I WAS nine years old when I first heard of JCI Davao’s Search for the Most Outstanding High School Graduate of Davao City (MOHSG). My older sister was covering the event for our school publication, Hillstar, since our candidate for that year won the grand prize. That was pretty much all I knew about MOHSG until, after seven years, I was one of the Grade 10 students invited to attend the event culmination at Abreeza Mall as a potential representative of our batch.
Upon receiving the invitation, I was excited to support one of our own while legally skipping classes, both of which gave me a surge of competitive energy to cheer — more like, scream and frantically jump — every time our candidate graced the platform. While watching the program, I was starstruck. The MOHSG nominees “shone” like diamonds on stage and exuded the utmost confidence with their natural public speaking skills and well-rehearsed presentations. However, after our school’s candidate was declared as the grand winner, my roar of celebration was replaced by a pang of fear, as I could possibly be thrown onto that very same stage, pressured by the infamous Davao Christian High School (DCHS) MOHSG streak.
This very idea made me hesitant to accept the challenge, but I eventually did, fueled by the mentality that diamonds are formed under pressure; if I wanted to “shine” like the nominees I had watched on stage, then this was my chance.
Seems like a positive way to start the journey, right? However, while scrolling through my Facebook timeline, searching for some semblance of inspiration for this article, my principle was corrected by science. Diamonds do not shine, per se, because they do not emit their own light like the sun; instead, they reflect light from other sources.
On my first meeting with my coaches, Sir Desi Magnaye and Sir Samuel Chueh, they explained to me how MOHSG was not a contest where I was pressured to bring home the bacon but a journey that helps one grow as a person. While my head nodded in agreement, my mind called it bluff. How could you possibly do all that in the span of a month? I understood how my predecessors could have had this experience, especially with the project implementation component, but my journey was cut short due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Thus, with my competitive spirit, I stuffed my portfolio with even the smallest class awards in fear of not reaching the quota. I practiced tirelessly for the panel interview portion, making sure to eradicate every stray “gud jud” and “man” in my English sentences. I attended the mandatory 9-hour workshops every Saturday, keeping my attention span fixated on nothing but the activities. Figuratively speaking, I was tired, but at least I was running, not even knowing if I had reached my destination to deserve to stop. I was a diamond that did everything in her power to try and shine on her own.
This mentality was challenged when the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Video component was suddenly added. At first, we tried to search for some groundbreaking solution that had not been covered before, but we found ourselves running blank when we tried running the grand ideas on script. Hence, out of all the ideas we conceptualized, we ended up covering the simplest solution, but it was something we were confident that anyone, anywhere could do — to not waste food.
It was then when I realized that being in MOHSG was more than just flaunting medals and being eloquent in front of a camera. It was a platform for us to voice out our discoveries and advocacies in hopes of influencing others to act, especially on things that they have the power to change. As diamonds reflect light from other sources, so was being a MOHSG candidate a way for us to speak for the oppressed, to use the education we’ve gained, and to believe in our capabilities as others believe in us. We cannot tap into our purposes when we are consumed by our own selfish desires to win. On the other hand, we become outstanding people when we are driven by a purpose beyond our own selves.
The best part about this concept is that it chooses no specific person to do the deed. I’ve been saying this like a broken record, but it rings true no matter how many times it is repeated: Being an outstanding graduate chooses no specific talent, background, or social status; we are all capable of being outstanding people when we take the time to know ourselves, hone our talents, and use them to create solutions for the community we serve.
After this mentality shift, the rest of the components became easier to handle. The panel interview felt more like a casual conversation, where I somehow gathered the courage to ask my panelists to do the popular KDrama flower pose for a photo. The self-introduction brought me back to my comical college applications, where I desperately searched for signs on what career to choose but ended up with a heartwarming story that keeps me going to this day. Finally, the impromptu speech was a summary of everything I’ve learned, one big message for the current generation and the ones forward. (Thank you, Facebook, for immortalizing copies of the videos for me to show to my future grandchildren.)
I’m still amazed at the honor I’ve been given as the MOHSG54 grand winner, and I definitely owe it to those who have supported me throughout this journey. To my coaches, my family, my friends, my school, my church, my fellow candidates, and to JCI Davao, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your support that speaks volumes. MOHSG has changed my life, and I pray that it will continue to bless lives in the next batches. Above all, thank you to the Lord for Your unending grace and mercy. Truly, the glory is all Yours. Lastly, of course, I have to thank the readers of this article. I hope that my story has inspired you to use your own gifts for the greater good.
It’s now been about two months after the MOHSG culmination, and people may still be wondering what the “secret” is. Well, it may sound anticlimactic, but really, the secret is that there is no secret. Just stay true to yourself, and remember: Diamonds don’t shine; they reflect.