Romualdez urges students to learn from missteps
He had seen the devastation brought by the Super Typhoon Yolanda firsthand and had championed the cause of persons with disabilities in Congress, but on Tuesday morning, former congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez was in a completely different but equally inspiring field as he spoke in front of more than 1,200 graduates, both from the Boystown and Girlstown campuses, of The Sisters of Mary School in Talisay City, Cebu.
Founded by the Sisters of Mary Congregation, the school serves as an educational facility as well as a home to deserving students from indigent families, providing them with free food, clothing, shelter, medical and dental services, and secondary education, with discipline, good working attitude, and love for virtues as their main guiding principles.
According to Romualdez, he was introduced to the school through his sister-in-law, Sandy-Prieto Romualdez and her mother, Marixi Prieto.
The Prietos, of the Philippine Daily Inquirer group, originally owned the land where the first Girlstown was built in the Philippines and have since been known to be a staunch benefactors of the institution.
An article posted on the Sisters of Mary website said that Msgr. Aloysius “Father Al” Schwartz, founder of the school, initially went to the Prietos with a request to buy their land, but the media family was skeptical if the priest could afford it.
However, Father Al managed to raise the necessary funds and was able to complete the purchase, which led to the Prietos and the priest becoming good friends.
Since then, the Prietos have been long-time supporters of the Sisters and their charity work with children.
Located in Sta. Mesa, Manila, the first Sisters of Mary School, which housed both the Boystown and Girlstown campuses, was built in 1985.
They were eventually separated and transferred to Adlas and Bo. Silang, Cavite respectively.
In Cebu, the first Sisters of Mary School was built in 1990 in Talisay, City and was also composed of both campuses for boys and girls before they were separated and the Boystown was transferred to Minglanilla, Cebu.
Live life meaningfully
As the school’s graduates are about to enter the real world, Romualdez reminded them that life is not a race nor is it a competition of trophies among the chosen few, but rather, it is about living life to the fullest and making the best of what it offers.
“You have to live life meaningfully,” he said. “You have to make your life worth living, to have a reason to live, and to grow beyond your own selves.”
Romualdez reflected how Father Al was the epitome of living a life of meaning despite the hardships and difficulties that the priest had to deal with, including the debilitating disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS.
He was invited to be the school’s inspirational speaker but Romualdez said that no personal anecdotes or life lessons of his would come close to what Father Al had been through, and it is in this line that he encouraged the graduates to follow in the priest’s footsteps.
“This is the challenge that I wish to put before you today,” he said.
“Live life to the fullest, but like Father Al, do so with love. Live life with the love made concrete in service. In his last years, Father Al could move so little, he was almost incapacitated, yet he continued to do good for the least, the last, and the lost of society,” Romualdez added.
Romualdez noted how all the graduates have their own stories of hardships and survival, and yet they are about to take the step towards making a better future for themselves.
As with any other journey, Romualdez said that there will always be challenges and that the new chapter that they are about to start as they go out beyond the walls of their high school can be a tough and demanding time in their lives.
Despite this reality, he reminded them that it is in trying times that one is given the opportunity to grow and mature.
“You will stumble and fall sometimes over the blessings in disguise that God places in your path,” Romualdez said as he reminded the students to “never forget that failing isn’t always bad, as long as we learn from our missteps.”
As his words echoed among the graduates listening intently to his speech in the morning of their commencement exercise, Romualdez said that he would leave the place with a lot of hope for the future.
“I will leave this place full of hope for the future, knowing that in a world trapped by its own selfish cares, in a nation that remains bridled by political strife and social inequalities, there are people whose hearts have been shaped by and for selfless service for others, men and women, Filipinos, who are ‘fully alive’.”
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