Self-Awareness, Excellence and Unitas

By UA&P Alumni

One of a kind in UA&P history, an alumnus with a Bachelor’s degree as Batch Valedictorian. Brylle Bae (BS in Applied Mathematics) touches the hearts of his audience as he shared his paralysis cure vis-a-vis his success.

Below is his valedictory address during the 21st UA&P Graduation Rites at the Plenary Hall of the Philippine International Convention Center, last June 4, 2016.

To the Honorable Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Atty. Adrian Cristobal; Dr. Placido Mapa, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the UA&P Foundation Incorporated; Dr. Winston Conrad Padojinog, UA&P President and members of the Management Committee and Operations Committees of the Schools and College; To the managing directors of the various units in the University; To our dear teachers; Members of the staff, guests, beloved parents, fellow graduates, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!

Bilang panimula, nais ko pong magkuwento.

Isang umaga labing-apat na taon na ang nakararaan, isang bata ang nagising nang nalilito. Hindi siya sigurado kung ano; pero alam niyang may nagbago overnight. Sinubukan niyang hindi pansinin ito at umunat siya. Nagitla siya nang mapansing ‘tila walang nararamdaman ang kaniyang mga paa. Muli, sinubukan niyang hindi pansinin ito. Sinubukan niyang igalaw ang kanyang mga binti, pero hindi niya ito maigalaw. Natakot na ang bata. Mangiyak-ngiyak, tinawag ang nanay niya. Iniunat ng mga magulang ang kanyang namamandhid na binti; pero walang nangyari.

Dinala siya sa ospital. Kinausap ng doktor ang mga magulang. Mapipinta sa mukha ng doktor ang kalungkutan; ‘tila may masamang balita. Sinubukang pumanatag ng ina; pero hindi nito mapigilan ang pagluha. Bilang na daw ang araw ng bata; maswerte na kung mabubuhay pa siya ng isang buwan. Guillain Barrae Syndrome, isang rare disease na inaatake ang nerves; at noong panahong iyon, wala pang gamot. Habang nakikinig, lalo lang naguluhan ang bata. Wala ito sa mga nakasanayan niyang happy meal toys, tagu-taguan at pagbibisikleta. Bilang na araw? Anong ibig sabihin ‘nun? Ito ang unang pagharap ng bata sa kawalang-katiyakan.

Inilipat ang bata sa Philippine Children’s Medical Center. Sabi ng doktor doon, may kaunti pang pag-asang mabuhay ang bata. May gamot sila na pinag-aaralan pa lang, kaso sobrang mahal. Tinanong ng nanay kung sigurado bang gagaling ang bata. Walang maibigay na sagot ang doktor. Hindi alam ng mga magulang kung ano ang gagawin; hindi naman sila mayaman. Humingi ng tatlong araw ang mga magulang para makapag-isip.

Mataimtim na nagdasal ang mga magulang. Humingi sila ng sign. Kahit isa lang.

Noong sumunod na tatlong araw, sinubukan muli ng bata na iunat ang kanyang mga binti. Nagitla siya; nakaunat siya! Sinubukan niyang igalaw ang kanyang mga binti; ngayon nagagalaw na niya ito, bagama’t napakahirap. Sinubukan niyang igalaw ang kanyang balakang; at nagagalaw na niya ito. Tinawag niya ang kanyang ina. Sinubukang nitong kumalma; pero hindi nito mapigilan ang pagluha – tears of joy. Ito na ‘yung sign. Ito ang unang tagumpay ng bata sa kawalang-katiyakan.

Ngunit hindi makakalimutan ng bata ang sumunod na sinabi ng nanay: “Lahat ng ito, may dahilan, anak. Magpasalamat tayo sa Kaniya.”

Isang buwan ang lumipas. Anim na buwan. Isang taon. Dalawang taon. Tatlong taon. Labing-apat na taon. Nabuhay ang bata. Kung ano ang dahilan, walang nakaaalam. Kahit siya, hindi niya alam.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is true that everything has a reason. Even the most undesirable event that may happen to us has a purpose. Clearly, if such is the case, our life must have a purpose, a destiny. After all, the all-knowing God will never waste His infinite time and effort to give life to beings like us for nothing. Indeed, lahat ng ito may dahilan.

But, nowadays, it is difficult to recognize this purpose. In a world where everything may be possessed or accessed at a single click, most of us take such profound questions for granted. Questions such as “why am I here” or “is it true that life is just a meaningless cycle” are easily forgotten; because the distractions are too strong to avoid. Facebook, Instagram, the trending Tatlong Bibe song, the all-night parties in BGC are simply too powerful to contain.

However, it is understandable. Why? By itself, knowing one’s mission in life is really difficult, even very demanding. To some, it can even take an entire lifetime. But I believe that despite this complexity of determining one’s purpose, we need to continue seeking for it; for it shall define our lives, our existence. This epic pursuit starts with small steps – and that is with the effort of knowing oneself.

Self-awareness is essential for man to guide his journey, and, eventually, to know his purpose. Self-awareness is the key to coping with the adversities of life, making a person resilient. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said: “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”. In many instances in our lives, we and the enemies are one and the same. Sometimes, our enemy is our selves – our own weaknesses, our own vices. Thus, if you want to win against these battles, you really need to know yourself.

Sa mga unang buwan mula ng magkasakit siya, naging isang malaking pakikibaka ang buhay para sa bata. Alam niya na mula noon hindi na niya maaaring gawin ang gusto niyang gawin. Hindi na siya pwedeng mag-bike dahil malamang sesemplang siya. Hindi na siya pwedeng makipagtagu-taguan dahil malamang mahuhuli siya’t matataya. Sa isang pagkakataon sa buhay niya, gaya ng sinumang normal na tao, na-bad trip siya sa nangyari sa kanya. Pero anong gagawin niya? Malulungkot na lang ba siya habangbuhay? Sa kabila ng mura niyang edad, alam niya na kahit mahirap, kailangan niyang magpatuloy. Kung para saan, hindi niya alam.

Fortunately, his father taught him how to cope with this new life. He taught him to accept this reality and instead, use it as strength. This is one clear example of self-awareness. The boy knows his weaknesses; but instead of banging his head against the wall, he used his awareness to improve himself. He looked for an alternative where his strength may possibly lie. Eventually, he found out that he has some skills in math. That weakness led him to find his strength. If that did not happen, then most likely he will never realize his strength, his inclination.

Despite his newly discovered strength, the boy encountered various instances that questioned his capabilities. Many people belittled his condition. Kesyo pilay, walang kakayahan. He even encountered one who asked him, point-blank, if his grades were results of magic. These comments are painful to hear; but his self-awareness strengthened him more. It saved him from being swayed or affected by such unfair criticisms. It taught him that one’s ultimate determinant is himself. Others may guide him, others may slander him; but the freedom to choose who he is and what he will become remains in him. Thus, it is his self-awareness that served as his strongest weapon against those who demean him.

Self-awareness, therefore, is the first stage to development. But we should remember that the pursuit for our mission should not end in self-awareness. For a person to get nearer to his destiny, he needs to consistently aspire for excellence through hard work.

What, then, is excellence? That is the crucial question.

Bago ako tumuntong ng high school, akala ko basta mataas grades mo, excellent na. Pero nung pumasok ako sa Southridge, nalaman kong hindi lang pala mataas na grades ang sukatan ng pagiging excellent. Wika ng aming principal: “at the end of the day, grades will not determine who you are”. Dagdag pa niya: “to be excellent, one needs to be the best, or at least try to do his best, in all facets of his life: academic, social, and most importantly, spiritual”. Sa Southridge ko unang nalaman ang katagang: Unity of Life. Dahil dito, nagsimula akong gumawa ng mga bagay na hindi ko akalaing magagawa ko pala. Diyan na ako nagsimulang mag-public speaking. Diyan na ako nagsimulang mag-acting; una bilang uto-utong pagong at, sa huling taon ko, bilang lasenggong bumblebee. Diyan na rin ako nagsimulang kumuha ng mga administrative position gaya ng pagiging Secretary ng Student Council. Hindi ko alam ang gagawin sa mga ito. Wala akong ibang dala-dala kundi ang paniniwala na maitatawid ko ito; na bahagi ito ng learning experience ko para mapalapit sa purpose na noon ay hindi ko pa alam kung ano. Sa Southridge ko unang nasulyapan ang kahulugan ng Unity of Life.

In my last year in high school, while most of us were cramming our college applications, I heard that there is an opening in UA&P. Before that, I already visited the University twice to attend chastity talks; and from my first impression alone, I already fell in love with the school. First, it is small. It is easier to walk around; there is no need to use a car to transfer to another building. But what I liked the most with the University is its corporate culture. Everyone is professional. I also heard from my Southridge teachers that UA&P offers the same formation Southridge gave to us. Because of this, instantly, UA&P became my first choice. I took the exam, was interviewed, and was admitted. And the rest is history.

And I think, I made the right choice in selecting UA&P.

Nagbukas ng maraming pagkakataon ang UA&P para sa akin. Marami akong natutunan mula sa tambak na babasahin na pina-photocopy ko (UA&P – University of Abundant Papers!?!). Marami rin akong natutunan mula sa mga group work na sinalihan ko – mula sa pagsusulat ng mga dokumento hanggang sa pakikitungo sa mga kagrupong matitigas ang ulo. Marami rin akong natutunan sa mga na pinagawa sa amin; liban sa “kumapal” nang kaunti ang “makapal” ko nang mukha, nakatulong din ito para malinaw kong maipahayag ang mga natatago kong ideya. Ngunit higit sa lahat, natutunan ko sa UA&P na mayroong bagay na higit pa sa excellence.

UA&P redefined my notion of excellence by teaching me the value of Unitas.

Unitas is more than just excellence. Unitas is excellence that is shared with others. The University teaches that the spirit of Unitas is meaningless without using it for the betterment of our fellowmen. I believe that our talents, our achievements, our lives are meant for something greater than satisfying our own selves. We are all meant to contribute something to others. We are all meant to shape this world for the benefit of all men — a world that is just, free and equitable. Therefore, service is the real measure of UNITAS. Only by serving can a man truly live the spirit of Unitas; for service puts into action the potentials and promises it offers to us. Therefore, Unitas teaches us to achieve excellence not just for ourselves but, most importantly, for the benefit of all. I believe that this is the reason, the purpose why God, in His abundant grace, allowed us to live, allowed me to live and reach the height of our career.

As we get our diplomas later, let us always remember that this graduation just marks the beginning of our journey towards our destiny, towards our purpose. To get nearer to our mission, we need to know ourselves and pursue excellence through hard work; bearing in mind that excellence is truly measured by how well we serve others, in brief, by how we truly live the spirit of Unitas.

Ang kwento ng bata na isinalaysay ko sa inyo at ang kwento ko ay isang hamon para sa ating lahat.

My fellow graduates, nawa’y tanggapin natin ang hamong ito.

Maraming salamat po at magandang hapon sa ating lahat!

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: I would like to thank Ms. Ces Resurreccion, Mr. Rene Ledesma, Ms. Arianne Astilla-Vito Cruz and Dr. Odie Lacsamana for helping me in editing and polishing this speech. Maraming-maraming salamat po!