Real World – A tribute to the graduates of 2016 by AH faculty, Mr. Jason A. Baguia.

From a distance, courtesy of Facebook, I witnessed your graduation amid the soccer field, or what used to be one when I was an undergraduate student like you were. The bluegrass, I imagine, must have been turning green, for you finished college late in June, not like we did on an afternoon in April, our midsummer, when the lawn was dry and brown as the earth.

That Wednesday, apart from the piece of parchment on which words conferring on you the degrees you pursued over four years or more is scrawled and the maroon-and-green sashes on which the Baybayin equivalents of the Latin letters U and P are embroidered in golden thread, you earned another important right — your right to miss school.

You shall not trivialize the exercise of that right. Such is not a post-adolescent retreat into nostalgia or sentimentality. As alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) specifically in Cebu, your remembrance shall be the means for you to shape reality and thereby effectively critique the description of the national university as a mere microcosm of the miserable Philippine society.

You shall remember the trees, flame-of-the-forest, perfume, tamarind, rain tree under which shades you strolled around the campus. Let their fiery petals, sweet scent and abundant fruit remind you of the sterling service that you owe our people – silent as smell, touching as taste, exquisite as clothing made of flowers. As citizens who serve our land, in business, art, communication, politics, mathematics, psychology, information technology and other fields, you shall model yourselves after the trees of our part of Barangays Camputhaw and Lahug in their untiring generosity.

You shall remember the kiosks, whichever you frequented and howsoever you named them, Barracks, Malacañang, the new ones that look like beachfront cottages, the straw-and-bamboo varieties on that plot we called Boracay before the surroundings were landscaped. If the classrooms and library were your second homes, these were your third. Let them keep you holding on to the hearts of your dreams for yourselves and your compatriots, neither vanities nor a useless chase of passing wealth, but the building of a civilization of hospitality, a culture where every place, from the wombs of mothers, the offices of workers to the fields of farmers are welcoming homes rather than chambers of death or oppression.

You shall remember Manang Lisa, the woman, wife, mother famed for the fried bananas and sweet potatoes that she sells along Gorordo Avenue, the women and men behind the school’s canteen and physical upkeep and the attendants at the food stalls where you ate. If you have befriended them, they will honor you, calling you by name no matter how long it will be before you visit the school again. Let their memory rebuke the sense of despair that tries to smother you with each bad breaking news that feeds your eyes and ears. The Filipino is good and industrious. He will, given the opportunity, work his posterior off to make life kind for the ones He believes God gave him. Do not stick to grabbing opportunities. Grow such that you will become capable of granting opportunities to those who have little.

You shall remember your friends. A friendship that comes to an end never was, Saint Jerome said. Having been loved by your friends, you shall remember that wherever you go, the people you will meet have identities beyond being your boss, colleague or subordinate, just as your UP Cebu friends, as you learned over the years, are not only fellow students who have a six-digit enrollment numbers like you do, but also people with whom your joys become writ large and your sorrows turn minuscule. Let your UP Cebu friendships age like wine. Share your gift of making friends.

You shall remember the Oblation statue, his upturned eyes, his open arms, his nakedness. Whatever your profession or craft, you shall strive for nobility. Wherever life takes you, you shall reach out with courage and love, and be ready to hold others hand-in-hand rather than cower in fear and anxiety. You shall touch, embrace and help rather than brace yourself defensively or be poised to strike them. You shall live in honesty and truth, just as the stripped Oble has nothing to hide. Your life itself shall be an oblation, a sacrifice rather than a horror story of self-indulgence, for as our Lord taught us, only the wheat grain that falls to the ground and dies grows and bears fruit. In this teaching is the core of reality. Outside this rhythm of dying to ourselves to give life to those given to us in public and divine trust and coming into life again, outside this realm lies everything that fades away.

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