by RONALYN BANAKEN
Hale’s former vocalist and guitarist Champ – as he is more famously known – has urged the graduates to
‘not forget to contribute to society,’ focusing on becoming ‘men and women of value.’
On March 29, the former frontman of the now-disbanded Hale addressed the over 900 graduating students of the University of Baguio (UB), delivering a speech both candid and captivating and ultimately redefining the standards set for a commencement speaker.
Arthur Bernard “Champ” Lui Pio – the vocalist and guitarist of the defunct band Hale – is just 32. His interest is not bent on the academic field. And he has no stellar career in diplomatic relations, government service, or politics. But he has what an influential speaker possesses – a contagious, genuine, and sincere spirit.
As he put it, “everyone has a story worth sharing” and that “you’re never too young or too old to try something new.”
Champ –who graduated from De La Salle College of St. Benilde – opened with some memories from his college days, sharing his fair share of dilemmas and struggles as a fresh graduate.
“My first year after graduation was confusing. I tried all sorts of things. I sold food at a Saturday market in my village, applied as a pre-school teacher. I even tried out the family business. I didn’t know what my passion was.”
“Eventually,” he said, “fate revealed its plan for me – I was destined to be a musician.”
‘Never give in’
Champ joined Hale a year after graduating from college. After its launch in 2004, the band went on to rake in an incredible array of awards. The six years that followed saw the band catapult into massive success, picking up some of the biggest awards in Filipino music such as MTV Pilipinas’ Best New Artist in 2005 and OPM Band of the Year at the RX 93.1 Year-end Awardsin 2009.
But the road to success is not a straight line. Recalling when he was still new in the band, Champ admitted he felt “inferior.”
An estimated 1,000 graduates have received their diploma.
“When I met my bandmates, I was blown away [by] their talents. Back then, they were all [enrolled at the] Conservatory of Music and have been around the underground scene playing gigs way before I met them. On the other hand, I was the lost, undecided fresh grad who has a degree in human resource management. The talent level was uneven and I knew I was the weakest link.”
But Champ could only recognize that there will always be those who are “smarter and more talented” and that he could only work on getting better at what he does – the same virtues he wanted the newest batch of UB alumni to embrace. “I worked on my skills, I practiced everyday, and asked people to teach me,” he said, playing up the importance of hard work. “Hard work is the great equalizer.”
He also drew inspiration from the iconic political figure Winston Churchill, never losing grip on the timeless advice from the former British prime minister: “Never give in – except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
‘Men and women of value’
Embarking on a solo career after the band broke up in 2010, Champ founded Mecca Music Entertainment, an independent local music label. He also helped establish Treehouse Productions, which helps children suffering from mental and physical illnesses through music.
“Do not forget that we all have a social responsibility,” he stressed. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value,” he added, echoing one of the world’s greatest physicists, Albert Einstein.
He then left the graduates with a rousing motivation: “As you pursue your careers and aim at success, my hope is that you do not forget to contribute to society because, in this life, we are defined by our actions, not by our pockets... I wish you a life full of passion and compassion.”
In the end, it’s not the résumé or the rundown of superior achievements that matters most in trying to inspire people. It’s that you have the heart to touch them with your story. That is real influence.
The occasion was something every parent at the event was profoundly thankful for and happy about.