LESSONS of hope and faith can sometimes be found in unlikely places.
I had the honor of giving the inspirational speech during the 54th Commencement Exercises of the Muntinlupa National Extension High School this week.
The graduating class was distinct because it consisted of 43 young men, in their late 20s, currently serving time at the New Bilibid Prisons.
As part of my speech, I shared with the graduates the inspiring story of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela. Mandela, who actively fought against apartheid, was imprisoned for 27 years before he became President of South Africa in 1994.
The fact that Mandela finished law in prison through the University of London External Programme is a great achievement that I hope could further inspire these young men to reach for their dreams.
However, I should acknowledge that the most inspiring speech of the day came from the class valedictorian, 28-year-old Christian Carlo Calalang.
Calalang started his valedictory address with a humble acceptance that “life’s circumstances are not always what we wish them to be.”
“The pattern of life does not necessarily go as we planned, beyond any understanding. We may at times be led to different directions that we never imagined, dreamed or designed,” Calalang said.
The MNEHS 2011-2012 class valedictorian however stressed that the lack of effort in choosing a path or in trying to carry out one’s dreams would lead to “no direction at all.”
“Rather than wondering about, or questioning the direction my life has taken, I have bravely accepted that there is a path before me now,” Calalang said.
He added, “The past is a brief reflection of the life I have shaped. I just keep the good memories and acquire wisdom from the mistakes I have made.”
The 28-year-old said that despite everything that has happened to him, he still looks forward to the time when the dark clouds in his life would eventually turn into blue skies.
“After all the depression, the painful memories and haunting fears, I was able to survive because of the unconditional love and support given to me by the people who have influenced me and touched my life,” Calalang said.
He acknowledged the indispensable role his parents, Carlito and Maria Ella Calalang, played in helping him achieve his dreams.
“Pa and Ma, I want to thank you for all the love and care you have given me, despite my being a prodigal son to you. I am sorry for all those years I have wasted,” Calalang addressed his parents.
He also thanked the dedicated men and women of the Bureau of Corrections, especially their civilian and resident mentors, led by Dr. Rexy Morales, for their patience and perseverance.
Calalang stressed that “every individual should never be ashamed to say he has been in the wrong, because every mistake is an opportunity for us to reflect and learn.”
“It is only by going down the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. The very cave we are afraid to enter could turn out to be the source of what we are looking for,” Calalang said.
He poignantly concluded, “If we just learn to accept that everything happened for a reason, then we can really move on. And it is still worth telling everyone that this is still a beautiful world to live in.”
Christian Carlo Calalang and his classmates are truly living embodiments of Mandela’s famous declaration that “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”
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