July 18, 2024

I believe in the ceremonial power of school graduation rites – they culminate the student’s successes, reward their diligence, and publicly affirm the commitment of their family and community to education as agents for change and progress. That’s why I was glad to learn that my classmate Kiethly was the guest speaker for the moving up ceremony of my alumni school. We graduated 13 years ago and Kiethly is the first from my batch to give voice to the future that awaits the graduates.
The best from the alumni should indeed become the voice to inspire the graduating batch. Kiethly finished Civil Engineering from a reputable school. I on the other hand, a proud seatmate of his, took education and hustled literary writing on the side. When we were classmates, we competed in the class Top 10, he excels in Mathematics and Sciences, while I love creative performances, journalism, and language subjects – we both graduated as Honorable Mentions of our batch. We weren’t the best in class, we have Seth our valedictorian who is both an engineer and an accountant. we have Jerrynel who went to the Philippine Military Academy, and other classmates whose future was not predicted by their grades but achieved milestones nonetheless.
Back then, I worked as a student librarian for three years to pay for my tuition. Our library is just located near the stage and when visitors would come, the library would transform into a receiving and a dining area. I arranged the tables and chairs and served delicious food, coffee, and drinks funded by the school. Behind the two large cabinets of books I cleaned and arranged during recess and lunchtime, we hid boxes of expensive wines exclusive for dignitaries. So, I know then that guest speakers are treated well during graduation rites. I hope they did the same to Kiethly.
I did not attend their graduation because I was finishing my story for a writing competition, but I know most of the students in my neighborhood were graduates of my alumni school. I couldn’t be prouder to say to them, “Hey, your guest speaker at your graduation is my seatmate!” But more than that, I would say, “I hope you listened to him carefully, he was a diligent, competitive, and hardworking student during our time. He tried everything, he joined ROTC, he tried journalism, poster-making, and even directed one film project in our class. But you know, what stands out? It’s his good character, he obeys his father and loves his mother very much.”
I wish graduation speeches could contain the whole mileage of the guest speaker’s victories in life to inspire students. Graduates should look into the future, five, 10, or 20 years from now, and shape in the words of those who came ahead of them the life they want to fight for in the future. Life could have a lot of unexpected turns, privileges vary from one family to another, many are still living in disadvantaged situations, and our government would still have a lot to learn to improve its services give opportunities to our students, and prove that education gives a leverage to its graduates.
When I was in the library, serving books to students or flipping through the pages of a magazine, I wasn’t aware that I would pursue writing and would soon work in the academe. It’s probably instinct that whenever our English teacher shared stories with the class, I was already reciting my lessons in the future. I ended up becoming a teacher and it was because of those choices I made and those people I chose to believe. They gave me their voice and through them I molded mine.