No perspiration, no exaltation | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

No perspiration, no exaltation

During a private family dinner held a few days ago in honor of my three grandchildren who were awarded, without their applying for, master’s degree scholarships in three top universities in the United States (per my column last Monday), I was asked to deliver, as their grandfather and pater de familia, a special message. Believing that my talk is relevant to my readers, especially to the young and not-so-young, I decided to publish an abbreviated version that is easy to remember: No pain, no gain. No sacrifice, no victory. No perspiration, no exaltation. Let me amplify the message with four stories.

FIRST, MANY OF YOU ALREADY KNOW I GREW UP IMPOVERISHED AND DEPRIVED. I had to hawk newspapers and shine shoes when I was in grade school and high school and sell textbooks to my classmates in college to enable me to study and help my poor family. What you don’t know is that—when I was a law student—my late brother Nardo and I literally built with our own hands and with the help of a master carpenter (and a half-brother of my mother, Frankie Villasenor who was orphaned early in life and who grew up with us) a two-story house in Marulas, Polo, Bulacan (now Valenzuela City).

There, I learned how to prepare architectural plans for a house, build it slowly from scratch for several months, sleep in the construction site in a small tent to shield us from rain and mosquitos, and to discourage robbers from stealing our construction materials and tools. I learned how to use lumber and plywood efficiently so their standard measurements would fit in the house without any waste. I learned how to be a carpenter, plumber, electrician, cement mixer, concrete hollow block maker, and a “peon” or common laborer. These skills I carry even now. Early in my hard-scrabble life, I learned the value of hard work and steely determination to succeed.

SECOND, LET US LOOK AT THE STORY OF JENSEN HUANG, the founder, president, and CEO of Nvidia, the sensation of the New York Stock Exchange that grew its business meteorically because of AI and AGI. His very poor parents migrated from Taiwan to the US. Not being properly educated, they had to endure hard manual labor to survive in very competitive America. Though dirt poor, Jensen climbed his way to college full of pain and suffering due not only to economic want but also to seething prejudice against Chinese immigrants.


Nonetheless, through hard work and sheer determination, he succeeded in starting Nvidia in 1993, in the same way that Bill Gates built Microsoft and Steve Jobs established Apple. According to Forbes, his net worth as of June 4, 2024, is over $100 billion and growing exponentially. Recently, he delivered a speech at Stanford University with a simple message, which I paraphrase: “… I succeeded because of the pain and suffering I had to endure when I was young and was starting my career in technology. So, my message to you, the graduating class of Stanford, is simple: to succeed, you must endure pain and suffering first.”

THIRD, THE PHENOMENAL RISE OF LOCAL BILLIONAIRE LANCE GOKONGWEI is also characterized by the same lowly and painful start. After graduating summa cum laude from the Wharton Business School, he began his career as a management trainee, which basically meant, according to him, “going out and selling Jack and Jill snacks to supermarkets, groceries, and sari-sari stores.” Though he was the heir-apparent of his father’s multiple businesses, he was not given any privileges; he suffered pain and sometimes embarrassment at his 24/7 work at the bottom of the business pyramid.

When his father died in 2019, he inherited a conglomerate worth over $20 billion according to Forbes. Because of his hands-on training and his sacrifice to start lowly in his father’s businesses and to climb slowly to the top, he readily assumed the leadership of his conglomerate at age 52.

FOURTH, SO, TOO, IS THE TEACHING OF OUR LORD JESUS, which I also paraphrase, “He who is worthy of me must take up his cross and follow me. He who does not undergo pain and sacrifice because of me is not worthy of me.” As we all know, our Lord sacrificed his earthly life on the cross to save mankind from the horrors of hell.


Please note that at the outset, I referred to pain and suffering as the keys to success, and later on when I reached our Lord Jesus Christ, I shifted to pain and sacrifice. It is because we, as Christians, believe that when suffering is undergone with love, it becomes sacrifice. It is the pain endured by a mother at giving birth to a child, and the same suffering we go through when we burn the midnight oil to hurdle the next day’s exam. Suffering becomes sacrifice because we willingly undergo it with love and with a triumphal purpose.

May I humbly say that I endured pain and sacrifice when I was young. So did novo dollar billionaire Jensen Huang, Philippine billionaire Lance Gokongwei, and our Lord Jesus Christ. My dear scholars, your grant of scholarship is just the beginning. Please be ready to undergo pain and sacrifice on your way to fulfilling your dreams for your education, for your career, for our family, for our country, and for our God.


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