Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Valediction of an Overrated Baboon

Class Valedictorian – English, Class Valedictorian – Chinese, Alma Mater Award, Special Achievement Award, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Academic Excellence and Leadership Award, Plaque of Distinction, Outstanding Filipino-Chinese Student Award, Excellence in Mathematics Award, Excellence in Public Speaking Award, Excellence in Journalism Award, Outstanding Achievement in Journalism Award

Dr. Carmen P. Santos, our beloved school principal; Mr. Napoleon Sy, chairman of the ICCHS Board of Trustees; Mr. Mark Robert Uy, our commencement speaker; members of the Board of Trustees, school administrators, teachers, parents, fellow graduates, and friends, good afternoon.

I am never exactly a big fan of basketball. I grew up in a family that prefers “scribble” over “dribble”, and since I was doomed to sprout four eyes instead of two, bouncing balls have never been in my element. By ball, I mean those big enough to squash my eyeglasses flat – basketballs, for instance.

However, what I lack in interest in the most popular sport in the country, I believe I make up in being a huge fan of interschool basketball games. You see, it’s more than just the thrill of being part of history when victory is captured, or the bragging rights that come thereafter, or the unmistakable shouting and cheering that inevitably erupt whenever someone throws that fantastic three-point shot.

It is the heartwarming and nostalgic sight of the entire school rallying as one, and of being part of this gigantic unified group, that rightfully endears me to these games. While some students might see these games as just another opportunity for an excursion to the nearest computer café, I happily content myself with being part of the instant cheering squad – although honestly, my vocal cords don’t scream as well as my classmates’.

Call it… school spirit. If there’s one thing which I find as truly tatak Huasiong – that distinctive mark found across Huasiong students – it would have to be our seemingly unwavering, unbreakable loyalty to the school. Alumni, alumnae, fellow graduates, undergraduates – I’m sure you all agree with me.

Many times, it strikes me as uniquely ironic that such loyalty stems from little rivalries that push us to rise above others, to be more than ourselves. During High School and Elementary Week, we are a shameless bunch locked in fierce competition among classes, and undeniably, among campuses. With the Intramural Games, all hell breaks loose, where even some of the most demure people I know turn into savage beasts once the chase for the ball is on. And if you come from the Main Campus, then one of the biggest goals of your class has to be winning the Christmas Caroling Contest... right?

But wonder of wonders, it is amazing how, amid all the rivalries and differences, we eventually end up singing the same tune when it comes to standing up for our Alma Mater and supporting her for the best. When we reconcile our varied conflicts and unite as one giant, homogeneous family, it is only then that we become true children of Huasiong.

This school spirit entails more than just mere loyalty. It is the invisible thread that binds all of us – pure Chinese, half-Chinese, pure Filipino, half-Spanish, pure Korean, half-Japanese, part-British – taking root as one resilient tree, growing higher and growing wiser with the auspices of time. And this is precisely the greatest challenge we face as Batch 2009: to keep the thread flowing firm and the tree standing tall.

My classmates and I have always pointed out how change seems to parallel the way our batch makes its milestones. When we graduated from grade school, Elementary Week was started. When we entered high school, High School Week was born. We also happen to be the pioneer students of our new CAT commandant, the first graduating batch to have a JS Prom at Hotel Del Rio, and the first lucky users of monoblock chairs in the high school department, among others.

Yes, change is constant. As one of my best teachers in high school always says, everything changes except change. But no matter the distances that we reach or the heights that we soar to in the near future, there must never be a change in the way we regard our own “batch spirit” as much as we worship the school spirit. There must only be a change for the better, for a way that would forge deeper and more meaningful bonds between each one of us.

Personally, change, too, characterized the way I spent my thirteen years inside the four walls of this institution. Without Huasiong, I may never have trekked along the scenic mountainsides of Leon, walked along the placid seaside of Ajuy, led a handful of talented writers as editor-in-chief of The Chain, learned basic military knowledge as a CAT officer, improved my math skills as team captain, harnessed my public speaking abilities as a contestant in impromptu speaking contests, and very recently, entrusted with the humbling responsibility of leading 138 great souls as Alumni Association President.

Without Huasiong, I would never have marveled at the majestic Great Wall after winning a team competition in Chinese knowledge. I would never have gone to Naga City as an outstanding journalist awardee, or improved my Mandarin, Hokkien, and English language skills to immeasurable lengths. Most importantly, without Huasiong, I would never have met very wonderful teachers who hail from as far as China, very wonderful and gifted souls who comprise what is now 4th year Guava, very wonderful batch mates who helped create colorful episodes in my student life, and very wonderful experiences that spurred life-altering lessons.

They say that ‘thank you’ is one of the most overused words in this world. But this only goes to show that the best of men deserve no less than the sincerest of ‘thanks’. To our parents, who have been the unyielding wind beneath our wings, our biggest and staunchest supporters, our own personal cheering squads; to our teachers, who have seen us grow and transform from innocent, not-so-naughty youngsters to naughtier and not-so-innocent teenagers; to our school administrators, Board of Trustees, and to everybody else who have been with us these past fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years; and to our Alma Mater, we say thank you, thank you, thank you!

To the Lord Almighty – the reason why we are all gathered here today – words are not enough to express our profound gratitude.

My dear batch mates, today we become official members of a time-tested family – a family defined by the indelible pillars of Diligence, Sincerity, Loyalty, and Courage. As we fittingly take on this noble responsibility, let our legacy leave a pure mark on the portals of our Alma Mater, our accomplishments and achievements reaching far and wide for her greater glory.

Like a basketball team, let us keep ourselves duly guided by that solid school spirit. Let us take it upon ourselves to be the Starting Five, or the Mythical Five, or better yet, the Dream Team.

Remember: If we can’t all be MVPs, we can always be the best instant cheering squad there is.

Long live Batch 2009!

Thank you, good day, and God bless us all!

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