I graduated with a degree of BA Political Science from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, back in 2003. I started working in June 2003. That means, I’ve been in the workforce for 11 years. So, I decided to look back at my yuppie story and share it through this blog. This can be a pretty long series, so I hope you join me in this ride.
As a Political Science student at UP Diliman from 1999-2003, I amassed hundreds of pages of photocopied books, journal articles, and other readings for my subjects. This was several years before the iPhone, or the iPad, and the powerful laptop computers. Facebook was still a fledgling project of a would-be Harvard University dropout.
I remember our org-mate Ackey who laughed maniacally as he burned his photocopied readings one by one. At least, that’s the story he told us. He was obviously relieved that he no longer had to camp at the UP library. No more sleepless nights just to cram one paper after another. No more Rizal readings, no more exam preparations and certainly no more terror Professors.
But that was the world I knew. The world of ideas, of countless readings, of pounding at the keyboard trying to translates thoughts into words, words into paragraphs, and paragraphs into our grand contribution to this body of knowledge.
Who was I kidding?
Thankfully, my degree didn’t really require a thesis project. All we needed was a thesis proposal. And boy, was it difficult. On that last semester of my stay in UP Diliman, I contemplated filing for a Leave of Absense, not once but multiple times! I thought I’d never graduate that sem.
Graduating on Time
And I needed to graduate on time.
That was why I didn’t shift to Creative Writing on my third year in UP. You see, I fell in love with poetry, with Tolkien’s Middle Earth universe, and countless other books. I wanted to write beautiful stories, too.
Alas, I also had an agreement with my parents; a contract, if you would. I had to complete my degree within four years.
Our family wasn’t wealthy. Far from it. My mother was, and still is, a Public High School teacher–a stereotypical one, if you don’t mind me saying. She didn’t sell tocinos or vinegars and the likes, but she was riddled with all sorts of loans. My father is a preacher, and he doesn’t really receive a lot of money.
By the way, I’m also a certified Promdi: prom di province. Going to UP was the only way for me to complete a college degree in Metro Manila. When I was in college, tuition fee in UP was still P300 per unit. We ended up paying around 6,000 to 8,000 per semester in tuition and other fees. Add to that my boarding house and my allowances, and it was definitely a struggle for us.
My sister got accepted at Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta Mesa, so that was another blessing. It made college more affordable for us.
But still, family income was barely enough to cover all our expenses. As the eldest child, I knew that I needed to help out with our family finances.
So there, I couldn’t afford to file a Leave of Absence. I had to complete my studies and get my degree.
Not an A-Lister
I was an average student. Maybe even below average. Not that I was lacking in intellectual rigor or interest in academic stuff.
Maybe I was just interested in other things.
Give me a Fantasy book and I’ll stay up and devour it in three days or late. Give me a chapter of Political Science reading, and I’ll find ways to procrastinate, dally around, clean my closet, and play Battle Realms or Baldur’s Gate II just to avoid it. Except, maybe, if the PolSci reading was all about Gramsci, whose story and ideas fascinated me. Even back then, I tend to be one of those “Suplado sa personal” types. LOL.
In one of my PolSci classes with Prof Tinio, I believe it was, we were divided into groups and had a group quiz about that particular reading. A pretty classmate didn’t read the assigned reading so I ended up answering much of the questions. She was so thankful for me that she hugged me even though we weren’t even close. I mean, we weren’t even on speaking level.
But yeah, I wasn’t a PolSci A-lister. My grades are as colorful as they could get. I got every imaginable grade there was. I probably deserved them, too.
Well, maybe not all of them. I certainly didn’t deserve the 1.25 grade I got for ROTC. I probably deserved a 3 or something.
Perseverance Pays Off
Since I didn’t have the option to transfer to another degree program. Neither did I have the option to file for a Leave of Absence. I probably had the option to go AWOL. But under the circumstances, I didn’t know how to feed myself or pay for my boarding house, if I did that.
So I had to place one foot after another. Drink one cup of coffee after another. Burn the proverbial midnight candle just to complete my thesis proposal and turn in all my other degree requirements.
Towards the end of the sem, my parents sent me money to pay for the graduation dues, including the money for my Graduation picture, my College ring and for the yearbook, too.
By the way, CSSP Batch 2003, what happened to our yearbook? Did it simply disappear into the nether?
So, towards the end of March 2003, I knew for sure that I would graduate. With that certainty came the one dreaded question for most graduates, So What’s Next?
I had a month to think about it before our graduation and before I went back to our province.
A Slap in the Face
Most of my block-mates attended only the College Graduation Commencement Exercises. They didn’t bother with the University Graduation. For a lot of them, only cum laudes bother with the full UP grad. Cum laude or not, I decided to attend the full UP Grad. I’m a UP graduate and I deserve to feel the send off of my beloved University.
I had my sablay (you know, that piece of cloth that new graduates hang on their shoulders), and my parents bought a barong for me. My very own barong! Throughout College, I never remembered wearing a barong. Heck, I don’t even remember wearing black shoes while I was in college. Combat boots don’t count! I had my trusty brown steel toe shoes, a couple of cheapo sneakers, and my tsinelas. Nope, they’re not flip flops. They’re my tsinelas. (Which reminds me of a song by some rap artists back then: “Ang aking tsinelas, hindi nadudulas…)
There was only a handful of us in the area for Political Science students under the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Besides, the Summa cum Laude who was delivering the Valedictory Speech was from our Department. Yay! (For some reasons, after graduation, he went to La Salle and took a degree in Accountancy.)
I saw several familiar faces there, thankfully–some blockmates, and a couple of classmates.
Then I saw one particular classmate, Atheni. She came over.
“Hey Mighty,” she said, “kumusta? Ano cum laude ka?”
“Ako? Asa pa.” I replied with a chuckle.
“Ikaw talaga,” she said, “kung gusto mo lang, kaya mo naman eh.”
I smiled back at her.
Or at least I tried to. But I felt a metaphorical slap to my face.
Thing is, she was totally right.
I wasn’t an A-lister, right? So I didn’t really have any expectation about becoming a cum laude. But why did it still sting?
I recovered quickly and congratulated her for being a cum laude. With a pensive mood, I lined up at the processional area to wait for the program to start.
So What’s Next?
While waiting for the processional, that chance for us to march and go to our seats, my batch mates and I turned to the topic of graduation and what the future brings. Some of us contemplated going into government work, others wanted to go to the private sector, earn money, help family, have a good time, that sort of stuff.
Those were the early years of the BPO industry in the Philippines. It was a booming industry and while the lure of money was strong, a lot of us, me included, didn’t want to become part of it. I remember saying that I’m gonna use my UP training to good use and not for some mere “call center.”
I didn’t know that I would end up eating my very own words a couple of years later.
And then the graduation march began.
Under the heat of the sun, in the Amphitheater of UP Diliman, with the Oblation ahead of us, I found myself marching with a host of new UP graduates, eager to take our place in the wider world beyond the hallowed halls of the University of the Philippines.