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Commencement Exercises of South Forbes City College

SFCC, Brgy. Inchican, Silang, Cavite

A pleasant afternoon to everyone. It is my honor to be part of this year’s Commencement Exercises of South Forbes City College.


Allow me first to congratulate all of you today, the Senior High School graduates of SFCC, for this achievement. 


This is no easy feat. Along the way, there were a lot of challenges. The pandemic did not make things easier. You’ve had your fair share of triumphs and failures. Maybe there were times you felt that there were more shortcomings than successes. And I want you to think of those times, think of that one day when you thought it was the hardest, that moment when you almost thought of giving up. Think of that day when you thought, life is so unfair for giving you a very tough time…


Now, look at you today and where you stand; look around you. You have made it this far. Today is proof that no matter how hard the past years had been, you can achieve your dreams because you did not give up. Please, give yourselves a big round of applause…


As Mahatma Gandhi said, “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”


You are here graduating from Senior High School because that is what you have set your mind into. The road ahead is about to get more challenging, and so it is important that you have already set a goal of what you want to become. Never think that something is impossible. 


Yes, you are set to make mistakes; even fail--once, twice, many times. But you must not be afraid to try again until you achieve the result that you want.


Sir James Dyson, founder of Dyson Limited, a brand known for household products like the bagless vacuum cleaner and the bladeless fan, had 5,126 design attempts before he got the properly working bagless vacuum that he launched. 


The crucial step when you fail is what you do after. Mistakes are common in a person’s life, but learning from it will be an important instrument for success.


Don’t be afraid of challenges. Many times, difficulties bring us to where we are supposed to be. In 2013, I started working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for their Typhoon Haiyan Recovery and Rehabilitation Program. It was a dream job for me and I had a very enriching experience. But that was also the time when I decided to pursue law school—a promise I made to my father. 


And so I worked with the United Nations, whose office was in Makati, and we had a lot of out-of-town missions; as I was enrolled in UP Law School, which was in Quezon City. I had a fulltime day job, and classes at night. The days were harder when we had to visit the communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan, mostly in the Visayas. There were times when I had to sleep at airport terminals to catch a flight to Cebu or Tacloban after my 9:00 pm class. Or I would read my cases in moving cars and at airport terminals hoping to finish the coverage for my 6:00 pm class.


I was then struggling to balance a very fulfilling job and studying law. There were many days I fell short. Many times, I wanted to quit. Then a window of opportunity opened—I was invited to work in the House of Representatives, which is just a few minutes away from UP Diliman. I was at a crossroads then. Will I leave my job at the UN? Will I take a leave of absence from law school? Will I take this new career opportunity? 


Eventually, I decided to take the chance to work for then Las Pinas Representative Mark Villar. I joined his team as well when he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, one of the lead agencies for the Build Build Build. I was then appointed to be the chairperson of the DPWH’s Build Build Build Committee and, with the help of six million Filipino workers, we were able to complete a total of 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood control projects, and 150,149 classrooms, among others, in a span of five years. Imagine the impact of those infrastructure in the lives of Filipinos.


So you see, what started as a decision primarily based on instinct, turned out to be one of the most fulfilling jobs I ever had. The difficulty that I experienced, that crossroads moment in my life, actually paved the way for my journey to public service; it led me to where I am today—a public servant whose mission is to connect peoples, islands, and communities, whether through public infrastructure or digital transformation.


Sometimes, it looks as if we’re giving up something good, only to find out that something better is waiting for us. Life can be tricky sometimes, but let me assure you that you will never go wrong when you give everything your best shot. 


I always say there is no substitute to hard work. There is no such thing as a small job. Give it your best—or don’t do it at all. Ultimately, we are an aggregate of our work, decisions, and values. Pay attention to the minute details—it’s the small pieces that make the big picture.


We all start small. In fact, we should start small so that we appreciate all the tiny details, and get to savor our little victories. But always dream big, because that will be your ultimate goal. If you want to change the world, you can if you set that goal for yourself and gradually work your way through it.


Another important thing I learned through experience is to live everyday as if it were your last. 


In 2012, a few months before my graduation in college, I decided to visit the indigenous people of Tagbanua in Sitio Calauit in Palawan. On our way there, our boat capsized. For almost an hour, we clung to a bamboo pole in the middle of the sea to survive. 


What I learned that evening changed me. I realized that youth does not equate to abundance of time and opportunities. In those difficult minutes, I only thought of three things: the people I loved, the things I’d always wanted to do, and the words I never said.


No one can guarantee our time in this world, so if you want to do something, never wait another second, do it as soon as you can, while you still can. 


Finally, I challenge all of you to always keep your promises. Did you promise your parents that you will study hard? Or promised a friend that you will spend time with them? Keep your word. Most importantly, fulfill your promise to yourself. 


Promises are special oaths. That is why we give them only to the people who are special to us. Thus, keeping one’s self-promise is a gauge of how we value ourselves.


I have a promise to my late father, that is to become a lawyer. It was one of my last conversations with him before he passed away. In 2020, I was able to partially fulfill that promise by graduating from UP Law School. Now, I am on my way to fully honoring my commitment by taking this year’s Bar exam. Along with that, I have been striving to keep a promise to myself, which is to continuously improve and seize every opportunity that will make me a better leader, a better citizen, a better person. 


Before I end, I want to take this opportunity to also congratulate the parents and guardians of our graduates. Without your love, support, and guidance, these young students would not have made it this far. Congratulations!


To the management and faculty, and all the staff of SFCC, you have provided not only learning but also the support of a community, you have given these students strength to pursue what they want in life, because it is this second home that brought them a step closer to their dreams.


To our dear graduates, today, you reap what you have sowed. Savor this moment, cherish the feeling of success, and use this positive energy as your fuel, your inspiration to go further, dream bigger, become better.


Again, congratulations to all of you! Thank you and good afternoon.





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