(The Valedictory Address delivered during the 29th Commencement Exercises of Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology on March 29, 1999).
Our esteemed guest speaker Hon. Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Hon. MSU President Diamael M. Lucman, Hon. Chancellor Camar A. Umpa, honorable MSU officials, deans and directors of various MSU-IIT units, faculty and staff of this Institute, fellow graduates, parents, visitors, my brethren in the Lord, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
The most awaited occasion has finally come. This could be a day of mixed emotions for all of us. It is truly a great honor and pleasure for me to speak before this great crowd of intellectuals. It is an unspeakable joy!
I could hardly believe that I have successfully climbed the ladder of academic success. Since my early years, adversity has never been a foreign experience for me. I do not belong to a well-to-do family who can assure me of an adequate financial support needed for my schooling. In fact, I finished my high school education with the aid of a scholarship which I found very insufficient still. There were times that I only had a snack during lunch time just to reserve some of the money for my school expenses. At other times, water was enough. It was really hard. I understood that my parent’s income as a farmer would not be able to take me to college. But I did not give up. The difficulties that I went through had strongly motivated me all the more to approach life with great diligence and determination. By the grace of God, I satisfactorily passed the MSU-SASE and joined the College of Engineering of this Institute.
However, the hard times did not end there. During my 2nd year in college, a tragedy struck my whole family and left us in great emotional and economic crises. My father died and I took the responsibility of being the breadwinner. I was at the point of deciding to stop my study because the stipend that I regularly received from the Institute could not adequately meet the needs of my family. But God significantly used my friends, teachers and brethren in the Lord to encourage me to continue my study. Seeing that I was in need, the Lord faithfully blessed me with a scholarship from DOST-JLAP. As a steward of the resources God has given me, I budgeted wisely the monthly stipend I was receiving to support the family as well as my study.
With all the hardships and darkness that I experienced in life, God has given me the light of victory. As the ancient king of Israel said: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.” Fellow graduates, remember the words of Ty Boyd which says: Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out. Life is really a struggle. The life I have lived is a life seasoned with painful trials and limitations. But it’s really true that God always brings good out of the negative circumstances in life. Difficulties can turn into tremendous blessings. We just have to learn to put our trust in God. I remember my former mentor told me, “When the going gets rough, never ever quit.”
This day, I suppose, is a memorable and triumphant celebration for most of us. But let us not be so overwhelmed and be deceived that success is merely measured by the degree and honors a person achieves in life. For me, what you call success is not a real success if there still exists turmoil within your inner being. Can you call those world-renowned personalities who committed suicide successful? Surely the famous French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal is right when he said: We have a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts which only God can fill. In pursuing our dreams in life, let us not repeat the mistake of seeking fulfillment in material things. Man is not just a physical or intellectual being but a spiritual being as well. We must not fail to acknowledge that we have a great Creator, the all-knowing architect and designer of our life.
As this Commencement Exercises marks the beginning of our journey into the world of uncertainties, let’s always be reminded that we need Someone who knows everything and has walked the jungles of life ahead of us. He has a marvelous way of taking care of the uncertainties ahead. There is no such secret formula I found other than walking in His perfect guidance. You’ve got to know Him. He is Jesus – my Savior and King. So take up the challenge and ponder on this fundamental question: Why am I here in this physical world?
To our dear teachers, a thankful heart now bids a tearful farewell. Your patience and love in giving us unselfishly the intellectual knowledge has greatly equipped our young minds.
To our beloved parents, this is what we have become because of your sacrifices in supporting us.