I spoke at my alma mater’s graduation and here’s my speech: you can be whoever you want to be

Last Friday (01 April), I spoke at my elementary school’s graduation and it was one of the happiest days of my life! I never imagined, not even in my wildest dreams that I will be invited to be a keynote speaker in any of my former schools.

It was really fun to see familiar faces, most especially when I saw them listening carefully while I am standing in the podium.

Due to my friends’ demands, I am publishing my speech here. Let me know what you think!

Good afternoon graduates, parents and to all the familiar faces here: mentors who appeared to me in so many helpful and impacting ways 16 years ago in Kalayaan.

When I got invited to speak here, I got excited and at the same time, I asked myself, “Why me?”

I am not rich. I am jobless. There are no monuments dedicated to me but I am living life the way I imagined it and for me, that has always been good enough.

After college, I did not choose to have a corporate job or live life in a chronological order. I chose to travel the world. I chose to travel the world to see how people eat, cook, speak in a different culture that is far away from mine.

For over 7 years, I’ve visited over 40 countries, 100+ cities, lived with local families, spoke different languages and had a great time eating my way around the world.

This is my success because if there’s one thing I want all of you to remember is that, we are successful in our own ways.

You can be whoever you want to be.

After this, you will go to high school, and then college, graduate University, find dependable jobs and stick to the status quo. At least that’s what we have been told to do. Chronological.

Soon enough, you will be encouraged to break the rules, go after that makes you happy and never settle. You will be told that the office is not a good place to grow so step back from the office table every once in a while.

“Be realistic, be fearless, go after what you love.” That’s what everyone will tell you. It gets so confusing what kind of people we are supposed to be and you will never find out if you are doing the right thing.

You can be whoever you want to be.

But what you need to know, is that there are no right or wrong choices. You can work in an office with a good salary or you can be a freelance artist with part-time gigs.

You can be a lawyer or an office clerk, full-time mom or a pre-school teacher, a factory worker or a pastry chef. You can travel the world, too.

Let me tell you that all of these careers are good and never regard it as foolish. Remember that what you do is based on what you really love.

As long as you have passion, you can never go wrong. You just need to believe that what you are doing really makes you happy and that it is important. Because it really is.

This is for all of you, parents, teachers and the stars of this night — the graduates: Whatever you feel that will make you happy in living your life, do it.

You are just 12 years old right now and let me tell you that you have a long way to go. I still have a long way to go and I am already 27.

I just think that nothing is really definite in this life: maybe at 30, I will buy a beach house in Miami, get married and have children; maybe at 40, I will be traveling the world once again because I feel like I can’t hold myself together; or maybe at 50, I will be the richest woman in the world. Dear friends, you and I will never know. But as long as you believe in what you are doing, you will be fine.

You can be whoever you want to be.

People will always disagree. They will always have something to say about what you are doing with your life. One of my friends used to tell me that I live to live.

I make ends meet day by day just so I can live. I am not saving for anything, I don’t have any properties and that doesn’t make me less of a person.

But remember, you need not seek approval from other people. Not from your parents, friends or colleagues. The only opinion that matters is yours. Always bear in mind that YOU MATTER.

I found my calling. I found something that makes me happy and it is traveling the world. You may not understand the way I live my life but this is what I am passionate about.

This is my own success. This is what’s important to me.

Ever since, I have not had the chance to thank my mentors: Teacher Ronald who taught me to try new things. He made me dance when I was in grade 5, he made me host school events at the age of 11 and he always believed in my writing.

In high school, I found myself hosting in events and writing for the school paper and I always remember who led me to do that. It was you, Sir Ronald.

Mr Richard Calimbas, when I found out you are the school principal, I said to myself, “he deserved it.” You’ve been always active in our lives.

I remember one time that I won the National Journalism Competition in Tacloban and you were there for me.

Like a parent. Cheering, being the personal alalay and at the same time, giving me pointers to review. Every awarding ceremony, Sir Richard will close his eyes and hold my hand. I didn’t know if he knew I will win but one thing I know is for sure — he believed in me.

And of course, Teacher Kit Figuerro, who was very patient in teaching me and my siblings to read and write. Me and my family will always be thankful for what have you done to help shape us.

Dahil sa inyo, hinding hindi ko makakalimutan ang Kalayaan — ang lugar kung saan ako unang nangarap. Thank you po, sirs.

Translation: Because of you, I will never forget Kalayaan — the place where I first started dreaming.

Now I know why I got invited here. Because I am a product of these teachers. I am me because of them.

So be grateful for your teachers. I am 27 years old now and they are still here, still passionate about what they are doing, honing and building children’s lives.

I am one of you. I grew up with these teachers that I will always be grateful for. Look at where it got me.

Congratulations, graduates! And always remember, you can be whoever you want to be. Thank you so much!

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