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ABF Caring and Compassion Award! Graduation Speech!

Congratulations to Rorene Amor, Kate Lyn Castaneda, Dan Rey Rendon, Edwin Navarro Jr !

Recipient of the 2023 ABF Caring and Compassion Award at Alaminos City National High School!

I am Orlando Begonia, founder and President of the Alexander Begonia Foundation.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the graduates; you are embarking on a new stage of your life. Some will be challenging, and some will be fun. It will shape the way you look at life and prepare you to deal with difficulties that may come your way.

I like talking to you about life, the importance of giving, caring, and compassion, and the Alexander Begonia Foundation.

Twenty-five years ago, my son Alex was born with Down Syndrome; he changed how I look at life positively and profoundly. When he was one year old and doing well in education and health, we decided to pay forward or give back to others.

The following are the programs and projects of the Alexander Begonia Foundation.

• Scholarship Program: There are 14 scholars, 10 in college, four graduating this year- 2 in BS Education and 2 in BS accounting, and 4 in high school. Many scholars had graduated from college, held good jobs, and contributed to society.

Feeding Program/ Canteen Fund: We conduct school feeding programs for deserving students and some barangay as well. A few years ago, we provided p5000 each to all 36 public elementary schools to help fund their canteen, some of the gains would support feeding programs. All we wanted in return were pictures of the school feedings posted on the foundation's Facebook page. Please follow the foundation page for updates or if wish to know more about the foundation.

We will donate an additional p2000 to each of the 38 elementary schools to help fund their canteen and support school feeding. We will also fund 16 targeted school feedings throughout the year.

• Playground Equipment: My daughter Kathleen started the playground equipment for schools when she was 12 years old. Her project donated 36 pieces of playground equipment to all 36, now 38, public elementary schools in Alaminos City. We have yet to make plans to restart the program at this time.

• Medical Missions: We conduct blood pressure screening and provide vitamins during medical missions.

• Special Needs Program: We provided funds and supplies to various special needs classes in the schools. In addition, we will donate another p2000 to all 38 public elementary schools to buy supplies for impoverished students. Since Alex has special needs, we will have discussions with Mam Pagatpatan on how to support the 3 SPED schools, Alaminos Central School, Alos and Lucap.

Bread and Pastry Program @ ACNHS. Thanks to Mr. Mayo, Mr. Valdez, and Ms. Untalasco, who presented the program plans to me; it is in line with one of the foundation projects, school feeding. I am donating p10,000 for the Senior High school and p35,000 for the Junior High School, but with p20,000 from a previous donation to the school canteen, the total funding is p65,000 pesos.

When Mr. Mayo and Mr. Valdez informed me that they are naming the school canteen in honor of the ABF, I decided to increase the total donation amount to p100,000 pesos. It’s one of my dream to have Alexander’s name in one of the canteens. The profits from the products will fund a school feeding program. We want to ensure that the beneficiaries will not stay hungry; we also ask for pictures of the feedings. Mam Meriam Presiados is kind enough to accept the responsibility of managing the program, in cooperation with Mr. Mayo and Mr. Valdez.

• The Alexander Begonia Caring and Compassion Award, which includes a monetary reward, is presented to graduating students, male and female, that Demonstrate Caring and Compassion towards others. When Alex graduated from elementary, he was given an award, which touched our hearts. So we decided to give back. They will receive p500 and a Certificate.

The foundation is self-funded; we don't ask for donations or fundraising, but we have a few voluntary contributions from caring individuals. We are donating a total of p500,000 to support all the ABF projects in the School District of Alaminos City this year.

I am sharing the story to show you that even a little boy with a disability can make a huge difference in people's lives, especially the least fortunate. Alex is now 25 years old and a beacon of light to anyone around him because of his joyous disposition. He taught me to look at life differently; I learned to enjoy life every day as if it were the last day. Alex, my wife, our daughter, and I always look for opportunities to do something good daily. If each of us did one good deed every day, this world would be a much better place. Please continue to spread the love and pay it forward.

I want you to give or pass it forward if someone does something good for you. Never expect anything; giving without expectation is the key. The rewards will come back differently at an unexpected time. Remember those less fortunate than you. By reaching out, you can brighten the day. Don't focus so much on yourself. The world is bigger than you. It could always be worse. As you get older, you realize that we are codependent. Work together, do your part, and help each other. Change may not happen immediately, but it does. I also suggest to please stay away from drugs and alcohol. I remember my mother telling me in high school before she left for New York. "You may smoke, drink and get someone pregnant; we will not be there every second to watch you; it's up to you to create your future." That was a compelling message. I had a similar conversation with my daughter, the same age. She is now an RN, Ph.D., and the Associate IT Director at Mount Sinai Hospital, Beth Israel, in NY. I guess the message worked.

Be goal-oriented and focused. Strive to be the best. Have a positive outlook and think forward. Stay motivated. Study hard but remember to take breaks and laugh.

Please remember to give back to your community. There is only one thing I ask you to remember from this speech: Please help one person you don't know in your lifetime; believe me, it is one of the best feelings. When we see the happy faces of the scholars and the children during feeding, it warms our hearts.

Respect and honor your parents, your brothers and sisters. Please always remember your teachers, for they are the ones who gave you your strong foundation. You might not realize it now, but you will. Without them, I will not be here today.

Throughout our lives, we want material things that we think will make us happy. For example, my wife drives a Tesla Model X, my daughter a Tesla Model 3, and I drive a Tesla Model S Plaid, the quickest production car in the world, 0-60 mph (0-97 mph) in 1.9 seconds, top speed of 200MPH/322kph, it’s nice to have and it makes me happy; but it doesn’t compare to the happiness I feel, when I see the foundation scholars excel and succeed, the faces of the children when they receive their cup of soup, the restaurant servers each receiving p100 tip, the young children selling fish at the dock receiving p1,000 because they don’t smoke or drink-trying to earn a living for their family, the foundation scholar gathering oysters to sell, so she doesn’t ask for allowance from her parents, and now graduating to become a teacher, these are just some examples of what makes me happy and fulfilling life. You don’t want to be remembered as someone who has a nice car, big house, a successful business; you want people to remember you for what good you did for them.

Think what just a little random act of kindness can do to someone’s life, these simple acts become addicting, then you start looking for opportunities to do it.

Unfortunately I can’t fix the world alone, but at least my family and I are doing our part. Everyday, I look for an opportunity to give to the least fortunate; as what they say, you can’t take it with you. Please always look for opportunities to make someone happy, by asking them how are they doing, offering help, checking on your shy friends, specially those with special needs or disability, share what you have. Don’t worry who’s watching, God is always watching the good things you do, and you will be rewarded.

Those who are in their teens start to experience hormonal changes, become attracted to opposite sex, and soon after you have Babies having babies, which can ruin your future. Try your best to remain focused on your personal and professional goals so you can eventually support your own family.

Another key concept is to be kind and compassionate. Do not bully and if you see someone being bullied, speak up against it. Tell a teacher or talk to a trustee adult for help. It’s important to be kind. We are all interconnected. As you look for jobs keep in mind, it always pays to be nice to everyone, it helped make my job easier, running a 1000 bed hospital, the biggest hospital system, 21 hospitals in NY. Easier to deal with staff and leaders if you are known to be a good person. Be nice to everyone on your way up, these are the same people you will meet on your way down.

Another important concept that will help you help yourself is to Learn basic home chores. Cooking, grocery shopping, washing and ironing, this all leads to an independent life, and it helped me when I was in college living alone.

Another tip that will help you is to Speak louder so people can hear you , be assertive to make your needs known., but do not be aggressive. You want to be sure to advocate for yourself and your loved ones.

Focus on your studies, instead of using your phones to watch movies, shows, use it as a tool , read personal finance blogs, articles, it will teach you to learn about investing. There is a saying, don’t save, invest.

In closing, I’d like to remind of Mother Theresa’s quote- It is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. Always pay it forward with love and good intention.

Congratulations , students and parents, you've done well.

Thank you for your time, and I wish you all the best! Please be kind to one another! God Bless!



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