‘Be comfortable with being uncomfortable’
By Pam Pastor
Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 23, 2020 at 4:00 am

In this series, we ask prominent personalities to give messages to graduating students. Think of it as commencement speeches but in print (and online, of course).

We begin with brothers Mikko Lawrence Tung and Mark Gregory Tung, heirs of the Ligo empire (A.Tung Chingco Manufacturing Corp.)—with another brother, Macky—who run the company as vice president for production and vice president for sales and marketing, respectively.

The Tungs made headlines and went viral multiple times for their compassionate response to the pandemic, and the cheeky ways they’ve promoted social distancing while also throwing shade at a government that seriously needs to shape up.

Look ahead, challenge the norm

Mikko Tung: Speak out against injustice and stand up for equality.

To the class of 2020,

Firstly, I want to congratulate each and every one of you. This is a big day, and a huge achievement, so be proud of yourselves. We’re proud of you. I also want to commend the people who have played a role in guiding you throughout this journey, especially the parents who have worked so tirelessly to get you here today. To those of you who have had to work to put yourselves through school, you are stronger than you know, and I am humbled by all of you.

Graduating is one of life’s biggest milestones. It is the culmination of the years of hard work and late nights that you have had to endure. And given this world that we live in, some of you have had to endure a lot more.

I know that to many of you, graduating this year doesn’t feel like the celebration that you once thought it would be. This pandemic that we are fighting has kept you away from your families and friends, and I know that it has been difficult.

I also know that it’s disappointing to be unable to march alongside your classmates, and even more so, to not be able to celebrate with them. But look ahead, and see that graduation brings new beginnings and new opportunities. It will open the doors that were once closed to you. Now is your time to chase your dreams, so chase them fiercely.

I have learned many things since my own graduation. I can say with confidence that the new generation will always learn from the one that came before. This is how the world has evolved, and the reason we have so much greatness in the world today. So, as bleak and uncertain things may be right now, know that there will be better days.

The coronavirus has also revealed some hard truths. One is that sometimes, the people we believe in, the people we trust, and the people who lead us won’t always have the right answers. Our country, our world, can still be better, but we will need all of you. So create change, challenge the norm and break status quo fearlessly.

This is your time. I hope that, through your years in school and the grace of God, you have found the confidence, the strength and the inspiration to take charge. Take this newfound power and start bringing change to your neighborhoods, your communities and our societies. We all have faith in you to do it right.

I leave you with one piece of advice that I myself hold very dear to my heart. Lead with the values that your families have instilled in you, and the values that you know to be true. Speak out against injustice and stand up for equality. Honesty, compassion and loyalty go a long way, and these are values that not only last, but also thrive. They may take time to bear fruit, but eventually, everyone around you will notice. You will become their beacon, and they will remember you.

Trust that you will always have your parents, your supervisors and your superiors for guidance, but from what I can already see, it is you who will be guiding us. You have already begun to show the world how to not only lead with integrity, but to show kindness and humility to one another. I personally can’t wait to see what the future holds for this graduating class of 2020.

We are very proud of you. Congratulations! —Mikko Lawrence Tung

It’s scary, but embrace change

Mark Tung: As long as you act, it’s impossible to fail

Congratulations to the senior class of 2020. You are graduating under truly extraordinary circumstances. This will be the first time in history that high school graduation across an entire country will be conducted virtually. I’m deeply grateful for having been given the opportunity to address you, the future of our nation.

Looking back on my own high school experience, I never imagined I would be giving a high school commencement message. Truth be told, I was far from being the model student. I didn’t excel academically or focus on achievements within the classroom. I was more interested in the world outside school. I knew that school was formative, but the real world with the true tests and hardships would be outside of it.

When I was asked to write this address, I thought about the practical things I would have liked to hear during my own graduation. I came up with three that I would like to share with you.

The first is that the world is changing faster and faster. Just two months ago, no one would have thought that a global pandemic would happen and change our lives forever. There is a new normal. With a new normal comes new opportunities—for doing business, for finding success and for differentiating yourself. I cannot stress this enough.

People by nature tend to be upset by change. They like what is familiar. Our parents are always talking about the good old days. They avoid change. The new generation cannot afford to do this. We need to embrace change, or at least be comfortable with it.

Second is the importance of firsthand experience. I grew up with a father who always instilled the value of hard work. He worked six days a week. Growing up, we really didn’t know what a weekend was. We were treated fairly, but never got any favorable treatment.

I complained a lot then, but looking back, I appreciate it now. It helped us avoid a sense of entitlement. We spent our summers in the production line chopping fish. This gave me a profound appreciation for workers who show up day in and day out to keep the factory going. It also gave me the opportunity to relate with them on a special level. Doing this made it easier to effectively lead and manage the organization.

Third, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have a tendency to seek comfort, to do things we’re already familiar with. It’s difficult to learn something new. It’s scary to take risks. It feels awkward to go against the norms. But it’s OK to have these fears. It’s about managing these feelings. By making ourselves uncomfortable, we can push ourselves to the limits and reach our true potential.

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s OK to fail. Failure is what allows us to learn. Fear of failure cripples us and leads to inaction.

Now, more than ever, people need to act. As long as you act, it’s impossible to fail. By action, I mean thinking it through properly and then trying your best. You might not get the result or outcome you were originally hoping for. But the process of acting will yield its own kind of success, in the sense that you will learn so much from the journey.

These experiences will make you a better and more capable person. It will improve your odds for succeeding in your next attempt. So when you act again, it will be easier.

This pandemic has made essential goods more essential than ever. There is a tremendous amount of trust placed on us to continue operating in order to provide canned goods for those who need it most. We are grateful for this trust, and promise to work tirelessly in order to continue producing canned goods for the country safely and effectively.

This means prioritizing the health of our staff with proper equipment and procedures as well as ensuring a smooth uninterrupted supply chain and distribution network. We are honored to be given this opportunity to serve the country.

Most of all, the message I want to share with the class of 2020 is one of hope. Sure, the world is changing. There are a lot of unknowns. It can be scary. But by embracing this change and acting on it, we can do our part to ensure that these changes will be for the better. You have a promising and exciting future ahead. I wish you the very best. —Mark Gregory Tung

A socially relevant Ligo Sardines poster

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