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Men fully alive, endowed with a passion for justice, and the skills for development.

Word of Gratitude from the Seniors

by Evan Saunders Chen (H4A), Xavier Awardee

The speech that follows was delivered by Evan Saunders Chen during the High School Graduation Ceremonies held last March 26, 2008 at the Fr. Rafael Cortina, S.J. Sports Center.


evan-saunders-chen-speech-0708.pngOur school director, Reverend Father Johnny Go of the Society of Jesus; Reverend Father Ismael Zuloaga of the Society of Jesus, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Mrs. Jane Cacacho, our High School Principal; Honorable Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Secretary of Defense, our guest speaker; a pleasant evening!

Members of the board, the administration, teachers, mentors and faculty of the High School, our parents, guests and fellow graduates, good evening!

On a summer trip to Tagaytay with Benedick, Charlie, Figer and some others, my friends and I decided to camp outside the balcony while the night sky was slowly being littered with dazzling stars of every size and color. Recalling that experience, I can’t help but ask a question a philosopher once asked: Are we human because we gaze at the stars? Or do we gaze at the stars because we are human?

Matagal nang hinahanap sa mga nakamamanghang mga tala ang tunay na kabuluhan ng tao sa buong sansinukuban dahil sa kanyang mahiwagang kagandahan. Anupa’t aking natanto na tayo ang nagbibigay ng kahulugan sa mga tala.

First, a star is a jewel of the night. I thought that all the knowledge and the skills we were learning just added a little more brilliance to ourselves, similar to how stars add brilliance to the night. We, as a class, have shared numerous sleepless nights as we slaved our way through midnight for portfolios and presentations. We have all felt stress and jubilation over failed and perfected exams. Whether it was for Chemistry or Physics, our Science alternative assessments will always be remembered as both frustrating yet fun. It is true that studying in Xavier School provided us with a great education. I was wrong to have thought high school was different just because of the academics. We learned from our teachers and classmates not only the lesson but also the way to learn.

Second, a star radiates warmth. It is with this warmth that our school seeks to develop young individuals filled with its noble ideals of being men for and with others. Xavier School has provided us with a trademark of annual events, like the Acquaintance Party, Appreciation Day, Christmas Program and the Variety Show, that have given us the opportunity to serve in our own little ways. We were not required to change the world, all we were asked to do was to share a little of ourselves to those around us. We also had this opportunity with those we would not commonly interact with. I remember the same feeling of fear and wonder as I stepped into Boys’ Town and Bilibid, the year after, only to have it replaced with a deeper sense of compassion. I will also remember how my SM Buddy recounted her experience with Harwyn Uy even after a month has passed. Only when we interacted with others did we grasp the real lessons our school had to offer.

Our years in Xavier School have also fostered a sense of community among all of us because of countless extracurricular and co-curricular events. Who will choose to forget our trips to PETA, Intramuros or even Avilon Zoo? I remember how my plans of enjoying the field trips were pushed aside because of an answer sheet or a video we had to accomplish for class. Last year, our trip to Corregidor was one of the most memorable events and I’m sure we all have pictures to prove how much we enjoyed the company of each other as we learned outside the confines of our classrooms. We also had the opportunity to earn with our classmates as we set up businesses for a day during our Entrepreneurial Bazaar. We revolutionized our fair as we danced to the tunes of Soldier Boy, Papaya and even Beautiful Girls. It was in these events that we understood why high school friends are famed to last for generations.

Third, a star was made to be looked at as it burns more brightly. We have Leigh Wong who has charted with us the timeless constellation of Orion’s belt as he made sure this year would be memorable for the whole community. We have Filbert Tiu and Ivan Chan who have connected the dots of the Small and Big Dippers as they coordinated with us to reach out and help those around us. The athletes and competitors in our class of 2008 have also been placed among the stars because they have won various tournaments from debate to basketball. All have chronicled the deeds of our class and all continue to shine with their respective accomplishments.

Fellow graduates, as much as we have these constellations of great achievement already in place, I think the reason why high school is exceptional is because we have all drawn our own constellations for the people sitting next to you. I’m sure not everyone has worked with Leigh, Filbert, Ivan or me, but I am sure the person next to you, or the person at the end of your row, has helped you out through thick and thin. Not everyone has represented Xavier in competitions but everyone has represented Xavier and its ideals to our fellow batchmates. The classmates we saw everyday are the very stars we look at. Your class president, your best friend, the joker, the class artist or your seatmate, these are the people we will never forget as our journey comes to an end. Each has encouraged one another to work for our dreams and goals. Each has created unforgettable memories as we shared smiles and tears. Although we might forget what exactly happened in our retreat, FieXSta or our Filipino play, we will always remember those we cried, danced and laughed with. I will not forget the early mornings in 4A when I would talk to Carlo or Patrick about the appeal of slim ties to the business of farms. I will not forget seeing Redmond, Maverick and Iggy cheering for that 101-86 Tiong Lian victory our own batchmates and friends made possible. Certainly, we shared an extraordinary night with our friends in Tou Jours, making it a Graduation Ball truly for keeps. It is your seatmate you realize you will not see tomorrow who has been a great influence to you. You will not forget your classmate who helped you in your times of need. Our stars in the lives of others need neither to result from heading a committee nor changing hundreds of lives. We do not need medals or awards to outline constellations. Our high school life has been extraordinary because we shared each moment together.

Dito natin nahanap sa Xavier ang tunay na mga kaibigan na hindi mawawala sa paglipas ng panahon. Hindi ba’t higit ang pagpapasalamat natin sa paaralan kung itutuloy natin ang mga mithiing ibinahagi niya sa atin, ang mga mithiing nagbunga ng pagkakaibigan nating lahat. Sa pag-alis natin sa ating pangalawang bahay, hindi dapat iwanan ang mga ipinagkaloob niya sa atin. Naniniwala akong higit tayong ipagmamalaki para sa bawat kapwang matutulungan sa panahon ng pangangailangan. Ito ang paraan ng pasasalamat sa paaralang tumulong sa ating yumabong bilang tao.

Sa mga gurong kasama namin sa mga liko at tarik ng paglalakbay, kayo ang naging mga gabay sa panahon ng kaguluhan at kahirapan. Ipinagpalit ninyo ang ilang oras para lang matapos ang mga Bulletin Board o matutong sumayaw para sa MRX. Sa mga maliliit na gawaing ito, naging halimbawa kayo kung paano maging mabuting tao dahil naunawaan namin ang pag-alay ng sarili para lamang sa kapakanan ng iba. Salamat sa inyong lahat.

Sa mga magulang, salamat sa pagmamahal at pagsuporta para sa bawat pangarap at hangarin. Salamat para sa bawat oras na huli kaming umuwi upang matapos namin ang aming mga proyekto, sa mga Sabado at Linggong wala kami sa tabi ninyo. Kayo nga ang pinakamabungang biyaya ng Diyos dahil ang paggabay ninyo sa aking mga kamag-aral ang siya ring humubog sa aming lahat upang maging tao para sa kapwa. Kung wala kayo sa buhay namin, tiyak akong hindi namin mauunawaan ang kahulugan ng pag-ibig.

As we gazed upon stars each night, we do not need to see Orion’s belt to realize the radiance of heaven and its glory. All we need is one star which continues to illuminate the darkness of the night. And yet, in Xavier we have found more than one true friend and one faithful brother. Without each star glowing, the splendor of our night will not be perfect.

And so, I looked at stars and how they were born light years away; I realized that we were all once part of that formless cloud and dust which has grown into the star of class 2008. A star must also die. When it does, a gigantic explosion of light and energy fills the sky leaving a small shimmering star yet it is nothing compared to its former glory. To my consolation, the explosion leaves behind not only even more beautiful clouds of color but also a birthplace for new stars to be born. Even if we will be leaving tonight, we will always have memories to hold on to and to fall back on as we enter the next chapter of our lives alone and still together.

I give the star a fourth purpose for its existence; a star gives hope. Our journey as students of Xavier School will end tonight but our legacy as Xaverians will continue. This is the measure of our gratitude to our school- that we continue blazing a trail for and with others and that we intensify the light within ourselves the school has taught us to ignite.

Now, I can finally answer the question the philosopher once asked. Although we look for direction, we also lead the way. I realized that we have become those stars. We look at stars because we are human. I’ve realized that all we really need to do is look at OURselves.

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