The University Graduation, and my first TV appearance in which I was given a different name
It's 3:25 pm, and I'm almost late for my graduation. I rush past sweating bodies clad in white (or shades thereof), past fiery eruptions of last-minute camera flashes, and past pointed ends of colorful umbrellas raised against the sun.
I make it just in time.
I see familiar faces, my classmates of four years, friends since 2004, and teachers whose company I've enjoyed. I wonder, "Will I be seeing them again after this?"
Next thing I know: I march forward, donning that piece of cloth called the sablay that only students who've suffered long and hard are fit to hold. I find my seat.
Under the assaulting afternoon sun, the program begins.
An orchestra plays in the background. Top University honchos walk to the stage. The flags are hoisted.
Someone speaks in perfect Filipino. Virgilio Almario, National Artist, is telling us to serve the nation. A moving speech. I agree with him on a lot of points.
Those graduating with honors are called one by one. We have to wait for hours for our turn to get our medals. The summa cum laudes, 18 of them, get the loudest cheers. That makes our batch the one to beat.
On my seat, my friends and I are having fun, savoring these last moments. Agz tells me she has yet to pack for her Boracay trip tomorrow. Coy fiddles with her iPod. Wegs takes nice pictures around. Melay entertains a long phone call. Joe cracks jokes about her chimerism (ask her for details—ang nerd talaga). I'm in the magna side of the crowd. I wonder if others do the same things.
While these are all happening, I ask myself why people make such a big deal of graduations. Parents would probably want to see their kids take that coveted diploma, a validation of years of hardwork in keeping them in school—which, by the way, is no joke. Maybe it's an apt conclusion to college life, ushering the new graduates to the life ahead. Maybe it's a good time to take great photos. Investing in memories, Wegs used to say.
Whatever the reasons may be, I wish two contrasting things: that we'd get this over with—the ceremonies, I mean—because it is so hot and my classmates' faces are melting, and that this will continue on for a long time.
The sun is setting when the dean from Science speed reads our names. One by one, we march forward. A former teacher recognizes me, says congratulations, and hands me my medal. I bow. That's pretty much it.
Finally, President Roman calls us to stand and declares us graduates. I get a spine-tingling sensation. Am I really hearing this?
Jeeben, an acquaintance who's graduating summa from Math, now speaks about the girl he likes. I muffle a scream because I know who he's talking about. His points are valid, his speech is witty, and I enjoy listening.
The ceremony ends with the singing of UP Naming Mahal. I wonder if many of us know it by heart, because, after all these years, I still have a hard time memorizing the second stanza. In the middle of this solemnity, militants rally out front—a familiar sight in UP graduations. I kind of expected it already.
We continue the revelry. I meet up with close friends, take our last grad pictures together, and wish each other well. I also wonder where my other friends are.
Suddenly: someone points a microphone at me. GMA-7 is interviewing me, asking me what I think about the rally. I say what I think, but I wonder if I'll ever make it past the video editing.
In fact, I do:
I'm a UP graduate now. It's something I don't particularly glory in because, as I look back at all these years–the exams I took, the experiments I did, the topics I reported on—I can clearly see the hand of the Lord at work. I couldn't have made it without Him.
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