We have heard inspiring commencement speeches from the world over, but no one can pierce the Pinoy heart deeper than fellow Filipinos with their well-chosen words of wisdom. In honor of the toga-tossing season, here are some of the wittiest, fiercest and most heartfelt local graduation speeches that we should all listen to-- whether you’re fresh out of school, or a professional meant to write your own such speech someday.
1. Manny V. Pangilinan – Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, 2015
The PLDT, Meralco and TV5 Chairman shares the secret recipe for success: that there is none.
“What accounts for success? There is no magic, no mystery, no secret recipe. Success springs from values as basic and old-fashioned as being honest and truthful, working hard, playing fair, setting goals, discipline, and determination to pursue them.
Most of all, success is about passion. Passion to succeed. Passion to compete. Passion for excellence. Commitment to succeed can overcome poverty. A spirit of purpose can give impetus to human energy, ambition can set heroic goals and achieve them.
But let me add this - you can't succeed if you're afraid to fail. I've known how to lose - not just once, but many times. Boldness to take risks, guts to decide and act - these are strengths. Paano ka makaka-score, if you don't shoot that ball?
Remember that you can afford to fail because you're young. Successes tell you that you can attain more successes in the future. But failures tell you that you can survive and move on.
Sabi nga ni JK Rowling: "It's impossible to live without failing at something, unless you've lived so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all."
2. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde – Ateneo de Manila University, 2015
The world-renowned Filipina ballerina gives eight lessons inspired by the “eight counts” used in ballet.
- Decide and commit to something that you are passionate about.
- No pain, no gain… Nothing can take the place of hard work – not even talent.
- Whatever your goal, get good at it!
- Honor your emotions and acknowledge your fears.
- Treat every time you get to practice your profession as a performance. Don’t save your best effort for another day… Always give 100% so you never have to regret anything. But BE PREPARED.
- Do something crazy. Do something that defies all logic at least once in your life. You never know what could happen from there.
- One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.
- Serve. Offer yourself to a cause bigger than your own needs or ambition.
3. Winnie Monsod – last lecture to her UP Economics class, 2010
“Please don’t cheat” whether in school or in life, warns the fierce economist, because you will only be contributing to the problem, instead of being part of the solution.
“Can you assure me that, as a leader, you are going to, right now, until you finish your courses, are you going to act with honor and integrity?
Because I’m going to tell you class, you think cheating is something that is very unusual? It’s very usual in the University [of the Philippines] and this is what bothers me so much.
Because you do not have to cheat. And cheating in the small things is going to lead to cheating in the large things. And all these people that you have contempt for, because they are corrupt, because they are cheating, are people who may have in fact, been part of the university.
As a matter of fact, if you think about it – I keep on telling this because we are always so proud, UP tayo, ha! I think 6 of the, the majority of presidents of the Philippines came from UP. The majority of the Supreme Court Chief Justices come from UP. The majority of the Speakers of the House come from UP. The majority of the Senate Presidents come from UP. Eh, saan tayo ngayon? [Where are we now?]
“If they were so good, why are we where we are now? And so you have to ask yourselves that. And part of the reason is that we have always looked at excellence, and not at honor and integrity.”
4. Jose Dalisay, Jr. – University of the Philippines Baguio, 2005
The award-winning writer and former chairman of UP Diliman’s English Department, who took 14 years to finish college, leaves the students with five life lessons.
“Let me end with five brief exhortations, of the kind we've been hearing since elementary school:
First, read a good book. Not another novel, if you're already a writer, nor another paper on the molecular theory of turbulence if you're already a physicist. Perhaps we should exchange books, for the purpose of - using one famous definition of education- turning an empty mind into an open one.
Second, learn how to play the guitar. By this I mean find some form of artistic expression, or some source of artistic pleasure. The solace of art is often the truest and the most enduring.
Third, learn how to swim. Be independent, and learn how to fend for yourself. But also learn how to swim so you can save others from drowning. Lord knows this country needs all the lifeguards it can find.
Fourth - and they didn't say this in grade school - have fun. Too many academic papers deal with the sources of our sorrows - as if we didn't know them already. Give us something to feel good about, and find us the way to happiness, now and forever. It doesn't sound like a scholar's task, but if happiness isn't worth our minds and labors, what is?
Lastly, get a life - and get a good one.”
5. Lourd de Veyra - University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, 2012
The multi-awarded writer and “Word of the Lourd” host delivers a humorous and unconventional graduation speech.
“Tumigil na akong maniwala sa pagpaplano ng buhay.
Corny mang pakinggan, mas naniniwala ako sa tadhana. Kung totoo na talino at galing ang sekreto sa tagumpay, dapat wala ako dito ngayon. Hindi ako ang pinakamahusay na manunulat sa aming kolehiyo. At higit na mas marami ang mas magaling mag-isip kesa sa akin.
May paborito akong kasabihan mula sa idolo kong nobelistang si Kurt Vonnegut. “Unannounced changes in life’s itinerary are like dancing lessons from God.” Napakagandang ideya. Napaka-akmang metapora. Dancing lesson.
Sa dancing lesson, wala kang ibang pwedeng gawin kundi sumunod. Pag hinila ka dito, sunod ka na lang. Pag binaba ka, bumaba ka rin. Pag hinagis ka, magpagaan ka ng katawan.
Susugan din ito ng isa pang quote mula kay Voltaire: “I refuse to believe in a God who does not know how to dance.” Ang pagsayaw ay isang ekspresyon ng ligaya, ng laro, ng kalayaan ng katawan at diwa na mayroon pa ring sistema.”
6. Archbishop Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle - Ateneo de Manila University, 2013
The archbishop offers a God-centered advice for all of us to heed.
“If we look at the three keywords -- to praise God, to reverence God, to serve God -- the purpose of the human person is to get out of our confinement, to get out of our shells, to get out of ourselves, and to reach out to God in praise, in reverence, and in service. And it is only by losing ourselves that we find our true selves.”
“If your purpose is clear, and it is not directed to self-promotion and self-propagation then you can really be an asset to society and to the world.”
7. Ryan Cayabyab – University of the Philippines, 2005
The Maestro does not only compose beautiful music and lyrics, but is also capable of crafting a memorable speech with witty school and life analogies.
Ito ang pitong mga bagay-bagay tungkol sa buhay na natutunan ko sa U.P.:
- Ang buhay ay parang Ikot jeep. Ang iyong patutunguhan ay siya ring iyong pinanggalingan.
- UP lang ang may Toki, sa buhay wala nito. Pero nasasaiyo na yon kung nais mong pabaligtad ang takbo ng buhay mo.
- Sa Ikot, pwede kang magkamali ng baba kahit ilang beses, sasakay ka lang uli. Sa buhay, kapag paikot-ikot ka na at laging mali pa rin ang iyong baba, naku, may sayad ka.
- Sa UP, lahat tayo magaling. Aminin nating lahat na tayo'y magagaling. Ang problema dun, lahat tayo magaling!
- Kung sa UP ay sipsip ka na, siguradong paglabas mo, sipsip ka pa rin.
- Sa UP, tulad sa buhay, ang babae at ang lalake, at lahat ng nasa gitna, ay patas, walang pinagkaiba sa dunong, sa talino, sa pagmamalasakit, sa kalawakan ng isipan, sa pag-iibigan; at kahit na rin sa kabaliwan, sa kalokohan at sa katarantaduhan.
At ang panghuli:
- Sa UP, tulad sa buhay, bawal ang overstaying.
8. Roselle Ambubuyog –summa cum laude, Ateneo de Manila, 2001
The visually-impaired BS Mathematics graduate shows us “the light in the darkness by the light of the stars” in this inspirational speech.
“We thank our mentors for being good teachers from whom we learn a lot. But I am certain that each of us has encountered teachers who helped us best by becoming students themselves: open to learning new things, developing better methods, nurturing our true potentials.”
“Even if fears persist to hinder us from achieving something, what really matters is the shift from “I can’t do it,” to “I can try”. I went beyond my impairment by doing not only what sighted people can do, but also what they sometimes are too frightened to try.”
“Everyone experiences disabilities one way or another; mine is just more obvious than yours. We are all fortunate to have loved ones, who help us bear the burdens brought about by our weaknesses. We may find ourselves in the dark, but we should not be afraid to move forward, because we have the light of our stars to count on, and to be thankful for.”
9. Anna Kristina Arce - magna cum laude, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 2009
The Applied Deaf Studies graduate, who majored in Multimedia Arts, speaks to our hearts with a message worth more than words could ever explain.
“We may be Deaf persons but we can also do anything you can do, except hear. Communicating with our hands should not make a difference. We live in one country, one world. That means we also long for respect, inclusion in accessibility, and acceptance with dignity. We are not a different breed because of our disability. We also want to live in a society where people will not stare or frown at us or treat us differently. We are also human beings and we are similar regardless of our disability. Please allow us to show you what we can do, please believe in us too. Let us prove to you that, yes, the Deaf can!”