My Retirement Speech
Finally, the day when I have to leave De La Salle Zobel and the comforts of home that it provides me together with all the amenities, equipment, the latest gadgets and knowing the latest trends in teaching the young, has finally come. After thirty four years of continued service, I have to relinquish my post and hand it over to the next one. It may be lonely but I know I am needed somewhere else. So, to the world, I say here I come. I think you are ready for someone like me as I have been preparing to be ready to meet your challenges.
On May 25, I, together with two other retirees, Ms. Carol Ballesteros, school librarian and Ms. Tess Panaligan, Vice Principal for Academics of our Vermosa Campus, were given a tribute during the Recognition Day. I was asked to deliver a speech in response to the tribute. You can view the entire message in the link provided here
or if you prefer to read the text, I am reproducing it here for posterity so that those in my family who would be interested can view it the way it was presented. Here goes:
I always gift myself with a major
work, either a painting or a poem, which I do days before my birthday. On the first day of September in 2007, a few
days before I turned fifty, and ten years before this occasion, I wrote a poem
which I would like to share with you today.
The poem is entitled, into the
strenuous briefness, a title that is not mine, the only poem I have written
that has a title borrowed from another artist, American beat poet, e. e.
cummings – and it goes like this:
into the strenuous briefness
a puddle of
What is the relevance of this
poem to my impending retirement? A lot. If you must know, I have stayed in this
school for 34 years. To many, it would seem that that is a long time - but,
actually, it isn’t. To me, it seems like
I woke up this morning only to find out that it has already been thirty-four
years and I have already overstayed my welcome. A journey of a thousand miles,
no matter how slow the pace and how long it takes, the end shall be reached and
the journey has to end. This is how it
is. Time continues and will not stop for anything or anyone. We are trapped in
a continuing whirlpool until we reach rock bottom for after all, life is not a
People have been asking me,
“Do you feel sad now that you are retiring?” My answer has always been a curt
reply in the negative. You might say I am a bit numb or even egotistical not to
admit I am saddened by having to say goodbye.
The truth of the matter is that it is only because it has not sunk in and
that it will only be felt on the day when I no longer have to wake up early in
the morning, drive all the way to school, and have my morning chit chat with
friends while having breakfast. It is just like the experience of having
someone die in your family and yes, you grieve but not that much for you are in
the company of friends and relatives during the wake. The loss truly sinks in when the departed is
finally put permanently to rest, together with the flowers and notes and all
the valuables you want to bury with the person.
When everybody has gone home, that is the time it will hit you. Only then will you experience the emptiness,
the longing for the shared laughter, never to hear the sound of his/her voice
again – then you realize a dearly beloved has gone. Yes, retirement will only sink in once I have
stopped doing my daily routine, a routine I have been doing every waking day of
my life for more than half of my existence here on earth. Ultimately in all
reality and practicality, it will truly be felt every tenth and twenty-fifth of
the month when no pay check shall be coming in.
I came to this school in 1984
during its infancy stage, together with Litz, six years after the school started. I was not
prepared to be a teacher. I did not even know what a syllabus is, I frantically
looked for a sample so that I can make it my template when they asked me to do
one. I should say, my first 15 years were spent in knowing how to teach and everything that comes with it. Now that I can
say I know the ropes, they are retiring me.
It is like when I finally knew the answer, they changed the question. I will never be as good as my friend, Henry
Magahis. Now he is the epitome of a good teacher. He dreamt of it even when he
was young. He knew what he wanted and got it. Nor will I ever be a Tess
Panaligan whose passion and enthusiasm are easily passed on to her students. For
those of you who really know who I am, it would be very easy for you to
understand that I wear two hats in school. The teacher me who is all serious
and strict with my students and the real me, a prankster, jocular, fun-loving
and one who loves to tell jokes especially green ones. I had to keep the real
me in tow knowing I have to be at my best behavior when I am being a teacher.
As such, I have never been close to my students. Except for those who became
teachers themselves, no student of mine will ever know the real me, fun to be
with and most probably, lovable. My only consolation is that several months
before retirement, I was fortunate to head a delegation of eight students to
Kota Kinabalu. Finally, I have bonded
with students, earned their trust and gained their friendship. To me, that is
truly endearing. I will always cherish
in my heart those seven days that we were together, telling jokes – the clean
ones, of course, singing, hiking, playing cards during idle moments and enjoying
the sceneries and the entire experience altogether! I have considered them to
be my children who I shall be looking after even from a distance. So to
Cristine, Tony, Bea, Jemil, Maui, Gerard, Adolf and Kester thank you and good
luck on all your endeavors.
In my thirty-four years, I have
witnessed every transformation the school has undergone. I have seen the progress
it undertook from its simplest political and physical set-up to today’s
complicated quagmire of networks and everything that go with it, even the
confusing bureaucracy we have put ourselves in. I have worked under the
tutelage of noble superiors who had clear visions and novel ideas. I have
worked under three presidents, Br. Andrew, Br. Rafe, Broden and now, Br.
Bernie. I worked closely with two EVP’s,
Br. Dalumpines and Mr. Holmes, several Directors and Principals, notable of
which is Mr. Cadlum, the very first lay administrator La Salle would have and
the one who, God bless him, offered me the job, to teach in Zobel. There are also my ninongs Mr. Lozada and Mr.
Valmonte, Mr. Sagum and yes, that enchanting but very evasive woman, Ms.
Melissa Cruz. All these leaders have
left their imprints, whether physical or otherwise, serving as pillars of this
well-established institution as they have envisioned. I was one of the first coordinators, the
youngest then, to hold office when the school adapted this system of management.
Several years thereafter, I had the pleasure to work with no less than my
fellow honoree, Ms. Agnes Panaligan. She
was a perfect teacher, immaculate as a Coordinator, she was impeccable as an
Academic Vice Principal. What is the point of all these? I would like to tell
you, we are now reaping the fruits of trees planted for us, and to borrow the
words of the late Br.Rafe, we have been drinking from a well we did not dig.
There are a lot of things I
have to be thankful for. First of all, I
have to thank La Salle for providing all my children with quality education.
That is the primary reason why I stayed on board. I equated their education as
part of my salary. Having done so, my wages, even then, was already comparable
to what those working as managers in the industry or my artist-friends who are
making their names known in art scene.
La Salle has made my journey as a family man comfortable, if not luxurious.
We have always been simple folks with simple needs anyway. I would like to
thank the Gr 9 and 10 teachers of the last two academic years for they have
made my transition from the administration back to the classroom easy. I will
have to thank my band and the singers. They made me look good and sound good.
Special thanks should go my team leaders, Kathy and Symbol for it is in their
leadership that my survival in the classroom had been effortless. Next to thank are those women friends who were
constant companions for lunch, outings and everything in between. First is
Edith, Cris, Monette, Ophel, Joji, Suzette, Zharro, Liesl, Barbie, Monica, Tiffany,
the computer girls headed by Kat, Apple, Armie, Lalaine and that cute little
girl who has always been the topic of my
jokes, Ria. They were my angels. With only a brother, I grew up with sisters
who pampered me making me more comfortable in the company of women than men. These
women are both beautiful inside and out. Most of all, I have to thank my wife,
Nitz, who put up with all my peculiarities and unusual ways. Living with an artist is not easy but she
survived. Then my children to whom I dedicate everything. Kraig, Mizel, Kim and
Coby. They are my truest angels who guided me in all the endeavors I have
undertaken and will continue to do so until I can no longer perform.
I started with a poem, I would like to end
with another one. This one is entitled The Reunion. It talks about two former
lovers who have gone their separate ways after graduation. After long years of
being apart, somehow they got in touch and have agreed to meet once again at
the same spot which served as their rendezvous.
The man arrives earlier than the woman and he reminisces about old
times. He is excited about the prospect of meeting her again. This is my
metaphor for DLSZ and the relationship I have with it and what I
foresee that relationship shall be in the future. So here goes:
Nothing has changed since I left
not the old tree in front
of the gate they closed at five,
or the tree we climbed to enter
The white bench where we sat to watch
fiery glow of setting sun,
my signal to hold your hand,
hoping you would not resist –
caress your long, soft hair
blown by the gentle breeze,
gently kiss your reddened cheek.
Time stood still as we listen to the chimes
it is time to pray the angelus,
a prayer we used to share
while I gazed at your young, innocent face.
He hands of time spin as quickly
as the blades of a running motor.
Your heavily made up face,
accented by thick, red lips
heavy mascara and plum body
remind me of my own flaws
now weighing on my shoulders.
Then I notice, the tree has gone dry,
its leaves withered by the summer heat,
our bench is dirty and rusted,
chimes now play a different tune.
We have gone old and the years
What am I trying to say in my poem? Heraclitus
said, “You cannot cross the same river twice.” I cannot cross the same river
twice because neither the river nor I will be the same. It is on that note that
I say, with deep regret, that I can never return to the same De La Salle
Santiago Zobel again. Given three to
five years, only a fraction of those teaching here would know me for those who
did would have been gone having resigned, or yes, retired as well. In ten years and more, nobody would know,
much less care, who Rolly de los Santos is and all the thirty-four years of my
stayhere shall be rendered as of no consequence.Just to prove my point, we all know where the
Cadlum hall is but we don’t know after whom the place was named after. Hoping I shall not be misconstrued as being
critical but jus t driving home a point, this very institution was conceived and
built by Br. Andrew and yet, nobody among the teachers here know who he is. While he has a room named after
him, nobody has the mind to build a statue in his honor in this very
institution which was his baby, a project that he ardently fought for as the
brothers then frowned upon the idea questioning why La Salle had to build
another “elitist” school. What about the
two statues outside of the CPA? Br. Ceci and
Br. Felix? Those endearing brothers who charmed their way to the
students’ hearts. Nobody knows them now. If these great men whose work far
exceeded what was expected of them and yet, are forgotten now, surely I, a
simple art teacher whose service can be considered minimal in comparison will
not matter after ten years or even earlier.
so, my friends, if I can make an appeal to
you, those here present and have
known me and my work, please try to remember who I was and what I stood for.
Try to remember me using that ancient computer lingo, wysywyg – what you see is
what you get. I know I may have been brash or
rude at some point and may have possibly hurt someone one way or
another with my blunt words, but try to
understand that I was just trying to be me and I apologize. Believe me when I say it was nothing
personal. I am still the same friendly me after that. I know that humility has
not been my strongest virtue but I make sure that having integrity, being
honest, and objectively fair top them all.
To the new teachers, I am sorry we could not have interacted that much
but this I tell you, De La Salle is one place where you can stay for a very
long time and it will treat you well if you do your job just as well. To my
friends, I bid you adieu, hoping it is
just for now and that we will continue to correspond until I am no longer
available to. Thank you Zobel, thank you everyone. This is rolly de los Santos signing
out. Good morning!