The NOT Valedictory Address
Valedictory speech of Enderun Colleges Valedictorian, Bea Gonzales
To our founders, Esteemed guests, President Ed, Beloved Faculty, Parents, and Fellow Graduates, I’m sorry you have yet to endure another speech, but I promise to make this painless.
Many of you know me as the little fair-skinned tutor of ASC- the school’s tutorial program, or as the “Wonder Woman” of failing grades, or the author behind numerous notes.
I’ve bonded with students through last-minute reviews, tears over Sir Ray’s exams, and mini heart attacks caused by Accounting presentations.
I’ve taught Business Math 2 using hugot lines, Strama using basketball, and accounting using sardines. In other words, I was the unofficial Enderun Professor who got paid in Chickenjoy, ice cream, and thank you notes.
So I’ve decided to bid my fellow Titans goodbye in the way they know me best. Today, in front of all of you, I will be giving my last tutorial session.
The English dictionary defines the word VALEDICTORIAN as a student having the highest academic achievements of the class who delivers the final speech at a graduation ceremony. Although this definition is true, it does not capture the true essence of an Enderun Valedictorian.
Class of 2018, today’s lesson will be about why you shouldn’t aim to be valedictorian.
FIRST, people think that the valedictorian is someone PERFECT- top grades, pleasant conduct, and Kate Middleton hair. But why aim for perfection, when you can instead aim to serve as an inspiration?
It was in August 2006 when I literally crawled to my parents’ bedroom asking for help because I was in so much pain- pain that I can never fully describe or ever forget. I was diagnosed with Congenital Intestinal Malrotation. In other words, I was born with a messed up digestive system. I became a ten- year-old stuck in a vicious cycle of surgeries, making life or death decisions instead of playing patintero.
Hospital bills started piling up; my parents were exhausted from working overtime to earn enough; they were barely sleeping on the hospital’s lousy couch; my brother was alone, and scared. I realize today, that after all of that, I’ve never even said sorry.
Mom, Dad, Kuya, I am sorry for what I put you through.
Apart from my family, I found solace and comfort in Br. Ceci Hojilla FSC. In his eyes, I wasn’t a “sick girl;” but rather a resilient fighter who had a story that needed to be shared.
He taught me that although challenges may leave scars, they make for good stories and the stories impart a wisdom that cannot be learned in the classroom. Sadly, Br. Ceci has left us and now all I have of him is this tiny picture and a mission to urge others to make their own impact.
If there’s one thing that that vicious, painful cycle has taught me, it is that while certain diseases can be treated with surgery or medicines, some remain invisible and existing.
I was diagnosed with multiple invisible disorders.
At 14, I was told I had Depression,
At 17, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder,
At 19, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder.
In the process, I lost my way, and lost the heart that once aimed to make an impact to a soulless version of myself that I didn’t recognize. I lost me.
But just as my family refused to give up on me, I refused to give up on myself. I refused to be my diagnosis. See, I’m not really sick. I was just given the ability to feel more than the normal range of human emotion.
And yes, that means crippling sadness, but that sadness makes me appreciate the sun a bit more. And it also means knowing a happiness that is secret to everyone else.
I fell and got hurt on impact. But today, I want to use that hurt to create an impact.
I AM NOT PERFECT.
But I am standing in front of you with shaking knees and waterproof mascara admitting that I am mentally ill and sharing my story because I hope to inspire you to overcome your own challenges, learn from life, and be brave enough to share yours too. Let your voice be heard and use it to inspire.
SECOND, to be valedictorian, you have to be MICHAEL JORDAN. But what about SCOTTIE PIPEN? Yes, MJ is the number 1 player in the NBA and Pipen was number 2, but ALL 6 RINGS of Michael Jordan were won only with Pipen by his side. 23 + 33 = 6. That was the magic equation.
Many great #2s like MJ’s Scottie Pipen, Batman’s Alfred, and JFK’s Sec. Of Defense, or maybe even Sir Jack’s Jango Tuason, makes us realize that you don’t always have to be number one. Sometimes, it’s more fulfilling to be the quiet number two who creates an impact without the expectation of applause.
It’s not about being number one. It’s about helping and knowing when to play the role of a support system.
It’s about being the Sherpa- carrying the heavy load and leading everyone to the safest path, not for fame, but because you genuinely care.
Unfortunately, not all of us had a Scottie Pipen, or a Sherpa, or an Alfred. We have lost so many people from Anthony Bourdain to Robin Williams to our own friends in the battle against invisible diseases.
Let us change that. Let us be Scottie Pipen. Let us be there for the people who are suffering in silence, who are dealing with broken families or broken hearts, or simply hurting. Let us smile at people on the street, ask how our friends are doing, and give gifts just because. Let us be the class who both gives back and pays it forward. Let us be kind and let us make an impact.
THIRD, the valedictorian is the WINNER. But really, the winner is nothing without the COACH. Sharapova had Sven, Kobe had Phil Jackson, Po had Master Shifu.
When I was younger, I told my dad that I wanted to be Valedictorian and Summa Cum Laude. I wanted to be a doctor, an astronaut, and a queen. Like many parents, they encouraged my crazy dreams. I wanted to be great.
But after working for ASC for four years and meeting people like Zet who pretty much gave me a Jollibee buffet just to say thank you, King who would buy me ice cream when I was upset, Macky who literally ran and jumped up and d own after passing his Taxes finals, and Jk who coined the term #batchbea, being great didn’t seem as appealing anymore. Instead, I wanted to push these amazing people to be even greater than they already are.
I think all the tutors can agree with me when I say that more than the shiniest medals, the greatest award is seeing your friends and tutees walk on stage with big smiles on their faces and diplomas in their hands.
To my tutees, I may have taught you accounting but you taught me to live. You don’t know what kind of impact you’ve made in my life, and I am incredibly proud to have been part of your journey.
To Ber, Hannah, Chong, Nat, Flabs, Matt, Aaron, and Adj, THANK YOU. You are the reasons I choose life.
To our first coaches- our parents, thank you for putting up with us, loving us, and protecting us.
To our professors, thank you for teaching us lessons in and out of the classroom.
To Sir Karl, thank you will never be enough to express how grateful I am to you. I envy the students who have more years with you ahead of them. I and the rest of my batch will surely miss you.
Para sa mga nirerespeto naming mga guro sa larangan ng Wika, salamat. Sir Geri, Sir Jet, at sir Ron, kayo po ang nagturo sa amin na mahalin ang sarili nating wika at ang sarili nating bansa. Mabuhay po kayo.
To Ms. Marivic and Sir Ray, thank you for teaching us to always take the good with the bad, for loving your students, and for going beyond what your job requires. You are the parents we all aspire to be someday.
To Sir Jack, you are the reason I am even in this school in the first place. Thank you for seeing potential and believing in me.
To my fellow graduates, both senior high and college, I hope you don’t aim to be perfect, or to be number one, or to be a winner.
Instead, I hope you aim to inspire, to be kind, and to spread greatness and lift each other up.
Graduates, give justice to the unique kind of education Enderun has given to you. Think wildly, act fearlessly, and whatever you do, do it with a sincere heart.
I am NOT a dictionary valedictorian. I am here today, not as the highest achiever, not as a star athlete, nor a Dean’s Lister. I am here as an Enderun student urging you all to scrap your idea of a valedictorian. Instead, I’d like each and every one of you to always aim to make an impact. Aim to be more than just a valedictorian.
Aim to be a Titan.
My dear graduates and now fellow alumni, here is to the rest of our lives.