Saturday, April 4, 2009

OSCI: Of Someone's Cautious Intentions

Speech of Iloilo Central Commercial High School's first ever OSCI MOSSS (2009)…

Mr. Henry Caspe, chairman of the Outstanding Students’ Circle of Iloilo; Mr. Ruel Romarate, our inspirational speaker; members of the Outstanding Students’ Circle of Iloilo; friends from the Department of Education, school principals and administrators, teachers and advisers, parents, friends, Outstanding Elementary Pupils, and the nine noble men and women seated on the second row, who deserve this spot as much as I do – my fellow Outstanding Secondary Students, good afternoon!

For a time, he was the official Philippine representative to an international letter-writing contest. He sat as the first-ever Student Consultant of the school organ, was a highly feared math wizard, got chosen as Boy City Mayor last 2002, and won his first Palanca Award at 16 years of age.

That’s my brother – and for as long as I can remember, I have always considered him my own personal portrait of excellence. In fact, had this Search started much earlier, I’m sure he would have ended up sitting somewhere along the second row as well.

When I was younger, I used to look at him with utmost reverence as someone who exemplified first and foremost the outstanding student. After all, as he went about reaping awards by the dozen, I, on the other hand… threw an eraser at a classmate’s head because I found her quite annoying, drew a humongous ‘X’ mark on another one’s paper because she colored a green apple yellow-green, sketched airplanes while the teacher talked about math, and swung my handkerchief round and round like a cowboy in the middle of a class discussion.

It almost seemed improbable that I would get to follow my brother’s footsteps, much less take the path of excellence. But let me tell you how I possibly landed myself the privilege to stand and speak on this podium. Let me share with you my three laws of excellence.

I grew up in a household where “excellence” is not exactly being forced upon. It’s more of an elective, a choice that one is encouraged to pursue. Unlike other parents who mercilessly transform their homes into miniscule time capsules of Martial Law era by enforcing strict study hours, mine simply did what I believe really inspired us siblings to focus on our studies: encouragement. My parents never forced us to be in the honor roll; we merely did what we thought was right, what we thought was essential for learning. They never forced us to join competitions or enter school organizations; they simply told us how wonderful and unforgettable it would be to do so.

I believe the cornerstone of excellence lies in Law # 1: Choosing the right choices. As the saying goes, “The choices that we make define who we really are.” Indeed, had I not chosen to join the school paper, I probably wouldn’t have made it this far. Had Isaac Newton not spent time under the apple tree, he probably wouldn’t have discovered gravity at all. Still, had President Arroyo chosen not to run for a second term, FPJ might still be alive; Erap, still in jail; and Noli de Castro, still broadcasting news on TV.

During my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as 5th City Councilor in the Rotary Club’s Boys’ and Girls’ Week Celebration. I was able to pass a resolution authorizing the installation of street lights along three major roads in the district of Molo. However, it wasn’t initially out of a sense of service or debt of honor that I chose to pass such a law; on the contrary, it’s because every time we go home in the evening, we invariably pass by those three roads – and the partial darkness usually makes me nauseous. It was only at a much later time, seeing the wonders of well-lit roads, that I realized the subtle greatness of what I had done.

Which leads me to Law #2: Doing what is right is an excellent choice. You can never go wrong by saying that excellence is not only about choosing the best choice, but also about making that choice work out for the better, for the good of everyone. Mind you, part of the reason I sleep soundly each night is the smug satisfaction of knowing that those street lights continue to illuminate a certain section of Ilonggo suburbia to this very day.

A year after my stint in the Council, I once again tried my luck in the Boys’ and Girls’ Week and was delegated to the position of City Environmental Officer. I found myself relatively isolated from the rest of my fellow student officials, my small office hidden deep in a cramped bus terminal. Just when the seemingly uneventful week was about to end, something unexpected took place. District VII (Arevalo) was going to have its Science and Scouting Encampment, and since my counterpart was in Bangkok at that time, I suddenly found myself filling his shoes as the Guest Speaker for the event.

It dawned on me that opportunity was personally knocking on my door – when all of my fellow officials had none. The challenge this time was to inspire a huge crowd of elementary pupils on the importance of technology, going green, and saving Mother Earth. And yes, the rest is history.

Here goes Law # 3: Making the best out of every choice. It is very, very important that we learn how to adapt to our environment, how to cope with different sorts of situations, how to ride with the varying waves of life itself. Think of it as a three-step battle plan: You begin with a choice. You do what is right. Finally, you make the best out of that choice.

Behind every excellent individual is an equally excellent crowd, in my case, one which has been with me from start to end. First, to the Almighty Father, who establishes the purpose beneath every choice we make, the one reason every one of them is fruitful. To Iloilo Central Commercial High School – a frontier of people who are men of education and of Filipino and Chinese disciplines. To my school principal, Dr. Carmen P. Santos, for her unwavering support in my every endeavor; to my four mathematics mentors who have made numbers a meaningful part of my life: Ms. Janet Escubio, our head teacher, whose fervor and passion exerts a formidable influence; Ms. Sonia Corvera, whose selfless presence provides enough motivation during competitions; Mr. Manuel Kotah, for opening a whole new set of doors to me; and Mr. Roger Antonio Alavata, my wonderful class adviser, whose presence alone deserves loads of thanks. To my school paper advisers, Mr. Philippe John Fresnillo Sipacio and Ms. Sybil Agreda, for making my literary journey a truly unforgettable voyage, and for being my constant cheering squad in journalism and public speaking competitions. Most importantly, to Mr. Jose Barcelona, the man who first saw and brought out the public speaker in me. To Ms. Marivic Parcon, Mr. Warren Uy, Mr. Kevin Tan, and all our volunteer teachers from China, for shaping up my command of the Chinese language; to Ms. Novee Yap, who shared with me my first interschool victory (in Spelling) and who has been with me ever since Grade Five; and to Ms. Colleen Bernabe-Cabayao, who has constantly told me to go the distance all throughout high school. To all my 4th Year subject teachers, and to all my teachers in high school and elementary, I wouldn’t be a Most Outstanding Student awardee right now without you. To The Chain, the CAT Unit, my beloved 4th Year Guava and the entire ICCHS Batch 2009, you deserve this award just as much. Lastly, to my family – my parents, who constantly remind me on making the right choice; my cousins, relatives, and grandparents, who were my number one fans in this Search; to my sister, who truly deserves a Most Outstanding Sister award; and to my brother, my own personal portrait of excellence – a million thanks to all of you.

On behalf of my fellow outstanding student awardees, I would like to thank everybody who made this event possible, and everyone who made our awards a reality.

So, can one throw an eraser at a classmate’s head and still end up being “excellent”? Believe me, it doesn’t take a split-second twinkle of an eye, and neither does it appear overnight. Rather, it entails making the right choices, doing what is right, and making the best out of every choice. Once I never seemed destined for such a path, but I chose – and now I know, I chose wisely. Likewise, I encourage you to choose wisely as well. Let the path of excellence be your choice.

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