On October 17, 2009, 626 graduates of the 1st Term of SY 2009-2010 capped their college days and received their diplomas in the PICC. For the first time, a Deaf graduate delivered the graduation speech. SDEAS graduate Ana Kristina Arce recounted her experiences as a Deaf person struggling through school. She offered herself and the rest of the Deaf Benildean community as inspiration to her fellow graduates whenever they come to doubt their own abilities.
Speech of Ana Kristina Macasaet Arce
Magna Cum Laude, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde
Delivered October 17, 2009
Brother President Victor Franco FSC, Vice Chancellors, Assistant Vice Chancellors, Deans, Administrators, Faculty, Parents, Sign Language Interpreters, Guests, fellow graduates, and the Benildean Community, Good Morning.
Let me begin my speech with this passage from the Holy Scriptures, found in Jeremiah 18, and I quote …”And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it”. In pottery, the potter places a mold of clay on a table and the potter turns it around carefully. Using his hands, the potter will repeat the process several times until he gets the perfect shape. As hands are important to a potter, hands are also important to us, Deaf persons. Our main source of communication is through the use of our hands, we talk and express ourselves through them. And just like the potter whose hands make the perfect creation, we also hope to get the best if not the perfect performance for ourselves using our hands. With our hands, we can go places, change lives and make a difference.
I was born Deaf, and when my parents discovered this, like most hearing parents of Deaf children, they felt that the only way for me to survive was if I learned to speak and so they enrolled me in different oral schools where I had to wear hearing aids and learn how to lip read. I was enrolled in four different oral schools and we tried to find something workable that would fit. I tried my best in these schools but still it wasn’t easy for me to adjust. And then my parents thought of trying it out in a school for the Deaf and they enrolled me at the Philippine School for the Deaf where sign language is used as the medium of communication. I quickly adjusted and started doing well in my academics, and received several awards in grade school and I was also the class valedictorian of my batch. I was also an achiever all throughout high school and even if I transferred to a Deaf private school during my senior year I still managed to finish with academic honors.
And then came College, during my first year I was enrolled in another college where Deaf and hearing college students were together in class. I found the experience to be more saddening than exciting. I often cried because my hearing classmates would exclude me in meetings and group projects, maybe because they thought I will not be able to understand them and communicate with them. I struggled to adjust and tried to show my hearing peers what I can do but they never gave me a chance to prove myself to them. Do you want to feel useless? I’m sure you don’t and neither do I or any other Deaf person for that matter. I tried to think that maybe my classmates were doing this because they have big hearts and are trying to understand me and make things easier for me, but I ended up frustrated and I was the one left trying to understand them. Before the end of the first semester, I had set my mind to move to another school, this time, one that offers a program for Deaf students.
And so it was through the efforts of my mother that we found DLS-CSB’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies. At DLS-CSB, SDEAS especially, not only did I find an academic institution, but I also found an environment where teachers and other members of the community welcomed us. I felt loved and cared for, and I felt that the school was like a family. I learned that I am a Deaf person; the word, Deaf, being spelled with a capital D, which means that I am identified, not merely as a person who cannot hear, but as someone who is part of the Deaf community, partaking in its unique culture and natural sign language. And with that, I believe that one of the best fruits of education is our ability to understand and change people’s attitude about the Deaf and other Persons with Disabilities, and that is what SDEAS’s education has given me. Our Benildean education has developed us Deaf persons into persons of dignity, integrity, and with a deep sense of spirituality, and we are now being given the chance to become productive members of society.
If you go around the different high schools for the Deaf I am sure that all of the students there will say that they all wish to go to college. However, very few schools offer quality education and those that do, are expensive schools, and most of the Deaf cannot afford to pay the high cost of tuition and fees. And aside from that most people, sad to say even some parents of Deaf students, assume that because we are Deaf we cannot succeed in college so better not send us to school. For students like us, going to school is no walk in the park. We often need to rely on kind-hearted teachers and interpreters to understand the lessons. Getting an education is a big challenge for us.
And so I am thankful to DLS-CSB for opening its doors and welcoming the Deaf regardless of our disability. We have learned so much from this school and we can now proudly say that we are complete Deaf persons and we now embody the teachings of Saint Benilde Romançon.
I especially wish to thank Br. Vic for his utmost concern for the Deaf and his big heart by increasing the number of slots for Deaf scholars from 30 to 60 students starting the school year of 2008-2009. My sincere thanks and appreciation to all of you hearing students for your willingness to interact with us and for making us feel that we are not an isolated group and that we can also be active participants in school activities and be a useful bunch of interesting students. That we, the Deaf students, are your peers…your equals.
At this point, allow me to make an appeal to all the hearing students and guests of this occasion. We may be Deaf persons but we can also do anything you can do, except hear. Communicating with our hands should not make a difference. We live in one country, one world. That means we also long for respect, inclusion in accessibility, and acceptance with dignity. We are not a different breed because of our disability. We also want to live in a society where people will not stare or frown at us or treat us differently. We are also human beings and we are similar regardless of our disability. Please allow us to show you what we can do; please, believe in us too. Let us prove to you that yes, the DEAF CAN. Dear fellow graduates, I hope that when you have established yourselves in the companies you are working for, or if you have successfully put up your own business, please remember the Deaf Benildeans who may need your help in advocating our skills and capabilities, remember us and other Deaf graduates who may have the talents and potentials to be a part of your companies and contribute to its growth.
To all our teachers, you are part of this achievement we are reaping today. You painstakingly taught us all the tools we would need to make us productive individuals and showed us the way towards academic independence. You instilled in us the core values of upright citizens and we will forever treasure our years with you in our hearts. To our parents, thank you for your patience and perseverance, for your selfless understanding of our endless needs, and your unconditional love and care that carried us through our countless years of struggle to get the degree that we received today. My utmost gratitude go to my own parents, Ramon and Vilma Arce, who loved, cared, and gave me all the support that enables me to stand before all of you today. We, the Deaf students, also wish to offer our sincerest thanks to all our interpreters with generous hearts, who are willing to serve the Deaf in assisting us in our communication needs.
I would like to enjoin my fellow graduates, especially my hearing batchmates, to always keep the Benildean Core Values in our hearts. Guided by these values, we can definitely scale to great heights. Let us never forget the people who made our presence here possible. Let us always remember the values of sharing and selflessness so that when we look back, we can proudly say that we lived a meaningful life and we made a difference in the lives of other people.
Graduation is not the end. It’s only the beginning of another journey towards a higher level of learning. Don’t be afraid to dream, for it can be the first step to achieving our goals. Always remember that with patience and hard work, success will be within our reach. The biggest challenge for all of us is to overcome our fears and uncertainty.
For those of you who still have doubts about your potentials, let me and my Deaf batchmates be the living testament of what we can all become despite our limitations. In previous years, only a handful of Deaf students would graduate every year. Today, 25 of my Deaf batchmates received our diploma, the biggest number so far, and this is a testament of our four years of struggle to attain our academic degree. I am probably the first Deaf Filipino Magna Cum Laude graduate, and I am not saying this to brag about my achievement. I am humbly sharing this with you to thank God, my potter, for molding me, His clay, into a wonderful human being. I believe we can reach our maximum potentials no matter what challenges we face in life, because God is our potter and we are his clay.
To all my fellow graduates, Congratulations and Good Luck! Remember to always be Proud to be Benildeans and to always live Jesus in our hearts.
Thank you and good day.