Honorable guests, members of the Board of Regents, UP President Danilo L. Concepcion, Chancellors and officials of other UP constituent universities, UPLB officials led by Chancellor Jose V. Camacho Jr., Vice Chancellors, Deans, faculty and staff, parents, relatives, friends, and the graduating class of 2022—it is my pleasure to greet you all a good evening.
Today, allow me to talk about my journey as a student who aspired to become the best version of herself, as we graduating students have become the best versions of who we are now.
Back in my sophomore year, my friend and I were studying in her apartment when out of the blue, she showed me an article that featured a 2016 speech from Isaiah Paolo Lee and told me that someday I would be giving the same speech as a class valedictorian. I dismissed her remark and told her that in no way would that be possible. About six months and a pandemic later, here I am standing before you.
While my friend’s power of foresight may feel as if I had everything planned out, let me be the first to say to you that it is wrong. As much as I tried to plan out everything in my life, life inside the university was filled with many curveballs and challenges. As a freshman, I remember feeling intimidated during classes since many of my classmates were honor students or valedictorians in high school, while I just graduated. I remember dreading those hell weeks
where we had exams almost every day and other requirements that we had to accomplish. I can also remember training until 10 PM here at Copeland and then staying up until 4 AM to finish a take-home exam and other requirements. Life as a student was extremely tough because we had to adapt to a new environment and balance many things on our plate: academic requirements, extracurriculars, resting, and having fun. Right? But as tough as it was, I survived. We survived. In all those challenging times, I reminded myself of this simple proverb: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Yes, I am an optimist, so please bear with me if my positivity is rather too much to handle.
At some point, I thought the road to graduation would be more comfortable since I had already adjusted to the pace of university life. But just as things were going steadily, a lingering pandemic suddenly came to shake things up. And when life gives you a pandemic, you don’t get to make pancakes; you get the normalcy of things taken away from you that not even a piece of pancake can make your day. Lives were lost, jobs were taken away, students were dropping out, our distances grew wider, our mental health spiraled down, and Zoom turned into our classroom. As students, we tried our best to cope with the challenges brought by
isolation and distance—we did TikTok, Dalgona coffee, Subtle Clown Traits, Discord tambay sessions, e-numans, and other activities to keep us connected and preoccupied. All these we resorted to in the context of a world that has turned vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
From the struggles of face-to-face classes to the difficulties of remote learning, I realized three lessons that may help us as we face the next chapter in our lives.
First, VALUE THE PROCESS MORE THAN THE RESULT. Instead of saying I want to get an uno something for this subject, we should say I am going to study and do well on my requirements so I can get an uno on this subject. Focusing too much on the results can lead us to lose ourselves, make the wrong choices, and succumb to temptation. From my experience, anything is achievable when you try to look at it as small steps, apply the right decisions, and put your best effort. And I think a large part of why I am here right now is because of this mindset and not because of my friend’s psychic ability.
Second, STRIVE FOR CONSISTENCY, NOT PERFECTION. Today’s ten can easily become tomorrow’s eight, and that’s okay because your best will not always look the same. Whenever I had a hard time, this was something that I constantly reminded myself of. And whenever my friends ranted to me about scoring low on a test, not doing well in a class, or feeling lost, I would always remind them that even if we can’t do our very best every day, what matters is we always make an effort to do our best. Consistent efforts will never be in vain.
Third, and most important, DEVELOP A SENSE OF EMPATHY. Empathy means having a sense of the other and putting yourself in their situation. During the pandemic, many students and teachers struggled a lot—and they all struggled differently. Empathy allows us to take a wider perspective, understand diverse experiences, and relate their personal troubles to the bigger social issues in society.
More than this, I also believe that you don’t need a Sociology degree to understand that many of our society’s problems are rooted in the lack of empathy. The deteriorating human rights situation in our country, the passing of an anti-terror law, and the Pharmally corruption controversy—these were brought about by powerful people who lacked the basic empathy and compassion to serve the marginalized and oppressed. Let us not be like these people. Have empathy. It makes the world so much better.
As we move forward in our lives, I hope that these lessons I shared today somehow find their place in our minds, in our hearts, for these are not just mere tips. They also reflect the foundational values of our university. When we value the process, we uphold honor and maintain integrity. When we make consistent efforts, we strive for excellence. And when we have empathy, we become better equipped to serve others.
In a time when peddlers of fake news run about, when those in power go to lengths to distort our nation’s history, and when facts are played out to be false, these lessons will serve as our foothold to continue standing up for what is true, right, and just, and to help those who have been misled and oppressed to find the light.
Moreover, as we try to navigate our lives in this challenging period in our nation’s history when the son of a dictator has been elected to the highest position of power, may the values of honor, excellence, and service guide us towards forging unity in our society—one wherein diverse individuals are united by the truth and nothing but the truth.
Before ending my speech, I would like to dedicate this achievement to my family, friends, professors, our Almighty God, the Filipino taxpayers, and to the potential summas, magnas, cum laudes, valedictorians, and graduates who were not privileged enough to be here with us. This one is for all of you.
Today, I stand here before you as someone privileged enough to study without having to think about anything else. I recognized that I was given this opportunity to study well, so I did. I became the best version of myself, not for personal satisfaction, but the best version of myself to serve others. May the best version of ourselves be spent serving others. My fellow graduates, today we have arrived full circle in our collective quest for HONOR AND EXCELLENCE. SERVE THE NATION WE MUST. Lagi’t laging Iskolar ng Bayan para sa bayan.
Thank you, and congratulations to the UPLB Class of 2022. God bless us all! Mabuhay tayong lahat!
BA Sociology, Summa Cum Laude
2022 Class Valedictorian