Monday, October 20, 2014

Personal Narrative


Dr. Lex Librero
Graduation Speaker
Graduation Address before the BNSHS Class 2013, Batanes National Science High School, Basco, Batanes, 20 March 2013

Division Superintendent of Schools Wivina B. Gonzales, BNSHS Principal Juan E. Redondo, Teachers and students of the Batanes National Science High School, proud parents,  and friends, thank you for inviting me to join you in witnessing this high point in the young lives of the members of the Batanes National Science High School graduating class of 2013.

It is both a pleasure and great honor to be speaking before you, graduates of the Batanes National Science High School, this year.  Fifty years ago, I was in your shoes,  and, like you, I dreamt of a successful life after high school. 

Graduation ceremonies are also known as Commencement  Ceremonies.  Particularly, those that transpire in high school have specific significance.  To graduate means to have completed a series of responsibilities, and to commence means to start something.   Reference to the graduation ceremony means that you are going through the final stages or rituals of having earned the right of passage, while that which refers to the commencement ceremony marks the beginning of the wonderful stories of young men and young women who are destined to succeed in their lives after high school.

My message to you, members of the BNSHS Graduating Class, on this day marking your graduation from high school is: go from these portals and seek your destiny.  Let me remind you, however, that destiny, according to poet William Jennings Bryant,  is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.  You don’t wait for it, you have to determine it, then achieve it.  So, go achieve your destiny, go write your own individual personal narratives that you would want to be remembered by.  The Batanes National Science High School has prepared you well for this journey.  But as you will find for yourselves, you will, on a clean sheet, draw your lives with a pencil without an eraser, for that is what life is all about.  You cannot erase the errors that you shall have made.  You will have to live with them forever.  Think … decide … then act.  The world is waiting for you.  So go  write your own stories.  Some of you might be asking yourselves, how will I do this?  Well, let me tell you part of the narrative that I have written while away from the portals of this institution, my alma mater.  I must seek your indulgence because this could be a long story to tell.

My friends, in 1984, I was here to address the graduating class of the Batanes National High School.  I considered that as some kind of progress report to my alma mater 21 years after I left in 1963.  Today, twenty-nine years after that address, or fifty years after graduating from this institution where great minds are molded, I am back, this time, to make my final report to my alma mater and to the members of this institution, including you, the members of the graduating class this year.  Indeed, it is a rare opportunity for anyone to be able to come back to his alma mater twice in his lifetime to render a report, and I am greatly honored to have been given this opportunity  so that I may share with you the narrative I wrote for myself while away from these portals.     

In the old English heroic epic poem titled Beowulf, we are told  that when everything is over and done with, after going through all the significant and insignificant events in our lives,  what is left is only our personal individual story or narrative.  Personalis narratives vivat in aeternum.  Indeed,  it is through this narrative that we may live forever. 

It is my hope, therefore, that you shall be able to pick some nuggets of thought from my narrative that may guide you as you navigate through the rough seas of life out there in the real world, writing your own narratives.  It is my fervent hope that you would write your own narratives as diligently as I did mine, for in the end this is all that matters in any one’s life.  When we are all gone, it is only what we have done in our lifetime that will linger on after us.

More than a month after our commencement exercises here in 1963, I joined my brother, who graduated and was already working as farm technologist at the UP College of Agriculture in Los Baños, in preparation for my enrollment there.  He was the one who sent me to school.  Without him, I would not have entered high school, much less college. 

Anyway, at that time, UPCAT was still not required, but the  UP College of Agriculture was admitting only the top 5% of graduates from high schools all over the country.  There were 500 of us that entered the UP College of Agriculture in June 1963, but after one semester 300 of us were left.  Passing the subjects at the UP College of Agriculture was very difficult, almost impossible if you did not study well, and so after yet another semester, 200 of us were left.  In the end, less than 100 finally graduated after five or six years, a survival rate of 20%.  Only four in our batch graduated on time, which was four years, and so they were permitted to join the UP Graduation Exercises in April 1967. 

I completed my BSA thesis in May 1967, only one month after the UP Graduation Ceremonies that year, but I was only included in the graduation ceremonies one year later.  When I finally joined the graduation ceremonies of UP in April 1968, I clearly remembered a dialogue between the late Mr. Cordell, the well-loved janitor of BHS during our time, and myself.  One day about two weeks before graduation, while we, the members of the graduating class, were converging on these grounds to rehearse our graduation program that time, Mr. Cordell casually asked me, dinu ngayan mo aya machinanauo? to which I responded lamely, du Los Baños siguro.  He was so surprised, even apprehensive and in disbelief.  He said, mangay ka’d UP? Gattus! 

In those days, there were very few Ivatan students at UP.   It is a different picture today.  As late as last year, if we compared the number of Ivatan students at UP based on the population base of the province, then we could say that   Batanes was over represented in UP.  This is perhaps an indicator that, indeed, Batanes is bursting on its seams with intellectually gifted young men and women, something all of us must be absolutely proud of.  Then again, getting to UP is just the beginning.

When I enrolled at the UP College of Agriculture in 1963, I realized Mr. Cordell was right being concerned whether or not I would make it in Los Baños.  I was thrust into the block section comprised of valedictorians and salutatorians from all over the country, from high schools, large and small.  Coming from a small high school, I felt I was so  provinciano and completely unprepared for the intellectual competition notwithstanding my excellent training at the Batanes High School.  Of course the competition was very fierce and I had to study extremely  hard because that was a point in my life when I was no longer simply thinking of my self but of my being an Ivatan.  Yes, there comes a time when you will no longer be concerned about yourself alone but with whom you represent.  I was the only one from Batanes in our batch and I became known to my classmates simply as hoy, taga Batanes, which even sounded derogatory as  Batanes was terra incognita, an unknown place, in those days.

While enrolled in the UP College of Agriculture, I was always short of money.  There was nothing new about this since I was also always short of money throughout my high school years.  But being short of money while you are in college in a distant, unknown place, the experience is extremely humbling, so I labored for additional survival pocket money as working student, earning a princely amount of P0.50 per hour.  In those difficult times, that meant I had some money, just enough to afford a respectable student life at that time, which was three square meals a day and cost of laundry, but I had to walk to all my classes everyday.   By any standard during that time, I was as poor as the bottom 5% of all students at the UP College of Agriculture.

Initially, as early as 1964, I was assistant laborer in the department of horticulture, in-between my classes.  I remember vividly that for one year, my responsibility was to water all the plants in the nurseries of the Department of Horticulture before I attended my classes in chemistry.  When I got to my classes, I would be all swollen up due to bites of giant garden mosquitoes.  In later years, I worked as assistant janitor and later as news release sorter in the Department of Agricultural Information and Communications, then later as student news writer, and then as student announcer in the radio station of the UP College of Agriculture.  As working student, I had to study doubly hard to avoid being left behind in my subjects.  I was lucky to have been included in the Dean’s list for one semester, even as I was a working student.

By the time I graduated, one of the regular staff members of the radio station resigned so I decided to apply for the position vacated.  I patiently waited for almost three  months before the UP College of Agriculture could hire me, and to make sure that I would be hired I continued working with the radio station, even after my official appointment as student announcer has expired, doing whatever was assigned to me without any salary.  I was finally officially hired as Radio Station Supervisor of UPCA’s rural educational radio broadcasting station, DZLB, in 1968.  Working in the radio station meant working in odd hours.  I had to report early to work at 7:00 a.m., and went home after signing off at past 8:00 p.m., everyday, including Saturdays and Sundays. 

I guess the message is, for those of you who wish to work in media like radio, television, or the newspapers, be prepared to work 24/7.

For four years I worked 12 hours everyday, but I never claimed nor got any overtime pay, even if I was entitled to it.  Instead, I continued working more than the required number of hours per day, and completed an amount of work more than what was required by my position without expecting to receive any remuneration. 

My intention was very simple and mundane, just to prove to my superiors that they did not make any mistake in hiring me after my graduation from college.  To top this all, my salary as Radio Station Supervisor then was only about 5% of what the present Radio Station Supervisor receives today.  I did not mind this because I learned by heart a lesson from our teachers in the BHS who used to tell us, “don’t expect to receive a reward for every single effort you make.  If you deserve to be rewarded, such reward will come but at a time you least expect it.  And whatever reward you will get will not always be what you have expected to receive.”  Yes, life does have unexpected turns and twists beyond our wildest imagination, especially in today’s world where everybody who wishes to stay alive is engaged in a survival competition among the increasing members of society. 

Then four years later, when my department was looking for an individual to fill an Instructor’s position left vacant by the resignation of one faculty member, I got the surprise of my life when I was appointed to the vacant position of Instructor in 1972.  Apparently, the then Chairman of the Department learned that I was doing overtime work everyday, including Saturdays and Sundays, in the past four years, without  complaint and without additional remuneration but simply performing my responsibilities the best way I could.  In other words, I was dependable and could deliver.  And I was good at what I did.  It helped, too, that most of the faculty and staff of the department were my friends and had, individually or collectively, suggested to the Chairman of the department that I deserved to be appointed to the position of Instructor.  At that time, becoming an Instructor in the UP College of Agriculture was what every graduate aspired for.  Incidentally, the norm then was that the only fresh college graduates that were hired for faculty position at UP right after graduation were honor graduates of UP. 

Beginning when I was a Radio Station Supervisor, however, I had started enrolling in one advanced or graduate subject every semester so that in 1974 I graduated with the degree Master of Science in Development Communication.  At that time, UPCA had become what is now known as the UPLB.

In 1975, I was then designated Station Manager of DZLB. This was an additional responsibility without additional remuneration.  I had to leave in 1977, however, to pursue my PhD degree at Indiana University.  Upon my return from Indiana University in 1981, I was promoted to Assistant Professor by virtue of the fact that I had earned a PhD degree and was already called Dr. Librero, and then I was appointed Acting Chairman of the then Department of Development Communication from 1983-1984, and as full-fledged chairman from 1985-1987. 

During my term as Department Chair, I worked for the elevation of the Department into the Institute of Development Communication, to which I was appointed the first Director in November 1987.  In 1991, I was appointed Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture.  Then in 1993, I was appointed Dean of the School for Distance Education (Los Banos) after the UP Open University was created by the UP Board of Regents.  In 1995, I was appointed Vice Chancellor for Research and Development of the UP Open University, and then as Chancellor, or Chief Executive Officer, from March 2001 to February 2007.

During all those years, I was so lucky to have been able to undertake various responsibilities.  Among other things, I was also able to do the following:

1.      I trained all the 110 farm broadcasters of the Department of Agriculture in 1973.

2.      I served as resource lecturer in more than 500 training courses, in a span of 34 years, from 1973 to 2007.

3.      I authored five academic books, more than a dozen book chapters, more than 30 technical journal articles, about three dozens popularized articles published in national and international magazines and newspapers, more than a dozen booklets, and more than two dozens papers presented in national and international conferences where I represented the Philippines as country delegate or representative.

4.      I was lucky to have mentored a whole generation of junior faculty members in the Department of Development Communication at UPLB, who have themselves become excellent academic administrators at UP today, and advised 30 PhD graduates, 30 MS graduates, and 25 BS graduates of development communication who are now successful professionals with various national and international institutions.

5.      I never left the University of the Philippines in search of a new job because when I was a student of the BHS, what got implanted in my mind then was the saying, “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”  Whatever that meant, it did not include getting rich.  Had my first job been with one of the commercial companies that tried to recruit me when I graduated from the UP College of Agriculture, I could have ended being chief executive of that company and would have become a millionaire as early as many years ago.  That was not my luck because I chose to be an academic in the public service, working through the University of the Philippines.   

Teaching in UP was very rewarding intellectually, but certainly not rewarding financially.  Again, my days in the BHS have always been coming back to mind with the reminders from my teachers that money was not all there was in the world.

I found teaching and  introducing innovations to improve my teaching capabilities in the university much more challenging, even if they were not financially rewarding.  In the end, I was able to improve myself as a professional and even influenced others to improve as well.   

The lesson here is, if you wish to become rich early on your own, select a high-paying job and stick to your organization until you make it to the top.  In the professional world where individual performance is important, always strive to be the best you can become.  The trick is, compete with your own self, not with others.  If you compete with your own self, you learn to improve and respect yourself, and develop your self confidence to its utmost.  If you compete with others, you will eventually learn to lose your self confidence.  Remember, too, that it takes time to succeed because success is the natural reward for taking time to do anything well.

During all these years, I have been lucky to receive some awards for work well done.  Those that I treasure include the Leadership Award in Educational Technology that the Alumni Association of Indiana University gave me in 1987, the M.S. Swaminathan Award for Social Science Research in Agriculture in 1993, the Distinguished alumni awards that the College of Agriculture, College of Development Communication, and the UPLB Alumni Association gave me from 1993 to 2007, the UP Scientist award from UP in 2006-2008, the international publications awards from UP from 2007-2012, the UP Alumni Association Distinguished Professional Award for communication education in 2007, the Rolando Andaya Sr. Award for Distance Education and Open Learning in 2011, among others.  There are numerous other awards but I don’t have to mention them here.  It is enough for me to say that I do have a fair share of recognition for work well done.

I should also explain to you that recognition comes in various forms as well.  I always value more those that did not carry financial rewards even if money might be important.  I was elated no end, for example, when the then Dean of the UPLB College of Agriculture himself initiated my nomination to the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines awards in 1987.  While my nomination to the awards was not submitted because I was already over-aged, I thought it was enough indicator that I had been doing well as a professional and other people have taken notice of my work as a professional.  That was already great reward for me.

In May 2008, I was all set to retire from the University of the Philippines but the new Chancellor of the UPOU had other plans for me and she convinced me to accept an extension of my appointment as professor of development communication at the UP Open University.  She said I was still needed by the UPOU to finish the work I started in 2004 to conceptualize, design, organize, and write the curriculum of the first Doctor of Communication program ever to be offered in Asia.  I relented and accepted full extension of my appointment every year in the last five years, which means I am still on the official roster of the faculty of UPOU until May this year.   In fact, I am here as professor of development communication representing the U.P. Open University.

In December 2007, I was elected by the faculty members in all the seven different campuses of the UP System to serve as member of the UP Board of Regents in 2008, representing the entire UP Faculty.   The UP Board of Regents is the highest policy-making body of the University of the Philippines System and I was a member of it for one year.  As Faculty Regent, I was sometimes called UP’s Centennial Faculty Regent because I was Faculty Regent during the Centennial (or the celebration of the first 100 years) of UP.  I was, of course, extremely proud of this because there can only be one Centennial Faculty Regent at UP every 100 years.   It so happens, too, that UP’s first Centennial Faculty Regent (and, if I may add, the only UP Centennial Faculty Regent until 3,008 A.D.) was an Ivatan, an alumnus of the Batanes High School, the forerunner of the Batanes National Science High School.

In 2009, I completed designing the proposed Doctor of Communication Program curriculum, which included system-wide consultations with other experts in communication at UP.  At UP, consultations meant very intensive and endless debates over many philosophical issues about a doctorate curriculum in the field of communication because at UP there were already two PhD programs in communication, one in Diliman and another in Los Baños.  

After the intensive consultations, I presented the proposal to the UPOU University Council for approval, and then to the UP Board of Regents for final confirmation.  In 2010, therefore, we started offering the program, and I was appointed to serve as the first Program Chair of the Doctor of Communication Program.  Today, the UPOU’s Doctor of Communication Program is the most popular professional doctorate degree program in communication in the country and in Asia, and one of three programs world-wide.   

By the end of May this year, 2013, I shall cease to be Program Chair of the Doctor of Communication Program, and I shall also cease to be professor of development communication at UPOU.  By then, I shall have reached the age of 70, and Civil Service rules prohibit regular appointment to the civil service of the country beyond age 70.  While I shall have come to the end of my active professional life, I shall be starting another life.  Life could begin at 70, indeed.

During the meeting of the UP Board of Regents on 28 February 2013, just three weeks ago, the University of the Philippines System honored me again with a lifetime honorific appointment to the title of Professor Emeritus effective May 31, 2013.  At UP, the title of Professor Emeritus, which is solely for the qualified retired faculty members, has become highly competitive and is, indeed, a great honor to be awarded the title.  To qualify for the nomination to the Professor Emeritus title, one has to have achieved the academic rank of Professor 12 while still in active service at UP, and must have performed exemplarily as professor at the University of the Philippines.  Not all retiring professors at UP are awarded this title.  It is still an elite title for any one, and as an Ivatan, I am proud to be called UPOU Professor Emeritus of Development Communication.   I offer that in honor of my alma mater, now called the Batanes National Science High School.

And so, my friends, incomplete as it may be, that is my narrative, the story of my life (or at least part of it) after high school, until 70, that is.  In this narrative, I am very proud to say that this Ivatan standing before you now has been given such honors by the University of the Philippines System.  This Ivatan is a member of the Batanes High School Class of 1963.  Some of the members of that class are here now to honor you and to celebrate their 50th anniversary as graduates of this institution.  Let us acknowledge the BHS Class of 1963.   (Members of the Class of 1963 all rise.) 

They, too, have their own individual narratives.  Some day, you will know what those narratives are.  Perhaps, the Batanes National Science High School might want to collect the narratives of its graduates for reasons of posterity.  I shall be glad to give a copy of mine to the BNSHS.  

Thank you, Golden Jubilarians of the BHS.  You have survived half a century of exciting life after high school.  That, indeed, is something to be proud of.

So, now, may I address myself to you, members of the graduating class of BNSHS 2013, go forth and write your own individual personal narratives for only you can do it for yourselves.  How your personal stories will unfold depends on you, and you alone.  The world is waiting for you, and your teachers in this institution from which you are graduating today, shall be watching.

May I now invite you all members of the graduating class of 2013 to please rise … and may I invite all teachers, parents, and those in the audience, to give these young men and women a big applause.  (Every body applauses.  Graduates take their seats.)   My final message to you, my friends, is a passage that someone has written before.  “The roots of true achievement,” it is said, “lie in the will to become the best you can become.”   

Thank you again, and congratulations to all of you.


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