My keynote speech at the 2014 Ateneo de Davao High School Recognition Program

To Fr. Michael Pineda- high school principal,  the assistant principals,  the faculty, to the parents present here and to our student achievers.

Maayong buntag kaninyong tanan.

I was a high school student from 1991 to 1995. We were among the last batch to use the old high school building, just right after we graduated, the school started the construction of the new buildings at the former backfield. These facts would put in context the story I would be sharing a little later.

The theme of the recognition program is “65 years of magis.” And in this occasion I would like to congratulate our student achievers for being the embodiment of magis.

The way I understand magis, it is of doing more for yourself, for others and for God. Becoming better individuals, either as students or young citizens of this country.

High school apart from being an educational level, to students it is a world of its own, It is an experience, it is a part of life.

It coincides in a time of adolescence, a period of exploration, a time when we discover our capabilities, talents our interests, our passion and our dreams. A time when we find something that will push us to our own magis.

High school is also a time when we are lost in our own stereotypes. Sometimes our limitations is not set by the community but also by our own selves.

Let me share this story way back when I was in high school which I remember up to this day.

Back in our time, we had the Preparatory Military Training or PMT. When I was in senior year I applied to the position of a military police. So I signed up and was included in the training.

The training was for a couple of weeks, actually the main training was during Saturdays. The trainees included were applicants for the military police, the medics  and the non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

I don’t know if it’s a tradition but many of the “sosyal”- the campus prettiest ladies would want to become  medics. Our batch was no exception.

The Saturdays training starts 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. but there was this one week which they called as hell week.  Punishments and difficult tasks were doubled to weed out the ill-deserving trainees.  If you pass hell week there is a likely chance you'll complete the training and become a medic, MP or a non-commissioned officer.

We were grouped into three trainees under the command of a very strict maldita officer. Yung dalawa ko kasama, mga babae they were the prettiest girls not just in our batch but perhaps the whole Ateneo high as well.

Uy sabi ko swerte ako. Hehehe. Kasama ko mga crush ng bayan.

(laugh) Yan ang akala ko.

Unknown to us, the officers had a mission, they wanted to break the spirit of two girls, they were expecting the two to quit in the middle of that hellish Saturday. So the harshest punishments were levied upon us.

First punishment, we were to apply dirty soil to our faces. For me, I was worried that time as I was having a serious outbreak of pimples. I remember at glancing at my two pretty ladies just a mere shadow of their beautiful persona, they were all dolled up with dirt.

We asked to perform army dozen exercises (with increase repetitions), march around the field. Then we were ordered to stand at attention under the harsh noontime sun for an hour.

Then we were made to crawl towards the vast expanse of the backfield. After which without rest we were made to duck walk around the backfield. So imagine the dirt, unforgiving heat, unrelenting punishments and screaming officers.

The officer was angrily shouting “oh sosyal, man kaya kayo sa ateneo Tingnan natin!!!” “quit na kayo? Quit na kayo?, kawawa naman beauty ninyo ha!”

I remember I asked the officer. “Ma’m hindi po ako sosyal bakit ako nasali dito?"

The officer just scolded me, “Angal ka? you want to quit.?” I said “no ma’m” she replied “then you don’t question an order Give me 20 pushups now!!”

While we were duckwalking, I could hear one of the ladies whisper to herself “ I will not quit, I will not quit, I will prove to you na hindi ako ang taong inaakala mo.” The other girl was sobbing already but she was still continuing duck-walking.

Then after duck-walking we were made to climb that acacia tree within  a span of 3 minutes or face punishment.

We cannot just climb it because we had combat boots on, so these two girls,  fragile and delicate but with all their strength lifted and carried me upwards to the main branch and when I was atop had to pull them up. And we were able to climb a high point in the tree, Up in the tree with the campus beauties. I just find the scene surreal.

By then the battalion commander stepped in and stopped the tasks and told us to  come down from the tree and rest.

After that “ordeal” the two girls cried, they hugged each other (sayang they didn’t hug me) we had just passed the most difficult week of our training.

Then lady officer approached us and told my companions “I thought you were weak, that we can easily break you, but you proved us wrong.”

The other girl cried not just because she passed hell week or proved the officers wrong, but she also has proven something to herself. She discovered something in her.

She has found her magis.

When we try to become a better persons, we must overcome pre-existing stereotypes and prejudices. And sometimes these stereotypes comes from within us. More often than not we apply our own stereotypes, we apply our own limitations

The power to change is always inside of us. Magis is not just a spiritual philosophy nor an attitude but to me it is a  SPIRIT that pushes us to do more, beyond what people think of us, even beyond what we think of ourselves. 

And as we grow older, when we no longer worry with adolescent stereotypes. When we are fully-grown individuals, magis means having the strength of character to plod on and pursue that goal or dream we set for- ourselves, for our family for God, or our  country.

Magis is a never-ending process.

Daghang kaayong salamat, maayong buntag.


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