Being a UP graduate | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

Being a UP graduate

Recently, a Facebook post by an official of the University of the Philippines went viral. In a rant directed at students waiting for the results of the UP College Admission Test, the official thrice proudly invoked his connection to the university, bragging that he took his undergraduate and postgraduate studies there, and ended his post by displaying his position in the UP administration.

He even added “Atty.” to his name, as if this added more prestige to his supposedly impressive credentials. (Whether this is worth bragging about in light of the controversies surrounding the Supreme Court and the legal profession deserves another article altogether.)


I have always found it amusing how some alumni think they are above the rest simply because they went to UP. It is as if brandishing one’s diploma were enough to prove one is better.

People quickly forget that just last year, a survey by showed that UP ranked only third, tied with Ateneo, among employers’ top pick for job openings. The Polytechnic University of the Philippines ranked first, and the University of Santo Tomas second.


Perhaps it is exactly the attitude, and sense of entitlement, displayed by the UP official that dissuades employers from hiring UP graduates. Maybe it is high time for us to truly examine if we are indeed, living up to the university’s motto of “Honor and Excellence.” Do we deserve to be called “Iskolars ng Bayan”?

The UP Charter of 2008, which designated UP as a national university, set forth lofty goals for the institution, among them: to lead in setting academic standards and initiating innovations, to serve as a research university in various fields of expertise and specialization, and to lead as a public service university by providing various forms of community, public, and volunteer service.

But to me what is most vital is its goal of providing opportunities for training and learning in leadership, responsible citizenship, and development of democratic values. UP, therefore, is supposed to be a breeding ground of leaders, responsible citizens, and protectors of democracy (not a mere breeding ground of communists and activists, as a politician once claimed).

It may be said, therefore, that UP alumni are responsible for leading the country in different fields, such as the sciences, medicine and the law. Collectively, it is the alumni’s responsibility to push the country back to greatness.

A quick look at the illustrious roster of UP alumni would lead one to think that indeed, UP has stayed true to its motto. It counts among its alumni 7 presidents, 13 chief justices, and countless members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Since it was founded in 1908, UP has produced hordes of successful doctors, engineers, architects, journalists, scientists, and corporate executives.

But the questions remain: Has UP lived up to its goals? Has it done enough? Or maybe a better question is: Has it failed?


I remember organizing a forum for my fraternity years ago. Our guest speaker was former senator Joker Arroyo, “the maverick,” who was then already frail but still filled with energy (sadly, he would pass away barely a year later).

Arroyo was among a few politicians I truly admired. In my opinion, he was one of those whose integrity remained intact all throughout his career.

Hence, I took the opportunity to ask him the question that has been bugging me since I entered UP. I asked him why, despite the abundance of brilliant, well-meaning leaders we have had, our country is still in the dire situation it is in.

Arroyo shook his head, gave me an exasperated look, and said softly, “We failed, brod.”

At that time, I thought it must take someone with nothing left to prove to make such an honest statement.

Whether or not UP is indirectly responsible for the country’s dire straits, the reality is that there is much work to be done.

A recent SWS survey found that over 10 million Filipinos now consider themselves poor. We have about 3.8 million out-of-school children or youth, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

And despite the promise of good governance by so many past presidents, the country is getting more corrupt, as shown by our lower ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.

The good news, however, is that it is never too late for old and young UP alumni to carry on the task of working toward a better Philippines.

For whether or not a UP graduate is better than anyone else, the fact remains that there is a greater burden imposed upon each and every one of us to give back to our country.

The perk of having quality, yet subsidized, education in an atmosphere charged with freedom of religion and expression is more than enough to make one feel grateful for being admitted to UP.

No wonder thousands of applicants still want to make it into UP. No wonder they keep on following up on the UPCAT results.

Despite its shortcomings, UP remains a symbol of hope in Philippine society. It gives spirit to President Ramon Magsaysay’s tenet, “He who has less in life should have more in law.”

UP hopefuls do not deserve to be disrespected and treated with misplaced moral ascendancy. They should be welcomed with open arms, for despite our failures as products of UP, they have not lost hope in our alma mater and everything it stands for.

Last February I attended “MarAwit: Awit para sa Marawi,” a fund-raising concert held to support the continued education of the children of war-torn Marawi.

It was a truly inspirational event that featured skillful performances by the UP Concert Chorus, UP Madrigal Singers, and UP Singing Ambassadors.

My favorite song of the night was a very familiar one, “UP Naming Mahal,” by Nicanor Abelardo.

For a brief moment, it felt like I was back in school, this time with a bunch of mature classmates, singing in unison to a tune of hope and purpose.

As members of the audience began to raise their left fist toward the end of the song, I was filled with quiet pride as well as gratitude for my UP education.

The night made me realize that despite a few bad eggs, there are tons of UP graduates all over the country and the world who continue to care, and who are fighting the good fight in their own unique and wonderful ways.

* * *

Mario C. Cerilles Jr., 28 (UP BA Psychology, 2010; Juris Doctor, 2014), is a lawyer by profession.

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