The next plot twist happened in the middle of college. Amid the hustle and bustle of student life in Taft, everything seemingly came to a halt when the coronavirus started to spread around the country. Again, fellow students: Try to remember that one fateful day when classes were suddenly suspended. What were you doing? How did you feel?
That day, my last class had just ended, and I remember doing a bit of work for a fundraiser we were preparing for at the time. Overall, it seemed like a typical busy day—attending classes and doing the usual org work. When the suspension was announced, I was just as happy as any other student because, for the first time in my sophomore year, I was able to arrive home before 6 p.m.—a proud achievement for someone who stays on campus until security asks me to leave. Little did I know that it would also be a day of my many lasts at DLSU; the last face-to-face classes, the last commutes, and, ultimately, the last day of normalcy inside the campus. Stuck at home, I was once again struck with uncertainty.
For all of us who studied for more than two years online, to say that the pandemic experience was difficult is a big understatement. As our houses became our classrooms, what once was a place to rest became a place to work. School was no longer a second home, but an extension of the first one—where setting boundaries was an entirely different challenge.
Again, we would often hear something like “Malas na naman ‘no; sayang, two years din ‘yun.” At some point, as the pandemic went on, we gave much thought to the months and years of what could’ve been a normal college life—we thought of the things we should’ve done in the past but felt immensely uncertain of what lies ahead. We were left with no choice but to contemplate in silence as we watched the world in isolation. But even in the most silent battles where we fought our doubts, fears, and regrets, we chose to learn, endure, and grow—becoming the reflective, lifelong learners we all aspired to be.
Reflecting on these plot twists, I wonder: What legacy will our batch leave behind? Are we really “guinea pigs” or are we high-caliber pioneers of a new curriculum? Did the pandemic really make us the most unfortunate batch, or did it shape us to become the most resilient Lasallians? Fellow graduates, the answer is for us to decide and act upon as we move forward.
Sir Winston Churchill said that “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The fact that all of us are here today in this shared space is living proof of our commitment to keep moving forward—walang minalas, at mas lalong walang nasayang.
Uncertainties and turbulences teach us something about fate. I’d like to share two passages from Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore:
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction, but the storm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over, you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. The storm is you. Something inside of you.
Reading this passage reminded me of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus—“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” No matter the challenge, no matter the storm, we will always have the power to shape our lives. The second passage by Murakami captures this thought perfectly:
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
On behalf of the graduating class, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to those who have been with us throughout every twist and every storm.
To our esteemed DLSU professors, administrators, and mentors, thank you for a student environment that truly feels like home. From a new curriculum to a global pandemic, we have felt your unwavering passion and dedication to quality education—staying true to the life, legacy, and values of the founder, St. La Salle; for that, we are eternally grateful.
To the friends we made along the way, thank you for being you—for friendships that can overcome any pandemic and for countless memories that we will value for the rest of time.
To the parents, guardians, and loved ones here with us today and those in the heavens above, thank you for your unconditional love. With a grateful heart, we dedicate this journey to you—you who helped us find joy in times of sadness; comfort in times of doubt.
To God, the Almighty Creator, thank you for the teachings and life lessons that transcend what we learn inside our classrooms. We, as Lasallians, shall always continue to do our actions for the love of You.
Now, we go back to the start. Babalik tayo sa simula. New beginnings are always found at the journey’s end. As graduates, we now share a responsibility to become change-makers in the world around us. We acknowledge uncertainty and embrace the unknown, but it doesn’t mean that we have to face them alone.
Just like the Avengers or the Justice League, who band together to fight forces of evil, we, too, are just as interconnected with one another. We may not be superheroes, but we are Lasallian graduates with the spirit of faith, zeal for service, and communion in mission. Teaching minds, touching hearts, and transforming lives, we share our vocation for the rest of the world to see.
Fellow graduates, what do you want to be now that you’ve already grown up? As we continue to search for meaning, try to remember yourself, who once was a child who dared to dream. I’m sure that they must be so proud to see how far you’ve come. We now conclude this story of fate—and begin to write the first chapter of a new story where the future begins here.
Animo La Salle!
James Marius N. Bolinao is an Applied Corporate Management graduate. RVRCOB DLSU. Chosen to speak on behalf of the graduating class, he delivered this speech during the 194th Commencement Exercises of De La Salle University on February 18, 2023. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.