Originally written for the Broadcast Performance Class, School year 2008-2009. Commencement Speech, as Guest Speaker, ADZU College Graduation Batch 2016.
“If you know how to die, then you’ll know how to live.” Mitch Albom made me realize that one Tuesday afternoon in ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. Stephenie Meyer opened a whole new world so inexplicable yet so exquisite—a world where all the madness and perfection coincides. And the most important lesson I have learned in this fictional world is about the essence of love and freedom. “Freedom only exists when love is present… No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.” Maria, a prostitute in Paolo Coelho’s ‘Eleven Minutes’, taught me that.
Dona Pisa. For those of you who love reading more than anything, you may have already encountered the name several times before. She is the first Filipino writer who has published three books dubbed as a New York Times Bestseller. Her first two books were published by Summit Media here in our country. She even designs her own cover page back then. ‘Her Exquisite Addiction’, one of her bestselling novels, was translated into a number of languages already. People from all walks of life all over the world were crazy about this book. However, does anyone of you really know the person behind those teenage plots and inspirational stories?
Joan Mae Amora-Barredo. For those of you who have this particular love for magazines, you may have encountered this name in one of your favourite college magazine—Seventeen. She is the current Editorial Assistant of this widely read magazine. It has been seven years when she first set foot on the magazine’s realm as an intern. Well, I am not sure what really brought her to where she is now. What I am sure though, is that everything started with her fulfilling a course requirement her way.
I bet many of you would think that being an Editorial Assistant in one of the nation’s best college magazine and the very first Filipino international novelist at the same time is such a perfect fate—just too good to be true. But I am telling you that there is no such thing as that. Nothing is too good to be true if you do things your way. If you utilize your God-given gifts the way YOU want it. And most especially, if you LOVE what you are doing. Then, nothing is impossible.
It was actually a hideous experience to enter college with a course that most people underestimate at that time—Mass Communication. What makes it worse is that if those “people” are your very own friends and relatives. However, I was able to remain firm with my decision because the people, the only people whom I need the support, gave me all the encouragement I ever needed. My family–my family’s support is all that matters.
It was, in fact, just five years ago when I was one of you—tensely seated, anxious of the occasion. I have not remembered any word from the guest speaker at the time. And now, being in that position already, I could bet that only 30% of you are all-ears on me. Right? But then, start imagining yourself as the person moulded by the field you have chosen—a doctor or a nurse may be? An executive? An accountant? A successful entrepreneur? Or even a professional journalist?
Well, anyway, why am I here? Why me? Well, I actually have two theories on that matter. One is that I am a true-blooded Atenean—spending 16 years in this institution, imagine? It actually feels good to be able to go back to your second home, your home the first two decades of your life, during your student years. Second, being an Editorial Assistant in one of the nation’s best college magazine and the first Filipino international novelist at the same time, as I have said before, is such a perfect fate. It is really something, as what other people would like to put it. But they are not just referring about the blend of the careers. It is also about the youth of the person behind those just-so-perfect occupations. Being all that at age 26 made the world say all their ‘ooohs’ and ahhhhhs’, not forgetting the ‘neyyyys’ and the ‘booooos’. It felt like rowing the rivers towards Pangasinan Falls—going against the current. Obviously, it is a perfect and disastrous fate—a beautiful paradox.
I am indeed at the youth of my career. This is not yet everything, though. And for being in this state for almost six years now, I could already say, though, that this is what I love doing the most. I love creating a world where every teenager could find their place—living all their idealisms, subsisting all the perfections real life could not offer. I love providing that escape for these people. On the other hand, I also love being the eye-opener of the more mature ones, even those who are older than me. My approach is about creating a plot of letting go of the past, holding on to the present, and reaching for the future just like Tarzan’s lifestyle. According to Vladimir Nabakov, “A novelist is, like all mortals, more fully at home on the surface of the present than in the ooze of the past.”
I am an Editorial Assistant at Seventeen Magazine. I am Philippines’ first international bestselling author. My books inspired people in all areas of life all over the world. I am Dona Pisa. Most especially, I am Joan Mae Amora-Barredo—a true-blooded Atenean, a Mass Communication graduate. My family never ceases in supporting me throughout this rocky-road journey. My fiancé loves me the way I love him. And all this time, I evidently feel God’s guidance and presence within me. I love the life I live now. Therefore, I am free. Even though I am still young, I could not lose any of these things simply because I do not truly own them. For the beauty of this fate is “having the most important thing in this world without owning it.” So, for the future professionals of our country and another batch of holistically formed Ateneans, just learn to love what you are doing and will be doing. Only then will you feel the easiness and freedom of the road you chose to take. It is as if the rocks that would hinder your way do not exist at all.