icot petilla

First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Edgardo Tulin for the introduction, a very flattering one. But I always tell everybody that if you make an introduction of me, please make it short. Because if it's long, that means you have a very long resume. If you have a long resume, that means you are already old.

Before anything else, I'd like to greet Dr. Edgardo Tulin, our University President; Dr. Pacencia Milan, who has [also invited me to VSU] when I was a governor at one point as well. She also invited me here. Our various vice presidents, they've been named, I will not go to them one by one.  Of course, our board of directors. We have here assistant [Regional Director] of the Department of Agriculture, Dr. Elvira Torres, the university board secretary, Dr. Hernando Fernandez, college deans, secretaries, board of regents, faculty, non-teaching staff, the proud parents, graduates, guests and visitors. Again, a pleasant early evening to all of us. 

I actually prepared about 387 slides and 3 hours of speech. But sensing that you started at 3 pm marching over here, and then there's about 1300 of you, together with the parents, I decided to make it short with no slides. 

First of all, I'd like to congratulate all of you. Two years walay graduation rites. And all of a sudden, now, kamo ang pinakauna nga official [graduates since pandemic], because I think 2020 and 2021 had theirs. But kamo ang pinaka-eksakto nga natunong because in 2022 you finally graduated. 

Who would have thought that the pandemic would be over. When the pandemic started abi natog end of the world na. Di na mo mu-graduate. And here you are now. So I say this is a very lucky batch, because finally ni-graduate na mo. 

To the teachers. Again, I always commend the teachers because I was once a teacher myself. One thing I learned about teaching is that it is not a career, it is a vocation; because you have to have commitment in order for you to teach. Some of you took up Bachelors of Science in Teaching, BS Education and it really takes commitment for you to actually impart knowledge.

If you don't have the commitment, teaching becomes monotonous and becomes a robotic process. So I commend all the teachers, because without you, we will not have our graduates.


Stagflation is when we are riddled with inflation, and it's not just one country, it's everybody, everything, prices are going up. So what's in store for you? 

Well, if there's one thing common between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, one thing is for sure. And this I can assure you, because I've been through this as well. Effective today when you get out of this grounds, wa namoy allowance. Ang uban muingon, dugay na. 

But instead of telling you something about politics, I'm just going to tell you a story. And I hope it's interesting enough. I'll tell a little story about my life; not on the political side, but on the private side. I keep on telling myself, dili ko politician, nasud ra ko dire because of the need. But then again, that's what everybody says when they go into politics. But I'll try to summarize what I've gone through.

Actually, not so many people know that I've actually graduated from Leyte Normal grade school, dinha sa Tacloban. It's now called Leyte Normal University, but it was called Leyte Normal School before. 

In my grade school, I rode the jeep from Palo to Tacloban. And there were times, and I can count at least three times where I walked from Tacloban to Palo, that's 12 kilometers. When I was in grade school, usahay kuwang akong plete. Mahugan ko usahay ug 10 centavos, di na ko kauli.  I don't even know if my mother knew that I did that. Even my brother also did that.

I started my company–third company, because the first two failed. Then now, I have a BPO company of roughly around 7,000 employees, actually all around the world, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Sarajevo, UK and the US. 

I'd simply want to tell you that you can start from scratch and build something out of it. You're starting fresh. I started fresh at one point, and there are some lessons that can be learned throughout this entire thing, and I'll skip with the story and go to the list. 

So, what did I learn from the time when I was walking in the streets of Tacloban, all the way to Palo and then coming up with a company with 7,000 employees? 

Probably here in Leyte, actually, in  the region, I'm the biggest employer in the private sector because we have about 2,200 employees. And they said, "Why Palo? Why Leyte?”. It's because I'm from Leyte. To put it up here, I probably am the biggest payer of Social Security in Palo at about 7 million a month and PAG-IBIG and all those things, because there's a cascading effect, but that's what it is. Starting from scratch, you end up with something that you can be proud of.

So, what are the lessons learned? Because you are graduates right now and you will embark on your own destiny. What are the lessons learned? I'll be practical. 

First lesson that I learned, sa tanan nga gitudlo sa inyong teacher, gipalisdan pa jud mo, you will only use roughly around 20% to 30% of what you learned in college. Muingon mo, kung 20% to 30% lang nganong nag-studious pa man ko, because you don't know which 20% to 30% [you would be using]. That's why they're teaching you all these things.


I don't use calculus, I use linear algebra. I use a lot of practical things, but at the end of the day, education is still the key to success, even if you only use 20% to 30%. 

The next lesson that I learned, you now have diplomas. You will receive them with your transcript of record. Uban sa inyo hambogero pa kay tag-as ang grado, ang mubo og grado mag hilom-hilom lang.  Pero, this is what I will tell you. Your diploma is only good for three years. In my opinion, when you apply for a job, your diploma matters. But after three years, your diploma loses a little bit of value. 

The most valuable thing in your fourth year is your previous job. And that is the reason why when you have your diploma, ayaw mo pang-apply ug trabaho nga walay future. Do not also go to a career where you will not learn and increase your value, because if you don't increase your value in the next three years, you will have a hard time getting a proper job in the fourth year.

My father used to tell me, “when you graduate, do not look for the highest salary, look for the highest growth. Look for a job which increases your value.” 

So your diploma is useful, but at some point in time, experience matters. Use your diploma to land in a good job, which will give you further education. 

Another thing that I learned is globalization. 

I'll explain to you what globalization is in the simplest form that I know. At one point, there was a farmer in Santa Fe. I told them, “kung magtanom man gani mo, ayaw na mo pag tanom ug ordinaryo nga tanom nga ang inyong ani three tons per hectare, adto na mo’g hybrid nga ten tons per hectare. Pero naay technology ug gamay nga capital, pero go for ten tons per hectare and not three tons per hectare.” And the farmer said, "okay lang governor dile man ko ambisyoso. Ang akong gustong baligyaan ang ako ramang barangay niining bugas.” So, I told him, “that's the problem, because somewhere in Vietnam, they're producing ten tons per hectare. Ang sobra ibaligya dinha sa imong barangay ug mas barato nga presyo.”

Globalization is when you sell, you don't sell locally; you sell to the other countries. If you don't sell to them, they will sell to you. 

Your skills are the same. Don't make it local. Because one of these days, when we have an open market, basig ang Indonesian ang manrabaho ari, manguha sa atong trabaho. You have to be competitive globally. That's globalization. 

Number four. Do not be afraid to fail. You can fail several times. For all I care, you can fail 100 times, because it only takes one success to make you. Ayaw mo'g kahadlok. Take the risk. Labi na'g wala pa moy pamilya. 

As I said, my business is my third business, the first two failed. Do you know Andoks? Because he's my vice governor right now, Sandy Javier. Kahibaw mo ikapila na niyang negosyo ang Andoks? Ika-pito. 

The first six failed and he failed miserably. In fact, kuwang na lang ura siya'g squatter nga walay puy-anan. But because he was not afraid to fail, eventually he found his niche. He found his success story. It only takes one success. So, take a risk. Take the punch. Do not be afraid to fail.

Another lesson that I learned is: life is a continuing education. You don't stop learning when you get your diploma. We call it a commencement exercise. Commencement is your starting. Magsugod pa lang ta. Mugawas mo. Every day is a learning day. If you don't learn, you will get left behind. 

I have a motto that I tell my people, “Because we're into technology, anything that cannot be improved is obsolete.” So every day, if you're doing the same thing, do not be satisfied. Learn. Improve. Because every day is a learning day. 

And finally, the lesson that I learned the most is to be happy. Ayaw mo pagtinan-aw sa kwarta kay naa nay katapusan. Define happiness. It's very simple, to do the things that you want to do at the time when you want to do it. It's as simple as that.  

Daghang mga datu dinhi pero dile makabuhat sa ilang gustong buhaton sa oras nga gusto nilang buhaton. Be comfortable where you are. Working is not about just making a buck, it's about living a life. 


So,  that's the lesson that I learned. all throughout these years when I was a graduate until I was a businessman and then I went into politics. And that's for the students. 

For the school. I only have one message for the school. You are producing a lot of criminology graduates, engineers, lawyers, scientists. You [produce all these professionals] and that's very good because we need them. But more than anything else, what we need in this country are good leaders, because not all schools can create good leaders. And in the case of VSU, it's one of the premier schools or universities in this region. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. That's from Nelson Mandela. 

Naay studyante, pag-college niya ingon sa iyang inahan na anha lang siya sa VSU kay at least duol-duol. Pero kaning bataa gusto gyud niya og Manila. Nganong Manila man? Kalas kaayog kwarta. Private school pa gyud iya gisudlan. So, nag-text siya sa iyang nanay: “Please send money for tuition fee.” Ingon pud nag inahan, “Dear son, cannot send money for tuition fee.” “Dear nanay, why?” “No more money for tuition fees.” “Dear nanay, please sell carabao and send money for tuition fee.” Tubag ang inahan, “Dear son, cannot sell carabao. Carabao is better than son.”

So, the thing is, ang inyong inahan, to some extent, sold carabao for your education because they believe in it. And always bear in mind that your education is more than worth a carabao.

[The live event of the 69th Commencement Exercises of VSU can be replayed here: https://fb.watch/eNRgMNisSx/]

All photos are taken by Warren Cane Sopa of Kin Sopa Photography, the official partner of #VSUGrad2022.


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