Advice I Wish I Had In High School

Today I had the honor of speaking at the Ateneo Senior High School’s Reading of Honors ceremony. It was particularly significant for me because I never got an academic award in high school. My younger self is out there somewhere laughing his ass off at the irony.

Below is the speech I gave to the awardees AND the rest of the batch who didn’t get on stage. Works well for the young and the young at heart!


“Good afternoon everyone!

It’s nice to be back home especially here in the covered courts. Many happy memories started flooding in as soon I walked in. This is where I got my shot blocked by Kiefer Ravena. This is where I sang in the community choir dozens of times. This was also where I graduated — three times in fact since my grade school, high school, and college graduation were all held here.

Today we are celebrating your batchmates — particularly the ones who we recognize this afternoon for their excellence in academics and conduct. I could talk more about the value of their awards but I won’t do that. Instead, I want to talk about something a little taboo: failure.

I’m not supposed to be here.

At only 25 years old, being CEO of my own company and one of the youngest faculty members of the college sounds pretty impressive. Many people have assumed that I have been an achiever all my life. Many people are wrong.

In all honesty, I am not an achiever. In fact, I’m a failure. The biggest one I know.

Believe it or not, this is technically only the fourth time I’ve stood on this stage during any Reading of Honors. I went up twice to receive a *Kostka award (which to this day my classmates continue to insist was chamba or luto since I was a class clown) and one other time to sing the Alma Mater song.  Not once in my high school life was I recognized for academic excellence. And the both times I was recognized for something, I do have to admit that even I felt it was chamba. Back then, I was proud of being the class clown and getting a Kostka award made me feel like I was not clowning enough.

Society told me I was not a successful student. It told me I was not supposed to be running a company or teaching college students. It told me I was not supposed to be here because I have failed many, many times.

But my dear students, I am exactly where I am now because I have failed many, many times.

For every success story, I promise you there is at least a dozen failures prior. Success is not a magical, sparkly trophy that randomly appears. It is the result of persistence and endurance. It is the result of stubbornness, the kind necessary to stand up and try again.

Many successful people fell down first before they stood up victorious. Steve Jobs was fired by Apple before he came back to lead them. Our basketball team lost to La Salle before we came back to beat them. Saint Ignatius was hit by a cannonball. He literally could not stand up on his own anymore. He could’ve been excused for the rest of his life but he came back to start the Society of Jesus.

So as we celebrate your batchmates today, let us not forget that genuine success is the product of trying again and again.

To the awardees, congratulations. Continue working hard and showing us that it can be done. Stay humble in the face of triumph and hungry to do and achieve more.

To the class clowns like me, learn from your mistakes and come back stronger. Although grades are not the most important thing, it still does reflect your ability to persevere and endure. Who knows? Maybe one of you will be giving this talk a few years from now.

Fail freely. Learn quickly. Stand proudly.

Let your failures be the foundation of your success. You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Thank you again for having me and I wish everyone an amazing 2018!”

*Kostka Awards are given to those with exemplary discipline and conduct for the term

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