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To the Graduating Class of 2023 ...

Commencement Address of Dominus Est Editor-in-Chief Margaux Salcedo*

for the Graduating Class of 2023

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila – Educational System (RCAM ES)

Jaime Cardinal Sin Learning Center, Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School, Sta. Mesa, Manila and San Felipe Neri Catholic School, Mandaluyong City

Delivered at the Manila Cathedral 1 June 2023

Rev. Fr. Mark Munda, Rev. Fr. Paul Gungon, Dr. Henry Davalos, Administrators, Faculty and staff of the Jaime Cardinal Sin Learning Center, Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila; Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School, Sta. Mesa, Manila; San Felipe Neri Catholic School, Mandaluyong City; to all the all the parents and well-wishers here today; and to the Graduating Class of 2023 ... a wonderful afternoon to all of you.

What a beautiful day!

This is not my my first commencement address

but it is my first commencement address as a public servant and it is not lost on me

what an honor it is to deliver this at the Philippines’ premiere church and in the house of

the Lord.

To the graduates, I hope you also see what a blessing it is for all of you to share this bright shining moment of your lives with the Lord in this beautiful cathedral and before our mother, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Other graduates do not have that privilege. Yung iba ang graduation sa field. O kaya sa gym. Pero kayo, sa Manila Cathedral. What an honor to graduate before Our Lady at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

And how apt. I think it is just appropriate that we share this moment of joy with Our Lady because you, dear graduating class, you are a very special batch that would not have graduated without the mercy of the Lord and the help of Our Lady. Because you are a pandemic batch.

You are the batch that went through the shocking news of COVID-19, that had to cope with the shutting down of schools for our safety, with the lockdowns, with not seeing your friends, with having to learn how to study through a digital format, and then to go to school with masks on.

And the parents and those who acted as parents, you suddenly became teachers at home. You are part of this batch, too.

But you - all of us - are very blessed because we were protected by the mantle of Our Lady. I really truly believe that the pandemic would not have ended without the mercy of God and the help of Mama Mary. They heard our prayers through the Healing Rosary of the World led by this very church and just last month, on May 5, 2023, the World Health Organization finally declared that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Sa awa ng Panginoon, gumraduate ang covid kasabay ninyo!

And so that is the first thing that I hope you will remember as you celebrate your graduation today in the Manila Cathedral: that Our Lady, Mama Mary - in the purest form of synodality - accompanies you. She is with you in times of desperation like during the pandemic. She shares in your sorrows and in your struggles. And happily, she also shares in your joys, as she joins you in this graduation today.

So as you go through the next chapter of your life - as adults - in college or at work - when you go through difficult times again - and you will go through difficult times because that is life - always remember that you can be strong and you can get through anything just like you got through the pandemic because the Lord through Our Lady is and will always be there with you and for you.

But that is not to say that you will just rely on the Lord and on Our Lady.

The fact that you are here means that you, dear graduate, are capable. You are intelligent. You are strong. You are amazing. And so while you can count on the Lord and Our Lady, the Lord is counting on you, too.

The Lord is counting on you to become the best version of yourself so that together our collective best selves can make this world a better place for humanity.

And that is why the Jaime Cardinal Sin Learning Center, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School, and the San Felipe Neri Catholic School and the entire RCAM Educational System have worked very hard to mould you and equip you with the knowledge and skills to become the great graduates that you are today -- even amidst the pandemic -- embodying resilience, strength, and an unwavering commitment to the nurturing our youth to become the leaders of tomorrow.

And now you are now ready to face the next chapter of your life.

I hope that the next chapter for you is college.

I am well aware that not all Filipino high school graduates go to college. Statistics show that only 34% enroll for tertiary education in the Philippines.

That is understandable because many of you, even at your young age, are already wise enough to see that you need to help provide for your family. But please as much as possible, do not close the door to college, because if you do you are also closing the door to so many more opportunities that you can have if you go. Sa amin sa Dept of Budget kapag mag a-apply ka you need to submit a college diploma and transcript of records. And it is the same with many other government agencies and private employers. So don’t even think about not going to college. All of you here, I want to see all of you later on in life as college graduates, ok! Nagawa niyong makatapos ng high school sa panahon ng pandemic. Magagawa niyong makatapos ng college. Kaya niyo yan. Now to all the men here, you have another option - the next chapter for you can also be the seminary. Pwede kayo mag pari. Take this message of mine today as your calling. You know, becoming a priest is a very exclusive privilege. Ako gusto ko mag pari pero bawal daw ang girls, so grab this opportunity that is open only to a few. So approach your priests here after this and ask how you can enroll at San Carlos Seminary.

As you choose your course for college or as you think about what to do next in life, my advice for you today is:

Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Choose to do something that you love.

If you love singing or playing the piano, take up music. If you love to cook, learn to become a chef. If you love design, take up a course on design. Do not be afraid to follow your dreams and do not compromise.

My good friend Pia when she was a fresh graduate was being convinced by her mom to work for a call center because the pay is good. Pia was wise enough to know that her heart was in the arts and strong enough to say no to the call center offer. Since then, she has started her own company and has had exhibits not only around the country but also in Japan.

My cousin Maricel was being convinced by her dad to become a pharmacist. But her first love is music. Her dad dissuaded her, saying walang pera in music. But she followed her heart and enrolled in the UP School of Music, joined the Madrigal Singers. And today she has her own company The Music Classroom, employing several music teachers and teaching many students voice, piano, violin, etc.

So follow your dreams. Now is the time to learn all the skills you need to learn so that you can find your dreams.

My next advice is: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Do not let the fear of failure stop you from finding your dreams. Go lang nang go. And if you fail while trying, just get up and try again. And sometimes there are failures that we don’t understand but that’s because God has greater plans for us.

My first course was Communications Arts in College but in my second year, I failed! I was not accepted into the Comm Arts specialty courses of my college. I felt bad and worse, I felt stupid! So I chose to challenge myself and enroll in a harder course - I shifted to Economics. Little did I know that decades later, I would need this degree in Economics because I would become Undersecretary at the Department of Budget and Management. So I did not understand it then but God had a bigger plan for me that was only revealed 25 years later. So when you don’t understand why you are experiencing some hardships or some failures in life, just trust that God has a better plan for you.

My third advice is Don’t take anything for granted. And that comes from having an attitude of gratitude.

Be grateful. Because when you are grateful, you see the value of what you have and what comes your way. You are able to see the Lord’s blessings. So value the fact that you have a high school diploma. Value the fact that you have good teachers and mentors. If you still have parents and grandparents, value them greatly, and show them how much you appreciate them by listening to them and learning from their words and their works.

Because when you value things and take care of them, you inevitably pay attention. And when you pay attention, you gain insight. When you gain insight, you grow in wisdom. When you grow in wisdom, you become a better person. When you become a better person, that is your offering to the Lord. So don’t take anything for granted. Everything is a blessing.

Finally, I want you to all be proud of yourselves.

Tingnan mo katabi mo sabihin mo, Ang galing mo.

Tingnan mo katabi mo ulit, sabihin mo, Ang galing ko.

At yan naman ang totoo. Dahil kung hindi ka magaling, hindi ka ga- graduate sa araw na ito.

You are amazing. You are blessed.

Kaya magpasalamat tayo.

Sabay sabay nating sabihin, Maraming salamat po.

Sa lahat ng tumulong sa akin para pumasa - Maraming salamat po.

Sa ating mga magulang at ating mga tinuturing ating magulang - Maraming salamat po.

Sa ating mga guro, mga teacher - Maraming salamat po.

Sa lahat ng nagpapatakbo ng ating paaralan - Maraming salamat po.

Sa ating Mahal na Ina La Purisima Concepcion Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion - Maraming salamat po.

At higit sa lahat, sa Panginoon - Maraming salamat po.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2023!

Maraming salamat po.

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