Dr. Mercedes P. Adorio: Doing and Giving Our Best for Country and People

Dearest friends: I am so happy, honored and humbled to share Dr. Mercedes Adorio's speech at the 100th Commencement Exercises of NOHS, to the 2012 Graduating Class. 

Doing and Giving Our Best for Country and People

Mercedes P. Adorio, Ph.D.
NOHS, Class ‘59

Mr. Rizalino Tortosa, SchoolsDivision Superintendent, Mr. Mario Amaca, School Principal, teachers, parents, guests, and most of all, to our beloved graduating class: Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

I am very pleased to be with you today to celebrate with your parents and teachers a very important milestone in your life. Graduation day is always a beginning of a new venture. After 4 years of adolescent displays of intelligence, fun, and laughter, you ask yourself, Now What? Believe me, that is not an easy question.
Being older and having come to grips with the harsh, cold, but also challenging and sometimes exhilarating reality, let me help you find meaning to the question NOW WHAT ? After tonight, after the party, take time out to study carefully the situation you are in. You need to pause so you can think more clearly. What options are open to you? Are your parents ready to send you to college? Is pursuing a degree intimidating or impossible?

But for those who feel that the family cannot afford to send them to have a traditional college education, one member of class 1959 can show you that nothing is impossible for those who are determined to succeed. I refer to our classmate, Captain Jose Garcia who worked his way to college by being a working student. How you deal with setbacks matter. JoeGar, as we fondly call him, had the attitude to offset negative situation and the determination to harness his energy and time in resolving difficulties caused by financial want. He refused to be victimized by poverty. JoeGar must be a wise young man to have seen “the half-full glass rather than the half-empty glass.” Like other young people with the same mind-set, he looked for the positive in a negative situation and intervened. He did not put a ceiling on his ambition. He knew how to balance the forces of nature and to come out the winner. JoeGar, and others like him, determined the course of their destiny. They purposefully map out the path they wanted to tread. So can you.

What if you cannot obtain a college degree? Remember that the persons who contribute the most to our economy are not all college graduates. A huge proportion of overseas Filipinos who send regularly to their families are technical workers trained and certified by the Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA). There is a regional office of TESDA in Negros Occidental. Young people who become skilled workers find employment easier because they fill the need of businesses and industries here and abroad. In Metro Manila, short-term training programs, in addition to TESDA, are initiated and supported by local governments. Do not miss any of these opportunities when they come and do not consider technical training as less prestigious than a college degree. According to Confucius, In education, there should be no class distinction.” Our overseas technical workers are not called heroes for nothing. They indeed contribute to nation building.

Why do people succeed while others do not or cannot see success and leave their fate in the fickle hands of luck? Having the talent is not enough. Calvin Coolidge aptly says it: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not.” Being a bright student and in section 1 of the graduating class is not enough. To become the best of what you want to be, you must infuse your talent with passion, dedication and commitment to your work. Coolidge further said: “Persistence and determination are omnipotent.” Maria Luisa Defante did not come from the upper sections of Batch 59 but she won the 2003 Metrobank Award as an Outstanding Teacher of that year, a national recognition which she won over hundred candidates from different regions of the country. People who want to succeed, like Joe Gar and Maria Luisa, know what they truly want for themselves.

That’s the first thing we must remember. People who want to
succeed know what they want. You may not know what it is that you want now--but you can create a vision of that person you want to be. This vision may be inspired by God, or by a character you read in a novel, or you can choose a role model. This vision is the fuel that can sustain you in working harder than what is ordinarily required. This “big picture” of yourself will make you more focused on your work and sustain your energy for the post-baccalaureate studies or training with less distractions than the average guy. The need to achieve and the desire to want more and do more--are the catalysts to inflame your vision. These are the psychological tools of persons who look for ways to improve themselves. They are not satisfied with what they are doing. They ask, How can this thing I am working now get better? What else must I do to improve myself? If you think you have already done your best, and declare that it is enough, you will start sliding back to mediocrity. Success will escape you.

The second thing to remember is that true success comes about when a person zoom-focuses on the right things about their work or their studies. These are the fundamentals of everyday work. These are the things that are so simple, ordinary, doable, and may be called boring. If you want to be the best student or worker you can be, then do what are expected of you--not complaining, not grumbling about the difficulties you face. You might know Vangie Labalan, the actress. She is known to us simply as Christina, our classmate in Batch ‘59. Even in high school she wanted to be in the movies. But what makes Christina productive even at the age of 69, when others much younger than she have long retired from the movies? Christina maintains a simple regimen that is consistent with what successful people do. She was and is never late for her shooting, or absent, when the director calls, and she shares her talent with young, novice actors--very simple fundamentals for staying productive in a fickle business.

Many good students feel proud to be invited to teach at the University of the Philippines. But to stay in the university, you must do the 3 fundamentals: teaching, research or publications and community service. Doing the fundamentals must be on-going, year -in and year- out. Past credited works are not considered for the next promotion. There are no excuses. That is the nature of success in the university and in similar institutions and business enterprises. Success is on-going, not an end goal. It is doing successively what are required and zoom-focusing on the fundamentals that matter. It is tough to stay focused but success does not smile on those who only wait for lady luck. Don’t get me wrong. To be successful does not mean working like crazy. Fun, laughter, vacations, and giving attention to other things are diversions we need to recharge our batteries. But the vision we have of ourselves will bring us back to our goal.

The third element of success is to become mentally tough. There are many distractions-- drugs, smoking, drinking, smut, and going out with disturbing characters. You are going to meet people of questionable values but are convincingly attractive. Young people who want to create a better life for themselves need mental toughness to say NO to these distractions. But as human beings, we have the capacity to will things to happen. We can decide not to smoke, not to drink, or analyse which alternative ways of doing things are right for us. The best athletes follow a regimen of countless practice, practice, and more practice. A writer reads, writes, and reads and writes many a sleepless night. A scientist spends a long time in the laboratory. A farmer spends days tilling the land and watching his crops grow healthy. A fish vendor makes sure his fish are fresh everyday so that his “suki” will not be short-changed. They do their work they like to do with passion and commitment. You have a choice in life. Others choose the path that leads toward their vision. When you are mentally strong, you can face adversity, even embrace it. Adversities are temporary and are merely diversions to something greater. Believe in your power to succeed and you will succeed.

The fourth element of success requires an understanding that we are all connected in some ways, called in social psychology as “collective responsibility.” Arthur Gibson, a tennis champion, once said: “No matter what accomplishments you achieve, somebody helped you.” It seems that we have become responsible for each other--perhaps not directly--but through our examples, we make others also better. Foremost, give thanks to those who have helped you reach where you are now--your parents, teachers, classmates and others. I have not heard of NOHS graduates who are prostitutes, criminals, or if government officials, corrupt and lazy. This is a tribute to our Alma Mater for giving us an education, not of knowledge only but-- of more importance-- the ability to discern what is right and wrong. It may be late for me to say how grateful I am, after 53 years, but let me say thank you, my dear Alma Mater. And most of all, we give thanks to our Lord for watching over us and giving us the strength to pursue our goal and give meaning to our life. We give thanks to God for our beloved NOHS.

The last element, but not the least, of success, is leaving a legacy for the greater good. I know of a lawyer, a graduate of NOHS, class ’67 who is permanently recorded in the Supreme Court Review Abstract (SCRA) for winning three landmark cases. This is her contribution to the practice of law in our country. This honor does not come often, even among lawyers who graduated from the University of the Philippines-College of Law, her Alma Mater, Class ’82. I know her personally, she is my sister Leah. Before she died, she said she wanted to award every year to a graduating student who is most outstanding in Mathematics. Class ’67 will hopefully work out the details of this award. This is her legacy. What legacy will you leave your Alma Mater? What examples are you going to show your love for her? There are many simple ways we can do for our country--become active advocates for the environment, for justice, or peace, or work for the protection of children and women against trafficking, or doing the simple task of keeping our community safe and clean. Robert Louis Stevenson said that we “don’t judge each day by the harvest [we] reap, but by the seeds [we] plant.”

The theme for this year’s graduation is Your Gift of Learning: Our Tool for Nation Building. To study in NOHS is certainly a gift from the Filipino people. The Secondary Education Act made public high schools accessible to all. In this sense, you are Iskolar ng Bayan. Your education had been shouldered by the Filipino people. It is but fitting to respond to this generosity by doing your best to serve our country at every opportunity. The advice of Class ’59: Think well and do good. As students, NOHS has instilled in us the will to know, it is now time that we muster the will to become.

You have done your best as high school students. You are now going to start your journey toward adulthood. As you go through the process of determining your future, remember you are the author of your destiny. Your Alma Mater had done its best to equip you with the tools for making decisions, for evaluating options, and a consciousness of the needs of others and of our country. But the choices are yours to make. Your parents and teachers give you their support and love. Class ’59 cheers for you and say with love and full of hope, PRESS ON!

To the graduating class, claim your place under the sun. Stand up proudly, and say with all fervor, MABUHAY, Class 2012!

Mabuhay! Maraming salamat.

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