The humid and hot weather signaled the return of one of the nation’s discomforts during late-March to late-May of each year: the sizzling summer.
Around 4:30 p.m., graduating students of a public high school in a suburb in the Southern Tagalog Region in the Philippines started lining up for the graduation march. Sweating and tanned by the mandatory Citizen Army Training (CAT), they were still all smiles, anticipating the graduation ceremony with passion.
At 6 p.m., a 16-year-old teen stood up from the audience, walked up the stage, and gave her valedictory speech. She recounted high school challenges, related issues to the graduation theme and thanked her loved ones. She veered from the usual emotionally-charged graduation speech, but it brought tears to the audience nonetheless: to the teachers, to her co-students, to the crowd, and to the man sitting next to her in the graduates line, her father!
Probably, people knew their family history: her mother died when she was 7 years old, her father had to work away from the family due to lack of job opportunities in the area, and together with her two older sisters, she had to grow up emotionally and psychologically faster than other teens of her age.
Probably, the school took pride in her admission to the State University in the National Capital Region (NCR), the first in its history.
Probably, audience’s soft spots were touched, and they were refreshed to hear and see someone speak with passion and conviction.
There were high hopes. The sultry weather failed to distress the jubilant graduates and parents.
Twelve years have passed, and the lessons of that valedictory speech remain: you connect with people when you are real and when they know you can back up your words with actions. It has also showed how the art of conversation fuels the power of speech. When you deliver your speech as if there is no other person you are talking with, but that one person valuable to you, it has the power. You connect. You move mountains.
That 16-year-old teen has yet to experience the fullness of her dreams, but she enjoys learning about herself while writing this article.
At that time, all senior students, both from public and private schools, were required to attend CAT. Like any other soldier serving the national armed forces, students practiced tactical formation, rifle assembly, and other military-oriented activities. CAT would culminate in a graduation rite where students, all in military uniforms, were acknowledged for completing the course. CAT graduation rite preceded (a day or two) the traditional high school graduation ceremony where students wore white caps and gowns.
In 2003, CAT, which now means Citizenship Advancement Training, has been restructured. From a military-focused endeavor, it now includes non-military components like community service. While CAT is still mandatory, the changes include the axing of the must-have military uniforms for students. Students can now attend CAT in their school uniforms.
If you are interested in reposting or reprinting one of my posts, please check out my Permissions Policy page. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.