What do you say to graduating high school kids?

I honestly don’t know.

This was a dilemma weeks back brought about by the invitation to speak during the 3rd commencement exercise of a public high school in Bago City, Negros Occidental. Since that school is not my alma mater, I do not know how I could possibly relate to the experiences of these young ones in their high school. But I figured (and with a little help from a few birdies in the sky that) high school experiences are relatively the same. So taking a few pointers from individuals who are more experienced and mature than I am, I started jotting down important points (a few hours before the actual event).

The next concern was, how can you get the message through? May the heavens forgive me, but I honestly can’t recall what our graduation speakers shared during the three graduations I have attended. They always felt distant, isolating. The challenge I gave myself was how to get the graduates’ attention, after all, that was my role. How to make these kids relate to me and give me at least 10 minutes of their time. I do not want to look smart nor greater than them, I do not want to look cool or sophisticated —I just want to get my message through. I want to see reactions on their faces, both good or bad, to give me a hint that they are taking in (even though just for a moment) the things that I’m saying.

So, I prepared my speech –a lengthy one quoting important people, sharing things I learned as I went through college and life in general. But as I was about to speak, I noticed how the kids were uneasy in their seats, how their attention was drawn away from the previous speakers —and that’s when I decided to ditch my prepared speech, and be MYSELF. (Paaaaaaaak! Patay na sa ‘be myself.’ Okay, not really MYSELF, MYSELF. But somehow-somewhat-somewhere MYSELF). I wasn’t Miss Hannah Dormido that was introduced to them as someone who works for a finance newspaper I doubt their community has ever heard of (they belong to a small farming community, most of the families do not own the land they till, rather they work for the haciendero), I was Manang Hannah, an older sister and a friend.

And here were a few reminders from me to myself:

 

And finally, the speech!

I think this experience needs a few more posts. For now, let me just say I am so grateful and honoured for such an opportunity. It was life changing.

Congrats, graduates! 🙂

-H

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