IN all of its 15 years, this is the first time that SELF will combine two major affairs in one celebration. To celebrate our 15th year as a healing community, we saw it but fitting to hold our 13th Graduation Rites as a way of highlighting this important achievement. Gathered here today, we are all filled with excitement and hope. Excitement because we have worked so hard to conceive a program that would appropriately honor this milestone. Every member of the SELF Family is eagerly waiting to entertain you with a fabulous musical show they took so much time to prepare. And hope because we are once again going to send off to our society another batch of 18 trustworthy and God-fearing individuals imbued with a sense of mission towards humanity.

The Miracles of God

But, as we say in TC, “No free Lunch!” SELF, too, had its fair share of ups and downs during its growing period. I am reminded of other major milestones in SELF’s history and, if only to give glory to the miracles of God, please allow me to tell two short stories. The first happened in 1996. SELF was being evicted from its first facility in Las Piñas. Year after year, pressures from the surrounding residential associations and the city mounted. At the same time, SELF was already in need of a bigger house. Finding a new venue, however, was easier said than done. Well, in a bizarre twist of fate, what no entity or official could do to make us move, ironically God did in his own majestic way. That June a fire gutted the entire facility. From that fire rose a steadfast determination to find a new home for SELF. The journey took us to a temporary shelter in Tagaytay where, sadly, abusive landlords drove us to the edge of desperation. However, this harassment again became the very fuel that once again set us off in search of a better place. In 1999 we began to build Taal View House and in June 2000 SELF’s first permanent home was inaugurated.

A New Culture

The second story is about an event that significantly changed the way SELF runs its Therapeutic Community program. In 2002 SELF suffered a major crisis in its organization: management was in disharmony and negative practices found their way into the program. The situation demanded a strong will to make things right no matter what the cost. We undertook a drastic change in personnel and began to nurture a new culture. Today, we have evolved into a community that is Strict, Yet Caring. Strict but not abusive; Caring yet not enabling. All practices in the TC now conform to three rules. They all have to be Respectful, Logical and Practical. With this, my passion has grown to levels I never before imagined they could reach. I’ve never been so happy to work with the residents and staff as I have in these last four years. Life at SELF has never been better! And it is a distinct pleasure to graduate a total of 18 residents under our revamped program. As you might have observed, we have gone all out with this celebration. After all, we reason, this only happens once every 15 years. A lot of effort has gone into organizing this affair and, right now, I have only two wishes: that you keep remembering us in your prayers and that you sit back and enjoy our fabulous show. I thank our Family Association for their steadfast support and generous contributions and sponsoring this entire affair. I would also like to thank Fritz Ynfante for tirelessly training and coaching our residents and staff through long and grueling hours, so that they could present this entertaining number, from their hearts, for all of you to enjoy. So standby for Showtime! Finally, to all of you who came from far distances to be with us tonight, thank you so much for making us a part of your lives.

Special Award
And now it gives me great pleasure to introduce our Keynote Speaker for today. Our speaker and I go way back, since 1972 when we graduated from High School at the Ateneo. Though we were classmates and good friends then, the relationship was short-lived as this was also the time I started my crazy affair with drugs. My good friend Jess took the straight and narrow path and soon found himself a career in the insurance business. Sadly, I never saw him again until around 1997 when our 25th homecoming called for the reunion of our class. By this time Jess was a top executive of Philamlife and I was proud of his achievement. There and then, I invited him to be a member of our Board and have since always counted on him for advice. In he year 2000 SELF was in the process of building this facility and we were saddled with debts for its construction. The inauguration was just around the corner and our coffers were dry. SELF needed a miracle. Just then, after one of our Board meetings, Jess casually asked me to ride with him on the way home. When I boarded his car, he pulled out an envelope full of cash and handed it over to me and said: “Know what, Mart, I am privileged to have enjoyed a vacation paid by my company. But for some reason I chose not to spend this money as I felt I could put it to good use. Now, I know what it was intended for.” Jess, that act was the miracle that set off more miracles to come. A few days later, a FAM member also came to our rescue and, on the very week of our inauguration, busy as we all were, the Lord sent SELF 10 admissions in the span of five days. That June recorded our highest revenues ever and we were able to begin paying off much of our debts. Jess, in a meeting held in your absence early this year, the Board unanimously agreed to award you, at this fitting occasion of our 15th Anniversary, with a Certificate of Appreciation for everything you have done for SELF. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to call on stage the President of Philam Plans and SELF Board Consultant Mr. Jess Hofileña to receive this award and to deliver his Keynote message.