‘Shape the society we live in’

Photo by Ryla Tuazon/ THE FLAME

(Full text of the address of thanks by Kyla Jane Purcil, UST Faculty of Arts and Letters batch 2024 valedictorian, during the solemn investiture rites on June 10, 2024)

Rev. Fr. Roberto L. Luanzon, Jr., O.P., Vice Rector for Finance, ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, University of Santo Tomas, and our presiding official, Rev. Fr. George Phe Mang, O.P., regent of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Prof. Melanie D. Turingan, PhD, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Asst. Prof. John Manuel R. Kliatchko, PhD, assistant dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Asst. Prof. Louie Benedict R. Ignacio, PhD, faculty secretary.

Our esteemed administrators, faculty council, department chairs and program coordinators, honorable professors, support staff, loved ones, guests, and fellow Artlets graduates, good day.

Am I audible? Joke lang.

January 28, 2020. The day the university released the USTET results for the academic year 2020-2021. Along with most of us here, I was one of the many hopeful individuals who dreamt of attending this university. Like me giving this once-in-a-lifetime speech, that was all it was back then, a dream.

I still remember my hands shaking as I navigated the site and the joy I felt when I saw I passed. However, when the euphoria finally settled in, a new emotion appeared. It was fear.

Having lived in Bicol all my life, that familiar space was all I’ve ever known. In every milestone, my family had always been with me, and that safe bubble kept me afloat. But now, I had to venture out into an unknown environment by myself.

And then the pandemic happened.

After all of the preparation, the fear and acceptance we went through, suddenly, wala.

Time felt like it came to a standstill, yet not at all at the same time. We still had to move forward, despite the uncertainties and the fear that seemingly multiplied with each passing day. What else can we do in the face of a global pandemic? None of us had a clue.

But as I gratefully stand in front of you all and gaze upon everyone’s faces filled with happiness and relief, I am proud to say: We made it.

From only seeing each other through a screen to finally being in each other’s presence face-to-face in these past four years, we had to grapple with the sudden changes and challenges thrown at us.

We lost sleep and missed out on meals. We sacrificed time with our loved ones and ourselves to get through the term. All the “Okay lang ako, Ma, Pa,” we uttered when all we wanted was to go home but couldn’t. And on top of academics, we also had to worry about work, extracurriculars, relationships, health, and personal struggles as we lived through a pandemic and post-pandemic world. These experiences shouldn’t be overlooked, and we should be proud that we survived. We know in our hearts that our achievements stem from our efforts, resilience, and perseverance.

If there’s one thing I learned from the pandemic, it would be to cherish the time you have to the fullest. You’ve heard of this line hundreds of times before, and I hope we never forget it since it’s easy to say but certainly hard to live by.

While writing this speech, I had one song on repeat – “‘Di Na Muli” by the Itchyworms. When asked about its meaning in an interview, Jazz – one of the band members – said, “There are three things in the song that you should be able to say to your loved ones while they are still here—I love you, I’m sorry, and Thank you.”

With that, allow me to take this opportunity to thank the ones who made our college life an unforgettable experience.

To our home, the University of Santo Tomas and the Faculty of Arts and Letters, we thank you for raising a new generation of Artlets who are undeniably competent, compassionate, and committed to serving our people.

To our administrators, chairpersons, coordinators, and support staff, whose dedication helped create a safe and productive learning environment for all. Thank you for being the pillars of our university.

To our beloved professors, who became our second parents and role models throughout our stay. Thank you for strengthening our appreciation for our programs and instilling in us the same passion you continuously show through your teachings.

None of us would be here without our support systems, the people who experienced the same hardships yet still supported us with all their might.

To my forever family, ELSSOC, thank you for showing me that, indeed, no one gets left behind. These past four years became the most memorable because of your genuine kindness and the friendships we built.

To my block, to Inna, Meann, Leona, and Kish, who became the reasons why I looked forward to our classes every day.

To Xiarla and Tzena, who supported me from afar and traveled more than 8 hours despite their busy schedules just for today.

My treasured friends, thank you for inspiring me to be a better version of myself.

Most of all, to our dearest parents and guardians, who’ve supported us since the very beginning. Despite being unfamiliar with the niche nooks and depths of our programs, thank you for trusting our capabilities and helping us flourish as liberal arts majors. Sorry po sa lahat ng sakit ng ulo at stress na binigay namin sa inyo. On behalf of every graduate here today, mahal na mahal namin kayo.

And to my greatest gifts – my family, my andad and anma, ate, dad, and mama – mahal ko kayo. This is for you.

To our almighty God and Father, whose eternal presence and guidance led us to this special celebration. We humbly send our prayers of gratitude to you, our Lord.

And lastly, to my fellow graduates. As our university continues to emphasize, today is ours, as well as the days to come. We fought hard and this event is but one of the many fruits of our hardships. Thank you for not only holding on but for finishing your college journey strong.

After everything you’ve been through. You’re here. You did it.

Amidst all of the fear and regrets, I hope you never forget the life lessons, the values you gained, the people you met, and the precious memories you experienced within these years.

No matter what happens or what path we decide to take, we will always and forever be Thomasian Artlets. So, stand tall and be proud of this eternal title bestowed upon us. Our steadfast attitudes, knowledgeable minds, boundless creativity, and unflinching pursuit of justice will always be our and the world’s greatest weapon.

I leave you not with words of encouragement but reiterations of our purpose as Artlets and as human beings inherently made with love and empathy.

Continue to speak up for the truth. Our actions, our words, significantly shape the society we live in. Recognize the privileges we have and use them to amplify the voices of those without. Let the future we always wished for and worked tirelessly to reach be our present. And as the theme for this year’s Bacc Mass goes, “leave and live with gratitude.”

Congratulations, batch 2024 graduates. Salamat hanggang sa muli. 


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