To our beloved pastor, Bp. Reuben Abante, mission pastors, fellowship group leaders, Sunday school teachers, advisers, parents, students, fellow graduates, and guests, good evening.
I had this memorable conversation with one of my officemates the past week. He asked me, “What is beauty?” Startled and amused by his random question, I answered back, “..if the mind is empty?” Then I just realized that he’s serious with his inquiry when he shared the answer from his Art Studies professor from back in college. He said that beauty is synonymous to the word “aesthetics” and “aesthetics” can be regarded as the opposite of the word “anaesthesia” which in Greek means, “without sensation or feeling.” And we are all familiar that that is exactly what anaesthesia does – it numbs us so that we cannot feel anything – not even pain. Aesthetics, and consequently beauty therefore, can simply be defined as the opposite of anaesthesia – that is “something that makes us feel.”
Friends, tonight, I would like to share to you the beauty God did in my college life.
Let me start with the verses that spoke to me so warmly this past week from Ecclesiastes 3:1&11, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…He hath made everything beautiful in his time.”
This past week, I just had a taste of the sunflower season, a beautiful time in our university where full bloom sunflowers line up along the university avenue to delight and honor the graduating batch for April that year. Each graduating student anticipates that come summer of his final year, one sunflower will bloom for him.
Last year, no sunflower bloomed for me. After giving my best to graduate on time, God willed that I don’t. At that time, the pain was so real, I cannot even bear to look at the sight of just a petal of it ‘cause it brings me so much heartache. However, just last Sunday, rows and rows of bright yellow sunflowers welcomed me back to the UP campus after a year. Looking at them this time exuded such a fresh feeling of hope fulfilled, of joy well-deserved, and of sweet victory.
Hence, for those of you who are not aware, this speech is actually one year late. I should’ve spoken last Baccalaureate of 2013. I actually thought that I lost the opportunity from then, but I thank the advisers for allowing me this privilege today. To be honest, I feel that I am not worthy to stand before you now since I am not an honor graduate. However, on a second thought, this is a response from a representative of the graduates. Out of our 67 graduates here in LBBC, only2 will receive the torch bearer award for academic excellence (Congratulations, Donna and Christine!). That is a rough 3% of the total graduates. I am not one of them, and therefore I am more than glad to represent the majority of us graduates today.
Around this same date of May last year, instead of celebrating the supposed culmination of my 5 years BS Business Administration and Accountancy experience from UP, I was inside our house feeling depressed from one week of crying – because I didn’t graduate on time. I had to spend that summer making up for my deficiency for my last accounting subject. Back then, I was asking the Lord, why in spite of my zeal in serving Him, pleasing Him, clinging on to Him, I still failed my last accounting subject. That was my first taste of God’s full swing of sovereignty in my life. He taught me in a rather hard way that I am a servant at His disposal, and that there’s nothing I can do to earn His favor nor His grace – because it is something that He freely gives.
But now, as I stand before you today – already a CPA, and an employee by His grace, I can say that God intended that these words be delivered at this very moment – perfectly on time. Because of this, I am a year humbled, strengthened, and bettered.
My college life was promising ever since it started. I entered UP by qualifying in a triple quota course where only 50 successful applicants were admitted out of the thousands who aspired. Back then, you might have thought that I was a very diligent student to be able to achieve that. However, for me, I took it as a position where the Lord has placed me. That’s why my mantra in college has been “His will will not lead me where His grace will not keep me.”
Enrolling to accountancy as my course is actually a risky move. I took accountancy for all the good reasons you can think of – it is a practical course, it promises a great career, it is what my parents and grandparents would prefer for me to take, it will give me a great edge someday – all of these I always remind myself, except for one important element I purposefully did not consider –my passion. I traded this element for one desire of my heart at that time until now. Quoting from a past blog entry of mine back in December 2008, I said:
“I took this course because I want to glorify God.If ever I’d be able to finish this course well, I know that there’s a minimal possibility that I’d credit the rewards to myself as compared when I excel in my expected fields. If numbers are my weakness then I’d like God to be glorified in my weakness. In the first place, He has been my companion ever since – even before I took the UPCAT. I know He has the masterplan for me in His mind. I need to trust just that. “
Since then, my battle to graduate from the prestigious BS BAA course in UP has begun. Every scar, every heartbreak, and every fight with 8 hour exams and in-depth case presentations led me closer to victory. Though it’s been really difficult going through all the stress that comes with winning the BS BAA diploma, I thank God for every acctg subject I passed each sem. This led me to think, however, that ”okay”, though it’s been a tough ride, God has been allowing me to meet my grade requirements so far, even if I had to take removal exams for my higher accounting subjects. I thought God will give me a smooth passage until the end.
However, my last accounting subject proved me wrong. Not because I was able to pass all the prerequisites of it, I would already earn the right to graduate. Never did I anticipate that I would trip in my last accounting subject. Isa na lang po Lord eh, isa na lang. Last na po ito.
But the Lord had other plans. He retained me for that summer and made me to study my auditing problems. I admit that time, I felt devastated, However, I said in my heart that just like Peter and David, Lord, to whom shall I go, thou has the words of life, and even if I turn away from you now, even if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there.
I know that it was God who allowed that my heart be broken for accounting for the last time around. It was my first feeling of concrete failure. And you know what I realized, when you feel that you’re there at the rock bottom and you know that it is only God who can lift you up –and nothing else, it is beautiful. Even the pain I felt that time was beautiful.
During that season of pain, frustration, and fear in my life, the Lord has allowed me to appreciate His presence alone – that He alone is enough to satisfy – something that no degree nor recognition can give me. I felt so complete in spite of my brokenness. I felt how much he loves me just as I am, regardless of my achievements or shortcomings in academics, in the ministry, or in other fields. He redeemed me for the value of my soul alone. Realizing that has really been beautiful.
My story in UP has been filled with so much more experiences worth telling than my ordeal with accounting actually. My best memories from college were mostly from outside the classroom. As I stepped on to college, I decided to free myself from grade-consciousness and instead commit to pursuing growth in the different areas of my life, not just academics. I spent most of my college days maximizing my experiences, making memories, and learning skills more applicable in real life. I was then very active in extracurricular activities. From my freshman year, I joined the Guilder Institute, the official publication of the UP College of Business Administration where I served as Editor-in-chief in my final year by God’s grace. It was my most cherished leadership experience in the secular world. I also held various positions in UP Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants, a hall of famer in organizational excellence in UP, by God’s grace.
I was also thankful to be given the privilege by God to be involved in the ministries in the church. It was in college that I was able to juggle on top of my academics and extracurriculars, ministries like writing, transcribing, playing with the orchestra, and being one of the council members of our Lighthouse Youth fellowship.
Most gratefully, it’s an honor for me to be used by God to win my friends in high school and college to Christ, conduct regular Bible study sessions with them, even until now in the office, and invite them to church and see some of them continue to grow in their pursuit of God.
It was indeed in college that I decided to come out of my comfort zone and prove God’s power in my life. That all things – all these beautiful and wonderful experiences are possible with Him.
What I am before you today is a fruit of God’s beautiful display of His magnificence and control over my life.
The same is true with you, my dear fellow graduates. Wherever you are at this point in your life, whatever season you’re going through, whether you’re at the peak of your mountain or dark of your valley, just continue on relentlessly in seeking God’s will and glorifying Him with your whole heart and mind. Keep in mind that He has you, just exactly where He wants you.
Cherish your experiences and the lessons you learn from them, because it is what composes you as a total person, not your grades, not your earthly recognitions or your temporary failures. We may not all be honor graduates here today but the honor that we can give to Christ through our service and dedication to Him is unique to ourselves – something that cannot be taken from us and unlike these gold coated medals will not fade away.
At this point, let me take the opportunity to thank all the beautiful and wonderful people God blessed my life with.
To our pastor, whose example of a surrendered life to God has been a constant source of inspiration. To all my advisers from the YP, for your constant prayers and for patiently mentoring me each step of the way. To my Sunday school teachers ever since elementary, I owe my memory bank of verses and Biblical stories to all of you. To my present advisers in the HOE-LAC, for welcoming me to the group and for your advices too. To my LA teachers and former principal Madam Linda, you should all know by now how much I praise God for you. To my fellow young people from the youth group and the career group, thank you for all the memories and I look forward to growing further with you in the Lord’s work. To all the rest of the people who have helped me, encouraged me, one way or the other, Ate Belle Agron, Kuya Robert and ate Jeena Manaois, Kuya Neil Delgado, Ate Cons, Tita Edna Dacanay, Tita Susan Catugda, Ate Hazel Morales, Kuya Dick and ate Daisy Ku, Kuya Mon, Kuya Melvin, and all the rest I may not be able to mention but have continually inspired me, thank you very much.
I also thank God for giving me a scholarship through the SM Foundation Inc., they have sponsored my 5 years in full with allowance. I praise God for His provision through them.
And of course, last but not the least, for my family, especially my parents, who have unconditionally loved me, never put me down, and have continually supported me in the pursuit of my dreams, I dedicate this success to you, next to God. I would not have asked for a better support system. J
For the rest of us who have goals to fulfill, dreams to reach, and hurdles to overcome, let this Sablay – this woven cloth, and the togas, speak.
Let us strive to appreciate God’s beautiful working in each of our lives – the kind of beauty that is more than just meets the eye. The kind of beauty that is felt. The kind of beauty that warmly moves the heart. The true beauty that we can only behold and reflect by living a sold out life to Christ.
A blessedly beautiful journey to us all! Thank you! To our perfect God be all the glory!