It’s nice to be back! I always tell people if I’d be given a chance to go back to any school I’d been to, I always say it’s Nuestra.
I have quite a lot of memories and unforgettable experiences in Nuestra. But the major one was in July 16, 1990 when a 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit our country.
We were in Grade 4 then. The school structure was not like this. It was an old two-story building made of wood. It would really creak whenever we go up and down the stairs. I felt it was going to collapse anytime. So when it quaked, we didn’t know where to go or hide – under our tables or chairs, so we rushed to the grounds where it was safer.
But now, so much has changed. Look at the concrete four-story building with auditorium. It looks really beautiful. It feels good to be back!
During our time, Nuestra had only until Grade 6, no High School. So after Grade 6, so we had to enroll in different schools. I wish we had High School back then so we won’t have to leave after Grade 6.
Anyways, I remember when we were kids, we were often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Or “What course would you like to take in college?”
Some kids would say, “Oh, I’d love to be a doctor, engineer, architect, or accountant.” Some would say, “My mom/dad wants me to take this up.” Some would say, “None yet.”
When I was in High School, I knew exactly what I wanted to take up in college – Journalism. I want to be a writer.
Growing up with both parents who were Accounting graduates, I was pressured to pursue the same course/degree. There’s no money in Journalism!
But knowing myself who loved English, literature, culture and the arts, more than Math or numbers, I stood my ground and told them, “Mom, Dad I want to take up Journalism.” They were quiet, but they didn’t push for it.
As the eldest child, much is expected of me that it trained me to achieve more, be more conscious of my actions, and be a good role model.
While I always belonged to the top 10 of the class and always the Class President, I was too lazy to study. I could have achieved more if I took my studies seriously but I was more focused on my extracurricular activities.
In Grade 6, I was only consistent top 2 of the class but won as President of the Grade School Student Council. I didn’t get an honor though because I didn’t belong to the first section.
In High School, I was the Class President until 2nd year high school because right in the middle of the year, the whole class wanted me out as class president. They conducted a re-election to replace me as Class President. I was too immature that time and I had a failing grade. I got 74 in my Natural Science subject.
It’s time for a new ‘Me’
Second year high school, second quarter was one of my most embarrassing, frustrating, disappointing, and unforgettable experiences in my life.
I was very sad. I cried after school and days after that. But instead of feeling down, I told myself, I needed to change for the better and prove myself to my parents, my classmates, and my teachers that I’m better than what they think I am.
Third year high school, everyone was surprised when our classroom adviser announced I was top 1 of the class. Imagine from having a failing grade, I made it to top 1.
And then suddenly, they all wanted me to be the Class President again, to which I declined. That time, I really focused on my studies and made it finally to the Star Section in fourth year high school.
Unfortunately, it was too late to get an honor because it was already our last year in High School.
During our graduation, I was very depressed because I failed my parents again. I felt I can be Valedictorian but I was just too lazy.
So that’s when I started wishing: Since I won’t be able to deliver a Valedictory Speech anymore, I wish I can be a Speaker during graduation rites someday. But how?
You see during our time, they only invite politicians, celebrities, and famous people as graduation speakers.
And since I had no interest in politics, there’s no way I could be a politician. And while I can sing, act, and dance, I don’t want to be an actress. So what were my options?
Road to PMA
I was incoming fourth year Journalism student at the University of Sto. Tomas [in Manila] when I decided to enter Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City as a cadet.
PMA experience was hard and happy at the same time. I was too skinny and my skin was burned that time, but I learned a lot of things: PMA helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses, conquer my fears, try new things and adventures, meet people whom I treated like family. PMA taught me to go beyond my limitations, and it built my self-confidence.
But after surviving cadetship for two years, I realized that soldiery was not really for me. I miss my family. I miss serving the church. I miss writing. I miss civilian life.
Then why did I enter PMA in the first place?
Well my goal back then was to be the first-ever female PMA graduate in our town in Montalban, Rizal.
Up to now, there is no female yet who graduated in PMA in our town. It could had been nice to hear my name: Mylene Orillo, first ever female PMA graduate of Montalban, Rizal. But PMA was not for me. Who knows you can be the first!
I also wanted to challenge myself then, be different and extraordinary. But my heart is really in Journalism.
So after two years, I went out of the academy, finished Journalism in UST, and started working.
Finally, a dream come true
Nineteen years of serving the church, 15 years after college and five jobs later, I never thought my dream to finally speak during graduation would finally become a reality.
Thank you to my former classmate, Mr. Leonard Samson and former teachers for giving me this huge opportunity.
Actually this is not my first time to get invited as speaker. My first speaking engagement was two years ago in St. Matthew’s College (former St. Matthew’s Academy) where I graduated in High School.
But Nuestra is different. This is not only a school for me, this is my second home.
Back then, we were required to attend Sunday masses and ask for the presiding priest to sign it? Do you still do that up to now? We did that before.
It was tasking at first, but looking back, it taught me obedience (following orders to attend mass), honesty (if you really did attend mass and if it was really the priest/lay minister’s signature), perseverance (you do it no matter how hard), be responsible student and Catholic, and commitment (going to mass every Sunday, not only when it pleases you).
And in those life experiences I shared to you, I realized five things:
1) You don’t have to be a politician or a celebrity (unless that’s your dream) to get invited as Guest Speaker during graduation, or to be called successful. All you have to do is love what you do, be passionate about it, work hard, and always give your best shot and people will recognize you. If you did your best, and your best still wasn’t good enough, just like the song, then try again!
Did you know when I wrote this speech, someone commented, refrain from highlighting “graduation speaker.” I’m like, why not if that’s really my dream when I was in High School, apart from being a writer?
And look at me now? I’m not rich, I’m not famous, but I am happy because I am doing what I want in life, because of that dream. It started with that dream. And I won’t let anyone belittle my dream no matter how insignificant or small he thinks that is.
And who I am today, I owe it to this school, to my teachers, and my parents who supported me all the way through my ups and downs, failures and successes. They helped me to become a better person, strive to be the best and inspire people, especially the younger generation, and hold on to my faith.
But I never let my success or accomplishments get into my head because power or position is temporary. You are only as good as your last article, last position, or last performance, movie/song especially to actors/singers.
One day you’ll wake up and everything you’ve worked hard for – your power or position are gone. The only thing that’s left is you or your family, and of course, God.
You know, it takes years to build a reputation or an image, but it only takes days, hours, or seconds or one Youtube video to ruin that. So don’t hold on to that power or position because nothing lasts forever.
However in life, you will encounter people who will be little your dreams, make fun of you, criticize you, or put you down, don’t mind them. We don’t live to impress other people. We cannot please everybody. Get up, stand tall, it’s not how many times you fall but it’s how many times you rise again.
2) Honor God. Offer your time, talent, and treasure to God and He will take care of the rest. I always tell this to my audience: Growing up, I only knew two adjectives that best describe myself: Intelligent & Talented. I was never the pretty or sexy girl in class. I was never a Muse, always the President.
But I have two major talents: I can write and I can sing. Writing, obviously, is my source of income. So I only have one talent left and that is Singing. So I asked myself, what can I offer God? That’s when I started singing in churches as psalmist and I also head the Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) music ministry.
You must always have something to offer God: The best of the best. And that’s what I offered God: My voice, my talent, time, and treasure, and I never regretted that because He made everything possible for me and my family.
While He didn’t make our lives easy or wealthy just enough, He was there all the way, every step of the way. Success, opportunities, and blessings poured in.
3) Stop comparing yourself to others. We have our own sets of timelines and destinies. Not because someone is more successful than you now means you won’t be someday. Not because they were married, they are happier. It doesn’t work that way.
Love, marriage, kids, life doesn’t follow a set of timelines. So sleep while you can, play while you can, study while you can, take care of yourself, don’t think of that boy/girl crush too much who ignores you, because when you reach my age, just one bark of a dog at the middle of the night, won’t put you back to sleep no matter how hard you try.
4) Don’t rush. Yes, I can feel how you are itching to go to college, have a job, leave your homes, and be “independent”. I felt that, too.
When I was 12 years old, I wanted to be 18. When I was 18, I wanted to be 30 so I can move out of the house and live by myself.
But when I turned 30, I still live in our house and wanted to be 12 again. Yes, it’s so ironic. Being an adult somehow means independence and having your own money, but it also meant more responsibilities, heartaches, problems, and obligations.
Trust me, it’s more fun to be young – when you can do everything, eat all you can, stay up late and sleep the whole day the next day, and just ask money from your parents. Don’t rush. There’s a time and season for everyone.
5) Lastly and the most important thing, Love and respect your parents. Ephesians 6:1-3 of the Bible says, “Honor your father and your mother so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on Earth.” Believe me, you will never get anywhere if you disrespect your parents.
I was a straight student before. I only went to school-church-house and vice versa. My mom was too strict then. I hate that. But I can’t do anything because I really wanted to graduate and work after. She gave me just enough allowance so I can go home and eat without going anywhere, but I endured it.
When I graduated and started working, I can whatever I want now, and she doesn’t say anything because she’s proud of what I have become and I earned her trust. She knows I won’t do anything stupid and in case, she knows I can handle it. Break the rules when you have mastered the rules. Always remember that!
Once again, thank you so much to my Alma Mater, Nuestra Senora de Aranzazu Parochial School for giving me this great opportunity, for recognizing an alumna like me, and for the quality education you have given me.
To all my former teachers, thank you for guiding me and for always believing in my capabilities and talents when I was your student. I wouldn’t be here where I am today without you.
And to our dear Lord, the author of life, thank you for all the blessings and opportunities, and for making all my dreams come true.
Thank you and good afternoon!
This speech was delivered during the 1st Senior High School Commencement Exercise of Nuestra Senora de Aranzazu Parochial School in San Mateo, Rizal, Philippines on March 23, 2018.