Monday, March 9, 2009

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Transformation

I had the privilege of speaking to the graduating residents of Yakal Residence Hall on March 9, 2009 during the Parangal. I gave this speech.

Grass

The feeling is almost surreal. To finally graduate from a University I've practically called my home for the past five years and the events that have led to such a culmination are something I could not—and probably never will—understand completely.

Like all of you, I started as a wide-eyed freshman, fresh from the province, about to enter a school starkly different from what I had been used to. UP then was a distant, impersonal idea. I had various impressions about it, mostly those formed from my older brother's personal accounts of his jeepney rides around campus, his famous classmates, his brilliant professors, and his newfound friends hailing from different parts of the country.

Now, five years later, those impressions have become real to me—so real, in fact, that they have been integrated, figuratively speaking, into my genome. If, for example, I compare myself to who I had been five years ago, the changes are staggering. And I'm not just talking about the physical, but more so the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of my being.

You simply don't go to UP and not be changed—and the change is usually for the better.

Graduation, then, is a celebration of our individual transformations. Clearly the process did not happen overnight. We had to go through many experiences—some were very exciting that we want to relive them again, and yet some were so bad we'd rather forget them.

Interestingly, in molecular biology, we do these so-called transformation experiments. I hope I don't cause massive blood loss at this point in time because, when you think about it, the principle is really simple. For example, you have a cell, and you want to give it a unique characteristic—say, you want to make it glow in the dark. What you do is give that cell a glow-in-the-dark gene.

But it's not as easy as it sounds. For transformation to occur, these requirements must be satisfied. There have to be (1) the right gene (2) the right medium, (3) the right timing, (4) the right temperature, and (5) the right person to do it.

The right gene must be chosen. It has to be the gene for the glow-in-the-dark characteristic, not a gene for anything else. Genes are a lot like a person's character—they form one's identity. My point is that our years in UP have been opportunities to form our character. We had the chance to choose who we'd truly become. I hope we made the right choices.

The second requirement is the right medium. A cell in a tube is a cell that is away from its natural home. To survive, it needs the right environment that mimics its natural surroundings. In this sense, we are a lot like cells. We, too, are away from our homes, and we live in a dorm—the best there is—a temporary abode that is like our home but not exactly like it.

Like many of us, I was initiated into dorm life way back in Kalayaan on my first year and transferred to Yakal on my second. I have lived here ever since. I am practically an institution. Yakal has been a home away from home, and in a sense, I was able to withstand so much of the pressures of academic life because I've lived here. I've met wonderful people and developed friendships that, I hope, would last a lifetime. Our environment affects us tremendously, and Yakal had a positive effect on me. The fact that we've undergone pains in renewing our dorm admission only signifies one thing: Yakal is the place to be.

Perfect timing is crucial for transformation to proceed. The cell can't be forced to take up the glow-in-the-dark gene at an instant. In the same manner, our UP experience has taught us that some lessons are far better learned after some time. In this, we need to be patient, for things don't come immediately. For instance, it took us four years or more to be sufficiently trained in our disciplines—there are no shortcuts. I guess the same is true with real life.

The right temperature is also crucial. At extreme temperatures, the cell may not survive the transformation process. In the same manner, we must temper our ambitions with humility. I had great hopes for myself when I first entered the University, but I was humbled when I realized there will always be greater persons than me. Humility is a correct understanding of one's self, and we must always strive to be humble people. Humility does wonders. It makes one see his need of God and of others. After we graduate, let us not be consumed with our passions for personal glory, but let us be steadfast in knowing we can only do so much. Only by doing so can we truly accomplish anything worthwhile.

Finally, the last requirement for a successful transformation experiment is the right person to do it. The experiment requires a high degree of skill and experience, and it cannot be given to the hands of the untrained. As a Christian, I believe that nothing happens by chance. Everything is under the control of God. It is my firm conviction—and I hope it will be yours, too—that who I am now and who I will become, I owe to God Himself. Trust in Him. Commit your life, your dreams, your ambitions, your worries in His hands. He is not some mad scientist who experiments for the sake of doing it. His aim is the good of His children and the glory of His name.

I mentioned that graduation is a celebration of our individual transformations. I also think that, above all, it is a celebration of the grace of our Transformer, God Himself, for where would we be, without Him?
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But to Your name, give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.”

5 comments:

  1. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
    But to Your name, give glory,
    Because of Your mercy,
    Because of Your truth.”

    Amen. :)

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  2. Lance, I can't be any prouder...you've grown so much! I remember the first time we met in Basement...I actually bumped you because I wasn't looking. Pinagtatawanan ka pa namin ni jef nun kasi may kamukha kang schoolmate namin nung HS. hehehehe... Congratulations for everything! Continue to become a blessing... God bless you in your future endeavors.

    jgg

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  3. Aww, thanks Jeiel! I don't remember the first time we've met, but I still picture those wonderful, well-written notes you posted on your door every morning. Hay, parang kelan lang. Thanks for the good wishes. I wish the same for you, too!

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