than memorizing. Being inquisitive and imaginative are better than blindly saying yes to everything the teacher says. We now have a good reason to start looking at grades differently. So, the next time you get a hundred, ask yourself, “Did I actually learn something?” and make sure you really understood the lesson.
The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler