Saturday, May 31, 2014

Three days of dancing at the Obando Pintakasi

Note:  This photo-esssay in slightly different version was featured in the 30 May - 05 Jun 2014 issue of FilAm Star, 'the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America, published weekly in San Francisco, CA. The author/blogger is the paper's special photo/news correspondent in the Philippines.

Rafaela Evangelista, the popular Ka Pelang of Obando, is almost 80, and she may be the last of her generation who graced the procession of March 18, the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi (the Santa Clarang Pinung-pino of local folks). It seems she doesn’t have any more favors to ask.  After all, she bore 13 children: 10 sons followed by three daughters, which she attributes to the patroness saint.  The beautiful woman had been dancing most of her life.

I had the chance to talk to Ka Pelang before the start of the procession. She was with the group of relatives and friends who were all wearing her old Filipiniana costumes of various colors and designs. She said that she cannot dance anymore but she would walk in thanksgiving for all the blessings she has received. Her daughter-in-law Julie is four months pregnant. She has three daughters already but she came dressed up in one of Ka Pelang’s antique garments to dance for a son.

Santa Clara is one of the trinity of patron saints of Obando. According to the history of the parish, the Franciscans introduced the veneration of the saint to the village people in the 17th century when Catangalan (old name of Obando) was still a part of Polo (now Venezuela).  San Pascual Baylon/Bailon joined Santa Clara as another patron in the 18th century when Obando was already a town of its own, and the church was being built. The coming of the Virgin of Salambao to Obando also in the 18th century is the subject of folklore about the image of the Immaculate Conception being caught in the net (salambao) of two fisherman brothers.   

Popular town histories trace the evolution of the folk Catholic dancing tradition to the pre-Spanish rituals called kasilonawan presided by high priestesses, usually nine days of eating, drinking, singing and dancing at the residence of the village chief. The religious orders adapted these pagan rites as tools in their evangelization mission.  In the case of Catangalan, the ancient house gods before whom women did fertility dancing was replaced by the image of Santa Clara.

That may explain how San Pascual Baylon, patron saint of Eucharistic congresses and associations, was absorbed into the town’s fertility dancing tradition.  There’s a basis though for the married folks to include the Virgin of Salambao in their prayer dance for children, she is after all the image of the Immaculate Conception. The town has a term for this dancing: bayluhan, derived from the Spanish baile (dance) or from the Baylon or Bailon name of the patron saint.

The church history marker clearly delineates that the Obando fiesta of 17, 18 and 19 May honors the trinity of saints with dancing: San Pascual for child bearing, Santa Clara, patroness of the conceiving mother, Virgin of Salambao, patroness of fishermen and farmers.  Throwbacks culled from literature though tell us that the bayluhan was done in various ways and covered other requests for saintly intercessions.

Throwback late 1800s.  Jose Montero y Vidal (Cuentos Filipinos,1883) wrote that the “indios and mestizos” danced before the image of San Pascual for the healing of every kind of illness and for protection from other misfortunes. During fiesta days, men, women and children went to Obando “fancifully dressed, head adorned with feathers and provided with tambourines, guitarillas they call cinco-cinco and other instruments ... cheerfully dancing, not allowing a moment of rest, despite the fire of the sun falling on their heads.”

At the sight of the image of San Pascual during the procession, he wrote, “people of all classes, ages and conditions, jiggle, jump and dance incessantly to implore the holy healing of their ailments, pointing out the diseased part of the body; they swarm in all directions, pray, sing and never stop dancing, even in the church after the conclusion of the procession.”

One throwback is an aside, fictional, from Jose Rizal’s Noli me Tangere (1887) about Capitan Tiago who enshrined several images of saints including San Pascual Baylon in the small chapel in his house.  He and his wife had long wished to have a child. Their pilgrimage to the shrines of the Virgin in Taal and Pakil had all been in vain.  She danced for a son in Obando during the feast day of San Pascual Baylon; she bore a daughter instead who was given the name Maria Clara in honor of the Virgin of Salambao and Santa Clara.

Joseph Earle Stevens, an American, wrote in his ‘Yesterdays in the Philippines’ (1894) about taking the train to attend the three-day fiesta. He noted that many pilgrims went there on foot, and “[e]verybody seemed to think it his duty to dance, and men, women, old men and children, mothers with babies and papas with kids, shouted, jumped around, danced, joggled each other, and rumpussed about until they were blue in the face, dripping with heat, and covered with dust. Then they would stop and another crowd take up the play.”  Apparently the frenzied activity lasted until sunset with tired groups sleeping under the shades around the church while other groups took over the dancing and shouting.

Throwback Peacetime. The accounts come from issues of the American Chamber of Commerce of Manila (AmCham) Journals several years before the Japanese invasion, when Obando was a short railway or motor vehicle ride away from Manila.

A 1932 account described that most of the pilgrims came from the lower classes who fastened to their clothing or hats pieces of colored paper cut in fanciful shapes. It appears that the focus of their devotion was San Pascual, and they went to pray for a child, for healing, or for protection.

There’s something incredible in the story: pilgrims dancing from “Tinajeros cemetery on the Manila North Road [later named MacArthur Highway]” all the way to the Obando Church.  My research tells me that Tinajeros is in Malabon, but there was no cemetery there of that name. Malabon had a cemetery near the San Bartolome Church and one in Tugatog.  The distance from any of them to Obando Church would be around seven kilometers!  Still, the pilgrims “who still [had] sufficient strength [kept] on dancing and leaping until they [sunk] to the ground in exhaustion.”

Throwback 1940 describes the three-day fiesta as “characterized by dancing by couples [who may also merely be betrothed] whose prayers are that their union will be blessed with children.”  The patron of devotion was San Pascual Bailon. The dance also named after this saint was one of the many religious dances in the country, wrote Lydia Villanueva-Arguilla, “consisting mainly of jogging and skipping, funny to the spectator but performed in all earnestness by the dancers.”

The Obando fiesta was disrupted by the second world war, and the centuries old images of the patron saints enshrined in the church were all destroyed by the bombs of 1945.

There was no fertility dancing after the war.  The church abolished it because of its pagan origins. The tradition however was revived in 1972.

Back to the present.  During the last pintakasi, I gathered that different groups of Obando folks from different barangays dance during the procession of the images of the three saints.  There are groups dedicated only to one feast day or to one patron saint.  The men and women wore different sets of Filipiniana costumes of different cuts and colors to distinguish their groupings. The group of Ka Pelang wore her antique garments for Santa Clara.

Yes, there were still pilgrims from other places who attended mass and may have joined the dancing inside the church after the service. It’s possible they were in the procession too and may have swayed with the crowd from the church down the main street and back to the same tune played over and over by the musikong bumbong and several brass bands: the ever popular Santa Clarang Pinung-Pino, although I did not hear anyone singing the song:
 Santa Clara Pinung-Pino.  I did not hear anyone singing though these popular lyrics: Santa Clarang pinung-pino, / Ang pangako ko ay ganito / Pagdating ko po sa Ubando, / Magsasayaw ng pandango. / Aruray, Araruray, Ang pangako’y tutuparin, / Aruray, Araruray, Ang pangako’y tutuparin. 

[Santa Clara, Thou blessed one, / Solemn promise I have made to thee, / When I reach your shrine at Obando, / I will pray, then dance the Fandango. / Aruray, Araruray, Oh, Santa Clara, hear my vow. / Aruray, Araruray, Oh, Santa Clara, hear my vow. – Translation in the 1914 music book for primary grades]

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Eight Pinoy high school students had fun at the Intel ISEF 2014 in Los Angeles

This photo-essay appeared in slightly different form in the 23-29 May 2014 issue of FilAm Star, 'the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America,' published weekly in San Francisco.  The author/blogger is the Special News/Photo Correspondent-Philippines of the paper.

On the giant screen during the Opening Program: Poster and Team Philippines 2014 members who did the Shout Out. (Photo from Joseph Roni Jacob).

More than 1,700 students from close to 80 countries, regions and territories converged at the Los Angeles Convention Center last week, May 11 to 16 during the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), the world’s largest research competition for students in grades 9–12, a program of the Society for Science and the Public (SSP).

This year had the highest number of finalists so far in the 64-year history of the international competition.

The Top Three Winners, left to right:  Intel Foundation Young Scientists Awardees Shannon Xinjing Lee and Lennart Kleinwort, and the Gordon E. Moore awardee Nathan Han. (Photo from Society for Science & the Public).

15-year old Nathan Han of Boston was declared the “best of the best,” and he received the Gordon E. Moore Award, a US$75,000 prize named in honor of the Intel co-founder and fellow scientist.  Han used data from publicly available databases to develop a machine learning software tool in studying mutations of a gene linked to breast cancer. 

Two other top winners each received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of US$50,000: Lennart Kleinwort, 15, of Germany, and Shannon Xinjing Lee, 17, of Singapore.

Kleinwort’s prize-winning project is described as “a new mathematical tool for smartphones ... [the] app allows users to hand draw curves, lines and geometric figures on the touch screen and watch the system render them into shapes and equations that can then be manipulated at will.’

Lee developed a novel electrocatalyst entirely from carbonized Chinese eggplant, which may be used for batteries in the future. She found out that her carbon catalyst “greatly out-performed a more sophisticated commercial catalyst in stability and longevity tests and will be environmentally friendly and inexpensive to produce.”

Photos from Joseph Roni Jacob.
Our Team Philippines 2014 of eight students and the other young scientists from around the world (Kenya, Oman, and Qatar participated for the first time this year) were all at the Intel ISEF vying for awards and scholarships. 

They brought to Los Angeles projects competing in 17 categories covering various fields like Animal Sciences, Behavioral/Social Sciences, Mathematics, Cellular/Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Earth/Planetary Science, Engineering, Environmental Management/Sciences, Energy/Transportation and Plant Sciences.  Each of the 17 “Best of Category” winners received US$5,000, with a US$1,000 grant from Intel Foundation going to their respective schools and to their affiliated fairs.  The top three winners came from these “bests”.

Other finalists in each category received Grand Awards:  First (US$3,000), Second (US$1,500), Third (US$1,000) and Fourth (US$500).  As in the past ISEFs, there were many who received fourth to second Grand Awards.  Aside from these, there were Special Awards from about 70 organizations on the eve of closing day.

Competing in three categories were the hopeful eight bright students from the Philippines:  two individual researchers, Michael Angelo Zafra from Taguig Science High School and Angelo Gabriel  Urag from Fr. Saturnino Urios University (High School Department), Butuan City; and two research teams -- Lea Sibay, Nicole Cejas and Magenta May Orozco from Agusan del Sur National High School, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur; and Michael Angelo De Chavez, Danise Chan and John Steven Ablong from Victorino Mapa High School, Manila. 

Except for Urag who was a sophomore, all the rest were high school seniors during the last school year and are going to college this coming June, or August for those enrolling in the University of the Philippines.  Their projects passed through three levels of competition: division, regional and the national science and technology fairs, spread out in the Department of Education calendar from August 2013 to February 2014.

Michael Angelo Zafra’s research competed in the Energy and Transportation category.  In his study, he isolated thermophilic bacteria (those that can work at high temperatures) from compost, and determined if these can hydrolyze cellulose. He was able to identify a strain of bacillus that has the potential for use in large-scale conversion of biomass into fermentable sugars in bioethanol production.

Angelo Gabriel Urag explored the surface structure and the chemical composition of the wings of male and female Neurothemis terminata, a dragonfly species commonly found in the country, to explain their hydrophobic or anti-wetting characteristics.  Interestingly, he found the male wings more hydrophobic than the female.  He said that the nanostructures of the wings could be reverse engineered for future applications to repel water and dirt on surfaces for easy-cleaning.  His project competed in the Engineering (Materials and Bioengineering) category.

Also in the same engineering category was the study of the Victorino Mapa High School team. They explored the potential use of chitin from crab shells for thin film solar cell applications. They were able to characterize and produce chitin nanowires, nitrogen- and manganese-doped carbon nanomaterials through the Horizontal Vapor Phase Growth Technique at the De La Salle University. 

The team from Agusan del Sur National High School were able to isolate five bacteria strains from palm oil sludge that can break down the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) components of diesel oil.  They found out that these strains, rod-shaped like bacilli, are effective in the bioremediation of oil-contaminated soil that they used for planting mangroves and associated plants.  The research project was in the Environmental Management competition.

In national costumes to the judging interviews, 
and thrilla' at Universal immediately after.
(Photos from Joseph Rino Jacob)
More than 500 finalists brought home awards and prizes for their innovative research.  A number of students received experiential awards from the Intel Foundation including an 11-day trip to China for them to attend the country’s largest national science competition, speak with researchers at Intel’s lab in Shanghai, and visit the Panda Research Base in Chengdu.

Three finalists were awarded an all-expense trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS), which includes attendance at the Nobel Prize ceremonies.  Others were selected to attend the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Warsaw, Poland, and the London International Youth Science Forum.  For the second time this year, finalists won the Innovation Exploration Award for a chance to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Caltech to learn about the latest in space exploration.

What is most interesting to first and second grand award winners is that their names are submitted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for once in a lifetime naming after them of minor planets in Ceres Connection.  All these minor planets were discovered by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program, operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Lincoln Laboratory. This naming is connection with the partnership of MIT-Lincoln, SSP and Intel ISEF to promote science education.

Apparently this lifetime naming started way back in 2002 when all the Intel ISEF awardees were invited to submit an essay on 'why would you like a planet named after you.'  The Filipino prize winners, except one, submitted an essay, hence, teammates Jeric Valles Macalintal and Allan Noriel Estrella, and individual researcher Prem Vilas Fortran Moso Rara had planetary bodies named after them. This was also the year that Dr. Josette Biyo, currently Executive Director of the Philippine Science High School System, had a minor planet between Mars and Jupiter named after her when she received the “Intel Excellence Award in Teaching." In 2011, Miguel Arnold Reyes of Philippine Science High School-Main had a minor planet named after him for winning a second grand award for his materials and bioengineering project. 

The Philippines had been participating in the Intel ISEF since 1998.  For the past 15 years, our finalists brought back home special and grand awards to show off. 

Team Philippines 2014 may not have fared equally as well as previous teams, but it was certainly a week of fun and inspirational encounters for all of them at the Intel ISEF in Los Angeles.

National costumes, different nationalities at the world's biggest annual research competition;
(Photos from Team Philippines 2014)

They would recall how they faced the highly qualified judges in their national costumes during their whole day of interviews with them in front of their project displays at the exhibition hall. They forgot the stress of judging day because what followed immediately were thrilling rides at the Universal Studios Hollywood all for free during the Intel ISEF Night there.

There is more than research competition in the ISEF.  There are fun events too like the pin exchange, the customary icebreaker on the eve of opening day with the finalists trading pins and thereby meeting new friends from around the world.  

For sure they also enjoyed their encounter with Nobel laureates comprising the "Excellence in Science and Technology Discussion Panel".  They threw questions to Frances Arnold (Draper Prize, 2011), J. Michael Bishop (Physiology or Medicine, 1989), Martin Chalfie (Chemistry, 2008), H. Robert Horvitz (Chemistry, 2002), Sir Harold Kroto (Chemistry, 1996) and John Mather (Phyics, 2006). They also grabbed photo-ops with anyone of them after the Q&A session.

We have been involved in the national science and technology fair in the Philippines since year 2000, the Intel ISEF-affiliated fair initially with the Department of Science &Technology, and now under the Department of Education. We’ve been part of scientific review committees that pre-qualify projects in the national competition among regular and science high schools, and of panels that judge projects in the physical sciences category, and select the research projects to be sent to the Intel ISEF.  Through these review and judging tasks, we have seen the passion for scientific inquiry among many high school students from the different regions of the country. 

The winning projects in the national fair that are selected for the Intel ISEF are truly owned by the young researchers.  Their work fall within the perspectives defined by Rick Bates, interim CEO and chief advancement officer of Society for Science & the Public, and Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation.

“In congratulating [the top three winners], we join with Intel in seeing great hope in their research, and that of all of our Intel ISEF finalists,” Bates said. “Not only are they working to discover solutions for society’s challenges, they importantly serve as an inspiration for younger students and encourage them to become involved in the amazing world of hands-on science and engineering.”

Hawkins added, “The world needs more scientists, makers and entrepreneurs to create jobs, drive economic growth and solve pressing global challenges. Intel believes that young people are the key to innovation, and we hope that these winners inspire more students to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math, the foundation for creativity.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The merry month of May in the Philippines

Note.  This photo-essay appeared in 09-15 May 2014 issue of the FilAm Star, 'the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published weekly in San Francisco. This author/blogger is the Special News/Photo Correspondent of the paper in the Philippines. 

The “May Day” of international workers is simply Labor Day in the calendar of official holidays in the Philippines. It’s Mayo Uno to the militant labor groups, which, as expected, converged near the  Mendiola Peace Arch to “express disappointment” with the Benigno Aquino III government on various labor-related issues, the state of our economy, and RP-US relations following the state visit of Barack Obama and the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

While there was no fiesta on Mendiola to open the month of May, there were no banners, streamers and a PNoy Aquino effigy to burn in many places around the archipelago celebrating May 1 in honor of their patron saint, St. Joseph the Worker.  It so happened that in 1955, according to Roman Catholic accounts, Pope Pius XII instituted this date as feast day of the saint in response to the “May Day” celebrations of the Communists.

Joseph the Worker is more associated with carpentry; hence, in Notre Dame Village in Cotabato City, his feast day is called Duyog Panday, and in Lonoy, Jagna, Bohol, their celebration is a Pandayan Festival, panday being the local term for carpenter.

The other laborer in the Roman Catholic pantheon of saints is San Isidro Labrador, which translates to San Isidro the Farmer, who is honored on May 15.  He is the patron saint of harvest.

The colorful celebration of the town folks of Lucban, Quezon is popularly known as Pahiyas. As their gesture of thanksgiving for rich harvests, they decorate the facades of their houses with “kiping”, multi-colored rice paste confections shaped like leaves, together with vegetables, fruits, flowers and even handicrafts. Other Quezon towns that celebrate the harvest festival on May 15 are Tayabas, Sariaya, Gumaca and Tiaong. 

In Pulilan, Bulacan, San Isidro is honored with a parade of carabaos decorated with garlands and led to kneel in front of the town church.  In Angono, Rizal, their festival parade has carabaos pulling carts laden with local products. 

Elsewhere in the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, several towns and cities have festivities in May revolving around crop harvests or locally manufactured products.

A roving fiesta goer may have started in Agoo, La Union on May 1 partaking in the Dinengdeng Feastival, dinengdeng being the Ilocano term for the mix of vegetables in a broth seasoned with fish sauce.  From there, he can move around the country for the taste of other products. Marilao, Bulacan celebrates the luyang dilaw (yellow ginger) on May 2, while Sinait, Ilocos Sur gets hot on bawang (garlic) on May 3.  Bountiful harvests of coconut and bangus are reasons for the folks of Pinamungajan, Cebu to host their Pamuhuan Festival on May 4. Naguilian, La Union toasts with their native wine, the basi, on May 7.  It’s saging (banana) in Lazi, Siquijor on May 10, lubi (coconut) in Maria, Siquijor on May 21 and in Gingoog City on May 22.  He can go for higanteng alimango (giant mud crabs) in Calauag, Quezon on May 25 during their Katang Festival, and possibly end the month with helpings of rosquillos, one of Cebu’s primary baked delicacies, in Liloan, Cebu on May 29.  These are just some of the gustatory festivals spread across the country during the month. 

May is also associated with Marian festivities.   There’s the Flores de Mayo that involves floral offerings to Mary during the month.

On May 1, the town folks of Baras, Rizal have their Troamba Festival in honor of the Nuestra Señora de Turumba.  It’s the Pastores Festival in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija for their patron saint, the Nuestra Señora dela Virgen Divina Pastora.

In our coastal barangay of La Paz in San Narciso, Zambales, the first Saturday of the month is the fixed day to honor the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje.  This year’s religious celebrations included processions of Marian images and that of San Sebastian, the town’s patron saint, borne on bancas or motor boats at sea early in the morning, and on decorated carrozas around the barangay in the early evening. The peryahan at the beach front, boat racing competition in the morning, the civic parade in the afternoon, and whole day feasts were all in the fiesta program for visitors to enjoy.

The Turumba Festival 2014 of Pakil, Laguna in honor of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (Mahal na Birhen ng Hapis) is spread on various dates from April 11 to September 14.  This month, there’s the Fiestang Biyernes of May 9, the Fiesta Pakilena of May 12, the Fiestang Linggo of May 18, the Fiestang Pag-akyat of May 30, and the Ahunan sa Pingas of May 31.  This year is the 226th anniversary of the finding of the picture of Our Lady in Laguna Lake on September 15 , 1788.

One of the most popular religious events during the month is in Obando, Bulacan where three patron saints are celebrated through song and dance:  the Obando Fertility Rites on May 17-19. 

Tradition has the men asking for the help of San Pascual de Baylon in their search for a wife, the girls praying for a life-time partner through Santa Clara, and childless couples praying for the intercession of Our Lady of Salambao to have a child.  The Our Lady is also the patroness of fishermen, hence, her help is sought for Obando’s principal industry, fishing.

The Santacruzan may have started in several parts of the country.  Through the years, this has veered to almost a parade of local town beauties, and gays, in many places nationwide.  There are several Santacruzans marked out for foreign tourists in the More Fun in the Philippines calendar of the Department of Tourism.

It may be hot in May, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from fiesta hopping.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sablay, sunflowers, and reminders to serve the people for the bright lights from UP Diliman

Note: * This photo-essay appeared in a slightly different version in the 02-08 May 2014 issue of the FilAm Star, 'the newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published weekly in San Francisco, CA. This blogger/author is the Philippines Special News/Photo Correspondent of the said paper.  

Two long vertical maroon streamers from the top of Quezon Hall provided the historical framework of the 2014 General Commencement Exercises of the University of the Philippines Diliman on 27 April.   The streamers were in honor of Apolinario Mabini, the revolutionary ‘sublime paralytic’.  It is in celebration of his sesquicentennial birth anniversary this coming July that the commencement program carried the theme “Pagbabalik Tanaw Tungo sa Tapat na Pamamahala.”

On the University Avenue, streamers vertically hang on posts along the traffic island of blooming sunflowers told that this year’s graduation class is the 103rd batch in the history of the university, alongside that of the Mabini commemorative
UP Diliman Chancellor Michael L. Tan said he could have similarly honored Isabelo de los Reyes, had he known earlier that the 150th birth anniversary of the pioneer in the country’s labor movement is also in July. The dean of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) gave due recognition to de los Reyes when he presented his unit’s candidates for graduation.

Directly facing the graduates, their families and friends seated at the amphitheater, was the banner stretched across the front of the stage bearing in big bold red letters the slogan of the 1970s: Paglingkuran ang Sambayan (Serve the People).  It was a reminder of the great responsibility expected by the country of the graduating class, the Iskolar ng Bayan, since their university education was subsidized by the people’s tax. 

Wherever you go, UP President Alfredo Pascual said in his message in Pilipino to Class 2014, whether in government, in business and industry, in the academe, in NGOs, or in other fields, you are expected to push for reforms that would contribute to the well-being of the country and society.

Commencement speaker Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, expressed similar sentiments urging Class 2014 to pay back the people who spent for their education.  She exhorted them to be productive: “Huwag ninyong sayangin ang inyong kabataan, ang inyong lakas, ang kaningningan ng inyong mga mata, ang inyong idealismo at pagkamalikhain, sa mga pangarap na walang saysay.” 

She urged them to help in building a just and free country, clean of corruption. You have the voice, she said in her speech, to shout “‘tama na, tama na ang katiwalian, tama na ang lamangan, tama na ang kasuwapangan.’ Panahon na para ang katarungan ang manaig.”  

Sereno asked for patience and vigilance in the prosecution of graft and corruption cases. “Anuman ang magiging kararatnan ng mga judicial process na pagdaraanan, kailangan po ng walang humpay na pagbabantay ng taong bayan, di lamang sa pag bantay sa kaban ng bayan, kundi sa pag ganap ng tungkulin na iniatas ng ating konstitusyon sa mga opisyales ng ating pamahalaan,” she emphasized.

The Chief Justice was speaking to what Chancellor Tan described as the brightest and most privileged graduating class, many of them part of almost 4,000 high school graduates who gained admission to the Diliman campus after passing the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) of 2010.

“Almost 60 percent of our students come from private high schools,” Tan said, “and another 30 from public science high schools, whose composition is still largely middle and upper income.”  He acknowledged, and thanked “the students from low income families, whose parents, or an Ate or Kuya, scrounged and saved, sought ways to get [them] into, and keep [them] in UP.”

Comprising Class 2014 were 3,367 with undergraduate degrees, 710 with master’s, and 62 with doctoral, degrees.  Tan made special mention of the seven students from Eastern Visayas who made it despite the adversity caused by typhoon Yolanda.  

On the lead were twenty summa cum laude graduates, and at the top was Ralph John O. Ugalino, BS Chemistry, from the College of Science with a weighted average grade (WAG) of 1.067. 

The College of Engineering had the most graduates at 789, eight of them summa cum laude.  The College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP), College of Science, and the School of Economics each had three graduates with top honors. 

Through a selection process that involved submission and oral presentation of a speech before a panel of judges, Jose Maria L. Marella, BS Economics(1.164 WAG) was chosen from among the qualified summas to deliver the response in behalf of the graduating class.

In his speech "Para sa Bayan: Dangal at Husay," he stressed two important values -- Honor and Excellence. "Dangal. Honor. Integrity. Ito ngayon ang hamon sa ating mga bagong graduates ng UP. Ipalaganap natin ang pagsisilbi ng may karangalan sa bayan. Huwag nating kalimutan ang mahahalagang aral na natutunan natin sa loob at labas ng classrooms sa UP. At higit sa lahat, isaalang-alang natin sa bawat gawain natin ang kabutihan ng lahat, ang kabutihan ng bawat Pilipino at hindi and pansariling interes lamang. Saan man tayo mapapunta, balik-tanawin natin ang mga aral na ito, tungo sa tapat at mahusay na pamamahala!"

The historical and current reference frames of this year's commencemnet program were enriched by the cultural nuances of the sablay. This is the official academic costume that graduating classes have been wearing since 2000, replacing the traditional cap and gown (toga).

The sablay is a loose garment or wide sash using the UP colors of maroon and green. It is a nationalistic expression conveying the importance of our indigenous culture, a value that the University teaches. The sablay is adorned with ukkil , representing the growth of knowledge, and geometric patterns like triangles and chevrons, which are common design elements of indigenous cultures in the Philippines. UP, the University’s acronym, is based on the baybayin for U and P, and is etched in yellow on the sablay.

It is worn over barong tagalog for the men, and ecru- or eggshell-colored dress for the women. The graduating class wears the garment on their right shoulder at the start of the program. The highlight comes when UP President confirms them as graduates, and that is when they move the sablay to their left shoulder using the proper technique so that they do not have to take it off. 

There’s another frame for the UP Diliman graduation day, very environmental or botanical.  It is not an official practice but it simply became traditional: the planting of sunflowers (Helianthus annuus L.) usually in late February so that they come into full bloom along the University Avenue and around the Quezon Hall amphitheatre during commencement week.

We have seen people in cars stopping by for selfies with the blooming sunflowers, and graduates sneaking out of the amphitheatre for picture taking at the University Avenue with the UP colors of their sablay as counterpoints to the bright yellow of the sunflowers.

It is almost a given: an unofficial part of the commencement program, a brief time allocation for student activists to express their advocacy statements. 
This year, before everyone rose for the singing of UP Naming Mahal, the activist graduates moved to the front with their banners, and with clenched fists, recited their protest slogans. 

From the balcony of Quezon Hall rolled two black tarpaulins printed with “US Troops Out Now!!!” and “Obama Out of Asia Now!!!”  This was on the eve of the arrival of US President Barrack Obama in Manila for his state visit to the country.