Miriam College President, Dr. Rosario O. Lapus, our VPAA, Dr. Maria Lourdes Baybay, our dear College deans, Dr. Margarita Acosta, Dr. Antonio Lopez and Dr. Trixie Sison; Department Chairpersons; school administrators, faculty members, colleagues, parents, guests and class 2019 a wonderful morning.
Thank you Dr. Baybay for the introduction, you are too kind…
Thank you for allowing me to be part of this day. I am more than honored to be here. I can vividly remember, that I too was in the same seat as you are some 18 years ago. And today, how blessed can I be that I am here once again to share my journey as an ordinary person trying and struggling to do every day ordinary things extraordinarily well. How remarkable life is and life will be for all of you.
Heart of Service
One fine afternoon, a friend of mine asked her daughter, after a soccer training, what she learned. The daughter said, Mom, today I learned that I should strive to be third. The mom was taken aback feeling like she lost the battle even before it started. Then the daughter further explained, that in the field of life, our Lord is first, others are second, and she is third. From then on, the mom knew that she is the luckiest person in the world, as her daughter chose to live as a champion in the Lord’s eyes, by being the best version of herself in the field of life.
Graduating with a Miriam College degree is itself a championship medal. It is not just an academic degree, but also a virtue degree filled with experience and tests; on prudence, fortitude, resilience, striving, for excellence and temperance. It is uniquely special as it prepares you to be an empowered woman ready to conquer the world. It is a privilege not everyone if gifted with. Therefore, do not let privilege blind you with the sense of entitlement. Instead, let it be your light as you allow your senses to openly embrace the concerns and struggles of others. This privilege is wrapped with responsibility- the responsibility to serve with everything you have and be enriched by the lives of people you deal with. Make it your guiding tool and be an everyday hero, starting with your own sphere of influence.
I think that this is the true gift of the Miriam College degree: the gift to see beyond what others do not see. The gift of perspective is knowing that empowerment is not just prestige or material wealth but with the potential to touch others’ lives through a generous, vigilant and rich heart of service. This is the joy of giving: planting seeds of kindness in the simplest and the most ordinary of things.
Make Mother Mary your model of calmness, prudence and quiet elegance. She showed us courage and faith through a life of self-giving, love, simplicity, and obedience.
At age 18, I was selling Nokia 5110 to my friends and family. That model is the version of the iPhone now as we came from the beeper technology (your parents would know what I mean). I earned my first million and put up my first business at that age creating my own version of success. Full of confidence, I put up my own pastry shop investing into a business I barely knew while studying in the process. To cut the long story short, I realized that only ones who were buying my cakes were my relatives and friends. Thus, I failed. In as fast as I gained my first million, I quickly lost it as well.
As Winston Churchill said, success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue what counts. I never once stopped since then, embracing my mistakes and weaknesses, learning from it and moving forward. I finished school, took my Masters, I was selling and trading in stocks; and started investing with whatever savings I have. I went back to the Philippines, started teaching, which is what I truly love, and once again, plunged into another business venture. I was young, courageous, and stubborn. But one thing that is going for me then and now, I am blessed to have a family who truly supports me. As my dad would say, dream and your dream will fall short. And, so I dream. Until now, I dream. I now dream with my husband for our children, I dream for our business ventures and for our employees, I dream for our apostolates and projects, I dream for progressive and sustainable development for our nation enabled by young entrepreneurs rich in innovative ideas with a deeper appreciation and understanding of honest wealth accumulation. My failure never stopped me from braving, the toil and struggles of today. After my disappointments and heartaches, after many sleepless nights. I realized that life is full of surprises that one may either see as a threat or an opportunity. Knowing that you won’t always get what you want, we are not entitled to anything, the universe does not owe us anything and instead we must realize and understand that obstacles is and can be another version of joy in one’s success. They are notches in my personal learning stick as I mature in my decisions, understanding that material possessions are just means to achieve the goal you have set: the goal to make ordinary Filipino lives better. Today, I am blessed to be able to be part of the lives of our almost 500 employees that we consider our work family, who depend on us and on whom we rely on.
But most of all, I am blessed to be part of the youth-, family-, and student-driven apostolic initiatives that our companies support from the lower C and D market. I dare you to face the challenges of life head on. It will not be easy, but know that everything is for the good, and difficulties are meant to make us stronger. As St. Augustine said, pray like everything depends on God, work like everything depends on you.
Ladies, learn and enjoy life every single day. Never miss the opportunity to study and learn. Remember, wherever you are and whatever path you choose, synthesize the old and new theories for a deeper, precise, integrated, applicable and purposeful kind of learning. Everything is a piece of a puzzle meant to equip you to be catalysts in your circle. Enjoy the “aha” moments, “ooh” moments and “ouch” moments, bringing into reality the stories and experiences of everyone you encounter into something concrete and tangible.
As you say hello to this new adventure and deal with your excitement and doubts, now is also the time to imagine and create the world you want to live in. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty and radically minister and participate with understanding and compassion for the quest for truth. I challenge everyone here to be the best journalist, the best public servants, the best teachers, the best psychologists, the best entrepreneurs, the best bankers, the best CEOs in our society which is in dire need of truth seeking, truth loving individuals of faith and hope. I challenge you to always be with the truth, not just informative truth, but performative truth that leads to action of peace, of justice and of hope.
Social Responsibility and Leadership.
In a get-together among friends before the elections, my 10 year old daughter asked one of the ”senatoriables” why he is running and what will he get out of it. His answer was, “I am running because I love the Philippines and I love my children who deserve an honest and God fearing government”.
Now with the election results, whether we like it or not, I think we can all agree that much is to be done. The outcome of the last election is not just the reflection of the sentiments and the limitation of the uneducated majority. It also opened our eyes to the responsibility of the educated minority. And that educated minority is you, me, and all of us here. If we really are the educated minority who knows better, with heightened sense of pride and entitlement, then let us act with a sense of commitment and true service. We cannot anymore close our eyes in the plight of an ordinary people. We have to take a stand and care for each one. We have to work and be light in the darkness.
You are the future. You will be the leaders in the industry, community, unit you will soon belong. Become the leaders the Filipino people deserve. Leaders who have humble deference to a higher authority. Leaders with grace and wisdom, ready to fulfill their mandate with responsibility, transparency, and accountability. Leaders who understand that positions, no matter how high, are just platforms in serving others. Leaders who are ready to defend the dignity of human person and promote balanced justice. Thus, now and today, we all commit to be strong in our principles, our core values uncompromising for the common good. We want to be independent but not individualistic. Be vigilant, ladies. If you want to change the world, you have to change your heart and demand the truth especially in this world of social media, with rampant fake and twisted news, full of false propaganda and altered illusion. Guard your faculties, study, learn, research and be involved. Be involved in your own circle, educate and explain, listen and speak up. Be an example of the truth in your words and in action through a cohesive life lived every day. It will not be easy but will be much more rewarding knowing that you did your part and you have done it for love.
And lastly, please remember (even if you forget everything, I said earlier) that our skills, our talents, our intelligence are all gifts from the Lord, what we do with them will be our gift to the Lord.
A big hand to your professors, to your parents… and to Class of 2019, congratulations!
Again, a pleasant morning to all.
Mona Liza Lee-Serrano
Miriam College Alumna 2001
Guest Speaker, HEU Graduation 2019
May 25, 2019