My Fellowship speech, delivered to the members of the Actuarial Society of the Philippines last June 14, 2013:
Good afternoon, everyone.
Last March, my fellow new Fellow Taks mentioned that we’ll be giving our speeches separately because we agreed not to share the limelight. It’s a good deal, I think. He got the limelight… and I got SMX Aura. (Peace, Taks!)
The exams started back when I was still a college senior in the Ateneo. I remember this vividly because it was the first time that I chose not to go home for sem break. As some of you may know, I’m from Davao (good choice for convention location, by the way, nindot kayo sa Dabaw), and it’s a big deal for me then to go back home during breaks because it’s the only time I get to see and be with my family. But for that particular sem break, I chose to stay because I had to study for Course 1 (for the younger ones, that’s what we called Course P then). That was the first sacrifice I had to make.
Little did I know that there would be more. Little did I foresee how much of an impact exam-taking would have on all aspects of my life.
On the other hand (going back to that first time), I remember the excitement I felt during those long hours of studying in McDonald’s and gulping cups and cups of coffee. (Yes, geek.) I remember feeling that I was about to embark on something grand, something awesome, something great. This was the future we’re talking about here, and I knew then that I was going to be in the actuarial field for the long haul.
Eight years and around ten exams later, I’m still here in the actuarial field, perhaps a little less naïve, perhaps a little more jaded, but still full of passion for this process, full of passion for this profession. What I felt the first time I took an exam is the same feeling every time— a combination of nervousness, of excitement, of sacrifices, of realizing that there’s a purpose to this process, of knowing that there’s progress. I’ve learned a lot since that time. Now, if I had to go back in time eight years ago and give a single advice to that 20-year-old boy who stepped into Ayala FGU Center to take his very first exam, it would be this: Give yourself a break.
I mean this in two senses: Give your mind a break, and give your heart a break.
Give your mind a break. What do I mean? This can be as simple as taking 30 minutes off from your study schedule to eat, people watch, roam around the mall, play a single level of Candy Crush (maybe the dreaded Level 65 J)—just to prevent yourself from burning out. Or this could be as long as taking a day off or a few days off to travel abroad, extend your stay in Davao during the convention to explore the city’s beauty and splendor, attend a friend’s wedding or wedding reception, or maybe even attend your own wedding.
Exams are important, yes, but life need not be put on hold. Like what other Fellows have said before me, balance is everything. You can take exams several times, but your loved ones turn a certain age only once; your friend says “I do” hopefully also only once; and you’re really just young once. So work hard, study hard, but really—party party din pag may time.
Give your heart a break. 5, I believe, is the saddest number. Every time I see a 5 in my grade report, I feel a sharp pain in my heart, because a 5 means that you actually put in the effort in studying, but for some reason or another, just came a little short of the mark. And that sucks. In fact, I don’t think I passed an ASP exam without failing it first. But failures are part of exam-taking, it’s part of the learning process. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
But the more important point is this: Exams are important, yes, but it does not and should not define you as an actuary. If for some reason you keep on missing that mark, if for some reason you’re not able to take exams despite your best efforts, do not feel like your value is being diminished. Your value should be defined by how you rise above such failures, by the integrity and commitment you put into your work, by how much you uphold the ideals and goals of the profession, and by how much professionalism and positive energy you exude when dealing with your peers in the industry.
So basically what I’m saying with “Give yourself a break” are two things: study-life balance, and a holistic appreciation of what it means to be an actuary.
This milestone in my actuarial career is as much the result of my determination to finish it as it is the combined support of my mentors in the Society, my family, and my friends. (Not to mention the study leaves they approved during those crucial times, and my colleagues’ efforts in manning the helm while I was away.) As such, it would be remiss of me not to thank these people who have allowed me to be where I am now.
First, I’d like to thank Sir Gerry, my professor in college, for fanning that initial spark of interest I had in the actuarial field. (Sir, I know this is 8 years late, but sorry for being an hour late in your class even though I just lived in the dorm. Inside the campus.) I’d also like to thank Ms Candy, for teaching me that you can be firm but flexible, fun but fierce, professional yet parental—all at the same time. Ms Jess, thank you for keeping an eye out on me while I had my short stint in PELAC. Charline, perhaps one of the youngest to attain ASP Fellowship in recent years, for showing me what academic mastery is all about. I’d also like to thank Ms Avic and Sir Rey for being stalwarts of stability during my formative years in Philam. Sir Don San Jose, thank you for teaching me to rise above dire circumstances and never feeling like a victim, and for making me realize that the best answer to a Yes-or-No question is, more often than not, a simple “Yes” or a simple “No”. And of course, I’d like to thank Jasper Cheng for the support he’s provided me for the past 3 years. He made me believe that, unlike the popular adage, good guys DO finish first and not last.
I’d also like to thank the two “kids” who I had the opportunity to work with, James and Joseph, for making me realize that there’s still a lot to be learned in becoming an effective manager.
I’d also like to thank my friends for celebrating with me in my ups and grieving with me in my downs—my college blockmates, especially Sam and Joey, who accompanied me in this actuarial journey for as long as they could; the original Philam “younglings” Chris, Joanne, Adam, Jose, and Paul; the wunderkids I worked with in AXA, Juvel, Rachelle, and Jericho; and the guys of the new generation I became close with in Manulife, Bea and Jodi. These people are not only close friends, but also examples of professionals I wish to emulate—they possess the work ethics, the initiative, the drive, the commitment, and the ability to get along with people they work with.
Finally, I’d like to thank my Philamlife family, my AXA family, and my Manulife families both here and in Bangkok for nurturing me. I have met several good people along the way, and looking forward to meet several more.
The exams may be over (at least for now), but as long as this profession is my passion, and my passion is my profession, there’s always something exciting to look forward to—something grand, something awesome, something great.
Thank you, and good afternoon.