4 years in college, 8 semesters, more than 4,800 hours inside the classroom, and around 2,300 hours or 1,380,000 labour minutes as a working student, and finally, it all boils down to a piece of fine paper with the words etched in 18th century script “Pontificia Et Regalis S. Thomae Aquinatis Universitas Manilana” with your name and degree of so called specialization.
Through the many shifts and shuffles of dirt-worn shoes and the blooming and falling of flowers and leaves from the trees, witnessed through sleep-deprived eyes I can say with certainty that my 4 years as a student/employee of UST was a memorable one. I am days away from our commencement exercise but my thoughts has been running like tap water to whatever has had happened – and whatever may be. Memories – both real and surreal – in and around my college days seems to revolve around me like satellites, all the while, reflecting my inner and most urgent desires; desires that has been fulfilled and are now successes, and desires that are yet to come to past given a little more time.
Like a satellite launched into deep space, the first thought that usually comes to mind (if satellites could indeed think) is the insatiable hunger for discovery and to uncover the most hidden secrets of the endless universe, a mission of daring proportions and dangerous complexions, but a mission that must be undertaken nonetheless. I am like that satellite, a fresh college graduate ready for deployment by the university to the so called real world, where ethics are usually out of the question, where lectures in the classroom seldom come into praxis, and where people whom you know is usually more important than the things that you know. It is a ruthless world out there my older folks would use to say, in college you don’t have to step on somebody to achieve something, we all had equal footing, and our intelligence and wit was usually enough to give us a passing grade. This wasn’t the case outside. According to them (my older folks), to succeed in the outside world, you have to step at each other’s foot, pull their neckties, stain their dresses, basically give them a bad image. But because we are Thomasians, we would never stoop down to such atrocities for the sake of getting a promotion and higher salary – or would we?
Going back to the fine paper with the words etched in 18th century script aka Diploma and all my years within this venerable institution, I have come to realize a few things. First, It’s easier to enter UST, but harder to stay, and if you are lucky or smart enough – whatever the case may be – to leave (graduate) from it, it’s a tad lot harder. Second, grades aren’t everything. Third, you won’t need top grades to earn you a scholarship. Fourth, having a scholarship doesn’t entail that you will graduate with honours. Fifth and final, (and a bit personal) lower your pride, bend those knees, lift yourself up to Him, and pray that everything will be alright.
First things first, when I graduated from my High School (Pasig Catholic College) my dreams were already etched at the back of my hand: I wanted to be a lawyer. This dream began when I was watching a tele-novela in ABS-CBN where John Lloyd Cruz was an attorney acting as prosecutor inside a court. I wasn’t listening to all the jibber-jabber that the actors and actresses were saying, I was rather absorbed with their crisp black as night suits, their ironed neckties and well- sculpted hair. Since, that moment on, I began seeing myself as a kind of lawyer in the making with all the suits and stuff. Going back, when I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer, the only problems that need answering were: What course would I take? And; which school should I choose? The first question was easier to answer, as if a strong wave roared across a vast ocean, swallowing me whole and bringing me into its depths, my innate answer was Political Science. The second answer was a bit harder to fathom. I only took college exams in my whole life. First was in UP, second was in UST. Of course, the school that I would be entering would be the latter. When I took up the UPCAT in 2008, I remembered that I had a great mix up with the course that I wanted to enter, instead of putting Pol Sci (short for Political Science) I indicated Com Sci (which was a pseudo for Computer Science). But the change up would not underscore a significant change in my academic pursuit; I still ended up, below the quota for Com Sci. Although I still sometimes ask myself that if I had placed correctly, Pol Sci instead of Com Sci, would I be a maroon blooded activist instead of a growling tiger? Imagination, imagination.
On the other hand, after taking the USTET still in 2008, I knew that (pardon the self-righteousness) I was in. I didn’t know how or why, I just knew. I remember it like it was yesterday: I took the test in Beato Angelico bldg. It was scheduled at 7am in the morning; we arrived a little around 6am. Both my parents were there, my younger sister and older brother. It was a 4 hour exam split into different areas of knowledge and (apologies again for the self-righteousness) finished around 10 to 15 minutes before the end of the allotted time for each part of the exam. I breezed my way through the USTET, but little did I know of what hell was waiting for me for the next 4 years…