Home » Worth It : A Commencement Speech

Worth It : A Commencement Speech

To the Almighty, we offer our thanks for the gifts of love, life, laughter, good food, and graduation. All glory to the most High and awesome God. To our dearest Rector, Rev. Fr. Alberto Poblete, our Treasurer Rev. Fr. Uldarico Camus, our Campus Minister Rev. Fr. Rex Cutamora, our Principal Mrs. Corazon Yap, our Asst. Principal for Academic Affairs Mrs. Cecilia Toledo, our Asst. Principal for Student Affairs Mrs. Cielo Pineda, our Faculty, non-academic personnel, parents, guests, and my fellow alumni and graduates, peace and all good. If you would allow me a humble request, let’s give these young men and women, these Avengers, a well-deserved round of applause.

To my fellow graduates, here’s what I want you to do: think about what you love doing. What makes you feel charged with purpose. To the parents, think about what your kids love doing. Hold these thoughts please.

Unlike college which serves as the pre-career phase of our lives, high school is largely a rediscovering phase. In the past six years, we have discovered what we love doing, and what we don’t love doing; what we’re good at and… not so good at. The first time I took up computer programming in junior high school, I was an absolute amateur. Half of the time, I did not know what I was doing and the other half was spent asking for a little help from the programming geeks in class. My scores in programming class were all ‘nope’ and by the time I finally got the program to work, the entire class already figured it out. Yes, I was that good.

Experiences like this tell us that high school will have its share of failures and horror stories, and that’s okay, some of the time. Failure, when and where acceptable, can be a fantastic teacher, particularly when you eliminate the emotional baggage and investigate where you went wrong. In my case with programming, I didn’t practice enough nor spend enough time watching YouTube tutorials. Whenever things don’t go your way, always find out why, then you would not have failed in vain. Don’t make the same mistake twice; ask me why. Because that means you didn’t learn from the first time.

It is also during high school that we find out what we love and what we’re good at, and hopefully those two things are the same. In my case, it’s science and literature. For the others here, it could be doing math, cooking, sketching, building things, or being late for class. And that’s another possibility that you must consider—perhaps your failures have led you to your true calling. Let’s say creative writing is not your strong suit; perhaps because you are more in tune with the precise language of mathematics. Far more important than accumulating accomplishment is discovering ourselves. What am I good at? What do I love? What can I get paid for? What does the world need? What does God want me to do? That is Ikigai—the Japanese concept of reason for being.

I realized the importance of self-discovery on the way here, after repeated pep talks from our Adviser Mr. Marvin De Pano. I grew to love the process of accumulating knowledge, and through the years it hit me.  My Mom once told me that the finish line and the race are equally important. Simply put, the finish line is whatever you want to achieve, and it will keep you on track—if you want it badly enough. However, it’s the race that will make you a better racer. It will never be enough to simply desire something; you have to embrace the process and the pains that lead to it as well.

Another thing about high school is that it crosses your paths with precious people, and then sets you up to lose some of those people just the same. Is there anyone here who can truthfully say that they haven’t lost someone they once cherished? We have found temporary and permanent friendships along the way, and time will be the judge if these permanent friendships really are permanent. But this is a two-way street; if you want to grow, don’t be afraid to welcome new people too. One of the best skills you can possibly have under your belt is finding good people.

Even when you master this skill, there is one thing I can promise you—you are still bound to encounter toxic people ahead. They will feed off your life energy, take you for granted, make you feel unimportant while maintaining the guise of friendship. If there’s one thing I want you to remember from my two cents, please—do not settle. Be it a friend, a hero, a significant other, do not settle for toxic relationships. Be a brother to all and a man for others, but do not make the mistake of putting yourself at the mercy of anyone. Borrowing the words of my Old Man, that is “an expensive way to live.”

Now, let me ask you the favorite question of PAASCU Accreditors: what makes the Lourdesian unique? Our Franciscan values? The quality education that we strive for? A prayerful lifestyle? Our social action programs? The long quiz that you failed two months ago? For a long time I pondered this query, and only now do I realize that it is an easy question to answer. Ask me why. Because your answers are correct. Being a Lourdesian is giving it 100%, serving without anticipation of reward, praying alone in your room, striving for excellence and not giving up, and becoming like Christ. There is no singlemost factor that gives you your Lourdesian identity; you are everything good that your alma mater has made you, and so much more. At the end of the day, everything can be traced back to one Divine Source. Please remain humble and grateful to God.

Now, let’s end with the next chapter in mind. One of the beautiful things about college is the late bloomer—the average joe in high school could turn out to be a Muhammad Ali in the university, and that’s how you know you made the right choice. In contrast with high school’s generalist, exploratory approach, which could still include subjects that you aren’t interested in, your courses in college should more or less be synchronized with what you love doing. Going back to my prompt earlier, what do you love doing? Is that present in the career path you have in mind? Remember this: pursuing your career is one concrete way of translating what you love into something more meaningful. From the discovery of the past six years, we move on to the reinforcement of the next four years or so.

Having discovered what you’re good at, be great at it. Ask me why. Because at the end of the day, we are not doing any of these things just for ourselves. We are all vehicles of God’s divine plan, and it’s okay to decorate those vehicles with achievement, skill, and technical know-how. But how will that vehicle run if the fuel has impurities? If it beats the red light, if it swerves like crazy, if it leaves a cloud of black smoke in its wake? Ladies and gentlemen, always feed your vehicle with good fuel. None of these (awards) will matter if this (head) gets bigger, this (heart) gets smaller, and we forget to do this (press palms together). Turn yourself into the best possible engineer, architect, doctor, nurse, businessman, chef, programmer, but remember that you are also doing this for your brothers and sisters.

When the fever burns out and your soul feels worn out, remind yourself again why you love doing this in the first place. Discipline and passion should always complement one another. What makes this worth it? This time, you can’t look up the solution on YouTube. This is one of those questions that only the asker can answer. My friends, congratulations for making it this far, and God bless on making it far, far ahead.

To our dear parents, LSQC staff, faculty, lay and priest administrators, my Mom, Dad, and Grandmother, thank you for your time and presence. We may be the graduates today, but this day is also for you. Today is our day. Today is the Lord’s day.

Strength and honor. Pax Et Bonum.

Josemaria Villamarzo Alipio
Son of Lourdes School Quezon City (LSQC), Batch 2018
April 28, 2018