If the name Danny Ignacio sounds familiar to you, then he should because Danny is the top honcho of Eton Properties. The moment you meet this person you can sense a warmth in him, unpretentious and gentle, Danny sent me an email one day that carries the following words:
Please find attached my graduation speech at La Salle Canlubang yesterday. As you can see, I drew a lot of inspiration from your books, newspapers columns and speeches. Thank you for the opportunity to have met a great person like you.
With his permission, I am featuring his speech because there is such a depth of wisdom and lessons to be learned:
Brother Kenneth, Ms. Lily Hope Mendoza, Ms. Karen Hebron, members of the faculty, administration officials, dear parents, graduates, ladies and gentlemen. Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.
Napakalaking karangalan po sa akin na maging Commencement Speaker ninyo ngayon. Bata pa lang ako, pinangarap ko ng mag-aral sa La Salle. Kaya lang, pinanganak akong mahirap. But thank God I was able to fulfill that dream with my children.
My daughter graduated from St. Benilde, my son from La Salle Taft and my other son and granddaughter are now studying in La Salle Taft. When I could already afford it, I took up graduate studies in Public and Business Management in La Salle. I am very proud of my involvement in La Salle Canlubang. In 2001, I was a member of the Building Committee that was responsible for the construction of the school. Thereafter, I served as member of the Board of Trustees and then as chairman of the board until two years ago when I had to resign when I was hired by Dr. Lucio Tan to be the President of Eton Properties Philippines, Inc.
Bro. Kenneth asked me to share with you, dear graduates, my experiences which you may hopefully draw from as you progress towards university life. So today, please allow me to share with you four important values – the values of integrity, hard work, friendship and gratitude to parents.
Let me start with integrity. Princeton University is one of the most selective colleges in the United States, admitting only 9.25% of undergraduate applicants in 2008. In the “America’s Best Colleges” rankings by the Forbes magazine in 2008, Princeton was ranked first among all national colleges and universities. Its reputation for excellence is bolstered not only by its esteemed faculty but also by its students who pride themselves in upholding the highest academic standards and values.
A testament to this is what a group of students started in 1893, which has become the cornerstone of academic integrity in Princeton University. Implemented since then, the Princeton Honor Code places on the students the responsibility to observe full honesty in taking written examinations, tests and quizzes, as well as the obligation to report any suspected violation of the honor code. The exam instructor distributes the exam papers and gives the appropriate instructions, after which, he leaves the students to take the exams unsupervised and only returns to collect the papers. In turn, the students, prior to taking the exam, would write and sign the following statement on their exam paper : “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.”
This, to me, is the ultimate test of one’s integrity, which is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
I have worked for over 30 years in the real estate industry — as Vice President of Citibank, President of Philam Properties, General Manager of Robinsons Land and, currently, President of Eton Properties, the developer of the 1000 hectare Eton City very near this school. I have awarded billions of pesos of contracts. There are plenty of temptation in this industry, from contractors, suppliers and brokers. However, when faced with such situations, my parents’ words ring in my consciousness — you can buy almost anything, but you can no longer redeem your integrity once sold. I tell my contractors that the best gift they can give me is to give the company their best price, finish the project on time, and never compromise quality. My employers pay me well, more than enough for myself and my family to have a decent lifestyle. I am happy to receive such compensation only and nothing more. I do not owe any contractor any favor; therefore, if a contractor does not fulfill the requirements of his contract, then my actions will only be dictated by what will be in the best interest of our company.
Integrity is manifested through one’s commitment to be honest and truthful all the time. It is choosing and doing what is right and true, without the need to be prompted by others. John Maxwell said, “Policies are many, principles are few, policies will change, principles never do.”
Admittedly, the road to integrity is not always the easy path to take. There will be situations when you will have to make the unpopular choice or go against the norm. However, as my experiences taught me, the rewards are endless. You gain the trust and respect of your employer, friends and colleagues. More importantly, you feel no guilt and radiate a peace that only a clear conscience can give. You sleep soundly at night. As the French Proverb goes, “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.”
La Sallians are persons of integrity. However, you will not be spared from temptations which will compromise your values. During these moments, simply go back to the values your parents and La Salle taught you and you will manage well. Your integrity that is ingrained in you will be your best bet against these external pressures and temptations.
So dear graduates, may I request you to raise your right hand. Ang hindi magtaas ng kamay, hindi bibigyan ng diploma ni Brother Kenneth! Now tap the person to your right. Sabihin ninyo – “Hindi ako mangongopya.” Now raise your left hand and tap the person to your left. Sabihin naman ninyo, “Hindi ako magpapakopya!”
I want to share with you the first secret to success — WAKE UP EARLY. As the saying goes, daig ng maagap ang masipag. The early bird catches the worms. That’s easy in elementary and high school when you have morning classes and you have to wake up early. As you go to college, your class schedule becomes flexible and less structured. Your nightlife becomes longer with parties and barkadas. Waking up early becomes a very difficult ordeal.
I developed my work ethics from my childhood days. Ang aking mga magulang ay nagtitinda sa palengke. My day starts at 5 in the morning. My mother and I will go to Paco or Divisoria Market to buy the goods which we will sell in Sta. Ana Market. I will then leave the market at 10 am to prepare for my afternoon classes. After classes, I would go back to the market and go home past 8 pm.
When I was in my 2nd year in Mapua, I worked in the school as a student checker. Ang trabaho ko ay mag-check ng attendance ng mga professors, kung present, absent o late. Pati sarili kong professors, kailangan kong i-report kung absent o late sila. 8-5 ang trabaho ko. I attended my classes at night and on weekends. The work ethics and the habit of waking up early that I developed in my early childhood helped me not only in getting my engineering degree but also in finishing at the top of the graduating class and subsequently placing first in the board examination.
Similarly, my work life had its share of challenges. In 1990, I was given the mandate to build Citibank Tower, a 33-floor building, with a budget of 55 Million USD. I had no previous experience in high-rise building construction, but I happily accepted the assignment. I woke up very early. I started my meetings at 6am. I studied very hard. I read a lot of books and consulted experts in the field. I was not afraid to ask questions – better to be ignorant for one day so I can be an expert later on. I hired the best contractors, architects, engineers and consultants. I am proud to say that Citibank Tower is the first world class office building in the Philippines, built by somebody who has not built a building before. My formula – I woke up early, worked hard and never stopped studying.
Francis Kong, from whose columns, books and speeches I drew inspiration for my speech, wrote in his newspaper column, “Success is never handed to successful people. They work harder than the rest.” My boss, Lucio Tan, starts his meetings at 5:30 in the morning. George Ty, the owner of MetroBank, starts his meetings at 7am.
Inspired by the work ethics of these taipans, I also try to set the example to my employees by waking up earlier than them and working harder than them. I typically wake up before 5 am and start reading my emails and browsing the different newspapers online. I am usually among the last employees to go home in the evening. However, I still try to find time to have dinner with my family and spend quality weekends and vacations with them.
Francis Kong beautifully sums up the correlation of hardwork and success. He quoted:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Tenacity is the key.”
“There are those who believe that with luck alone, one can be successful. This is not true. Success is never a one-shot deal. And then there are also those who believe that if you ‘believe enough, visualize enough, dream enough and discover the ancient secrets, you will be successful.’ Those who dream great dreams need to wake up and do some work.
“Because at the end of the day, it is still the one who wakes up a little earlier, works a little late, studies and learns new things everyday, is dedicated to his work, faithful to his family, connects with God in an intimate way and tenaciously deal with all the downturns in life, who will emerge successful.”
Dear graduates, please raise your right hand and tap the person to your right. Sabihin ninyo – “Gigising ako ng maaga.” Now raise your left hand and tap the person to your left. Sabihin naman ninyo, “Bumangon ka rin ng maaga!”
High School Friendships
Let me now talk about the value of high school friendship. Tignan ninyo ang nasa kanan ninyo. Tignan ninyo ang nasa kaliwa ninyo. Tignan ninyo ang nasa likod ninyo. Ke maganda siya o mas maganda sa inyo, remember these friends. These are the people who have known you at your best and worst. They have been with you through good and bad times, through triumphs and failures, through victories and defeats. They are those who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. They may stab you, but they will stab you in front with their frank and well-meaning words. These true friends may get in your way, but only when you happen to go down.
Exciting times await you in college and you will meet people from all walks of life. You will meet some who would influence you, and others also whose lives you would touch. You will spend time with people of similar interests, and laugh with those with the same sense of humor. You will find people who study longer and perhaps drink more bottles of beer or tequila shots than you.
You will continue to share many experiences with your newfound friends. However, during the low and trying moments in your life — your first heartbreak; flunking a major exam; getting fired from work; meeting an accident; getting seriously ill, experiencing loss in your family — your high school friends will be among the first who will give you comfort and support. They are not the fair weather friends who would only be there when times are good but will scamper away when situations turn unpleasant. Hindi sila pa-weather, weather lang. These friends have no requests nor expect any favors, except for the favor of your loyalty and friendship. They are the ones who punched the school bully after he pushed you; they who stood with you as you were caught by your teacher; they who helped finish your science project when no one else would; they who opposed your misplaced curiosity, but came to your rescue nonetheless.
So go out and meet people. Experience life as it awaits you. Nurture new friendships and relationships, but do not forget your real friends, your high school friends. Remember to thank these people who have helped you make this day possible. They will cherish your friendship as you do theirs, with no pretensions and vested interests.
So dear graduates, again, please raise your right hand and tap the person to your right. Sabihin mo sa kanya, “Hindi kita makakalimutan.” Now raise your left hand and tap the person to your left. Sabihin mo, “Hindi ko rin makakalimutan ang utang mo!”
Expression of Gratitude
Mike Healy’s story, “It’s the thought that counts,” told of three sons who discussed the gifts they gave to their elderly mother.
The first said, “I built a big house for our mother.” The second said, “I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.” The third smiled and said, ”You remember how mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can’t see very well. So I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him. He’s one of a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it.”
Soon thereafter, mom sent out her letters of thanks:
“Michael,” she wrote one son, “the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house.”
“Gerry,” she wrote to another, “I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home, so I rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!”
“Dearest Dennis,” she wrote to her third son, “you have the good sense to know what your mother likes. The chicken was so delicious.”
Remember – It’s the thought that counts!
I am sure none of you have gifted your parents with a Bible talking parrot. What then have you given them? When did you last express your love and affection for them? Have you thanked them for their sacrifices and gifts, most especially your education?
There are times when you may take your parents for granted. You get caught up in the day-to-day things that you lose track of your relationships with them. Often, you find yourselves arguing with them instead of exchanging stories or having a laugh with them. How many times have you argued about your spending time with your barkada instead of working on your school paper? How many times have you answered back to your parents when you went home past your curfew? Were you hurt by your parents’ words when you thought you were not at fault and your parents were unreasonably strict? Beyond the anger and the harsh words, did you care to stop to listen to what your parents were actually saying? When your mother nagged you to improve your grades or clean your room, didn’t you hear her concern for your future and wellbeing? When your father scolded you for staying out late or going out without permission, didn’t you hear his concern over your safety? When your parents grounded you for not behaving in class or figuring in a fight, didn’t you hear their desire for you to grow responsible and morally upright?
Apart from the material gifts your parents shower you, they also show their love through their words and actions. As parents, they may use a different tone or display a strict demeanor to express their love and concern, but it does not mean that they love and care for you less.
So on this day, I urge you to take time to listen beyond what your parents say and do. Instead, appreciate the messages that they want to tell you. Return their affection by showing them the love and respect they deserve. Thank them for giving you the best gift that a parent can give – the gift of the best education in this country, the gift of a La Sallian education. There is no better day than today to thank your parents for your academic achievement. So graduates, please show your gratitude to your parents by giving them a rousing round of applause. Palakpakan natin sila.
May I also request you graduates to raise your right hand and tap the person to your right. Sabihin mo sa kanya, “naintindihan ko na kung bakit strict ang parents ko.” Now raise your left hand and tap the person to your left. Sabihin mo, “Huwag ka nang pasaway!”
At this point, please extend also your gratitude to your teachers — they who selflessly shared their knowledge to provide you the best education possible. While you stand proud as La Sallians, they too stand tall as accomplished educators, having molded you to be individuals of integrity and value. Please also take time to express your gratitude to your alma mater, your home for the past several years, which provided you the finest training ground to explore your limits and realize your potential. Your gratitude towards your school would best be measured by the right path you will take and the moral decisions you will make from this day forward.
To the class of 2009, my congratulations. Animo La Salle!
Thank you very much.
Great speech Danny!