60th Honors Day Convocation Speech
Speech Delivered during the 60th Honors Day Convocation
Atty. Ivan Maxino Bandal
Associate Solicitor, Office of the Solicitor General
6th Placer, 2011 Bar Examinations
One of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP), Year 2003
Indeed, it is a distinct honor and a great privilege to be here with you and to be invited as your speaker on this very special occasion, the 60th Honors Day of Silliman University.
Our esteemed president Dr. Ben S. Malayang III; members of the Board of Trustees; Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan; other officials of the university; members of the faculty and staff; my former professors and teachers in Early Childhood School, Elementary, High School, College of Mass Communication, and College of Law; the honor students, the co-curricular and national awardees; their proud parents and family members; guests, students, fellow workers in the government, fellow Sillimanians, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant afternoon to you all.
I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the honor students and the co-curricular and national awardees, for a job well done! I know all of you have worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to be able to achieve the things, for which you are now being recognized in today’s event. And so we thank you for your hard work and for your commitment to excellence because all of you are a big part of why Silliman University is a great institution.
I also extend my warmest congratulations to the proud parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and family members of the honor students and awardees, because the encouragement and support that you have given to our achievers have allowed them to excel in their respective fields. I am sure you must be feeling very jubilant for the achievements of your sons and daughters.
That feeling of fulfillment and exultation must also be felt by those who have helped you to become what you are now. Your dedicated teachers, helpful friends, people in the university who have spent a good part of their lives crafting policies, practices, and programs to help Silliman students excel, must be exultant too. Silliman University is most honored and proud by what you have achieved.
So what is it about excellence? What does it really mean to excel?
Simply said, excellence is being able to become the best of what one could be. It does not, however, mean aiming for perfection as doing so would most likely result in constant disappointments. The pursuit for excellence means doing your best and going the extra mile in everything that you do. It means putting quality in the work that you do, and always aiming to do an even better job the next time around. It also means enjoying what you do and having the commitment and passion to pursue whatever it is that you’d want to achieve.
In some cases, there are standards set such as in academic excellence. To qualify, one has to meet certain norms or grades. Then you would have to study hard so that you can reach the standard or the necessary qualifying grades. What is good about pursuing excellence is that this is an open thing. Anyone can try and strive for excellence. You do not have to beat other people to qualify for academic excellence or to become a good leader. You only have to beat all the bad attitudes and practices that prevent you from becoming your best. You only have to beat laziness, procrastination, indifference, defeatism, and a closed mind which is not able to dream. But excellence always entails hard work and making sacrifices so that you can achieve something great. And I am sure all the honor students and awardees here this afternoon would agree with me that many times, we do not get a free ride to reach our dreams and our goals. We need to pay the price. We need to work hard for it.
I distinctly remember when I was preparing for the Bar Examinations, I had to make a lot of sacrifices. From April to November of 2011, I had many sleepless nights, I had very limited time checking Facebook posts or watching Youtube videos. I also missed watching some good movies in the cinema because I had to plan and strictly observe the days I considered as days off from my review schedule. I was also away from family and wasn’t able to attend many important family gatherings. All of these were some of the sacrifices I had to make but I had to do it. I had to set priorities because at that time I had one goal in mind, which was to pass the Bar Examinations. And when the results of the Bar Examinations were released in February of 2012, I realized that the hard work and the sacrifices I made were not in vain.
Although striving for excellence entails hard work, it does not mean, however, that we cannot take a lucky break. Sometimes it’s just an encouraging word or a warm smile or a hint of understanding that takes us to the path of becoming our best. An encouraging word from a professor, friendship from classmates, patience and support from wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend, or understanding and acceptance from other people, can free us from our insecurities and encourage us to think high and to rise to reach our dreams. In other words, excellence can be born out of one’s striving alone or from the trust, acceptance, and encouragement of other people.
I have great confidence that students who have not yet made the grade for today’s Honors Day may well be on their way to it if they could find help and understanding. Those of you who are seated now among the audience, could be seated here in stage in next school year’s Honors Day. Believe in yourself, set your heart and mind to your dream, carve a path to it, then go, get it. Never ever give up no matter what stumbling blocks may come along the way. As long as you remain committed towards achieving your goal no matter what setbacks you might encounter, then, you are bound to succeed.
There is no single path to excellence. Coming from various backgrounds, capabilities, abilities, talents, you have to take your own path. At times, the path may seem short and easy. But there would be moments when the road to excellence or success would appear hard and sometimes impossible to accomplish. But, whatever the path and whatever difficulties you encounter, keep moving, keep your sight on your goal.
When I was a student here in the University, I also had my share of ups and downs. In academics, there were times that I did not obtain the score I envisioned when I took an exam. When I was a writer in the Weekly Sillimanian, there were moments when I felt that I could have written a better article. During the time I was leading an organization, there were instances when I felt that my team could have done a much better job than what we had already accomplished. And while I was reviewing for the Bar Exams, I took mock bar examinations at the review center but ended up disappointed each time because I was not able to get the scores I aimed for. In all those moments I felt defeated, disappointed and discouraged, I did not stop nor did I give up. Instead, I took note of my mistakes and learned from them. From there, I did my best to do better the next time around.
In our pursuit of achieving our dreams, it is inevitable that we sometimes encounter difficult situations. How we deal with these difficult situations would determine whether we are able to achieve our goals or not. When I took the Bar Examinations during the four Sundays of November of 2011, my quest to become a lawyer almost ended on the first Sunday of the exams. The night before the exam, anxiety and stress prevented me from having a good night’s rest. I could not sleep. On the day of the exam, as I was answering question number 30 of the 100-item multiple choice exam in Political Law, and under extreme time pressure, I almost passed out. I felt cold and sick. My hands were shaking, and my mind stopped working. I was in extreme fatigue because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before. At that time, I thought that after eight months of hard work and sleepless nights, my journey of becoming a lawyer would drastically end that very moment. Although I had the easy option of leaving the examination room and taking the Bar exam on the following year, I refused to quit. I paused, I took deep breaths and I prayed hard, hoping that God would provide me with enough strength to at least finish that exam. Thankfully, after about five minutes, I recovered. Aside from Divine Providence, perhaps it was also my determination to reach my goal that enabled me to recover. After so many months of preparation for the Bar Exams, giving up was simply not an option.
What I realized from all these experiences is that striving for excellence does not always mean experiencing glorious moments every step of the way. There will be moments of failure. Yes, we are all afraid of failure. We do not want to experience it. But excellence also means being able to overcome failure and being able to rise up every time you fall. I do not necessarily mean failure in terms of grades but failure in its many forms – disappointments, embarrassments, rejections, failed plans, unfulfilled promises and expectations, and delayed realization of our dreams and aspirations. But has there ever been a person who has not experienced some degree of failure in this life? Even the development of the most common products we use today – smartphones, cars, and computers – entailed experiments and research. Their creators were not immune from failure in its many forms, but because of their perseverance, they achieved worldwide success and recognition. Failure and disappointment are part of the risks we take in our desire to achieve something great. Take note that we have the power to overcome these. Defeat, disappointment, and failure are inevitable. But as long as we learn from our mistakes, and refuse to give up, then the stumbling blocks would only make us stronger persons who are better equipped with the necessary skills, talents, and knowledge to reach our goals. As one writer said, defeat and victory are relative terms. It is what comes from the defeat or the victory that is important. It is the seed that is planted in the heart by the defeat or the victory that counts.
There are also moments when no matter how hard we try, we feel that we are going nowhere. Indeed, such an experience is difficult to handle. To the honor students and awardees, when you stumble and fall, and when you feel you’ve had enough, do not be too hard on yourself. Never lose hope. Don’t fret. And don’t you ever quit. Look up to GOD and pray. Ask for His guidance that you may be able to surpass and overcome everything that may come your way. In everything you do, no matter the circumstance, always put GOD first. The things that we have – our talents and abilities — and all that we have accomplished in this world comes from Him and are part of His plan for us. Even the capacity to excel is a gift that GOD has given us. So, let us make sure that we use it as He intends.
Excellence can come in many forms and express itself in diverse ways. One can be an excellent writer, student, photographer, carpenter, actor, teacher, leader, mother, grandparent, wife, and so on — there’s no end to the many ways one can excel in. No one can say what type of excellence is better. Perhaps, it would be correct to say that each one of us can excel in our own way. Look for the gift that God has given you, cultivate it, let it grow and shine, and use it in a good way. Excellence is not to be kept for our own use only but is to be invested through good works and shared with others. Only in this way can the beneficial effects of excellence be multiplied and only in this way can excellence become a blessing not only to you but also to other people as well. Make a difference in people’s lives. Always remember that in this world, what is important is not how much we have, but what we do with what we have. So whatever you have, whatever special talent you’re gifted with, be it leadership skills, a brilliant mind, excellence in mathematics, in English, or in the sciences, or a passion for service, go out there and make a positive change in society. Do not be contented with living your life or in living and experiencing your dreams and aspirations. Make your life a meaningful one. Reach out and help others.
To the honor students and awardees, I ask this question: Have you shared your talents and helped others, especially your classmates, achieve their full potentials? I say that because in a way, you are stronger and faster of foot than the rest. Do not use that strength and speed to block the path of those who are slower and are running behind you. Use your strength to help others reach the mark. With excellence, comes the responsibility of setting a good example. Many people, even students, struggle through life saddled with difficulties. They look up to brilliant individuals like you with hope and perhaps admiration. So bend down to help. If you are great or strong in this life, your responsibility is not to arrive first or be first. Your responsibility is to remove the stumbling blocks so that the weak can pass through.
The world outside the walls of Silliman is full of challenges. Being in this University, and educated the Silliman way has helped prepare you for the challenges of the future. Yet no one can be fully prepared for the changing landscape of today’s world. Trust yourself but not too much. Make allowance for mistakes. Prepare for contingencies but always do a good turn when you can.
Remember, Silliman University has given you a well-rounded education academically, socially, culturally, spiritually, ethically, and physically. In whatever field you will be in, let the Silliman spirit shine for it is not merely an inanimate thing. It is a living, dynamic, and meaningful whole made up of aspirations, dreams, strivings, and achievements of those who have been touched by a Silliman education. As long as you continue to live and learn by the tenets and principles inculcated in you by this education, you also continue to give life to the Silliman spirit and to be part of it.
In whatever you do, be true examples of morally upright individuals. Carry with you the good values that Silliman has taught you. Work with integrity, honesty, dedication, competence, impeccability, and fairness. Give your fellow countrymen their due.
In the future, you will become the leaders and trailblazers in our society and even in the global community. Should you become a public servant, then indeed be a public servant. Do not be arrogant nor indifferent. Do not take advantage of your position. If you are given the opportunity to lead, be a servant leader. Serve the public, the ignorant, the underprivileged, the poor, the needy, the rich, the educated, serve everybody and never discriminate. Let your service be meritorious. Be a good example to your fellowmen. There is such a thing as excellence in public service and that is something to be truly proud of.
If you find yourself in creative endeavors such as the arts, give meaning to the creative freedom that you have learned from this institution. One of the many facets of Silliman education that I admire is the sense of being free to express oneself in a constructive way and being respected in articulating one’s view. In this university, we are free to openly express our ideas and minds without fear of censure. Carry that attitude with you if you become leaders in government or in a private entity or organization. Let there be a healthy freedom of expression and thought so that ideas can flourish and grow.
If in the academe, be the main proponents of academic and character excellence. Be true teachers of life. Teach your students what it is to be truly human. Set the example. Be a witness to it. In common parlance, walk the talk.
At all times, carry with you the torch of via, veritas, vita.
Via, the path — take the straight one, although narrow and difficult, yet fulfilling.
Veritas, the truth. In many ways, the truth has become relativized these days – wolves in sheep’s clothing. But you are bright and discerning. Search for the truth that liberates you from prejudices, from false freedoms. Search for the truth that will set you truly free to become the best of what you can be, considering your potentials.
And Vita, the life. Live it with the fullness of spirit, knowing we pass this way only once and that life is a very, very precious gift to us from God. Make it a meaningful life by helping others.
Honor students and awardees, Dream Big. Set Goals. Aim high to make a difference in this world. Take risks and do not be afraid to fail. Push yourself to levels that you have never been before. Stay focused. Work hard on achieving your goals. And go get it. Thank you.