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  • A Teacher's Last Words: Strive to Be Extraordinary

    A few weeks before his death, a high school teacher told his students that you don't have to do something unique to be extraordinary.
    by Emmanuel Jose Pavia .

  • Editor’s note: With permission from Ateneo Is Home where the piece below first appeared, we are republishing a July 1, 2016 essay that Emmanuel Jose "Em-J" Pavia, a teacher at the Ateneo de Manila Junior High School, wrote for his students and the Ateneo community.

    Last July 18, 2016 Teacher Em-J was shot dead by a still unidentified gunman as he was walking to his family home in Marikina. The police said Teacher Em-J was known as an anti-drug advocate, and it will investigate whether this could be a possible motivation behind the killing. As of this writing, the investigation was still underway.

    An Atenean alumnus since grade school, Teacher Em-J was in his fourth year of teaching, following the footsteps of his parents, Gerardo Q. Pavia and Margarita M. Pavia, both faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila Senior High School. He is also survived by a brother, Nestor Jose M. Pavia, who also teaches in the same high school.

    Let me ask you: Have you yourself ever felt extraordinary?

    You might be thinking, I guess, maybe. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no, I suppose. And that’s normal.

    But what if I ask you: Have you ever had the desire to be extraordinary?

    Now you might be thinking: yeah, definitely. I mean, why not, right? At least once this thought has entered your mind, I’m sure.

    Now let me ask you: Do you then think you have what it takes to be extraordinary?

    Honestly, I know that this is probably a hard question to answer, especially right now. But I’m here today to tell you that, in fact, everybody and anybody can be extraordinary if they want to be. Sounds really cliché, right? But it’s true.

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    Allow me to go back to my first question, “What does it really mean to be extraordinary?”

    For me, there are three things that any person can do to become extraordinary. The first of which I learned from my first year high school English teacher, Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan. He taught me to believe that you don’t have to do something extra special, unique, or different, to be considered extraordinary. Rather, you can just continue to do ordinary things, but do them extraordinarily well.

    You can be of extraordinary help to the environment by simply throwing your trash properly and performing CLAYGO wherever you are. A student can be extraordinary by just working hard and paying attention to his studies. Even being an extraordinary son can be as simple as just making sure his parents know that he loves them each and every day. After all, it’s these small seemingly extraordinary things that when put together, can really make a big difference in the world we live in today.

    The second thing I’d like to share is that to be extraordinary, it must be a habit, rather than just a single act. Sure we hear about all these extraordinary things people do, but doing something extraordinary once doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be extraordinary again later on. As Ateneans, we have our “5Cs” that stand for Compassion, Commitment, Conscience, Competence, and Christ-Centeredness. For me personally, I would go as far as adding a sixth, and that “C” would be Consistency. Let us strive to uphold the extraordinary values the Ateneo tries to teach us as consistently as possible throughout our lives.

    And finally, the third aspect about being extraordinary for me is simply having the desire to be extraordinary. I know this may seem to contradict my first claim about doing ordinary things extraordinarily well, but what I mean is that we shouldn’t settle for just that. If we have the opportunity to be extraordinary, seize it, and never settle for anything less than giving our very best in whatever it is we do. Aim for the moon. That way even if we miss, we’ll land among the stars.

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    Before I end this reflection, please allow me to share a personal experience that happened to me just this past week. A very good friend of mine passed away last Thursday, as he suffered from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that affects the immune system. I had known him since we were in high school, and for me, he is an excellent example of what it means to be extraordinary.

    When I met Quinto Lutero when we were in high school, he never struck me as somebody whom I would eventually come to consider as extraordinary. He never really stood out in terms of grades or sports or anything like that. He was just a regular guy going through high school, probably experiencing the same problems and difficulties as I was. Little did I know that the problems and difficulties he was going through were much deeper than mine.

    In our sophomore year in college, he told me that he had cancer. It’s been at least 5 years since then, and not once did I ever see him complain or be unhappy about his situation, even until his last breath. One thing about Quinto I will never forget is how quickly we became friends back in high school, and looking back it’s probably because he always had a smile on his face. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that? And that smile of his, along with his ever positive attitude, became a trademark “Quinto-thing” that all his friends and family came to know him by.

    Such a seemingly extraordinary thing--smiling. Yet he did it all the time, and in such a way that was so extraordinary, that he could put a good mood into any situation, regardless of what struggles he was going through himself. Imagine knowing that you have cancer, and yet still thinking of the happiness of others before your own. To me, Quinto was without a doubt an extraordinary person that I will never forget, and I’m sure that now he’s resting among the stars up there in heaven.

    So, my dear Ateneans, always strive to be extraordinary.

    Let us pray:

    Dear God, give me courage,
    for perhaps I lack it more than anything else.

    I need courage before men against their threats
    and against their seductions.

    I need courage to bear unkindness,
    mockery, contradiction.

    I need courage to fight against the devil,
    against terrors and troubles, temptations,
    attractions, darkness and false lights,
    against tears, depression, and above all fear.

    I need Your help, dear God.

    Strengthen me with Your love and Your grace.

    Console me with Your blessed Presence
    and grant me the courage to persevere
    until I am with You forever in heaven.


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