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First Class

By Senator Manny Villar

The observance of Holy Week allows us to reflect on the life and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. While we cannot possibly duplicate the suffering that the Son of God endured in order to save us from sin and evil, we can seek inspiration as we go through our own sacrifices and travails in our existential life.

And the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us that inspiration to fight back from adversity, to recover from setbacks, to bounce back from defeats. Last week, we witnessed two stories of sacrifice and redemption.

Cadet First Class Jaywardene Galilea Hontoria, a kasimanwa from Pavia, Iloilo, and Cadet First Class John Vallador, a proud Negrense from the City of Kabangkalan, both attained first class achievements as they topped this year’s Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy graduating classes, respectively.

Just like many Filipinos, Hontoria lived a harsh life before achieving success. He was the son of a farmer and lived a great part of his young life helping out his father “learning all types of hard work that came along with farming.”

He recalled how he spent countless nights tending the irrigation of the rice fields and had to wake up at 3 in the morning to go home and prepare for school.

His father, who could not afford to give him material and financial inheritance, instead gave him the most important pamana: “My tatay told me: ‘Son it is much easier and lighter to carry a pen that to hold a plow. You should study hard instead’.’’

Then Hontoria said something that struck me: “I’ve felt how it feels to have none and that drives me to work for something that I do not have. Life taught me this simple lesson. Inspired by my tatay’s words, I told myself to study hard so that someday, I may have a more comfortable life.”

And with his “sipag at tiyaga” he is on his way to a better life. He is the valedictorian of PMA Alab Tala CLass of 2018, on top of hauling 11 awards, including the Presidential Saber which President Rodrigo Duterte awarded to him.
He also received a house and lot from President Duterte that he can use for the family he is about to raise together with his new wife – his college sweetheart – whom he married after the PMA commencement rites.

Vallador, on the other hand, never met his father, and his mother became an OFW working as a domestic helper abroad.

Faced with the harsh realities of life, Vallador persevered. He said that he had to work – as a helper, houseboy, even as a scavenger – starting when he was just five years old in order to put food on their table and for him and his two siblings to pursue education.

He recounted his hardships during his valedictory speech: “Gamit ang laway lamang at tibay ng loob para lang kami ay makarating sa karatig-bayan kung saan namin nilalako ang aming paninda kahit sa katirikan ng araw.”

Through “sipag at tiyaga,” coupled with “laway at tapang,” Vallador entered the PNPA and now has graduated as valedictorian of the PNPA Maragtas Class of 2018.

I have never been tired of hearing “sipag at tiyaga” success stories from all over our country. When I was still in politics, and even now that I am focused on our business, I would go around the country and meet amazing people – similar to Hontoria and Vallador – who face the difficulties of life and turn them to sweet success.

Their “sipag at tiyaga” stories are modern embodiments of the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord. In fact, that is what I would call the trilogy of success: sipag, tiyaga, at ananampalataya. Both PMA and PNPA topnotcher acknowledge that it was their faith in God that helped them fight the hard ships life threw at them.

This coming Easter Sunday, we will observe and commemorate the resurrection of Christ. It is a time to reaffirm our faith in Him who sacrificed his life for our salvation. It is also the time for some introspection on our own battles, the crosses that we bear, our own obstacles. And the hope and faith that someday our own redemption will come.

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