By Judy Santiago Aladin for Smartparenting.com.ph
“I have been chasing excellence my entire academic life, but reflecting on my college stay, I was actually missing out in life.”
As parents, it is expected that we hope our children will strive for good grades when they enter school. However, an honor student from the University of the Philippines Cebu reminds us that being book smart is not enough.
Last July 21, 2023, UP Cebu held its graduation ceremony, and its top graduate, Edsel Suhayon Codoy, delivered the valedictory speech. He became the second Summa Cum Laude since the university’s establishment as a constituent university in 2016.
The full video of Codoy’s speech was uploaded by MyTV Cebu on Facebook and has now garnered over 68k views. With permission from Codoy, here’s a transcription of his 11-minute speech, which shares his inspiring journey, including his regrets and learnings along the way.
Transcript: UP Cebu Summa Cum Laude Edsel Codoy Speech
“My biggest regret in UP Cebu was actually studying hard. Wait, wait. Let me finish.
Studying hard and doing nothing else.
You know, I have been chasing excellence my entire academic life, but reflecting on my college stay, I was actually missing out in life. I missed out on the unique opportunities for personal growth, exploration, and building meaningful connections.
Since high school, I have always been reclusive and shy, socializing in the most minimal levels of interaction. The most convenient people I had around back then turned out to be the closest circle I have.
“I have been chasing excellence my entire academic life, but reflecting on my college stay, I was actually missing out in life.” —Edsel Codoy, summa cum laude, UP Cebu
A few years forward, I was able to bring the same reserved behavior in college. And I would have to say, it got the best of me. I passed on a lot of things in college. I was not joining orgs. I was declining offertorship nominations. I was only going with the same group of people I would meet on a class basis. And even in school events and programs, I remained as an observer.
Because while my block mates and friends were genuinely trusting my abilities, I sadly was not. Only recently, I was able to recognize that the self-restraint that was holding me back was coming from my fear of failure.
As a result, I settled with what I have been doing and what I do best. Spending all my time with school.
On the bright side, it brought me to where I am now. However, it took me a long time staying in that comfort bubble before I realized that I was actually only becoming book smart. I was in fact sabotaging my own personal growth by passing on the opportunities openly offered to me.
Now I’ve come to my senses, I’m starting to broaden my horizons one action at a time. I’m starting to unlearn self-doubt and to reframe failure as another learning experience.
Right now, I’m actually in the middle of my second internship, taking on a tech role I know little about. Admitting that I have so much more to learn and so much more to try.
My friends know how much I dread public speaking, but I am taking this on as a challenge and a privilege. I am saying this to encourage everyone to take calculated risks and embrace a growth mindset. Don’t be too hard on yourselves. Cultivate self-compassion. We do this so that at the end of the day, we leave no regrets.
I congratulate everyone for having made it this far.
The term commencement might seem counterintuitive and contradictory to the actual matter of today’s gathering, that is, to celebrate the culmination of our studies.
However, it is more symbolic than that. It actually refers to the start of our journey as we transition to much bigger and bolder plans in life.
May that be pursuing higher education, I mean postgraduate education, starting a professional career, or prioritizing personal growth. And to gather without transition is a realization of a bigger influence and a bigger social responsibility.
We will be seeing ourselves in various industries and sectors, taking over bigger roles and affecting many lives. Our future decisions and actions will shape the world around us. Let us apply the skill sets and expertise we have built in this university in addressing national challenges, hoping to effect a positive social change.
I, for example, as a person in tech, envision the use of AI technologies and large language models to build a more just, sustainable, and equitable world.
I know many of you have tried using generative AI applications. Chat GPT to name one, at least once. We are witnessing a very big potential for it to revolutionize various aspects of our lives.
For instance, AI has been helping scientists hasten and optimize drug discovery, which in turn makes these drugs less costly and more accessible to people of all classes. AI is also able to fill the gaps in the education sector with platforms facilitating personalized learning experiences for students. The technology is basically out there, waiting to be harnessed as a tool for positive social impact.
This is the time for us, iskolars ng bayan, to find our niche so that we can see what we can do and locate our place in the collective for a future gain for all Filipinos. And being able to hold greater positions, we will also be dealing with greater enemies and demons in the real world. The ethical dilemmas will not come from the books anymore. They are real. They are real and they are critical.
We might see ourselves confronted by these dilemmas manifested in issues around social injustice, environmental degradation, and political corruption, as well as economic inequality. In these times, may we remember the mandate we accepted when we entered the grounds of UP Cebu. That is, to serve no one else but the people, to stay loyal to the public interest, and to uphold the UP motto, honor and excellence at all times. The true task of education is not from the grades we get nor the distinctions we see. It is evaluated on the choices we make when no one else is watching, as we leave the university and fulfill more civic duties.
Although too idealistic, but let us rectify the broken system and let us never allow ourselves to be consumed by it. Let us not lose hope and let us not give up on this country. After all, we are the country’s hope and we are the country’s future.
As we gather here today, let us remember and acknowledge the significant people that we have met along the way and the key contributors that made it possible for us to be part of this memorable ceremony.
To our parents, parent figures, and family members, we greatly thank you for your unwavering support from start to finish, for being the foundation of our core values, and for being our immediate fallback when things start to get overwhelming and unmanageable. Your nurturance and sacrifices are not left unnoticed. You truly deserve a heartfelt “Daghang salamat” and a round of applause.
To the lifeblood of our university, the teachers, instructors, and professors know that you have immensely influenced our perspectives in life, and we are truly grateful for that. You never fail to incorporate essential life lessons in your teaching, which we so do appreciate as they build up lifelong learning. You have shaped our minds and mentored us to the best of your abilities. And during the height of the pandemic, while us students had struggled adapting to the rapid transition to distance learning, our teachers behind the curtain also had their fair share of hiccups and difficulties in delivering the best teaching they hoped to do. Their passion and dedication are unwithering and unparalleled. With that, we should acknowledge them with a big applause.
To our inner circle, the friends we met in UP, and the classmates we academically struggled with, thank you for being there as someone we can often relate and connect to. Thank you for hearing our rules and celebrating our successes alongside us. Thank you for checking up on us and not leaving us behind. University life definitely wouldn’t be the same without you.Big shout out to block B.
To the source of strength, inspiration, and all grace, we thank our creator, God, for orchestrating the universe in our favor and for giving solace to the faithful.
To UP as an institution, you are a lighthouse. Like a lighthouse, you have guided us to the direction befitting for us, iskolars ng bayan, and that is towards the service of the people. You have awakened our sleeping consciousness and opened our eyes to the real state of the nation. You have shed light to the reality outside, in the streets and communities of the Philippines. You have provided us opportunities for critical thinking and fostered academic freedom, which made our education more powerful and transformative.
And most importantly, to the Filipino people, to whom we owe our free education, we will make every cent of our investment worth it. As expected from us, iskolars ng bayan, we will strive to contribute positively to nation building and alleviate the suffering of those in the marginalized sector.
To end my speech, I’ll leave you this reminder from Atty. Leni Robredo herself. “You do not lose sight of what you believe in. You do not lose sight of the goal. You drown out the voices because there are bigger battles to fight.”
Once again, congratulations graduates. Thank you.