It is never too late to march

By: Zabrina Hong
May 15, 2024

Artwork courtesy of Vince Allen Atienza of The LANCE.

It is May of 2024; the season of wearing the gown that just fits with the throwing of caps. The graduation of the senior Letranites is awaited by their own family, friends, and the whole community of Colegio. It is an event seen as a sign the students of the Colegio are finally prepared and capable of working in the corporate world, but some have long been ready for this.

Entering college is expecting to graduate from it on time; just like how one enters a shop and leaves after they have their order. It is almost always embedded in the system of every Filipino that they finish senior high school at 18 and college at 22. If they go beyond, it becomes questionable or even considered a lost cause.

With this social norm, some students stumble with the surprise of life, where they learn that everyone does not have the same pace and has different timelines. Despite being a hard pill to swallow, none of them would back down from getting their diploma.

It was not long when the pandemic hit the Philippines. Everything had to stop, but some paused and only took a break. Jason Kyle Julian expected to graduate back in 2022.

The shift to online class made him take a plan B, unexpectedly. For him, it was the lack of resources, the capability to continue his studies, and the discipline to adjust to the new environment made him decide to rest for a while. It was not supposed to be a long break for him, but the goal of marching went further due to a curriculum conflict that affected his schedule.

For others, it was purely a surprise of life that tampered with the timing of the “plan” to graduate from college. Patricia Suyat went through a multitude of challenges that barricaded her from achieving her goal of wearing the gown and cap; from her academics to the grief of the death of a family member, and health issues.

And the issue of finance will never not be heard of in the life of a student. It is true that money is a need for education. It is time to stop romanticizing the story of “despite the financial problems, the student was able to graduate.” It is time to acknowledge and address the problem and support these students.

Zea Clemente decided to stop going to school as her brothers entered high school. It was the expenses in their house and the high tuition that kept her far from her goal. She said that having these worries affected her performance in school as the thoughts about whether she be able to take her exams, or enroll for the next semester and pay her tuition lingered in her mind.

She tried to aim for the scholarship given to the students who make it into the Dean’s List. During the first semester of her first year in Colegio, she was full of energy and hoped that she could. Came the second semester, her name was not on the list, leading her to stop for a year.

Not graduating in your expected year is painful. Receiving the same news is a different kind of pain. For Jason, his limited experiences and knowledge due to online classes made him say that graduating during the pandemic was better. However, the sting of seeing his batchmates graduate was a huge emotion that one has to deal with.

Just like Patricia, who had to deal with the feeling of being “left out” and the thought of not being able to meet the standards of society. With Zea, it was self-deprecating. During the week of graduation rites and her batchmates’ photos flooded her social media feed, deactivating her Facebook account was her way to get away.

“Dapat kasama ako d’on, eh. Kasabay ko sila. Dapat nagpopost na rin ako ng graduation picture. May picture ako na naka-toga gano’n,” Clemente said.

Now that they are a few steps away from marching, it is a mix of emotions for the seniors. It seems that joy, fulfillment, and gratitude of finally graduating coexist with the feelings of fear and another kind of pressure as they venture into the corporate world. The feeling of longing for their school days with the people they made memories with during the hardest exams and the never-ending revision of thesis manuscripts will always be there as they look back.

At the end of the day, it is the feeling of pride for yourself that you have made it. That you overcame the challenges life threw at you and bounced back from rock bottom, which a big part of it is because you have believed in yourself. Thank the Father above, thanks to everyone around you who helped, and a pat on your shoulder for making it through.

“Ang buhay ay ‘di karera, sabi nga ng Bini,” Jason said.

At the end of this chapter in their lives, the biggest lesson resonates with defying social norms. For Zea, it is important to be happy for others' achievements.

“It’s their season so clap for them, dahil surely if your season comes, they’ll clap for you too,” she added.

In the life of a student, it is not easy to stop or even take a break from school. To face this kind of battle, one has to deal with big emotions. Patricia’s takeaway from this would be to feel and acknowledge your emotions but not dwell much on them.

It is not easy to break away from a long-standing idea embedded in our culture. However, with the stories of Jason, Patricia, and Zea, it is clear that it is possible to conquer the path that you are to take.

As we all prepare to give hands to everyone who will make it on the stage this May, let us take a moment to absorb what they have been through; their braveness to continue and their eagerness to pursue learning, in the four-corner classroom and in life, that ultimately made them the version of themselves that they are today, who is ready to surmount anything life throws at them.