‘Hindi ka kailangang maging perpekto’: Ricky Lee has inspiring words for graduates

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2019 03:52 AM | Updated as of May 11 2019 07:40 AM

 

MANILA—At 72 and with a storied life as a political activist and acclaimed writer, Ricky Lee drew from a well of wisdom as he advised fellow graduates from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) on Wednesday.

Lee, who was given a honorary doctoral degree in Humanities, was the commencement speaker at the ceremony that gathered some 3,000 graduates.

The novelist and playwright did not finish his studies at University of the Philippines in Diliman, as he took an active part in standing against Martial Law under the Marcos regime.

“Akala ko di na ako ga-graduate. Ilang dekada ko rin itong hinintay. Masasabi ko na ngayong graduate na ako. Nakatoga pa,” he said.

Recalling struggles and triumphs in the decades where his activism and writing career unfolded, Lee summed up what he has learned into three pieces of advice he then shared in his speech.

“Una, na laging kulang ang silya,” he said.

After finishing high school in Daet, Bicol, Lee moved to Manila to pursue college, along with four classmates who similarly had humble means. 

“Hindi namin alam kung saan kami titira, kung ano ang magiging trabaho namin, kung ano ang naghihintay na kapalaran sa amin. Ang alam lang namin, punung-puno kami ng mga pangarap,” he recalled.

As working students, they managed to share an apartment, but there were only four available chairs, leaving one of them standing whenever they had meals together.

“Habang nakatingin ako sa kasamahan naming nakatayong kumakain, pinangako ko sa sarili ko, balang araw makokompleto ang silya,” he said.

Eventually, they went their separate ways, and Lee juggled several jobs to pay his way through college. Between the demands of work and his studies, Lee came by the realization that one’s needs are earned.

“Tinanggap ko na, na sa buhay na ito ay laging hindi kompleto ang silya. Hindi nakaabang ang mundo para ibigay sa'yo ang lahat ng kailangan mo. Hindi ka entitled. You have to be resourceful. You have to work hard. Kailangan mong pagtrabahuhan ang kulang na silya,” he said.

Spreading himself thin, however, would result in Lee passing out because of hunger more than a few times. To save money, he would skip meals, and walk, instead of commute, despite having worked a full shift at a factory and then attending night classes.

“Minsan ay hinimatay ako sa gutom sa Avenida. Mga five minutes siguro akong nag-black out bago ako nagkamalay.

“Maraming mga okasyong gaya noon na bumabagsak ako. Iyon bang parang madilim at wala nang pag-asa ang lahat. Iniisip ko lang ang kulang na silya sa apartment at lumalakas na uli ang loob ko, nakakabangon uli ako,” he said.
 
Lee’s second advice was also a reminder: “Hindi ka kailangang maging perpekto.”

He told graduates to allow themselves room for mistakes, and to not measure their worth by their shortcomings. Rather, he said, failures are a means to learn, improve oneself, and “shine.”

He said: “Ngayong graduate ka na, papalaot ka na sa mundo, at ii-evaluate ka ng iba. Sasalain ka, pupunahin, ikukumpara lagi sa iba pa. Mag-eexpect sila ng kung ano-ano mula sa'yo, na karamihan naman ay hindi na reasonable. Kung anu-ano ang gagawin sa'yo ng mundo upang ipakita lagi sa'yo na you don't measure up, kulang ka. 

“Hayaan mo sila. Just keep working hard. Ipaglaban mo ang mga pangarap mo. Hindi baleng mabigo ka na ipinaglalaban ang mga pangarap mo, kesa nabigo ka nang hindi man lamang dahil sa mga ito. 

“At kahit mabigo ka, huwag kang mag-alala. Hindi iyan ang sukatan ng worth mo bilang tao. Hindi mo kailangang maging perpekto. Hindi mo kailangang labanan ang sarili mo, o pantayan ang iba. You are never worthless. Just be yourself. Langoy lang nang langoy, lipad lang.”

Recounting he had inferiority complex in his younger years, Lee said he would constantly compare himself to others. He fought his insecurity by studying hard, in order to feel, for a change, that he could achieve something and not fall short. Lee ended up consistently being the top honor student from elementary to high school, and was a university scholar.

“Later on ko na lang natutunan, na kung saan ka mahina, kung anuman ang mga depekto mo, balang araw iyon din ang magiging strength mo. Kasi ang strength, kapag nanggaling sa depekto, mas matibay. Dahil nakita mo ang ibaba, mas naiintindihan mo ang itaas. Dahil nanggaling ka sa dilim, mas natatanggap mo na ang buhay ay hindi puro liwanag. 

“Kung nasaan man ako ngayon, kung anumang tagumpay ang meron ako ngayon, matatag ang kinatatayuan ko kasi nakatuntong ako sa isang bundok ng mga pagkakamali at mga pagkabigo,” he said.

Lee’s final advice to the graduates, after improving oneself, was to exert effort outward, for others’ welfare.

“Makisangkot ka. Ang buhay na hindi inilaan sa kapakanan ng iba ay parang lantang gulay o bilasang isda na walang nakinabang,” he said.

Lee, who was incarcerated during the time of Martial Law, went on: “Huwag kang kuripot. Ibigay mo ang buhay mo sa iba, maski na paminsan-minsan lang. Pumunta ka sa mga bukid, sa mga minahan, sa mga bundok, sa mga batang lansangan, sa mga home for the aged, sa mga inulila ng digmaan. Magtanong ka kung anong maitutulong mo.

“Magkaroon ka ng boses. Ng opinyon. Mundo mo ito. Di ka parang hanging nagdaan lang. Mag-iwan ka ng marka. 'Yang hawak mong diploma, para 'yan sa iba, hindi 'yan para sa'yo.”