Practicing lawyer Derick Jackson C. Artates enrolled in his Master in Public Administration at the peak of the pandemic. “Pandemic strikes halted our routine; it slowed the economy; inflation was on an upward trend; and all economic activities were derailed, which also affected us lawyers,” he says.

With a degree both in political science and law from the University, he reflects on his work at the Public Attorney’s Office and takes pride in PAO for being “recognized as the number one trusted agency in the justice sector in the Philippines.” Through good governance, its old image has transformed into a quality legal service for its indigent clients. 

“PAO caters to the Filipino people at the grassroots, the poor, marginalized, and underrepresented members of our society. This is the beauty of public administration with good governance and leadership,” he emphasizes.

Representing the graduates of the online distance learning programs of the Open University, he says that the programs enabled them to pursue their aspirations. He also commends the efforts of the University officials in making the institution more globally known and pushing the Open University’s purpose by delivering quality distance education.

Having come from a broken family, he also reflects on his journey. He points out: “For those who are undergoing the challenge of having family problems, just know your focus, endure every pain, and try to look for solutions. Do not believe that if you come from a broken family, you cannot succeed in life. Success is a matter of choice.”

He looks forward to continuing his stint in government service and encourages the graduates to serve their fellowmen and help uplift the country. 

“These simple aspirations should start with ourselves, as we are all involved in the governance of our beloved country. We are part of the actors in governance that will eventually change our course of life as Filipinos,” Artates ends.


Interior Design graduate Janzel Rabago, magna cum laude, remembers his baptism into his degree program. “‘You have to learn how to draw so that you no longer have to seek your uncle’s help because he’s busy,’” he remembers his father saying when he was eight years old.

“That was the first step towards sharpening the primary skill I had in getting on this path,” Rabago says. He also recalls his parents’ advice that he study well because they believed that he would be the first architect in the family.

He qualified for the BS Architecture program. However, upon hearing about the BS Interior Design at the College, he weighed his options and considered his likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. “I made one of the biggest decisions of my life,” he says.

Reflecting on this journey, Rabago points out that some of them failed to achieve their dreams. Some did not make it to the entrance cutoffs; some shifted from another program; some were financially incapable; and some had been rejected. 

“Some took risks, and some have a lot of other valid reasons not to take their dream courses. But that’s life, and God redirected us for a reason,” he emphasizes.

Reaching this milestone called graduation means overcoming uncertainties, others, and themselves. “Despite all of those doubts and uncertainties, we continued sailing our own boat. Offering all the faith we have in Him and trusting the wind wherever it takes us,” he quips.

For Rabago, overcoming others means continually believing in themselves against popular notions that taking a career path inclined with arts is less profitable and is often for underachievers. “We overcame others because of the people who believed in us: the people who rallied beyond our backs, our true friends, family, and loved ones,” he emphasizes.

“Trains of thoughts, what-ifs, judgments, self-questioning, and overthinking spontaneously tried to knock us down. Those are the times when we doubted our creativity, capabilities, and self-worth. But here we are now; our love and devotion to art and design saved us. We strived harder and conquered our old selves. We fought back because, even if we had been redirected, our goals in life remained the same,” he encourages his fellow graduates.

He ends by saying: “ti naglabas a dalan ti mangiturong iti maysa ken maysa kadatayo iti naad- adayo pay ngem namaymayat, nasamsam-it, ken nalawlawag a masakbayan.”


Agkarataul nga aso, agtartaraok a kawitan, agkutkutak nga upa, bumanurbor a motor, umariwawa a kabbalay, ken agaapa nga kaaruba. A cacophony of these sounds marks Levi Nicole Lavirez’s struggles with online classes. Graduating magna cum laude in the BS Accountancy program, she encourages her batchmates to – despite all – “continue to soar high as loyal eagles, bravely flock our mighty wings, and achieve greater heights.”

She considers herself living proof of the rigid demands and tough challenges which Accountancy students have to go through. 

Consistently burning the midnight oil, literally giving up hours of sleep just to read and understand concepts in Business Law, Auditing Theory, and Taxation; analyze and solve problems in Financial Accounting and Advanced Financial Accounting; and meet the requirements of general education subjects are the difficulties her batchmates had to go through.

“Do you still remember those times of online classes, the power interruptions, low battery warnings, and slow internet connection? Then suddenly, our instructor would call our name for the graded recitation. We were so confused whether to set the powerbank first or to open our microphone. There were those days when we were to submit our Google forms but all of a sudden, the universe conspired and the internet went down,” she recalls.

She points out, however, that all these challenges tested their tenacity, strength, and determination.

“As we navigated the voyage of our college life, we realized that earning a degree comes with great sacrifice. The grueling days and nights of review, breakdown after breakdown, limitless pressure, and consecutive times of self-doubt. Despite the waves of challenges, we glided with bravery, turned our failures into strengths, and embedded in us a glint of shimmer and hope,” she emphasizes.

Despite all these, however, Lavirez points out that everything has become an integral part of them; those mistakes they realized after the exams or the stutters during recitations ultimately honed them as full-grown individuals.

“Today, another chapter ended with a blast of happiness and a sound of triumph. Let us celebrate the culmination of all our efforts, the seeds of our determination have borne fruit,” she ends.


“Uncertainty is a part of life that we cannot escape,” Jayson A. Arranz of the BS Social Work program asserts in his valedictory speech. A profession that involves long hours of working with the marginalized, Social Work has taught Arranz and his fellow graduates “that a significant part of it involves being comfortable with the unknown and patiently supporting those who are struggling with uncertain situations.”

“We are still human beings. We are not superheroes who can address such problems immediately. There are times when we are so desperate to know the answers to everything. But always remember that not knowing everything is part of the human experience, allowing us to feel more connected with other people,” he stressed.

For Arranz, life is a constant battle: from academic to personal and professional challenges. Many of these obstacles will require us to choose: do we engage in this battle, or do we let it go? Do we fight or walk away?

Sticking to our core matters “Understanding what’s important and worth fighting requires a deep understanding of ourselves, our values, and our goals. In a world full of noise and distractions, we must learn to tune out the unnecessary and focus on what matters most,” he adds. 

He also stresses that Social Work is never an easy field. And this he realized much during his field practicum, especially when faced with ethical dilemmas in the course of their education and practice.

“In those situations, it is important to go back to our principles, our core values, and be at our utmost humility, for these will enable us to approach our work with compassion and empathy,” he points out.

Also important are striving for more knowledge and skills and developing values because social workers deal with real people and real problems, and they need to give their all to make a difference. “We are responsible to the people we serve,” he adds.

“Lagi’t lagi, tumindig at manindigan para sa tao, sa bayan, at sa katarungan. Pagsilbihan ang mamamayan!” he emphasizes.


“Take the risk or lose the chance,” Mark Cyril Turqueza sums up his BS Civil Engineering journey. For him and all the graduates, the College of Engineering is never an easy one and always tests students’ grit. As such, enrolling in an engineering program means taking the risk.

“It was not an easy first step, if not all for most of us. It was then four or more years ago that a dream started to sprout. We have different backgrounds in taking that first step, different perspectives, different privileges, and different stories but one thing is for sure, we have sailed the journey together with a single reason,” he emphasizes.

With a major in Structural Engineering, Turqueza quips that in engineering where a grade of 3.0 is common, one has to understand the distinct difference between equivalence and value.

“For some people, they may only see tres as equivalent to bagsak! 75! You are there but not quite enough. Although that might be a part of reality, we’ve come to realize its true value,” he stresses.

He says that this is not to tolerate the idea of having a failing mark but in their engineering journey, he and his batchmates have seen the other side of the coin: the hard work and perseverance they put in to recover, and the courage to continue even though part of them is broken. 

“That is its essence. You may fall a hundred times over but you have a thousand more times to stand,” he states.

Although they still have a long way to go, they should take this chance to look back and be proud of how far they’ve come, including the sleepless nights, stress, anxiety, and self-degradation.

“The day after this might be a hell of a true battle that life will offer, but don’t forget to reward yourself sometimes. Along the way, we may lose our direction but keep not losing ourselves in the process. Rest and recalibrate if you must. As we battle again, let the years of teachings and experience here at the University remain our lighthouse,” he ends.

“Our future engineer self is waiting for us somewhere in the future,” he hopes.


Finishing his BS Criminology degree cum laude, John Glenn G. Paat states that he has realized the terrible realities of crime and the destruction it causes to people, families, and communities. At the same time, he and his batchmates have also learned how knowledge and compassion may be used to build a more just and secure society.

For him, choosing the Criminology program arises out of different motivations: the desire to protect the innocent, seek justice for the oppressed, and make a difference. “Whatever our motivations, we now possess the tools and understanding to address the challenges that lie ahead,” he says.

Their future careers will demand a lot from them. Hence, important are not only theories and concepts but also experience, and most of all, discipline, service, and compassion.

“Discipline is the highest form of self-love,” he states. It helps individuals identify their limitations, cultivate resiliency, and set clear goals. By cultivating discipline, they prioritize their own growth, success, and fulfillment. 

“This commitment to personal progress reflects a deep care for ourselves and our future. When we get used to this norm, we become what we envision,” he quips.

In the same manner, service means going through pains and sufferings without complaining; serving the lowliest and the poorest without counting the cost nor expecting something in return; learning to appreciate the beauty of the common things around you; and being glad to be alive but not afraid to die.

For Paat, acting with compassion means demonstrating kindness, understanding, and a willingness to help.

“Compassion is a skill that can be cultivated and developed through conscious effort and practice. By being compassionate listeners, empathetic leaders, and advocates for the vulnerable, we can create ripples of positive change that reverberate throughout our communities,” he encourages his fellow graduates.

Whether they choose to work in law enforcement, criminal justice, the academe, or any other facet of the field, Paat hopes that they have the power to shape policies, stand against injustice, and contribute to a safer society. 

“Our knowledge and expertise can help prevent crimes before they occur, rehabilitate those who have lost their way, and create environments where peace lingers,” he ends.


As is true for most graduates, Mark Jay Oria of the BS Community Health Management program describes his college journey as full of “different and ‘sweet-bitter’ experiences.”

These include small wins, tear-jerking failed exam scores, 2.75 heartbreaks, and exam retakes. Nonetheless, they are finishing strong after four years of grueling journey.

“Despite the not-so-pleasant experiences we had, these should not discourage us but they should inspire us to make ourselves even better.  We should always remember that this is just the beginning of the true battle in life. We are not defined by the awards we receive today but we will be defined by who we shall become in the future,” he emphasizes.

On a personal note, Oria recalls how college has been the toughest phase of his formal education.

He has learned to cook his own food, not sure whether to choose amongst the limited choices of Lucky Me, Nissin, Fresca Tuna, or Corned Beef, or to go to the nearest carinderia. According to him, preparing everything for the daily battles and weekly challenges, maximizing his weekly allowance, and prioritizing his needs over wants made his college life extra challenging. 

Nonetheless, these taught him the values of independence and self-reliance at their maximum levels. “I capitalized on these experiences for they had optimized my values and skills for survival, and thus, molded me into a better individual physically, mentally, and socially,” he shares.

“In this institution, we learned a wide array of life’s principles that we are very thankful for. First is excellence – that is, to pursue everything beyond mediocrity and to stand out from the rest who are likewise standing. Second is sacrifice – to give up something such as time and effort as we focus on more valuable things.  This means giving up road trips and food trips in favor of reviewing,” he continues.

In addition, the third is dedication – the heart to serve, lead and be the best versions that they can be despite all the what-ifs and how-tos. Last is respect.

“Respecting differences creates a pool of innovations and strategies. For with differences, we create enthusiasm for discovering new solutions and better tactics of addressing problems and issues personally, socially, and professionally,” he ends.


While many people think of skills-based jobs as not rigorous enough, Carlo Raganit, cum laude graduate of the BS Industrial Technology, major in Electrical Technology, debunks this notion.

“Others say that the College of Technology is where students who did not pass the admission test go. I disagree. It sounds like underestimation,” he emphasizes.

Rather, what brought students to the College is the inclination, desire, and passion to learn technology, which is now one of the principal drivers of globalization.

“I came here… we came here because we believed that it is only the College of Technology that can give us the necessary skills to prepare us for a rewarding job in the future not only in the Philippines but also overseas,” he says.

In retrospect, Raganit recalls with fondness his arrival at the University and meeting his classmates, including memories of catching classes and preparing for recitations, examinations, and quizzes. “All these had made our stay in the University very memorable,” he shares.

Contrary to people’s underestimation of the programs in the College, what inspired him is news about its successful alumni who are now welders, electricians, and auto mechanics of top car brands such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, and Honda not only in the country but also in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. He also met some of them at Texas Instruments where he did his internship.

“According to the Department of Labor and Employment or DOLE, skilled workers are very much in demand not only in Southeast Asia but also in the Middle East and the Americas. And Filipino skilled workers are the most preferred because of their abilities,” he states.

Whatever he and his batchmates will be able to achieve, he says, they will be indebted to the University. 

“We are thankful for the effective teaching and instruction at CTech, the exciting and challenging lessons and activities that our instructors and professors gave us, especially in our major subjects. The learning facilities, materials, and resources allowed us students to be at pace with the trends of technology,” he stresses.


“Graduation ceremonies are not only for those students with awards but for all of us who struggled to complete our studies,” Crischelle Jacobo, magna cum laude graduate of the BS Information Technology program, emphasizes. 

The pandemic has, indeed, challenged all students. “Some of us had connectivity issues; others were busy with house chores. Sadly, few of our friends or classmates had to stop studying. We also had to struggle to keep our mental health in good condition,” Jacobo recalls.

Despite all these, she and her batchmates found resilience in themselves – a virtue they may not have known existed within them. They also learned the power of unity and the importance of supporting one another. They experienced the power of technology, which became their lifeline and connected them when physical distances kept them apart.

“College has been the phase that we transform our lives. It has been a time to discover our true selves, our dreams. We have gone through different academic challenges, participated in extracurricular activities, and contributed to our College and University in various ways. All these learning experiences serve as stepping stones to prepare our lives for the more enormous challenges that wait ahead,” she continues.

After graduation, Jacobo knows that their different talents and passions will shape the direction they are going. Some of them may pursue higher education; some of them may join the government and become civil servants; some of them may enter the military or police; and some of them may embark on a new journey that they can never imagine.

“After this celebration, we shall stand on unknown ground – a ground rich with opportunities and chances yet may seem daunting with its uncertainties and complexities. And yes, all these are but building blocks of our dreams. We should learn to live through them and embrace them

with resiliency and confidence,” she encourages the graduates.

She also tells the parents: “No saan a gapu kadakayo, awan kami tatta ditoy. Babaen kadagiti anus ken pigsayo a nangisakad iti panagadalmi ket nakaturposkami met langen, natungpalmin daytoy nga arapaapyo kadakami. Nalaus unay ti panagyamanmi kadakayo. Ay-ayatendakayo unay.”


Having learned that he will deliver the valedictory speech for the College of Teacher Education, Justine Bern Quiocho, magna cum laude graduate of the Bachelor of Secondary Education, major in Science, says: “That same day, I felt so emotional while looking back on my entire journey. I was crying not because I was sad, but I was happy.”

One among the 24 magna cum laude graduates of CTE, Quiocho also shares that his tears also mean relief. “We now have freed ourselves from our academic troubles, our self-doubts and anxieties, and from the fear of not measuring up to family expectations.”

In his valedictory address, he says that life is not about getting more but it is about becoming more. And he and his batchmates have, indeed, become more with their experience of the pandemic.

“People countlessly reiterated the things that we lack like having soft skills or those related to empathy, creativity, resilience, and communication that would have been best honed when the classes were held in a full-time face to face mode,” he posits.

Nonetheless, the changes and shifts brought by the pandemic have served as opportunities for them to transform themselves, recalibrate their minds, develop further their 21st-century skills, and be well aware of existing issues and problems they have taken for granted before all the chaos. 

“In my judgment, this actually became our advantage that no other students of any generation enjoy,” Quiocho quips.

For him, he and his fellow graduates can become more by following five lessons to live a purposeful life.

The first is to learn every day from our mistakes such that we better our craft and listening to people around us because there are others who are far better than we are. Second is giving without expecting something in return, although good deeds magnify and come back when we least expect them. The third is to do something good for others. The fourth is to take action. And last is reminding themselves to always look back and use all the lessons we could get from our experiences. 

“The world awaits us, and as we face the biggest challenge in our lives in a few months, we surrender everything to God’s will; we surrender not for fear, but in the hope that the One to whom we surrender has the best plan for us,” Quiocho ends.


“In our lives, we have surely encountered displeasing chapters that we do not want to revisit. But we cannot deny that those unfortunate chapters made us a little wiser, stronger, and better,” Genesis Forneas, BA Comm magna cum laude graduate, begins his speech.

A shifter from the BS Nursing program, he finished BA Comm because he was “interested in broadcasting, hosting, acting, and filmmaking.”

Despite the different set of class schedules, more units than his classmates, and transferring from one classroom (or Google Meet session) to another, he is proud to say that he has made the right decision.

“This program helped me find myself, my happiness, and it gave me a longing to embrace the learnings my professors were sharing in class,” he shares.

He tells his fellow graduates that feeling uncertain about their desired paths is completely normal and acceptable. It’s natural to experience stumbling moments and feeling overwhelmed. 

“Let us embrace our vulnerability and learn to ignite again when we have lost spark in our purpose. What matters is we learn to rise above difficulties, continue or maybe start over again, but becoming wiser in the process,” he emphasizes.

As such, reinventing themselves means finding something that sparks genuine happiness, not containing themselves with something that they are not passionate about, and finding the one that motivates and inspires them.

He also acknowledges the University Board of Regents who opened up opportunities for them to grow in the University and for the projects and initiatives that they approved to ensure that the University continues to develop as an academic institution.

“To the UNP Administration, headed by Dr. Erwin F. Cadorna, our heartfelt gratitude, for striving to provide us with quality education. As the Father of our University, your constant support allowed us to grow holistically,” he adds.

He also pays tribute to the graduates’ parents for always being supportive in their every endeavor and for molding them to become the person they are today.

“It’s important to understand that the emphasis should not only be on making the right choice. Instead, it revolves around being true to yourself and following the desires deep within your heart. Ultimately, it’s about faith in ourselves – be it that we win or lose,” he tells his fellow graduates.


Edel Cris Jun Cerna Sotelo, magna cum lude graduate of BS Architecture, shares that he has always been committed to finishing the journey, and so he followed his map with unwavering determination. A multitude of possibilities, however, overwhelmed him, leading to moments of indecision. Nonetheless, Vitruvius’s three founding principles of architecture, namely: Firmitas, Utilitas, and Venustas, proved to be a firm ground to go on.

For Firmitas or firmness, durability, and strength, he looks back to the additional two years of high school, the pandemic, and the 2022 earthquake. 

“We were trained on Firmitas in the times we must finish our plates, ran along the corridors to submit these to the faculty room, writing thousands of words for research reports, reviewing ten PowerPoint lectures for a quiz, unending site visits, and more untold stories. We survived the thesis season with endless editing, writing, designing, modeling, with special combo of corrupted files and sprinkles of replan,” he adds.

For Utilitas or usefulness and advantage, he points out that before them is a profound

opportunity to help shape the world because in their education and training, they are called upon to uphold the unique power to create spaces that inspire, uplift, and transform lives. 

“When we design a structure, we were taught to decide the way people live, work, and interact and to design environments that promote inclusivity, sustainability, and well-being. We were taught that we can build a future where architecture becomes a catalyst for positive change through useful design,” he adds.

Lastly, for Venustas or beauty, he says that they are reminded that they were taught to use their knowledge, skills, talents and passion to create a community that fosters beauty, harmony, creativity, and a sense of belonging. 

“We were prepared to create a beautiful community through our visionary designs and thoughtful contributions that enrich lives and become a lasting legacy. As aspiring architects, let us embrace this responsibility with passion and purpose,” he quips.


Echoing Taylor Swift’s speech at New York University’s Commencement, Daniel Castañeda, magna cum laude graduate of the Bachelor of Public Administration, says: “Scary news is you’re on your own now but cool news is you’re on your own now. We are led by our gut instincts, our intuition, our desires and fears, our scars and our dreams. Hard things will happen to us. We will recover. We will learn from it. We will grow more resilient because of it.”

According to him, four years ago, his classmates and he were worrying whether we could cope and surpass the challenges of college life. They faced a lot of uncertainties. But they fought bravely and diligently to meet the challenges ahead of them.

“We reminisce those unforgettable moments when we attended classes online and struggled to maintain our academic performances. Some of us were working while having online classes so that we could help our family and have an extra income to afford the expenses such as the load used for our data or internet for us to continue with the new way of learning,” he recalls.

Nonetheless, he says that these experiences and challenges they have been through have molded them into who they are today.

“Let us not forget to thank those people whom we met along the way. Those people who later on become our friends. Friends who become our companions throughout the hardships brought by our academic stuff, with whom we can exchange ideas, with whom we can tell our rants about life and everything, and who

have become our best buddies and are there for us, from exploring the world to celebrating success from our silent battles,” he points out.

Likewise, he composed a poem as thanks. He tells the parents: “Panagayatmi kadayo, di pulos agmawmaw / Dagiti pammagbagayo, iso nagbalin ken agbalinto a silaw / Silaw a manglawag dagiti panunotmi / Tapnon dagiti adal nga inpasagepsepyo ket agtalinaedto latta nga armasmi / Ti ayat, pammateg, ken suporta nga inpaayyo iti unos uppat a tawen / Awan makasubad, ken diminto pulos lipaten / Nagasatkami la unay ta addakayo latta dita a sidadaan / Sidadaan nga mangsupsuporta kadakami.”

“From now on, we will make our paths. We are now the captain of our ship. As we continue

to chase our dreams, let us not forget our passion. Let us also not be pressured by the expectations of others to us. It’s our choice now on how and who we are to become. So, let us make sure that our decisions manifest our principles. We grow when we step up and allow ourselves to learn from our mistakes,” he tells his fellow graduates.


Having studied at the University for most of his life, Lanz Thirdy Aquino, magna cum laude graduate of the BS Hospitality Management program, says that here he has met the “most amazing people” from whom he learned a lot of lessons.

A student-leader since his first year and the former senator of the College in his fourth year, Aquino thanks his fellow student-leaders, students, and his professors for their support, guidance, and kindness for him to “reach new heights.”

Success does not come easily, and failure is often a part of it, he says, yet it is “through these moments that we have discovered the true essence of growth.”

He shares lessons he has learned in his stay at CHTM, namely: failure, adversity, and influence.

“I use failure as motivation to be better and do better in whatever aspect of life. And I hope that everyone can have the same mindset,” he says.

Having missed first place in a cooking fest in 2022, he shares that failure is a “hidden blessing.”

“Failure is something that we need in order to be uncomfortable, to be more ambitious, and have more drive,” he quips. 

Recalling the pandemic, he also states that adversity tests our resilience. “It forces us to think creatively, find new solutions, give us a sense of perspective, teach us humility, and strengthen our character.” 

Intellect is not enough to be a great individual, he says. Influence is also a factor. As a student-leader, he has always resolved to be a positive influence on others “to be better each day, to push their limits, to reach their potential, to maintain a positive mindset, and to be the most authentic version of themselves.”

“As we stand on the precipice of the unknown, it is natural to feel apprehensive. The future may seem uncertain, filled with challenges waiting to test our mettle. Don’t just simply live life; thrive in life, flourish in life, and enjoy life. Embrace the challenges, for they will mold us into resilient individuals capable of making a lasting impact on the industry we are about to enter. I can guarantee that all of us will be successful,” he tells his fellow graduates.

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