A man for and with others | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

A man for and with others

I remember being 10 years old, watching Game 1 of the finals between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the UST Growling Tigers in Season 69 of the UAAP.

With a second left in the clock, Doug Kramer connected with an inbound pass made from the other end of the court by Macky Escalona, making a miraculous undergoal stab to win the game.

The Blue Eagles would ultimately lose the championship title to the Growling Tigers, but I remember the celebration at the Araneta Coliseum and at home when Kramer made the shot, and how everyone kept — and to this day keeps — saying how great it was to be an Atenean (often in the context of basketball games): Ang sarap maging Atenista.

I grew up in a family of Ateneo graduates, and Ateneo had always been the dream as far as I could remember. I, too, wanted to say, as an Atenean, “Ang sarap maging Atenista.”

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And while I marched on May 26 as part of the graduating class of 2018, there was a time when I thought I had to let go of this dream.

The fact was, I was initially not offered a place in Ateneo: I was not accepted, or even waitlisted.

I was a consistent honor student in grade school and high school, and a lot of people (myself included) expected me to pass the Ateneo College Entrance Test (Acet).

After passing the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) and getting in my first choice of course — political science — I was confident that I would receive the (same) positive news from Ateneo.

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And so, on the day that the Acet results were to be released, I insisted on going to the Blue Eagle Gym to look for my name on the boards.

I vividly remember the scene of hundreds of applicants and parents cheering as the boards were unloaded from the trucks one by one.

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I remember that when they took off the Manila paper covering the boards, I made my way through the sea of people. This was it. This was the moment. Or so I thought.

I remember how, after checking for my name for almost five times and realizing that it was not there, the truth hit me finally: I didn’t make it.

Devastated, I put my head down, went straight to the car, and asked to be taken home. I sat in the car silently, putting on a brave face.

It wasn’t until my phone rang, with my Lola on the other end eager to know the results, that I broke down and told her I didn’t make it.

The phone kept ringing — my family and close friends all wanted to greet me — and I kept crying.

I even got a call from my batch mates, who passed the phone around congratulating me, and how hard it was to tell them that I didn’t make it.

When we returned to school the next day, people avoided talking to me about the test results and Ateneo in general, knowing how hard I had taken the news.

All, except this one friend of mine who talked me into filing an appeal for reconsideration, telling me that it was worth a shot.

So, for the next two weeks I worked hard on the appeal: writing a cover letter, securing the pertinent documents, asking for recommendation letters, and compiling my list of awards and recognitions.

I remember that when I submitted the papers to the Office of the Admission and Aid (OAA), I was told that there was no assurance that they would take me and offer me a slot, but that they will at the very least look at my papers. And honestly, that was all I needed: a chance to prove myself.

So, while waiting and praying that I’d get the call, I confirmed my slot in UP.

Days, weeks, and a whole month passed, and I started to think that maybe everyone was right — maybe I should just go to UP.

And so, I went through the process of enrollment in UP. I enlisted for classes, I got advised, and even went to the freshmen orientation.

On the day that I was supposed to pay my tuition, I got a call from Ateneo while waiting in line at the UP Office of the University Registrar (OUR).

I was told that after a look at my papers and subsequent deliberations, they were pleased to inform me that I was conditionally accepted for my first choice of course — political science — with the condition, as I was told in a meeting in the OAA, that my cumulative QPI (quality point index, or average grade) for the semester should not drop to 1.8.

On that same day, I withdrew from UP.

I remember being asked by the OUR if I was sure, because people needed slots for their classes, and that if I withdrew, I wouldn’t be able to get the slot back.

I said I was sure, even if inside me I wasn’t entirely. It was all happening so fast.

And to this day, I can still say the same thing: It is all happening so, so fast.

I graduated a few days ago from my dream school with Latin honors — cum laude, which is far, far away from the 1.8 QPI that I was supposed to avoid.

But in the past four years I worked hard, not only because I knew that I had something to prove to myself or other people.

More than that, it was because I knew and understood that I was and am incredibly privileged to study in such an institution.

I realized then that it’s not easy being an Atenean — mahirap maging Atenista.

It is difficult because it means admitting that the fact that you are here means that others are not.

At the end of the day, there is a challenge for us to step back from the privilege and ask ourselves: “What can I do and how can I work so as to deserve this?”

I knew that I needed to be more and do more — to strive to embody magis.

So, aside from working hard on my grades, I worked to do the more loving thing, always and in all ways, knowing that what was asked of me was not to fall into doing many, but to fall into much, into deeper — to encounter the Other, especially in the context of a society when many are Othered and oppressed.

That led me here. By here, I mean realizing that the essence of being a PoS student and an Atenean I would not find inside the classroom but outside, with the basic sectors and communities.

This was, after all, what it means to be men and women for and with others.

Being an Atenean is just as much about studying in Ateneo as it is serving and working with others in dismantling the structures that oppress.

And by here, I mean a continuous commitment to stand and fight with the marginalized.

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Billie Blanco, 22, is a political science graduate of Ateneo and a student activist.

TAGS: Ateneo de Manila University, Young Blood

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