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I spoke at my alma mater’s graduation and he...

I spoke at my alma mater’s graduation and here’s my speech: you can be whoever you want to be

Last Friday (01 April), I spoke at my elementary school’s graduation and it was one of the happiest days of my life! I never imagined, not even in my wildest dreams that I will be invited to be a keynote speaker in any of my former schools. It was really fun to see familiar faces, most especially when I saw them listening carefully while I am standing in the podium. Due to my friends’ demands, I am publishing my speech here. Let me know what you think!


Good afternoon graduates, parents and to all the familiar faces here: mentors who appeared to me in so many helpful and impacting ways 16 years ago in Kalayaan. When I got invited to speak here, I got excited and at the same time, I asked myself, “Why me?”

I am not rich. I am jobless. There are no monuments dedicated to me but I am living life the way I imagined it and for me, that has always been good enough. After college, I did not choose to have a corporate job or live life in a chronological order. I chose to travel the world. I chose to travel the world to see how people eat, cook, speak in a different culture that is far away from mine. For over 7 years, I’ve visited over 40 countries, 100+ cities, lived with local families, spoke different languages and had a great time eating my way around the world. This is my success because if there’s one thing I want all of you to remember is that, we are successful in our own ways.

You can be whoever you want to be.

After this, you will go to high school, and then college, graduate University, find dependable jobs and stick to the status quo. At least that’s what we have been told to do. Chronological. Soon enough, you will be encouraged to break the rules, go after that makes you happy and never settle. You will be told that the office is not a good place to grow so step back from the office table every once in a while. “Be realistic, be fearless, go after what you love.” That’s what everyone will tell you. It gets so confusing what kind of people we are supposed to be and you will never find out if you are doing the right thing.

You can be whoever you want to be.

But what you need to know, is that there are no right or wrong choices. You can work in an office with a good salary or you can be a freelance artist with part-time gigs. You can be a lawyer or an office clerk, full-time mom or a pre-school teacher, a factory worker or a pastry chef. You can travel the world, too. Let me tell you that all of these careers are good and never regard it as foolish. Remember that what you do is based on what you really love. As long as you have passion, you can never go wrong. You just need to believe that what you are doing really makes you happy and that it is important. Because it really is.

1656053_10206024028107253_2067866108509722902_nThis is for all of you, parents, teachers and the stars of this night — the graduates: Whatever you feel that will make you happy in living your life, do it. You are just 12 years old right now and let me tell you that you have a long way to go. I still have a long way to go and I am already 27. I just think that nothing is really definite in this life: maybe at 30, I will buy a beach house in Miami, get married and have children; maybe at 40, I will be traveling the world once again because I feel like I can’t hold myself together; or maybe at 50, I will be the richest woman in the world. Dear friends, you and I will never know. But as long as you believe in what you are doing, you will be fine.

You can be whoever you want to be.

People will always disagree. They will always have something to say about what you are doing with your life. One of my friends used to tell me that I live to live. I make ends meet day by day just so I can live. I am not saving for anything, I don’t have any properties and that doesn’t make me less of a person. But remember, you need not seek approval from other people. Not from your parents, friends or colleagues. The only opinion that matters is yours. Always bear in mind that YOU MATTER.

I found my calling. I found something that makes me happy and it is traveling the world. You may not understand the way I live my life but this is what I am passionate about. This is my own success. This is what’s important to me. Ever since, I have not had the chance to thank my mentors: Teacher Ronald who taught me to try new things. He made me dance when I was in grade 5, he made me host school events at the age of 11 and he always believed in my writing. In high school, I found myself hosting in events and writing for the school paper and I always remember who led me to do that. It was you, Sir Ronald.

Mr Richard Calimbas, when I found out you are the school principal, I said to myself, “he deserved it.” You’ve been always active in our lives. I remember one time that I won the National Journalism Competition in Tacloban and you were there for me. Like a parent. Cheering, being the personal alalay and at the same time, giving me pointers to review. Every awarding ceremony, Sir Richard will close his eyes and hold my hand. I didn’t know if he knew I will win but one thing I know is for sure — he believed in me.

*alalay (n). assistant; helper

And of course, Teacher Kit Figuerro, who was very patient in teaching me and my siblings to read and write. Me and my family will always be thankful for what have you done to help shape us.

Dahil sa inyo, hinding hindi ko makakalimutan ang Kalayaan — ang lugar kung saan ako unang nangarap. Thank you po, sirs.

Translation: Because of you, I will never forget Kalayaan — the place where I first started dreaming.

Now I know why I got invited here. Because I am a product of these teachers. I am me because of them.

So be grateful for your teachers. I am 27 years old now and they are still here, still passionate about what they are doing, honing and building children’s lives. I am one of you. I grew up with these teachers that I will always be grateful for. Look at where it got me.

Congratulations, graduates! And always remember, you can be whoever you want to be. Thank you so much!

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram - @psimonmyway

  1. judy

    5 April

    the speech that i missed…thank you for posting it, trish.

  2. Neri Ann

    5 April

    What a beautiful speech! I definitely love this part ” Remember that what you do is based on what you really love. As long as you have passion, you can never go wrong.”

  3. Abby

    6 April

    Thank you for always being so honest with your words. Thank you for inspiring us.

  4. Mar Pages

    7 April

    You said many things children don’t hear enough these days, and your speech was a collection of beautiful reminders. You are lucky to have had great teachers to guide and teach you as well!

  5. Aw Trisha, what an honour to be invited back to your elementary school to speak! Your words really resonated with me, and I feel like you gave some really positive advice that every young person should hear. Congrats on this awesome achievement!

  6. Christina

    9 April

    What an inspirational speech. I think it’s so important nowadays to remind little ones that school is not all about being a doctor or lawyer. One must find what one’s passion is- and follow it!

  7. You are such a superstar, congratulations. It is so nice for you to empower young people to really be themselves and do what they want. you are an inspiring lady 🙂

  8. Your speech is very inspirational/beautiful. You are spreading the right message in this speech that people need to find their own calling in life. Great job!

  9. What an inspiring speech, Trisha! As a retired middle school teacher, I know the value of empowering and encouraging kids with practical, personal, sound advice in addition to academic content. I know that your message will resonate with them, letting them know that they do not have to be defined by the system and norms. What an honor for you and the students, as well!

  10. Jackie

    10 April

    As a teacher, Trisha, this speech is wonderfully inspirational! I know how valuable it is for a child to hear that whatever they dream is possible by making actionable choices and working for it. My favorite part is when you told them there are no right or wrong choices. Kids can be so focused on doing what they think is right or will get the approval of the adults around them. It’s such an empowering message. There’s no doubt your message made an impact and will stick with them.

  11. What a lovely speech, very inspirational. Good for you and what a wonderful memory to carry with you. 😉

  12. Jessica

    11 April

    Your words might be unusual to these kids who are ‘just’ thinking what highschool life could be, but I am sure you have instilled such inspiring phrases that they will carry until they finish college or until the time they decided to do what they want to be. Kids need to hear speeches like this!

  13. Danielle Des

    11 April

    This is a great reminder for me to cherish the opportunity to do what I love. I’ve been very apprehensive about taking a career break (to travel), but it’s a chance to do what I love so why am I so scared.

  14. How cool to go back to your elementary school for a graduation speech. I am sure you inspired a lot of kids. Well done!

  15. Evan Kristine

    11 April

    Such a beautiful speech, Trisha! Keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re inspiring younger generations!

  16. Megan

    11 April

    Congrats, that’s a big honor and a great message. It’s so important to get comfortable with who you are. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Cai Dominguez

    12 April

    Wow, what a moving speech. Again, I want you to know that Im still one your biggest fans. Hahaha. I love reading your articles and how you can touch our emotions. We can be whoever we want. That’s true. We should always choose to be happy as long as we are not hurting anyone. Congratulations!

  18. Chandi Wyant

    13 April

    Good job on the speech. Thanks for the comment you left on my site. I read that you spent time in Italy. How did you like it? It’s my fav place. I’ve lived there a few times. 🙂

  19. That was a really good speech Trisha. I’m sure it inspired the graduates. It’s true though, as long as you are happy and you believe in what you are doing you will be fine. Very good words to share with these kids. The most important thing is really be whoever you want to be and not what others or your parents would like you to be. Choose your own path and you will be fine.

  20. Laura Lynch

    13 April

    What a beautiful speech. It’s so great that they invited you back as a keynote speaker. You can really evaluate how far you’ve come in the time since you left that school and remember how formative those years were. Now you’ve become an inspiration to many young minds.

  21. Lessons. It is something that we all need to hear as adults, but especially as children. And not just once, but a constant reminder. This is awesome!

  22. Trish, love your true colours. Shared your inspired us here what i learned i liked your words an emphasized ” what you need to know, is that there are no right or wrong choices. ” there is what i choice to live even though my deafness had individual problem the society barriers ever i fought. I think i need fix myself and seeking to find happiness. Thank you Trish.

    – Deaf woman

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