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Keep passion burning!

Summer is over. The kiss of the sun has been replaced by the cool breeze of this rainy season. So I go out, look around, and reflect on the things that happened in the past four years.

I still remember the day I left home. It was like a scene from a TV drama, with Mama tearfully bidding me farewell as I stared at her with the sweet hope that I would be back soon.

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Imagine me setting foot on a new place without any family members around. I’m thankful to the aunt of my high school classmate for being my guardian.

So many memories… There’s my first episode of homesickness. I felt happy for those who lived near the University of the Philippines-Visayas in Iloilo City because they could easily go home.

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There’s my UP student number. I remember looking at my admission letter and memorizing 2008-53860. I remember my first college friends, who hailed from different regions all over the country.

There’s the first enrollment, where parents are not allowed. Students are supposed to complete their enrollment on their own. Student registration volunteers were actually a big help. I filled out my first Form 5 and got my first university ID on which everybody could see my “totoy” (innocent) face.

I remember my first stipend as a scholar of the Department of Science and Technology. The monthly stipend was increased in 2009. Cheers to that!

I remember my first grades of “uno” (1) and “tres” (3) Still, I was thankful: “Salamat sa 3!”

Time flew by so fast—the days turned into weeks, months and years, leaving each toxic moment unnoticed. Now, it seems like 2008, when UP celebrated 100 years of academic excellence in shaping the history of this country, was only yesterday. I am proud to be part of the group called the centennial freshmen. But now UP is still fighting budget cuts.

Grade school years are meant for recess and play. College years are different, preparing each student for another journey with a wider scope of the vast horizon.

This is a story of a kid who dreamed of becoming a national scholar—iskolar ng bayan. He was blessed by God to have people who loved him. His hardships have borne fruits of wisdom, justice, strength, joy, character and friendship.

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My graduation was a momentous occasion even without a medallion. It was pretty amazing listening to a valediction while remembering myself delivering an inspiring message that made my classmates, parents and teachers cry four years ago. The best thing about speeches is that they never fail to provide inspiration. They enlighten the heart and fuel the mind.

What a fantastic feeling seeing all the UP officials, especially UP president Alfredo Pascual, who handed our diplomas to us. I saw parents beaming with happiness and pride as they looked at their children wearing the graduation sablay.

No more college exams! But I won’t forget all the things I learned that didn’t even appear in the exams.  (Students, remember that bluebooks have limited pages, so utilize them with all your might.)

There may be regrets, but I know I did well. It’s a good thing I have come to know myself better and to value simple things. I learned to stand and fight when no one was there to lend a helping hand. Remember that your very life is your own struggle. Some will stay but the rest should leave, look around and get a life. (Our high school graduation theme was: “Walk the way of truth and keep your hope alive.”)

The writer and poet Oscar Wilde once said: “To live is the rarest thing on earth. Most people exist—that is all.” After graduation comes the harder part. Where shall I go? That is the question.

There are many paths to take. But it is essential to make the right decision despite certain disabilities and insufficiency of resources. Job hunting is difficult, but you can clear the shadows to let your passion light your way.

In job hunting, you will reach new places and meet new people. I am glad that there are still golden-hearted people ready to help young graduates like me in finding work.

The time will come when you have to choose which job to take. It is not easy. It requires days of reflection. I was blessed to find a job a few weeks after graduation despite the growing population of unemployed Filipinos.

Some convinced me to study medicine but I have never imagined myself as a doctor. Studying medicine will require a large amount of money, time and dedication. But then it pays well. I’m still open to other possibilities because I’m still young and still exploring this wonderful world. It’s a good thing that for many years, family and friends have never failed to support and help me in their own little ways.

In this new school year, I am no longer a student. I am now the one giving lectures and preparing class activities. I am now Teacher Christian, a name with greater responsibility. I hope I can survive the challenge of being an educator.

A note to students: Don’t ever lose your focus and hope. Do your best in everything you do to achieve whatever life can offer best for you. Most of all, enjoy every moment while you’re still in school.

And to the teachers: Thank you for providing us all the academic weapons we need in order to survive. May you continue to teach every curious mind. This time I will be on your side. Teach me to become a good teacher.

I remember looking at the portraits of UP Visayas chancellors hanging on the library wall, and wishing that someday, I would have mine hanging there, too!

Looking back on those days gives me such a great feeling. I learned many things in life. Every day is a day of hope in reaching one’s dreams. I’m always inspired when I remember our freshmen orientation on May 21, 2008. Ma’am Pador was right when she said: “College is learning how to motivate yourself… how to achieve, how to succeed, how to accomplish… It’s about not coming out first and still be proud and coming out last and learning to admit that you could have done better… College is learning how to live.”

It’s not about having no 4, 5, INC, DRP, or a medal at all; it’s about learning and preparing yourself for a greater challenge, not for your so-called “real life.”

Landing a good job after graduation—that defines you. Happily, I just got mine. Remember that you light up your future. Don’t be afraid to fall. Go back to the starting line and make sacrifices. Be brave even if you lose a father along the way or have not been home for two or more years. Get up and carry the torch. Keep the passion burning!

Christian Malabuyoc Abagat, 20, is a biology graduate of the UP Visayas in Miagao, Iloilo, and a DOST-SEI scholar. He is now the youngest science teacher at The Raya School, a progressive school dedicated to helping children discover themselves, their roots and the world around them.

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