Delivered during the Afternoon Ceremonies of the 65th Graduation Rites of the University of Saint La Salle-Bacolod, Bacolod City, Philippines, May 29, 2022
In 1997, the year I graduated from law — a popular but fictional commencement speech written by Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune – became a song two years later. It began with the words – Ladies and gentlemen – graduates of 1999 — WEAR SUNSCREEN.
And so let me say — Ladies and Gentlemen, graduates of 2022, WEAR YOUR MASKS. That’s our version today – 25 years later.
I am truly grateful to my Alma Mater – the University of Saint La Salle for this opportunity.
TODAY I have come full circle. In 1997, I was seated exactly where you are all seated right now. I am one of the proud pioneer graduates of our College of Law, which opened its doors in 1993. We celebrate this year the first silver batch of our College of Law. I am thankful for this chance to address the graduates.
A fellow pioneer law graduate is here today – Dean Ralph Sarmiento, former dean of our law school and 10th placer in the bar.
Special mention to our dean of the college of law Dean Rosanne and the graduates of Juris Doctor, who are wearing the same toga as mine.
I remember sitting in that corner, with a dress I borrowed from a classmate, and a pair of shoes I borrowed from a relative.
I also remembered no one came with me to my graduation. Today, thanks to La Salle, I am able to force my family members to attend.
Even in grade school, I already dreamt of becoming a lawyer, because it was my father’s dream for me. I share this personal story about how I struggled to live up to my father’s dream — to remind you all that your graduation today is not just your own dream.
Today, your parents graduate with you. Just look around – see the smiles on their faces — I can only imagine their joy – the happiness in their hearts. I wish my father is here today. I know he would have been proud to see me on this stage.
Your achievement today is your parent’s dream, as it is your teachers’ dream and the dream of your Alma Mater for you.
25 years ago, if you ask me, I did not know exactly how or what to feel. It was a mixture of happiness, relief, and excitement. I felt relieved because I knew there were no classes the next day.
I felt excited – because I am going to tackle the final examinations of my life at that point – the 1997 bar examinations, where the passing rate turned out to be only 16 percent, this was among the lowest in the history of the legal profession.
Months from now – you will also face your final tests. For those who will take their board examinations or their government or professional licensures or for those who will start your own careers, your own enterprise, or apply for a job – I know you are all excited for this new chapter of your lives.
But let me just give you a few more advice. I will not let this opportunity pass without sharing with you the information I regularly share as innovation advocate.
There’s a 2021 McKinsey research called “Defining the skills citizens will need in the future of work” – which I bookmark in my laptop – as a my go-to resource material for my regular lectures.
The research, which involved over 18,000 people from different countries – identified 56 foundational skills called DELTAS – short for distinct elements of talent – DELTAs are a combination of knowledge, skills, and attitude — that will help citizens thrive and succeed in the future of work.
You cannot learn these skills overnight, not even within the time you spent in college – it will take time to develop, and you need to apply them and hone them.
Let’s make this interactive – as I mention some of the skills – please silently reflect on where your strength lies, and what you need to improve on, moving forward.
The 56 skills are divided into four categories – cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, self-leadership, and digital skills.
Let’s begin – Cognitive skills include critical thinking, problem solving, logical reasoning, understanding biases and seeking relevant information. You need to have planning skills, time management, prioritization, agile thinking, and ability to learn.
You need communication skills, and among the powerful forms are storytelling, and public speaking, asking the right questions, synthesizing messages, and active listening.
You need mental flexibility, creativity, and imagination, translating knowledge to different contexts, and adapting different perspectives.
Interpersonal or people skills involve the ability to secure win-win negotiations, crafting and inspiring visions, and organizational awareness, developing relationships, empathy, inspiring trust, humility and sociability, teamwork, fostering inclusiveness, motivating different personalities, resolving conflicts, and collaboration.
To echo the McKinsey 2022 collaboration challenge – collaboration is no longer just a buzzword. It is a personal and professional skill.
Self-leadership means self-awareness and self-management, understanding your own emotional triggers, self-control, understanding your own strengths, showing integrity, self-motivation, and self-confidence.
The fourth DELTA are digital skills, use of software, data literacy, algorithmic thinking, cybersecurity, and many more. The research cites a long list of digital skills. But in the interest of time, I invite you to visit my site — jocellebatapasigue.com – where you will find my full speech today including all the readings I cited. This is the Digital Age after all, most everything comes in digital format.
It is important to adopt a mindset of life-long learning – the very essence of education – the ability to learn, and the capacity to re-learn, to re-skill, to upskill at every chance you get, and the ability to unlearn.
By continuing to learn, we generate more public value. We give more meaning to the learning process.
If Taylor Swift told the graduates of New York to Keep on dancing. I say – Keep on Learning – it’s more fun and rewarding!
Today you live in a country where –
– the average age of the population is 24 years old
– where there is 153 percent of mobile phone subscription vis-à-vis the number of people
– where 90M citizens are on social media
– where netizens spend 10.56 hours on the internet daily, topping the list of countries where the global average is 6.54 hours —-
we live in a hyper-connected and fast-paced world today — therefore use your education, strategically – as a strong foundation, as a starting point.
And as you receive your diplomas today, think about the future and ways about how to give back.
My beginnings as a lawyer gave me the opportunity to give back – to fulfill my promise to the Lord, to seek justice for His children. I have helped in the rescue of more than forty human trafficking victims.
Together with my husband, Atty. Arnel Sigue, who is here with me today –– we handle cases of rape, abuse, and exploitation of women and children.
Every day is an opportunity for us to give back because the Lord has granted our dream of becoming lawyers.
Having served as city councilor of Bacolod was also a great chance to give back. My dream in 2004 was to help generate thousands of jobs for our city with the help of the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for Information and Communications Technology. To now see thousands of digital jobs and Bacolod City as one the Philippine’s center of excellence in ICT is a fulfillment of that dream.
And I have never stopped – whether I am in public office or as a private catalyst to strongly advocate for digital innovation.
I continue to help different cities around the country in building their innovation ecosystems to generate more jobs, investments, and opportunities for their citizens.
I continue to help improve public service and government systems in various capacities – as a policy innovation consultant, a digital governance advocate, a mentor, and a leader.
Being a leader is also about giving back. Many of you will have the chance to become leaders in your own right.
Leadership is not about having people follow you. It’s about inspiring people to explore, understand, consider, and apply your ideas, insights from your own experience, solutions you have tested and iterated – so they can also succeed.
Leadership is not about putting the leader on a pedestal. It is about looking at the different frameworks the leader had scaled and made to work (or learn from what did not work) – or learning from the leaders’ lessons – so it gives you hope, gives you a chance, gives you a voice.
Leadership is not walking in front of everyone you lead. It is about guiding everyone you lead, front, back and center. It is not always hugging the limelight in the frontlines but working with everyone else in the backend.
Leadership is not about the applause, the wild chanting of the crowd of your name. It’s the daily round of “thank yous” and “God bless you” that you get from strangers around you who benefit from your knowledge, your example, your leadership.
Leadership is not a position. It is a calling. A journey.
And so today, my journey brings me back to my Alma Mater – I share my award to University of Saint La Salle – as one of the outstanding women in the nation’s service or TOWNS of 2016. I humbly share with all my fellow La Sallians my being the 2012 Eisenhower Fellow of the Philippines, my being the 2013 Philippine Individual ICT Contributor of the Year, my being one of the 2009 Asia Society Foundation Top Ten Outstanding Young Leaders of the Philippines, and the rest of my achievements – I humbly share with every Bacolodnon, every Negrense.
I have achieved because of you. Because of each and every person who believed in me, who helped me grow, who helped me lead. I dreamt of this day for a long time – thank you University of Saint La Salle for this opportunity.
For all our achievements in life will be worthless without a community to share it with. All our accomplishments will be empty without having become a springboard for others to accomplish their dreams as well. All our awards are nothing when we have not given hope even just to a single human being.
Let us give hope to others. For me, that should be the aim of education – the goal of every educated citizen of this country – To be able to say – and my dear graduates, please repeat after me – “I am here. I have filled my life with knowledge. I will strive to give hope to my fellow Filipinos.”
You are on your way to a new adventure – an adventure that only you can design for yourself – so make it amazing. Make it count. Make it real! Congratulations. Animo La Salle!
Jocelle Batapa-Sigue delivered two graduation speeches on May 29, 2022. The foregoing speech was delivered in the afternoon. Here is the speech delivered in the morning of the same day to the graduates of the College of Business and Accountancy – The Aim of Education is to Give Hope
Administrators and Special Guests on Stage
Br. Joaquin Severino S. Martinez FSC DMin – President and Chancellor
Atty. Jocelle Batapa-Sigue – Commencement Speaker
Most Rev. Patricio A. Buzon SDB, D.D. – Bishop of Bacolod
Br. Normandy C. Dujunco FSC DTh – Vice Chancellor for Mission and Development
Dr. Annabelle C. Balor EdD – Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Ms. Charo Mae M. Cordova CPA, MBA – Vice Chancellor for Administration
Dr. Romeo G. Teruel – Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement
Ms. Ana Lisa F. Bentinganan CPA, MBA – Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance
Br. Irwin Anthony F. Climaco – Director, Center for Marketing and Communications
Mr. Paolo V. Valladarez JD, MBA – University Registrar
Atty. Rosanne Gonzaga JD – Dean, College of Law
Dr. Ed Mark P. Rustico – Dean, Yu An Log College of Business and Accountancy
Dr. Rowena V. Banes – Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Ricver P. Ureta – Dean, College of Education
Dr. Loreto B. Damasco – Dean, College of Engineering and Technology
Mr. Sebastian Alfonso Y. Coscolluela – President, USLS Alumni Association