Dr. Genevieve Ledesma Tan, Dr. Marl Ferenal, Dr. Marjorie Gutierrez Tangog, Dr. Remy Lagera, our Guest Speaker Mr. Aniceto Sobrepeña, the deans of the different colleges, faculty members, parents and friends, a pleasant afternoon!
Let me begin by sharing to you The Parable of the Black Belt.
A young martial artist kneeling before the Master Sensei in a ceremony to receive a hard-earned black belt. After years of relentless training, the student has finally reached a pinnacle of achievement in the discipline.
“Before granting the belt, you must pass one more test,” says the Sensei.
“I am ready,” responds the student, expecting perhaps one final round of sparring.
“You must answer the essential question: What is the true meaning of the black belt?”
“The end of my journey,” says the student. “A well-deserved reward for all my hard work.”
The Sensei waits for more. Clearly, he is not satisfied. Finally, the Sensei speaks. “You are not yet ready for the black belt. Return in one year.”
A year later, the student kneels again in front of the Sensei. “What is the true meaning of the black belt?” asks the Sensei.
“A symbol of distinction and the highest achievement in our art,” says the student.
The Sensei says nothing for many minutes, waiting. Clearly, he is not satisfied. Finally, he speaks. “You are still not ready for the black belt. Return in one year.” A year later, the student kneels once again in front of the Sensei.
And again the Sensei asks: “What is the true meaning of the black belt?” “The black belt represents the beginning – the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, hard work, and the pursuit of an ever-higher standard,” says the student.
“Yes. You are now ready to receive the black belt and begin your work.”
Today, we are all receiving our individual black belts and from here our journey of discipline, hard work and the pursuit of an ever-higher standard begins anew. We are receiving our diploma in recognition of the many sleepless nights we have spent, and the many sacrifices we have made. For as the great Greek philosopher Aristotle has said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
As we receive our diplomas, our odyssey into the real world begins. Truth be told, the world is not “picture-perfect.” For a while, our parents and teachers have shielded us from the many threats. But growing up means letting go of their nurturing hands as well. Hence, as we now face these threats, we have to dig deep into the armory that this great institution has given us. We need to cope with the many changes happening in this highly digital world. To survive in the real world, you must be smart here and here. These are the basic tenets that this institution espouses: academics and values excellence. These are the weapons in our armory.
Southville has taught us to use our HEART! H stands for head. We have to maintain our insatiable thirst for knowledge and excellence. How? We may have different ways of doing it. But the bottom line is that we must have the passion to continue persevering. We must never stop learning.
The E stands for empathy, the act of putting yourself in others’ shoes. We must be sensitive enough to put an ear out even as we fulfill our passion for excellence and learning. This is to ensure that we respect the moral rights of others. Practicing empathy is hard and it is made harder when maintaining excellence is involved. How do we do so? The answer is active understanding. We must stop once in a while to see how other people are coping with the pressures of excellence. We must look into their perspectives and try to extend our help once in a while. This will create a warmer working environment which will allow us to focus more on our passion for excellence.
The third is A which stands for attitude. Attitude is the totality of a person. Having a high IQ is not enough. We may have the IQ but if our EQ is low, we will end up miserable. The way we treat other people is also very crucial. It means that we have to treat people equally no matter what their social status is. All those we meet will be significant in the long run. They deserve our smile and our hello. To survive in the real world, we must have the seal of excellence coupled with the right attitude.
The R stands for relationship. Nobody can survive alone. We need each other to sustain our needs and improve the quality of our lives. If Jesus is the Savior of mankind, relationships are the saviors of our sanity.
Finally, the T stands for toes. Even if you are as smart as Einstein and as pious as Pope Francis, these would not be enough. We always have to walk our talk. We must not stop at just planning and thinking. We must act on our goals.
Having the Heart will not yield immediate results. We will face crossroads and will surely fail along the way. But we must not worry, because we have a bigger buddy, God. He is better than our phones’ applications, smarter than our “smart phones” , and more reliable than our network. For Romans 8:31 says If God is for us, who can be against us?.
Before we leave this function room, we will receive our diplomas. This marks the end of our four year training and the beginning of our professional career. We walk away from this hall as a Special education teacher, psychologist, IT specialist, Marketing Manager, producer, graphic artist, a tourism specialist or a nurse. The diploma we are about to receive is a statement: a statement that heralds our readiness to face the world. And for this my fellow graduates, let us give the person next to us a pat on the shoulder and tell him or her: “Congratulations. Job well-done!”
Let us not forget that this is not just our achievement alone. It is an achievement shared by many groups of people who have likewise endured with us. Allow me to say thank you to all the parents, grandparents, relatives and guardians who have painstakingly cared for all the graduates. You have given us your unconditional love. You have guided and supported us emotionally and financially. When the times were hard, you were there to believe us. You made us sustain our belief in ourselves. And when we fail, you have assured us. You have spent the majority of your lives making things easy for us, making sure that we have the best of everything.
Mommy, Daddy buong buhay ko nagtratrabaho kayo para sa ikabubuti ko. Palagi ninyong sinisigurado na kumpleto ang aking pangangailangan. Pinalaki ninyo ako ng maayos. Tinatanaw ko itong malaking utang na loob na hindi ko kailanman mahihigitan. Pinapangako ko na hindi ko malilimutan ang mga aral na ibinahagi ninyo sa akin. Panahon na para kayo naman ang aking paglingkuran. Mahal na mahal ko po kayo.
I also like to thank my Southville family: my mentors and peers. We are so privileged to have been molded by the best mentors. You have brought out the best in all of us. You did not only help us learn, you have also made us more human. Through your examples, you have given us a core set of values that would allow us to be movers of society and men and women who will make a difference in the world.
Ms. Joji dela Peña, thank you for editing and improving my valedictory address. Your expertise made the words more beautifully interwoven. It was very kind and noble of you to help me with the speech even though it was such a short notice. Ms. Joji, thank you very much!
I like to personally thank my dean, Dr. Virginia Caneo. Doc Gina, thank you for the mentoring that you have given me. You were more than just my mentor. You were my mother, my adviser and my personal nagger. You have pushed me by believing in me even when I doubted myself. Thank you very much.
I also like to thank Dr. Genevieve Ledesma Tan for beginning my journey in the school through the scholarship that was given to me four years ago. Being a scholar has made me learn the value of work, patience, and relationships. I have learned how important it is to work hard and be responsible, respect other people and build healthy relationships. I will eternally be grateful to you for the gift of knowledge and for the chance to make a difference in the lives of young people by allowing me to be a part of your Basic Education faculty.
We dedicate our diplomas to all of you. As we go through our separate ways, we will remain steadfast. We will carry with us the life lessons Southville has given us. We will remain true to the Southville motto: Facite Differentem. We will go out in the world and we will make a difference.
Fellow graduates, AD ASTRA PER ASPERA, to excellence through effort!