With birthdays always come this sense of disbelief, an exclamatory awareness of existence that proclaims the joy of being here, in this world with others. This experience especially intensifies for someone who is about to shed the cocoon of childhood, and enter the unpredictable, exciting yet tumultuous real world. It especially intensifies for someone who philosophizes and theologizes most of the things he sees, and attempts to weave connections in the grand tapestry of life. It especially intensifies for someone who is grounded, thankful, and hopeful. I cannot believe that I am now twenty-one, a full-fledged adult and university graduate. My twenty-one years have been rich with experiences and reflections, with friendship and with love. For every one of my twenty-one years of existence, there are an equal number of reasons to celebrate and love life.
1. God - I have a very complicated relationship with God, stemming perhaps from my view of God as ‘the voice that called the universe to be, and the whisper in my heart that speaks to me.’ He is my creator and my source, yet he is also my friend and closest confidante. He is my life and my purpose, yet also the subject of my doubts and questions. I am thankful to God for bringing me to where I am today. I am incredibly blessed with everything I have, and everything I am. I also feel thankful that I got to know God much better this year, with the in-depth classes in Theo 141, 151, Philo 103 and 104. I am that much more appreciative of my God, and I hope to sustain and extend this faith to my other activities as well.
2. Family - Where will I be without my family? They are my constant source of strength, inspiration, and happiness. My wonderful parents and my dear brothers complete me. They’re the most fun-to-be-with people on Earth, and we can do anything from eating out at midnight to long drives to riding long train rides in Japan to simply hanging around at home, and it’s always a magical experience. My mind is clear and my heart filled whenever I’m with my family. With family like Dad, Mom, Shaun, Ade, and Avery, along with my relatives Aunt Stella, Aunt Beth, Karl, all the others, and our Yayas, life is always colorful and filled with love. Thank you so much.
3. Kim - Kim was an unexpected blessing, and I am most thankful that she came to my life. A lot of times I may have taken her for granted, but day by day I come to appreciate how much she means to me. She’s the person I feel most comfortable with. I just feel so light and happy around her. She may not be the dream girl I envisioned, but she’s so much more… she's the most charming and lovable person I’ve come across, and I am so blessed to share this special connection with her.
4. High School Friends - I am very lucky to have a wonderful high school experience, most especially with 4C. Up to now, I still maintain close connections with many of my high school friends. It’s great that time did not diminish the relationships we shared, and as my world expanded, there are still these friends that I can count on. It’s so heartwarming to realize that the bonds that we shared for seventeen years still hold, and that the future will be that much brighter with them by my side.
5. College Friends and other friends - It was in college where I discovered my core group of friends, along with my best friend. Aside from Saint Jude, I share friendships with Beijing friends, Grace Gospel friends, Zhuhai friends, OJT friends, blockmates, Ateneo classmates, orgmates, friends, and acquaintances. With these friendships, my world has expanded significantly. It feels wonderful to share at least a conversation, a smile, or a greeting with an acquaintance you meet in a hallway. It’s great to have a bunch of people to laugh with, walk with, and identify with. It’s awesome to have a set of friends that you can always count on no matter what. I am very much thankful for the gift of friendship.
6. Teachers - While I am also thankful to my approachable and influential teachers in high school, it was in college where I was truly molded and radically moved by my teachers and educators. In Ateneo, I met sublime teachers who through their lessons, inspired me to become better. I met great teachers who changed my perspective, grounded my purpose, and enlightened my mind. More than the lessons they taught, I was also deeply inspired by the persons that they are, giving their lives in the service of their students and the school. Through the social science subjects, I learned what to live. Through the business subjects, I learned how to live. Through the humanities subjects, especially philosophy and theology, I learned why to live. For these learnings I am deeply thankful to my teachers.
7. My Saint Jude education - More than any other influence in my life, my Saint Jude education shaped me to be who I am today, for better or for worse. My meekness, my threshold for difficulty, my cheery disposition, my comprehensive knowledge of school lessons, all these I developed through my Judenite education. All those nights and mornings memorizing the long literature notes and history lessons sort of paid off with my accredited Level 7 proficiency in Chinese. More than anything though, the memories I carry and the friends I met in Saint Jude are my most valuable takeaways from the school.
8. My Ateneo education - Where will I be without Ateneo? Amidst the regrets and the what-ifs, I am most thankful to Ateneo for one thing - it transformed me to be who I am today. From the aimless, faceless being that I was in high school, I transformed into an ambitious, confident, and idealistic young man for others. Ateneo granted me with an unquenchable thirst for learning, along with the drive to be the best and to make the most out of everything. Ateneo taught me practical business knowledge, interpersonal skills, as well as the meaning of my humanity. Beyond that, Ateneo taught me that the quest for excellence has to be oriented towards uplifting others and glorifying the Lord.
9. Stories - I always immerse myself in stories. I love them so much, stories of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. Whether they be movies, TV shows, games, articles, or books, good stories just fascinate me no end. It’s just amazing how stories can magically weave words, characters and events to elicit emotions, stimulate the imagination, and shed light on the human condition. Stories spice up the blandness of life; they allow one to escape, to dig deeper or to fly higher. I am thankful for the sense of magic and wonder that stories bring to me, and I hope to one day weave my own stories as well.
10. The Big Picture - The big picture is something I share a close affinity with. The greatest moments for me are those when I feel endowed with a million perspectives. It is I at its most noble yet most real. It is recognizing that there is always something higher and greater than the self, or even any or all the fragments of this world - the big picture. It is recognizing that the world is big and beautiful, and more so if it is enriched with an enlightened world view. I love any kind of knowledge and insight for this purpose, for the connections between things that yield a more insightful big picture. Nothing beats the eureka moments of creating connections or completing the jigsaw puzzles of life. The big picture is organic, it just gets bigger, and it offers a rich and unifying perspective of the world.
11. Nature and Traveling - City-dwellers like us often understate nature as nothing more than beautiful scenery, yet there's so much more to it that we take for granted. Indeed, nature reflects the majesty of divine handiwork. Nature can just take our breaths away and get us in touch with our core and the divine. How? It allows us to step out of our comfort zones, and partake in the sheer grandeur of our planet. In line with this, I am so blessed to have travel opportunities almost at least once a year. All in all, I’ve been to Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The experience of traveling is always enriching. Not only do you get to expand your horizons about a new country and culture, but you also get to be independent and appreciative of the grand tapestry that is the world.
12. Basketball - What will life be without basketball? For me, it’s so much more than a sport. It’s a therapeutic stress reliever, as well as a physical and social outlet. It’s a way of keeping my body fit, as well as maintaining good camaraderie with friends. It’s also the funnest sport to play and to watch, as there’s always something new and exciting about it. Basketball was my key out of my intellectual and scholastic prison, and I believe I have become a better and more well-rounded person because of this sport.
13. Innovation and the Future - The future fascinates me no end. I have spent countless sleepless nights reading up on new trends about how technology will change the world and make it a better place for man. It always has something new to offer, and it always gives me something to look forward to. Innovation fuels the fire in my belly, makes me giddy with inspiration and passion. With a vision of the future so bright, it is my great hope to have my place in it and ultimately leave my mark.
14. China - China has a special place in my heart. Aside from having Chinese blood in my veins, my weeks in China were also some of the best in my life. Beijing tour was an eye-opening and absurdly fun turning point of my teenage life. Zhuhai was the fulcrum of my college life, and undoubtedly the most wonderful time of my life so far. China is extremely impressive for its rapid development and sheer grandeur. I love it for a greater reason though - China is the breeding ground of my dreams.
15. Technology and Gadgets - I love my gadgets. In fact, I’m typing on one now. My set of gadgets are nothing short of life-changing. For me, each gadget I have brings with it a revolution, a paradigm shift on how I go about my life. They have made life so much more convenient yet complete. My cellphone, which has a high-end camera, nearly unlimited messaging, and other conveniences; my laptop, where I spend most of my waking hours; my Nintendo DS, my newest toy and source of ceaseless fun and pleasure… Even though they are merely gadgets meant to be used as means rather than ends, I am still very thankful for them. I am also equally or even more giddy with the prospect of owning and using new gadgets and the latest technology.
16. Writing - Writing is my life. It has provided me with a core to cling to, and something to be proud of. I write when I am happy, I write when I am sad, I write when I am excited, writing is just so intertwined with my life already. I am thankful for the gift of writing, for my love of writing, for what I bring to writing, and for what writing brings to me.
17. BS Management, Career, and Business - BS Management… another source of constant internal debate and daily dose of what-ifs… I feel blessed and thankful that even though it isn’t as prestigious or as rigorous as other courses, I ultimately made the right choice with it. Its entrepreneurial orientation is in line with my long-term plans. Its holistic training in various business disciplines fits my personality and interests and grants me much flexibility in terms of career options and paths to take. Based on the interviews I’ve gone through, the articles I read, and the prospects I consider, BS Management has sufficiently prepared me for the challenges of the real world.
18. Internet - The world in our fingertips, anytime, anywhere. A playground, office, bar, moviehouse, music player, notepad, the Internet can be anything you want it to be, and it is impossible to live without it. I am thankful to be born in the Internet generation, where information and media is instant and universal, and the whole world is just literally one click away.
19. Opportunities to Help - I am deeply influenced by my Ateneo education and its social orientation. In the past four years, I’ve been involved with ACIL, NSTP, JEEP, Task Force Ondoy, and Immersion, as well as other social ventures like CSR talks and discussions on social entrepreneurship. I hope to extend this to become one of my major career paths. The world is in need of change, and life is so much more meaningful when it is engaged in helping others and promoting change.
20. Hope - I am thankful for the challenges that life has brought, thankful for the way these challenges have reinforced my character and my spirit. As life goes on, I know that it won't be as smooth-sailing as the past twenty-one years; life just gets tougher and more challenging. I am blessed to have a new perspective on hope, Marcel's hope which I learned in Philo 103, that presents a more enlightened view of life's challenges and grants me strength to stand up and fight in the battlefield of life. I am generally a positive and optimistic person, but it is this genuine hope that allows me to transcend the trivialities and tribulations unto the mythic horizon of love.
21. Love - Love makes us human and connects us to humanity. Love is our purpose and our direction, our source and our end. Love is a way of life. Because the world will die without it, go with love. Love is the greatest reason to love life, and the greatest reason to go on living :)
To all that has been, Thank You. To all that will be, Yes.