"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." - Harriet Tubman

COA Commissioner Roland C. Pondoc, the 2020 St. Paul Signum Meriti awardee, inspired the graduating students with quotes such as this during his keynote address to the virtual 68th Commencement Exercises of the Saint Paul School of Professional Studies (SPSPS) of Palo, Leyte for their Graduating Class of March 2020 that was held on 26 August 2020 through Facebook Live. In Academic Year 2018-2019, the school produced 16 topnotchers in various licensure and certification examinations. Six of the 16 were first placers.

Commissioner Pondoc was presented the Signum Meriti award for his exemplary achievements as a highly respected Commissioner, legal luminaire, a student-professor, and a top-notch certified public accountant (CPA). This award is the highest institutional citation of honor conferred by SPSPS to any individual who has excelled in their chosen career or has made outstanding meritorious acts worthy of recognition and has contributed to the betterment of our country and Filipino people.

The COA Commissioner is a CPA and a lawyer. He is also the current Vice-President for the Government Sector of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) National Board. With his work background, Commissioner Pondoc has covered four sectors of PICPA, namely: commerce and industry, academe, public practice, and government. He is a reservist of the Philippine Air Force with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel and also a licensed real estate appraiser, a licensed real estate broker as well as a member of the ASEAN professional accountants. Presently, he is the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Gender and Development - Focal Point System of the Commission and one of the prime movers of the integrity management program in COA.

During his acceptance speech, Commissioner Pondoc congratulated the graduating class and narrated his personal struggles during the various stages of his student life and how he was able to endure and conquer adversaries to become and reach what he is today.

"My professional life journey was not as smooth as you may think. Just like the mountain that withstands the havoc of the storm, my journey as a professional endured adversities. I went through countless hurdles and I faced various tests in my day-to-day dealings with life. And I was not moved. Instead, I stood firm to my ideals and principles, held on to my dreams, and considered all those odds as challenges. These I believe are primarily few of the reasons why I am here today," Commissioner Pondoc said to encourage the graduating class.

The Commissioner also inspired and motivated them to continue walking forward in their journey as their graduation is just the beginning of another chapter of their life story. He equipped the graduates with three important things they must have in their life's journey: always sharpen your God-given skills; believe in destiny either by the stroke of luck or twist of fate; and always practice integrity.

"You too have all the latitude to become successful. Just believe in yourself, be brave to spread your wings and soar high. You only have this one life, make the most of it. Do what is good, take risks if you must. As they say, your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude," the Commissioner advised.

Commissioner Pondoc was a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Commerce, Major in Accountancy in 1988. He obtained his Master's in Business Administration in 1997 and finished his Juris Doctor for his law course in 2001 as a recipient of the achievers’ award. He was a recipient of the Tambuli award as the most outstanding alumnus educator in 2001, and as the most outstanding University of Mindanao (UM) alumnus awardee in government service by the UM Alumni Association Inc. in 2019. #