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University President Sr. Lourdes L. Albis, BED Principal Simonet A. Barrosa, USI Alumni President Yolanda Beguia, school administrators, teachers, proud and happy parents, Isabelinas—the graduating class of 2013—how proud I am to be with you on your graduation day.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of such an important occasion. I only have very fond memories of our school, especially of this quadrangle where we are now. It has been witness to some of the most important events in my life – my own grade school and high school graduations, and my two daughters’ high school graduations. Every time I stand on this very spot, I always have the feeling that I am standing on the edge of something really big. Just as all of you are at this very moment.
After this afternoon, you are to take a big step from what is safe and familiar into an unknown and scary territory. You will all be moving to college, perhaps attending a new school, mingling with new classmates, and taking on bigger responsibilities. Everything will just get tougher. But such is life.
After I graduated from High School more than 30 years ago, and had my graduation much like the one you are having now, I went to College, eventually became a lawyer, got married and had children. Everything had been going well. I had a wonderful husband and with him, raised three wonderful children. I had a career I loved and I was living the kind of life that I always wanted.
But lives can change radically in the blink of an eye. Seven months ago, my husband flew home to spend what was supposed to be a happy long weekend with us. His small plane plunged into the seas of Masbate and he never made it home. It was a tragedy like no other and my children and I were devastated beyond compare.
Many people who came to the wake to pay their last respects asked us where we were drawing our strength from at a time when giving up would have been the easiest thing in the world to do and everyone else would have understood if we fell apart.
I guess it was faith that sustained us. It was faith that kept us from questioning the logic behind the tragedy. It was faith that prevented us from putting all the blame on God and on anyone else. We knew that my husband lived a good life and had served and loved without restraint. Even if his passing caught us unprepared, we believe that God called him home in his most perfect time. We realized that while death is so final, love is more powerful than the boundaries of this life.
In school and in your homes, you have been taught with much care for the first 16 years of your life. Your teachers labored to teach you what you ought to know. Your parents, despite working hard all day, may have stayed up with you all night to help you over your projects and homework. They exerted all means to show you the right values that you need to carry with you when you go out into the real world. These sacrifices were made all for you.
Some would say that your parents and your school are tasked to mold you to be a person of value. I disagree. Because as it is, you are already of infinite value. You were born precious, a unique being of the universe, containing all the seeds that God planted in you to be a person of value to the world. All the things your parents and your teachers taught you were only meant to awaken that innate value. All that hard work were only meant to stir up your talents so that you can serve Him and humanity. When we treasure our worth as God’s daughters, we can be better witnesses of the faith.
I do not know if you have read the book or seen the movie, “The Life of Pi.” It is about a boy who survived 227 days at sea with a carnivorous Bengal tiger on a small boat. Remember Pi when you encounter fears and difficulties. The story teaches us that we are often afraid of the wrong things. Some of the things that we think will harm us, in the end, are the things that will transform us. Every difficulty that we encounter is a spiritual journey which gives us a chance to rediscover the very in ourselves.
I cannot think of a tragedy worse than losing a loved one who has been the center of your life. But my husband’s untimely death gave me and my children life-long lessons.
We realized the value of never letting a moment pass by and treasuring each day. Most young people like you, with your whole life ahead of you, often feel impatient to move, as if compelled to speed through time. Listen to us old people: Don’t measure time with your loved ones by the hours or days. In time, you must learn to measure the golden moments that we hold on to when they are gone; these are the moments that take our breath away. These are the moments that are preserved till eternity.
Don’t sleep angry, because you never know what the new day will bring, or if the subject of your anger will still be there. When saying good-bye, as many of you will today, try to leave a happy, peaceful memory.
In this day and age, when people are consumed by the need to acquire wealth or power, always remember that people are more important than things or money. So guard your words, especially when you are upset. The greatest regret is when we want to take something back, but can’t. Leave nothing unsaid, but speak with kindness. Show affection always.
I hope you make your graduation a time to reflect on the kind of a person you would want to become. Whatever your decision will be, please remember there is much need for individuals who will fearlessly stand for truth and real service. For people who will stay true to who they are. Who will serve this country and our people with passion, excellence, and integrity.
Don’t wait until you’re older to serve and make a difference. Each day that passes brings new ideas and expands our world. You, young as you are, can make a difference. Stand up and make us, clueless adults listen. Bring your ideas out. Let them shine! Serve. Decide to begin today.
Do not be afraid of the future. Only the present moment is guaranteed. Make it a good one. Make every moment count. When you go out of this school, go and be God’s witnesses of faith. Make your school proud.
Thank you very much and have a great year, Batch 2013! – Rappler.com
Leni Robredo is the wife of the late Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. She delivered this commencement speech at the Universidad de Santa Isabel on March 22, 2013. Mrs Robredo’s speech was originally posted on her daughter’s blog. We have reposted it here with both their permission.