Posted by: nastypen | April 18, 2008

Privilege

It took me almost ten years. I thought I’d never attend one. But I finally did. And what great timing! Today, I attended my very first University graduation. I did not attend mine nine years ago. Plus, it’s the first one I attended as a member of the faculty. Furthermore, it is the centennial of the University of the Philippines. Although I slept for 3 hours, stood in line for what seemed an eternity. I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and privilege to be in that place.

Of course, my outfit became an issue.

The men wore the traditional barong. My barong is made from a rustic Ilocano cloth veering away from the traditional jusi. Plus, I wore a pair of bright red topsiders. When the light hit me as the faculty marched down the center aisle, my shoes glowed making Ronald McDonald‘s pair seem so conservative. Hey if this global leader can do this, what’s a bit of color in an otherwise generally drab affair?

But it was my decision to don a sablay that caused a senior faculty member to grumble.

Whatever. I thought I looked ok. I don’t want to wear the traditional graduation garb like most of the faculty members wore. We were a handful who wore the sablay and most of which came from our department. Winner.

Thanks to Mikee for the photo! I love the disparity of what I wore to the couple of professors next to me.

Apparently, I didn’t get the memo that there is a rule that the faculty must wear togas in University graduations. One of the privileges I earned in a UP education is a fierce sense of patriotism and a deeper understanding for national identity. The sablay, to me, is the most regal graduation attire I can think of. It bespeaks of a commitment that a UP graduate should be for the Philippines given the apt mixture of details from several traditional groups in the country.

So grumble all they want about my sablay, it stays right on my fat shoulder. And my pride for this knows no boundaries. And of course, the full body shot:

I am with my lovely colleage Mishi! Don’t grumble that that shot is fuzzy. Mikee took this and it was difficult to take a pic with a fabulous clutch. Speaking of which, here’s Mikee and the fabulous non-conformist get-up. I love the statement he is making that if the other professors have medals, he has a string of pearls.

Work it, girl!!!! Carrying that clutch deserves a special mention in all the world’s catwalks!

I was beaming for the batch of 2008. I had some of them as students over my first year at the University. I felt such pride that these people are now taking flight. I am happy for their hurdling all those difficulties a UP student encounters in the stringent academe. I saw my students march and I thought with fondness our interactions at the classrooms and campus. The salary of a UP instructor may be a joke but you cannot buy this gratifying sense of accomplishment of a job well done from students who expect so much and who generally deliver so much more.

Congratulations, batch 2008. May you be stronger than the harshness of reality.

I am not sure but I think among the UP campuses, UP Manila may have been the first graduation ceremony in this centennial celebration. The very first woman president of the UP system, Prof. Emerlinda Roman welcomed the graduates and mentioned of her disdain that “UP Graduates are export quality.” She insists that UP graduates should give back to the nation that has allowed them to have the privilege to study at the country’s best university. She reiterated the theme of the centennial which is a UP graduate must exude excellence, leadership and service.

Pres. Roman jibed on those who use the diploma of UP to be a ticket out of this country. She asked why should the UP student enrich other countries with their talent and education? Although I have classmates and friends from UP who work abroad because a lot of them had no choice, I am sure most of them have their love for country intact. But, apparently, Pres. Roman believes that a contribution to the country is far more important than dollar remittances.

This call was echoed by the graduation keynote speaker Chief Justice Reynato Puno. He mentioned that of all the UP units, it is UP Manila that is in direct contact with reality. I see portraits of despair as I trek through the Philippine General Hospital; patients who cannot afford the expensive medicine and procedures hover about the halls with pallid faces like ghosts. Only poverty and the failure of society to fix this are more frightening than phantasms. Justice Puno mentioned of the taong grasa that walk by and the vendors by the gates of the UP Manila campuses. These are the people Justice Puno who are mired in “involuntary poverty.” This is reality.

He gruffly asked the graduates, “Will you use your knowledge to improve the lives of the poor, the majority, or join their exploiters?”

I am truly happy to note as I scanned the plenary hall, I see some students nodding and listening. It brought comfort to my heart that such rallying calls are digested by the fresh grads.

I was quite pleased by the Chief Justice. At first, his speech extolled on the achievements of UP in the mainstream fields of Medicine, Law, the Sciences. I was in for a speech about the achievements by UP students in those expected areas.

Until he was about to close his speech. He used art and literature. My heart blossomed for him. It made me want to jump up and down, run over to the podium and give him a kiss on the cheek. Art!!!! He used ART to clarify to the students the role of UP in society! What an honor, your honor!!!!!!!!!!

He mentioned the U.P. symbol of the oblation! The sculpture rises 3.5 meters from the ground signifying a rise above 350 years of colonization from Spain. The base of the statue is a foliage of the plant katakataka. It is also known as siempreviva (everlasting). The plant shoots up and is supposed to symbolize the undying patriotism of a UP student that can grow anywhere. Justice Puno also mentioned literature as he read a passage from Jose Rizal‘s El Filibusterismo, which is also one of the inscriptions at the base of the Oblation. “Where are the youth ready to offer their lives and aspirations for this country?”

God bless ART!!!!!!!!  Thank you, Justice Puno for using art in your speech!

Justice Puno closed his brilliant speech with “It is not to be successful, but to be significant.”

I wish you significance, Class of 2008.

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Responses

  1. wow! Even I didn’t know the history of the Oblation! Truly art has indeed significance and I wish people will look at it beyond what they think of fashion and accessories!!!

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