Roots of Honor

Photos by Ms. Joanne Teng, GS English teacher

The following speech was delivered by Mr. Brian Maraña, Coordinator for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, during the Grades 4 to 6 Reading of Honors ceremony held last 21 July 2014.

Fr. Ari Dy, Mrs. Jane Cacacho, administrators, teachers, students, and dear guests, good morning. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Brian Maraña, and I am the International Baccalaureate diploma program coordinator in the high school.

I’d like to start this morning by talking about trees.

I know this sounds weird. We’re here for awarding of honors. What do honors have to do with trees? Well please listen, and I hope that I can explain.

For the first several years of their lives, trees are just little seedlings- quite weak and so small compared to most other living things.

They’re stuck in one spot, tied to the ground by their roots. Perhaps if we were little seedlings, we might be jealous of how other animals could run and jump. We might be jealous at how strong and big these other animals could get.

But as these seedlings grow up, they become incredible forces of nature.

They can grow taller than any living organism. They can survive hot temperatures, freezing temperatures, sun, wind and rain. They provide food and shelter for all kinds of different species – and they can live longer than any animal that we know of.

What’s their secret? It’s all in those roots.

Those very things that keep them from going anywhere are also the source of their strength and their growth. The very thing that keeps plants tied to the ground are the also the things that allow them to grow towards the sky.

Now we don’t have physical roots the same way that trees do, but we have other kinds of roots. We have family roots, cultural, and our religious roots. And these roots work a lot like the roots of plants and trees. They give us nourishment, and they encourage us to grow.

I know that I have experienced this in my own life. I grew up in the United States. Most of the people around me looked different.

Many of them had light skin and blue eyes. I was often the only Filipino in my class! Sometimes people ask me what that was like. Did I feel more Filipino or more American? Wasn’t it hard being different?

Well of course I was different. But my parents gave me very strong roots that helped me do well. For example, my family did not allow me to watch TV or play video games during the weekdays, so good study habits are part of the roots I got from my family.

Because I came from two different cultures, Filipino and American, I learned how to talk with all kinds of different people. This made it easier for me to understand others. So the ability to work with others is something I got from my cultural roots.


Finally, my parents and my schools taught me the importance of faith.

I learned to pray and look for God in all things, and so growing up, my religious roots also got stronger.

I think because of this, I was able to do very well in grade school, high school and in college! My study habits got me good grades and awards.

My ability to work with others meant that I got to be a leader in many different clubs and activities. And through all of this, my faith in God helped me to keep going, even when I faced many challenges, like lots and lots and lots of homework.

I expect that many of our awardees today have similarly strong roots, as we see in their honors and awards.   For others, perhaps these fruits won’t come for a little while longer. That’s ok! It is not a race! Just keep developing your roots – by studying, by working well with others, and by praying and trusting in God. Eventually, the fruits of your hard work will come out, too.

Before I finish, though, my story takes a little bit of a twist. After I graduated college, many people expected that I would try to shoot for the stars – to go for a job that gives a “high” amount of respect like maybe a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman. But instead of reaching for the sky, I went back to my roots.

You see, although being in the United States would maybe allow me to get a high paying job, I still felt that something was still missing. My parents gave me strong roots, but I did not really know or understand their roots.

I moved here in 2006 and have lived here now for more than eight years. I now know a lot more about the Philippines!

I have had a chance to hang out with my Dad’s brother and to get to know my Mom’s cousins. And when I got married two years ago, my Dad said to me, “You have helped your mom and I stay connected to our families. Thank you.”

That moment made me prouder than any award I ever won in school, and it made me happier than any amount of money ever has.

In moving back to the Philippines, I have learned that the highest honors are not good grades, or being well-known, or having a lot of money. For me, digging into my roots, connecting with my family, and having a stronger sense of where I come from – these have been so far the greatest honors of my life.

It is my sincerest hope that you will also achieve these same honors, and the good news for you is that you don’t have to wait until after college to achieve them!

Every day, you have a chance to build your cultural and religious roots right here in Xavier School.   We are a Chinese, Filipino, Catholic school. These are our roots. And so every day in Filipino class you have a chance to strengthen your national roots and connect with 100 million Filipinos around the world that share our Filipino citizenship.

Every day in Chinese class, you have a chance to strengthen your cultural roots and connect with more than a billion people around the world that speak Chinese.

And every day in CLE, you have a chance to strengthen your religious roots and connect with the billions and billions of people around the world that share our faith.

So don’t wait. Grow those roots now, and trust that eventually, those roots will bring you honors and awards even higher than Academic Excellence or the Xavier Award. Grow those roots now, and they will bring you the greatest honors of your life.

Thank you.

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