Wednesday, November 7, 2012

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH & VIDEO | Distinguished Alumni Award during a centennial anniversary celebration

This year, Paco Catholic School celebrates 100 years (1912-2012) of quality academic education and Christ-centered moral formation.  

From humble beginnings, with a handful of students in a small chapel in the Peñafrancia section, Paco Catholic School (PCS) has grown leaps and bounds. A co-institutional private school operated and managed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, the school is located in the district of Paco in the City of Manila, Philippines. It is now home to more than 5,000 students who are formed to excel in academics and are striving to live the school motto, "Noblesse Oblige."

PCS ushers in the centennial celebration with numerous activities from November 5 to 10, 2012.  On November 8, the school holds its Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony and a Centennial Dinner. I am honored to be unanimously chosen as one of this year's Distinguished Alumni Awardees by the Committee on the PCS Search for Distinguished Alumni. 

What follows below is my thank-you speech:





Magandang hapon po.  My name is Randy Gener, an editor, writer and artist in New York City.  I deeply regret that I am not able to return to the Philippines this year. It is just not in the cards.  I regret I am not able join my fellow Paconians in this most significant occasion: the 100th anniversary of the founding of PCS.  Unfortunately, a series of life events has made it tougher for me to return for a brief stay.  A week ago, when superstorm Sandy slammed the East Coast, I couldn't even ride a subway train to reach downtown New York, where there was a power outage and where some areas remain flooded.

Two years ago, I returned to a PCS reunion for the first time.  I remember entertaining a hopeful thought; perhaps someday I might be able to return to the PCS campus.  During that Christmas reunion, I was reminded that I had been away for far too long.  I renewed old friendships, rekindled great memories and wondered how different my life would be had my family chosen not to permanently leave the Philippines for the United States.  What I did not realize then was that PCS would ask me to return so soon.  What I could have never anticipated was that the impetus for this invitation would be this grandest of PCS occasions.  What surprises me is that I would be selected to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award.

My time at PCS meant everything to me.  It formed and determined the person I am today.  About 6,600 miles and a couple of decades separate the young student that I was at PCS and the older (and not much wiser) New Yorker that I am today.  Yet in an utterly profound way, most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in the sandbox at PCS.

The other day I was interviewed on a talk show on satellite radio.  The radio host asked me, in a voice of incredulity, how was it possible that a boy from the Philippines would one day grow up to become an award-winning New York writer, let alone be associated with arts and culture. It was not the first time I was asked this question.

I gave the radio host my standard answer.  I have always felt, when I first arrived in the U.S., that I had unfair advantage on other young Americans: I was blessed that I studied at PCS.  In high school, I read great literature — Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman, Melville, Shakespeare, Dostoyesvsky, Francisco Balagtas, Jose Rizal — and learned to appreciate learning for learning's sake.  I recalled the first time I went to Norway. In Oslo I blithely pointed out how fascinating it was for me to see the two statues that stood in front of the National Theater: one of Henrik Ibsen and another of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.  "You know who Bjørnson is?" my surprised Norwegian friends exclaimed.  I replied, "Of course. In high school, I used to read the folk stories Bjørnson had written."  I wasn't kidding.

Sandee Masigan holds up the award
Thanks to my PCS teachers, I received what amounted to an early Ivy League-type education.  To this day, my command of Tagalog is strong, thanks to Mrs. Emma Olila-Sison.  I trace my love of American and English literature to my time at PCS.  Ms. Olivia Demingoy was one of advisers of the PCS Gazette, and to this day, I am proud to be able to say I had my early start in journalism as news editor of PCS Gazette.  A chemistry teacher, Miss Evelyn Navarrete, pushed me to do well academically and drilled me after classes so that I could hold my own during national spelling bees, science contests, debates and math competitions.  These teachers, along with many others, believed in me as a young person.

I would like to thank my dear friend Sandee Masigan for accepting this Distinguished Alumni Award in my behalf.  Asking Sandee could not be more appropriate and personal. You see, Sandee was the features editor of the Gazette.  Here in the United States, I am blessed to be still the best of friends with other former Gazetteers — Helen Formanes, our literary editor; Kimlou Conigliaro, our poetry editor; and Mark Santos, our associate editor — who, as destiny would have it, moved to the U.S. at roughly the same period of time.  We have kept in close touch over the years.  We visit one another’s homes.  We spend holidays and marriage ceremonies and baptisms. We’ve seen one another grow and mature; some have children.  So we remain the dearest of life-conspirators forever linked by this strong and lasting bond called Paco Catholic School.

I would like to thank the members of the PCS Search Committee for selecting me to receive this award. I especially thank Mrs. Helen S. Orbino for her good cheer and persistence in tracking me down. Maraming salamat po, Mrs. Orbino.

What an incredible honor it is to receive this lovely award during PCS's Centennial Anniversary year!

I look forward to seeing all of you the next time I am able to return to Manila. Maraming salamat po, PCS. Maligayang kaarawan, PCS. At magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.


October 08, 2012

Randy Gener
New York, NY

LETTER OF CONFIRMATION


Congratulations!

We are pleased to inform you that you have been unanimously chosen as one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awardees by the Committee on the PCS Search for Distinguished Alumni.

We are greatly honored to invite you to grace the Awarding Ceremonies to be held on November 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm at the Jaime Cardinal Sin Auditorium on the occasion of the Centennial Anniversary of PACO CATHOLIC SCHOOL in order to receive your award.

Please come in formal attire and prepare a two–minute response. Kindly send us your latest picture(s) for AVP presentation.

Sincerely in Christ.
Mrs. Helen S.  Orbino
Human Resource Management and Development Officer





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