An open letter to the Graduates of 2013

(I unearthed an essay I wrote, which came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer exactly seven years ago. Although it was dedicated to the graduates of 2006, when I read it again recently, it could very well apply [at least in my mind] to graduates of 2013 and beyond.

(In it, I also shared a few nuggets of wisdom I learned along the way in the workplace. Education, indeed, doesn’t stop the minute we leave school. It continues until the day we breathe our last.

(To this year’s graduates, my congratulations and sincere wish that your education within and outside the campus takes you far and wide. May you continue to pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But most of all, may you be mindful of your responsibility not only to yourselves and your families, but also to our society and the world at large. Mabuhay kayong lahat!–AYV)


“THINK of the years you spent in school as your ticket to change the world.” — Tom Brokaw (

DEAR Graduates,

Today marks the start of  your future.

Don’t be surprised if everything you thought you’ve learned in college in the past four years or so seems incomplete or, worse, downright irrelevant the minute you enter the wide world of the workplace. Nor should you lose heart.



One week may be a long time in politics, but four years are woefully short when it comes to acquiring all the knowledge and skills you’ll need—professionally and, more so, interpersonally—to survive and make sense of this life.

Instead of putting the blame on your mentors and the institutions that endeavored to mold you into what you’ve become today, you should use this period of transition to determine your strengths and to draw from them as you begin to chart your own course.

Back in college, for instance, all I dreamed of was to travel, meet interesting people and eventually see my name and stories published. It seemed simple and doable enough, I thought.

On the beat

A MONTH after Pope John Paul II's February 1981 visit, all the banderitas were gone, but the makeshift stage with a wooden canopy on the grandstand was retained. As far as I know, we're the first and so far only UST High School batch who graduated outdoors and on hallowed grounds. alexyvergara receives his high school diploma from movie star-handsome Fr. Escudero.

alexyvergara receives his high school diploma from Fr. Pedro Escudero at the UST Grandstand in 1981.

Imagine my shock when I finally got the chance to fulfill my wish not in the realm of glitzy fashion shows, exotic locales and palatial homes, but in the bowels of the police precincts of Metro Manila. Talk about answered prayers!

Indeed, what could be a more interesting place for a budding journalist to generate stories from than a series of rundown police stations? Or, to put it bluntly, places where you sometimes couldn’t tell policemen and criminals apart?

The assignment didn’t lack for “travel” opportunities either, as I often found myself shuttling between crime scenes.

Who knows? I could have become another hard-hitting columnist like Ramon Tulfo had I stuck it out in the police beat. But I didn’t stay long enough to find out, as I quickly stepped out of the beat after barely a week and went back to the relatively uneventful confines of the editorial department.

graduation-quotes2Rather than force myself to become somebody that I wasn’t, I did a tactical retreat to assess the situation and study my options. Apart from being less dramatic, the choices I took—including thankless stints as proofreader, which, thank God, didn’t impair my “critical” vision, and as supplements writer—unfolded more slowly.

These choices, I believe, apart from instilling in me the patience of Job, gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the profession as they eventually brought me to my original goal of becoming a lifestyle journalist.

Choose substance

I may not strike fear in the hearts of erring law enforcers and hardened criminals these days, but I certainly can cause some overrated and copycat fashion designers some sleepless nights.

FOUR years earlier, Fr. Escudero presides over yours truly's commencement exercises at the UST Elementary School.

FOUR years earlier, Fr. Escudero presides over yours truly’s commencement exercises at the UST Elementary School.

(But seriously, one can always find substance even in the most seemingly mundane and fluffy aspects of journalism. People, whether they’re underworld characters or larger-than-life celebrities, need to be properly fleshed out.)

What’s my point? Learning—and that includes knowing when to hold back and when to make calculated risks—doesn’t stop the minute you go beyond the school’s four walls. Rather, it ends the minute you breathe your last.

Take it from former US Secretary of War Newton Baker: “The man (and woman) who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.”

What you have just been through as students, despite the intensity and frequency you spent burning the midnight oil during those marathon cramming sessions, is a mere foretaste of what lies ahead.

If the wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped is vast, your capacity to explore what lies out there is even more so.

True, there will be workplace equivalents of bad-hair days when everything seems to be askew and you seem pitifully helpless to do anything about it.

graduation-quotes1Don’t despair if even your best efforts don’t add up or lead to creative and even moral dead ends. With a bit of time and lots of prayers you’ll get your groove back.

Complex human behavior

What can become a tad puzzling, though, is trying to fully fathom the complexities of human behavior within and outside the workplace.

What are you to do when people say one thing and do another? When they set rules they themselves break? When they censure one group and turn a blind eye on the transgressions of another? When whim and not merit becomes the main criterion for recognizing people’s worth? When compromises threaten to supplant principles?
Sadly, there are no quick and easy answers. Not only can such inconsistencies and double standards stop an impervious locomotive of a person on his or her tracks, they can also act as a deadly contagion that can break down the moral fiber of even the toughest individual.

DON'T wince at the contravida styling (come on, give me a break, it was the '80s), but this college graduation photo by the defunct X'or Studios is vintage.

DON’T wince at the contravida styling (come on, give me a break, it was the ’80s! 😀 ). This college graduation photo by the defunct X’or Studios in Manila is vintage.

If you don’t watch out, you’ll soon become the very persons you detest. Be brave, hold fast to your ideals and don’t ever let your guard down, not even for a second.

Nothing is ever as easy or as simple as it seems in this world. Consider such lumps and bumps along the way as part of your continuing education, too.

And if you deem education as your passport to the good life (the temptation is, indeed, great), you might want to think of it in a bigger, more altruistic way.

As American broadcaster Tom Brokaw once said, “Think of the years you spent in school as your ticket to change the world.”


Tito Alex

AS Casey Kasem of "American Top 40" once said during my youth: "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

AS Casey Kasem of “American Top 40” fame never failed to say before ending his show during my youth: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

2 thoughts on “An open letter to the Graduates of 2013

    • It’s your turn, Miss Ivy. It would be great really to hear your views and observations about PH education — from the mundane to the more serious. 🙂 Dapat si Vladi, mag blog na rin.

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