[OPINION] The day I became a rebel

"I always wanted to be part of a small rebellion."

That line from Steven Spielberg's The Post brought me back in time, when I was in elementary. 

Weeks before our graduation, one of my teachers gave me a copy of the speech I had to deliver as welcoming address.

For the first 3 days of our practice, she allowed me to bring the copy on stage. There, she would correct where I should pause, and note the emotions I should express when delivering the speech.

She took away my copy on the 4th day, saying I should have memorized the speech by then. I stuttered many times.

Realizing that I hadn't memorized the speech yet, she told me to see her after the practice, but I did not come. The next day, she scolded me for not going to see her. Still, I wasn't able to memorize the speech.

The practice intensified days before the graduation. Not a day passed without me getting a serious scolding for not delivering the speech the way they wanted it.

The day before graduation, I did not attend the final practice. I called my teacher, saying I'm not feeling well.

"Basta dapat memorize mo na ang speech mo ha. Nakakahiya kung magdadala ka ng kopya (It's fine as long as you memorize your speech. It's shameful if you bring a copy on stage)," my teacher reminded me. I just said yes.

The next day, my family and I arrived at the venue 30 minutes before the graduation. My teacher asked me if I already memorized the speech. I just nodded in response.

"Ayusin mo ha, ikaw ang mapapahiya kung magkakamali ka (You should do it right, you'll be embarrassed if you don't do it properly)," she warned.

The program started on time. Parents marched with their kids bearing wide smiles.

Moment of truth

In my seat, I was shaking and trembling, I didn't know what to do. Many things were going through my mind. I don't have stage fright, but I guess it was the circumstance that made me nervous. I was doubting my courage to do it. I looked at my parents sitting at back with all smiles. I asked myself, "Would they be ashamed of me?"

As the emcee called my name, I immediately stood in confidence to hide my true emotions. I grabbed the microphone from the mic stand and walked to the middle of the stage.

"Today marks the end of yesterday, and the beginning of tomorrow," I started. This is it, I told myself. The moment of truth. I won't let go of this opportunity.

In the middle of my speech, there was a complete silence from the audience. I saw my mom crying at the back. From there, I knew I "ruined" the graduation rites.

I delivered a different speech, different from the one my teacher gave me. 

I was convinced I can't deliver a prepared speech containing praises and sweet-sounding words especially if they're not true. I've been waiting for that day to express everything I haven't been able to say, because I knew they can't humiliate me during our graduation – not in front of many people.

I decided to air my disappointment toward my teachers in many instances that I really felt I had been taken advantage of. 

One example was when some teachers in our school connived to rig the students' elections to favor my richer classmate by allowing him to distribute things of monetary value just to get votes. They wanted him to win, for he can give more projects to the school from his pocket. Why not me? Because they knew they can't get something from me financially. 

I also mentioned the unnecessary collections ranging from 5 to 10 pesos almost daily for whatever reason. Each year, the Department of Education allocates enough funds for every school to cover teachers' materials. I don't see any problem if it happens only once or twice, but if the unnecessary collection becomes habitual, then there must be something wrong.

Add that to the unfair treatment toward students like me who were always out for academic and journalism contests. I always had to pass "special projects" just to cope with the quizzes I missed while I was out there representing our school in different competitions. 

That's why I decided to rebel against them, during what was supposed to be a day of celebration. I couldn't think of a better way to do it. I really did not memorize the prepared speech for a reason – I already had mine.

From the moment I was hailed as the class salutatorian, I already had the idea of doing it during our graduation. Even if I was the valedictorian, I would still do it, and it would be much longer than I delivered. This is one of the first decisions I've made without consulting my parents because I knew they would be against it.

"To incoming Grade 6 pupils, beware of crocodiles," I ended. 

I heard loud cheers from the audience. My classmates were all shocked. I can still remember our district supervisor back then hugging me after my speech. Our division superintendent, who was also present that day, commended me during her message right after my speech. From there, I knew I did nothing wrong.

I will never regret doing that rebellious speech. After that incident, the school administration became aware of these issues. They addressed it accordingly to prevent it from happening again – or at least for the next batch. 

It took a small act of rebellion to create change, and I think that's what really matters. 

I realized that sometimes, people with small voices have to shout to be heard. – Rappler.com