UP Diliman’s commencement book this year ran 219 pages, a listing of more than 5,000 new alumni with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
The production of the book is the product of patience for the ones who encoded all the names, and the people following up with students and faculty advisers. The deadline for the final list was just six days before the General Commencement Exercises.
The book speaks, too, of the lives and love of these “iskolar ng bayan” (people’s scholars) supported in their long journey by taxpayers money and, from parents and families, additional financial support and an overdose of care and nurturing.
I’ve seen, too, the passion and determination of the scholars in pushing themselves to the limits of human endurance: in homes and in dorms, in libraries, in music studios and gyms, in our review centers, even in coffee shops and malls (I think).
Let me share a few stories behind those names in the commencement book.
Mass media has been full of reports about our 54 summa cum laudes, the highest in UP’s history, but none of the reports have mentioned how the landscape of honors is changing. It is no longer the monopoly of science and engineering students; this year, there were four summas from the College of Fine Arts, and three from the College of Human Kinetics.
From the College of Music, we had Alexa Torte graduating magna cum laude, the first ever for a Bachelor of Music in dance. I attended her college recognition rites where she delivered the valedictory speech, projecting dance as an apt metaphor for “isko” and “iska” lives with long hours of study and practice, of repeated stumbling and rising again with determination.
Determination, too, is the word to describe Norman Rueda, who is the first visually challenged student to finish a Bachelor of Music in UP, major in composition.
Then there’s Mark Querubin, who completed his academic requirements at the School of Economics in 1989 but did not pick up his degree, choosing instead to start work immediately. He returned last year to inquire about getting his degree and found out the records for one subject had gone missing. He retook that one subject and finally graduated last Sunday.
The School of Library and Information Science’s oldest undergraduate was Christina Guevarra, who struggled for 20 years as a working student. Last Sunday, she invited to her graduation the parents of two UP students, Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who were abducted by the military in 2006 while doing community work. Christina felt that she should share her day of joy with the parents whose children could have graduated so many years ago. Both students have never been found.
Many of our graduates obtained honors without sacrificing involvement in student councils and organizations, in community service projects.
Also important is the way our students are tearing down the artificial divide between “nerds” and athletes.
A good example is Jamie Christine Berberabe Lim, who has a GWA of 1.073 — not an easy achievement for a degree in mathematics. And yet, while in college, she was still able to pick up several championship medals in local and international karate competitions.
I actually learned about Jamie’s karate championships from a most unexpected source: her mother’s CV, which was attached to the faculty appointment I had to sign. On the last page of the impressive CV was a paragraph full of a mother’s pride about her daughter, karate and all! And why not? I would welcome more CVs that include parental accomplishments, which can be more challenging than getting a Ph.D.
Jamie’s mother is Darlene Berberabe, who graduated philosophy and law from UP Diliman, also summa cum laude, and served once as head of the government agency Pag-Ibig.
Talk about generational determination. Talk about what we should stand for in our lives: love of country, love of our alma mater and a love of family that keeps us going.
Right after the commencement exercises, I was introduced to Christel Arnaud Meboun Ngadima, who had just graduated with a doctorate in public administration, the first from his country, Cameroon, to do so.
Christel was accompanied by, hold your breath, his Filipino wife and their two children, plus his parents and a brother who flew in from Cameroon.
The General Commencement Exercises was the culmination of a week of college recognition rites, more intimate events where all graduates get to go up to the stage. I attended several of the college rites, shaking hands with graduates, their parents, grandparents, spouses or partners and, the most charming ones, very young children.
Five thousand names, many more lives. It takes families, communities, a nation, to make a UP graduate.
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