Maybe most of you will say that this article is yet another UP elitism. You may call it that way, but if there is one thing that the University of the Philippines has introduced us, it is a small but complicated world that only an Isko or an Iska can understand. You can never grasp where we’re coming from unless you’ve been through the same ride. After suffering for four years or more, you can’t take away the pride we felt to finally graduate from the only National University in the Philippines. But, don’t get me wrong here; this post is for all the graduates and it so happen that I was from UP. Each student has his or her struggle and this is mine.
More often than not, UP students are the top of their high school classes. They are the so-called the “cream of the crop” that’s why they passed the excruciating UPCAT. People are looking up to them. You may hear people saying “Wow” when you say you study there. These students are expected to stand out and to become the true epitome of Honor and Excellence. However, reality would suggest that not all of them can live up to this social expectation. Several dropped out in the middle of the semester. Others transfer to other schools. Some extend. And others, just like me, become an ordinary graduate. Yes, we are ordinary graduates, but I am very proud of it.
Last year, I graduated with a degree in Political Science-Management from the University of the Philippines Visayas-Miagao. It was a tough course and I was lucky I survived it. While some of my friends in other schools were very proud of having graduated as cum laudes with other academic and non-academic awards, I jumped and shouted at the top of my lungs after merely seeing my name in the list of the graduating students. On April 26, 2013, I wore my Sablay and marched together with the proud faces of my batch mates and their families.
I only sat for probably an hour during the graduation ceremony while watching several of my batch mates going on stage to get their respective awards. I listened to our graduation speaker and our class valedictorian, while silently savoring the moment. I wanted that day to last forever. I was afraid to leave my seat. The only moment that I went on stage was when I got my diploma holder. I shook hands with the Chancellor, took a picture, and that’s it. It was drizzling then and after I went off stage, I was even stuck in the mud. Yes, all I got was my diploma holder with a printed “Congratulations” in it and a university newsletter congratulating the top of each college, but I deserved that diploma holder. Even more, I deserved getting the diploma months after. It’s obvious that I was not on the top, I was probably at the bottom, but I graduated and that’s all that mattered to me. My family was also there, sitting in the corner, waiting for me. I know they were bored. I can still remember how my grandmother said, “Ti, wala ka gid ya award?” (So, you don’t really have any award?), and I just smiled at her and told her, “Importante graduate ko ah!” (What’s important is that I graduated). And she looked at me blankly. Maybe she was used to seeing me on stage bagging medals.
I can still remember my elementary and high school graduations when almost all the awards were given to me. I got every ribbon and medal I wished for. I topped my class and I said to myself that I will have more in college. But entering UP changed everything. It’s time to let go of that dream. It’s time to wake up and face that there are so many better students than me. I felt like I was the dumbest student in a crowd of learners coming from popular high schools all over the country. I felt that I could not graduate on time, worse, I felt like giving up. I felt intimidated that I only came from an unpopular school in the far-flung municipality. But for whatever it takes, I pursued and I graduated after only four years.
Looking back on my four-year stay in the university, I never would have thought that a simple student like me can carry the burden and the demands of such a prominent university. In there, I realized that you don’t have to be really smart. You don’t need to be intelligent, you only have to persevere and have the will power to carry on. Yes, being a smart is a factor but I know a number of friends who are smart but are tardy. A teacher told me that diligence can take you to high places. If you really want to get out of the university, you should work hard for it.
I guess, from an outsider’s point of view, it’s not enough that we only graduate because a lot are expecting from us. It’s not enough to be a regular graduate. I heard some people say that we became dumb after high school and that UP is an appalling place because it is a hub of activism and liberality. Some even stereotype us as high school achievers but college losers. I know some parents who wouldn’t allow their children to study in UP because UP is a bad influence. But, as I’ve said earlier, you don’t have any idea where we’re coming from. You don’t know how we felt. You may think that we are not doing our best but we really are. However, recognition is not our goal – for some, maybe, but for me, bagging an award is just an added bonus. The most important thing, just like the cliché goes, is to graduate no matter how long it takes and become an active advocate of change in the society.