The article below is a speech delivered by my student Ms. Hazel Peňaranda who graduated summa cum laude during the 54th Commencement Exercises at Batangas State University JPLPC-Malvar Campus on August 15, 2022. I wish this brings inspiration and motivation to all students and parents—RMS

A Message of Gratitude

Let me start this message of gratitude with the famous line from a famous writer, Robin Sharma, “What makes a champion is not how elegantly you start, but how strongly you finish”.

Inspired by this thought, I would like first to extend a warm welcome to all distinguished men and women of this University: to our President, Dr. Tirso A. Ronquillo; Vice Presidents; Campus Chancellors and Directors, Dr. Philip Y. Del Rosario; Vice-Chancellors; Deans; esteemed guest speaker, the Director of the Commission on Higher Education, Region IV, Dr. Amelia A. Biglete; teaching and non-teaching personnel; all proud parents; friends; ladies, and gentlemen. We are now commemorating an important milestone in our lives. We are now reaping the fruits of our labor.

Fellow graduates, perhaps, most of you had already heard the lines, “Nakapasa yan kasi online, Naka graduate kasi online, naging dean’s lister kasi online”. Do these lines sound intriguing? Do you think that taking an online course made life easier for you? I suppose they are not. When I was reminiscing on how my life had come to this point, napasabi na lang ako na, “Ang dami na palang nagpabago at nabago”. From being a whimpering child who doesn’t want to attend school, who consistently received a straight line of seven on the class card, who occasionally skipped class every time there was a recitation on multiplication, I morphed into a more competitive person.

As we entered college, most of us assumed that life would be simpler since we had completed the k-12 curriculum education. We were even more excited when somebody said that a small bag with only one pen and notebook would be enough. We’ve also heard that we are free to go if we want and not take our studies seriously because we’ve grown up and are capable of studying on our own. But we realized that we had been fooled as we see how tricky the college journey was. During our freshman year, most of us were almost ready to shift our chosen profession. It’s depressing and grueling since we thought we had determined the easiest path, but it’s not. Some of us were constantly wishing for days to pass quickly so that we could not feel pressured in our studies. In all aspects- physical, mental, social, and emotional – were affected. As time went on, we realized that college life would not only be about academics but also about extracurriculars. We gradually became aware of our various capacities. Some of us took pleasure in our chosen profession, particularly as we started taking part in different associated course activities and competitions: for Accountants, the bookkeeping and financial statement; for Marketers, the sales presentations; for financial analysts, being involved in the stock market; for Hoteliers, to join in several cooking competitions; for Criminologist, the disaster and case analysis; and for Psychologist, the consultation and collaboration. Also, some of us enjoyed our careers while we served our fellow students by being an officer of different organizations. Thus, we concluded that we had made the proper decision since we were not the only ones who saw our capability but even other people around us.

But who could have predicted that our lives would alter from brighter to worse due to unforeseen circumstances? The sudden eruption of the well-known Taal Volcano gave us cause for concern, fear, and anxiety that not only one’s livelihood but also one’s health and even one’s most cherished goals could be destroyed in a nick of time. We also mistakenly believed that the volcanic explosion would be the most terrifying experience we ever had, but a deadly virus spreading around the globe caused total downfall. Some parents lost their jobs, and many businesses had to close. Even our long-term reserves were depleted, so we truly struggled with our everyday expenses. Moreover, we went through a very challenging educational system.

Indeed, we had different battles to be won. But we must still be grateful that for every tear, silent scream, suffering, pain, and sleepless nights brought by the catastrophe, these all made us whole. Despite all the disastrous phenomena, we’re here together to celebrate our special days. It’s absolutely amazing to realize how God works in mysterious ways. Things didn’t just happen by chance. God allowed everything to happen for a reason.

I came from an indigent family, but the condition never hindered me to achieve my dreams. I did a part-time each school break. I had to earn to supplement my expenses in education. I grabbed opportunities like attending TESDA seminars and training for self-improvement and allowances. I accepted extra jobs such as thesis writing, business planning, and other class reports as pluses to my income. Today, I feel so fulfilled, so proud that I graduated with honors. To this, I share with you my struggles and triumph.

Being a pioneer of k-12 education, I had to conquer the fear of volcanic eruptions, combat the pandemic, and overcome the difficulty of learning online. We all been through a difficult journey because we invested time, and effort, and endured sacrifices. We made ourselves tougher when things get tough for us. We are now confident because we have been trained and prepared to face the real competitive world. Hence, we should not see ourselves as Government’s experiments but rather transformed and equipped individuals who belong to the Government’s ambition of Expanding Mandates for National Competitiveness and Sustainable Development.

To our Alma Mater, we are appreciative that we found a lot of people who have challenged and brought out the best in us. Huge thanks to all of our college Deans, professors, instructors, lecturers, classmates, and friends who have shown all support and inspiration. To Batangas State University which is now The National Engineering University, we are forever grateful for bringing us on this journey of acquiring knowledge, competence, and good moral values.

To all the parents, present and not present today, we want you to know that we are so proud of you. You are one of the reasons why there are new Accountants, Marketers, Financial Analysts, Hoteliers, Criminologists, and Psychologists right here right now. I’ll now take this opportunity to ask all of the graduates to stand.

Fellow graduates, it’s time for us to pay tribute to our parents. Let us all clap loudly and with pride for our parents. Thank you, you may now take a seat. To my parents, I know how difficult to raise seven children, but I’m not sure what power you have to provide everything we need. I am pleased to have been nurtured and taught by a vendor and a maintenance worker who occasionally borrowed money just to meet both ends. To Ate, thank you for helping me with everything, especially during my hard times exploring. My and Dy, without your guidance and sacrifices, I will miss this chance to stand here and inspire the crowd. Now, ate and I were already graduates. I can’t promise anything, but one thing is certain: I will do all in my power to repay you for your sacrifices.

Above all, I would love to thank God. We couldn’t believe we could surmount all our fears and the roller coaster of tensions that society had thrown at us. For a hundred times we were supposed to give up, he humbly reach our hand to stand. Mark 11:24 attested, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”, an inspiring verse that we must still hold and embrace, with God, nothing is really impossible. We must consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have a God who has always sent people that helped us grow not just physically but also spiritually, and God who always listens, and speaks through our prayers. Lord, you have our utmost honor and glory.

As we close this chapter, remember, Online class is not just Online but #HonedLine, OwnLine, and JuanLine. We are not just Online but #HonedLine because we have sharpened and refined over the period of time. We are not just Online but we created our OwnLine. We are not just Online but we are the JuanLine.

Sa haba ng ating nilakaran, iisa lang ang ating pinatunguhan, ito ang pila na pinaka aasam. Batuhin man tayo ng iba’t ibang komento, manatili tayong taas noo sapagkat tayo ay nahasa at napino. Saan mang larangan tayo ihanay, mapaface-to-face o online, ito ay ating mapagtatagumpayan sapagkat tayo ay tatak Red Spartan. Maligayang Pagtatapos, Mabuhay!