“It’s always been my desire to inspire.”
This was the mission that La Salle Greenhills alumnus and performing artist Gary Valenciano aimed to accomplish during the Gary Virtual Face to Face: An Inspirational Talk. Held via Zoom last November 5, the singer-songwriter wanted to connect with students in tackling stories regarding acceptance, devotion, and faith.
Valenciano last rubbed elbows with the Lasallian community on February 26 last year as part of a larger plan to celebrate his 35th year in showbusiness. His vision started in 2018, aiming to visit 35 schools and deliver his inspiring messages, with the Manila Campus being his final stop. He even intended to culminate the activity through a concert that invited the students of the schools he visited. Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic waged on, his vision crumbled.
Now in his 39th year in the industry—and his monitor behind him—Valenciano hopes to keep inspiring students everywhere to live, laugh, and love.
Fly against the wind
Right off the bat, Valenciano reminded that he doesn’t want the audience to see him as “Mr. Pure Energy”. Instead, he wanted the participants to view him as “the bigger brother you never had or the uncle that cared for you so much…Or maybe the dad that you’ve always wanted.” Throughout the symposium, Valenciano threw questions at the audience to reflect upon, highlighting the importance of recognizing self-worth.
Valenciano further emphasized this point through several performances. His first song, Saranggola, was accompanied by a showcase of various successful De La Salle Philippines alumni. His message was clear; similar to a kite, one has to “[fly] against the wind” to soar toward greater heights.
Afterward, he encouraged the audience to participate in a Mentimeter poll, asking, “What do you think is the most common struggle amongst people of your generation today? Specifically in your University.” As expected, some of the most frequent responses pertained to stress-inducing scenarios: burnout, pressure, mental health deterioration, and the uncertainty of the future. But after a sigh, he was quick to reassure the participants that their struggle shouldn’t be faced alone.
In the toughest of times
Valenciano then shared another anecdote from the past, this time about four girls he met in St. Paul University Quezon City. After the bunch asked for a photo with him, he asked how old their dads were—assuming their fathers were the same age as him. However, two of them, including a student he nicknamed Bernadette, didn’t know their dad’s ages because they were no longer in touch with their fathers.
Valenciano assured them that they do have a father–one that would never forsake them and someone that one can go to when they’re in need. Years later, faith provoked Valenciano and Bernadette to cross paths once again in a concert the singer-songwriter was performing at. She revealed to him that his words gave her hope, hope that led to Bernadette reconnecting with her father.
Afterward, he sang When I Hear You Call, which he says is inspired by the younger generation. Accompanying the song were images and videos of his appearances in schools doing talks similar to this one. He emphasized that he’ll always be there for the students even in the toughest of times, for there will always be someone that one can depend on. For Valenciano, that someone is God.
Just like everyone, Valenciano went through thick and thin before reaching success, and he believes that God has been part of that journey ever since. But once he finished talking about his parents and some vignettes about his childhood, he admitted, “Life wasn’t always like that [good] with me and God.” After his parents’ separation, his diabetes diagnosis, and his home burning down, he reflected, “It was very hard for me to understand. Where was God in all of this?”
Aside from that, Valenciano shared he unknowingly suffered from a block in his heart. He recalled a 2018 performance for the Sunday noontime variety show ASAP, celebrating his 35th anniversary. He mentioned that if he had jumped one more time during his performance, his heart would have ruptured. “My life would have ended with me doing what I love, with me being on stage,” he revealed.
Recovering from a double bypass, acquiring kidney cancer, and recuperating from the disease didn’t stop him from being “Mr. Pure Energy”. Performing his third song, Ililigtas Ka Niya, he stressed that sometimes we lose our connection with God; in time, however, we can eventually find Him and our way.
Valenciano also reminded audiences about their motives. In answering a student’s inquiry, he shared, “My driving force is the fact that I’m alive.” Despite all the hardships, he pushed himself to achieve his dreams because he doesn’t “want to look back [with] regret on the things that [he]…should’ve done.”
Painting the perfect picture
Valenciano concluded his inspirational talk by helping students understand what they’re experiencing and how to go about life. While some scenarios may be difficult to accept, he said that perhaps God allowed these things to happen. To him, one of the best we can do is to trust in His plan. “He’s already painting different colors in your heart,” he highlighted. “It may not be the colors that you like, but the outcome is already a perfect picture.”
True enough, the Gary Virtual Face to Face: An Inspirational Talk was a worthy attempt at continuing the singer-songwriter’s dream of inspiring other people. If his last song, Take Me Out of the Dark, told the audience anything, it is to open our hearts and minds for what God has in store. After all, “God, perhaps, is the most unpredictable person we encounter in our lives.” He may open doors for opportunities that were always meant for us—because that is exactly what God did for Valenciano.