This is not the batch 2013 valedictory speech. I did not graduate Summa Cum Laude and I was definitely not top of the class. I mean, I wanted to. After years and years of summoning all the luck in the world, asking for divine intervention and internalizing the law of attraction, I simply did not. And this was not the first. Believe me, ask my high school classmates, I openly declared when I was on my sophomore year that I will be the valedictorian. Truth be told, I gave the same onus to myself when I entered college. On both occurrences, I did not become the valedictorian. I don’t know, I have a thing on challenging myself to direct and focus my goals and dreams. So again, I am not delusional. I will not deliver a speech on a podium in World Trade Center. This is not a valedictory speech. But this is my graduation speech.
I honestly find it kinda unfair and really frustrating; to associate the phrase ‘with flying colors’ only to those who graduated with latin honors. Don’t get me wrong. I know the whole logic of it. But I was disqualified and didn’t make the cut. There. I said it. Call me bitter. Haha! But really, I’m not. I can tell you all the justifications why I still deserved that title but I wont. I just realized and I am convinced that there are still a good number of people who, despite the absence of a special mention, did graduate with flying colors, with rainbows, and stars. Shiny!
This is not my desperate attempt to console myself. But modesty aside, I am one of those good number of people. You see, by the definition of that idiomatic expression itself, my four years in college qualifies. I’ve worn many hats in college; from a public speaker, a debater, a student leader, an activist, a writer and even downright to becoming an event host (haha), I’ve done a lot of things. But weh-weh wait. If that’s the case, then everyone can easily proclaim that they too were achievers? I mean, I’m sure every college student had experienced fulfilling different roles back in the days, right? But that’s not the case. Because there’s still a difference between EXPERIENCING it and LIVING it. I lived every position, every craft I mastered and every opportunity I had. For those people who got into college and is contented on just experiencing it, you totally missed the point. I, for one, I truly put my heart into it, embraced, enjoyed all of it. I didn’t try to be the jack of all trades. But I only focused my attention, time and effort, to the things that can make me the awesome person I wanted to become. And it all paid. I know the dream I have for myself after college is now likely going to happen. But there’s one more thing. My stay in PUP turned me into something that can make my dreams, not just happen, but last. I also became a survivor.
Not cancer-survivor. Not reality-TV-show-survivor. Not the cliché survivor everybody claims to be. But survivor as it is. I know most of the people say that studying in a state university will take away a huge burden on our pockets. True. If my family had the same lifestyle we had before, I would’ve made a smooth run in PUP. But when mom lost her job on a decade-long stay on a company, had no stable source of income for a very long time, it brought a financial turmoil that almost jeopardized my studies and even the very activities I am passionate about. I cry. Most of the people don’t know this. Not that I kept it a secret. But that was pretty much the story of my four years in college. There were dark times. A lot. But there were also those random breathers. But there were still sacrifices. A couple of them is that kuya had to continue working and had hold a studying hiatus just so I could pursue mine. Mom had to shift from one job over another. I had to keep it a hold together and try any possible way I can just to help them and to not give the important things up. Kaya ma, thank you. You were trying your best to give me the education you dreamed of me having. It was a very big struggle. Finally ma, ito na yun oh. Tapos na. Things will now be better for us. I love you, ma.
And my immense gratitude must also go for all the people who helped me reach this far. From every auntie, uncle, family friends, random people, radio scholarship program and colleagues, from those surprising circumstances and unexpected blessings THANK YOU. You know who you are. You know who you are. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget.
The shower of blessings I frequently get on the difficult college life balanced it all up. A lack of positivity would entail someone quiting. Thank God, I have an outlet. The very reason why my moral fiber is still intact is that I can always turn to Him, to vent my stress out, to show my appreciation of His blessings and to just simply find someone to talk to. I can’t imagine surviving all of this without my faith in God. Thank You, Lord!
And to the underappreciated ones: the Filipino tax payers, thank you. It’s about time you are highlighted. This is my story. I am one of the thousands of students whose social mobility was enabled by your contribution. Just want to let you know that even if I didn’t reach even the cum laude status, I can proudly say that your taxes were not wasted. So let them all come. You just don’t know how the small amount of money is actually fueling the burning desire of young Filipinos to survive. And as the tassel will turn, I will devotedly assume the role of a tax payer because I have lived this story. And in a few months, THEIR story.
To the state, let me, a living testimony, one of the millions out there, call your attention to increase the budget for education. This is how much it means to us. Don’t worry, I have always spared a huge chunk of my dreams towards socially relevant endeavors that will be a positive influence for our nation. It is the inspiration I get from the survival I went through which made me believe on this.
To all PUPians, and all Iskolar ng Bayan, let this be our mindset so that the benefits will always be procyclical. Let us pay back. Let the great appreciation we feel always fall under the nationalistic lines. Among all the people who can understand this sentiment, we are the ones who can best tell. IT IS NOW OUR TURN!
This is the reason why I still want to make a graduation speech and share it. Not just to give cheesy and flowery things. These are not empty words. I hope people can see the full honesty and sincerity I put into this speech. I am not a sour loser that I didn’t get the “supposed” privilege to speak in behalf of the graduating students. You need to understand that not graduating with honors, let alone a batch valedictorian, does not necessarily mean that your story of survival is less celebratory. That your life in college is less important and meaningless that it doesn’t deserve to be shared, and I hope, to inspire others. That the uncontainable feeling of gratitude you have to all people must be kept in the shadows. Yes, maybe that person in the podium can actually represent us. Maybe not. A single person can’t encompass all the unique fragments of story of how one lived life in college. Just because thousands of people can’t know and hear about your speech does not mean it’s irrelevant. Go back on the very beginning of my speech, I admitted that I didn’t end up as the highest ranked summa cum laude but I never said I failed on my dream. No, I didn’t. That in itself gives you a license for a momentous speech.
A graduation speech is not a speech about graduation. It’s college life from how It started, how it carried on, and how it ultimately ended and the realization you get all translated into words. So to the whole batch of 2013, MAKE YOUR OWN GRADUATION SPEECH!
ANDREW JAMES BESO is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Economics in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
Follow me on Twitter: @rjamesbarrete