Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sunflowers still bloomed in the first June graduation of UP Diliman

Note: This photo-essay appeared in the 03-09 July 2015 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA, where this writer/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent.

Applause & cheers upon presentation for graduation.

For the first time, the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) held its graduation rites in June, following the shift of the university academic calendar from June to August last year. The University Avenue still blazed with the golden yellow blooms of the iconic sunflower, this time of the species that can tolerate rain.

Class 2015 comprising 4,439 graduates from the 27 degree-granting units in the Diliman campus received their degrees under the burning morning sun during the 104th  General Commencement Exercises on 28 June. 3,499 received undergraduate degrees while 940 received graduate degrees, of which 84 were conferred their doctoral degrees.  They were alerted that if it rains, they would be confirmed graduates by text.

The four summa cum laude graduates of engineering with theirDean Aura Matias, 
Vice Chacellor Benito Pacheco, Chancellor Michael Tan and UP President Alfredo Pascual

Summa cum laudes. Twenty nine undergraduates who earned a weighted average grade (WAG) of 1.20 or better were bestowed with the highest academic distinction: summa cum laude (“with the greatest honors. They were led by Tiffany Grace C. Uy, BS Biology with a WAG of 1.004. She surpassed that of John Gabriel P. Pelias, BS Mathematics, graduated with a WAG of 1.016 in 2011.

Chancellor Tan congratulates Tiffany Uy
and her proud parents.
In the Diliman Files, a Facebook community group, Uy is listed second, and Pelias third, among the top five summa cum laude graduates in UP history. Number one is Exequiel Sevilla, who had a flat 1.0 WAG in 1927. The fourth and fifth are Emerenciana Yuvienco-Arcellana, 1.020 WAG in 1948, and Gertrude Gwendale Baron-Reinoso, 1.030 WAG in 1982. Among the post-war Diliman campus summa graduates though, Uy would be on top.

Mikaela Irene D. Fudolig was barely noticed during graduation rites. She was one of the 84 who received doctoral degrees. If her name rings a bell, she was this physics prodigy, who at 16 in 2007, graduated summa cum laude, with 1.099 WAG.  She was the girl of 11 who entered the university without a high school diploma and without taking the UP College Admission Test or UPCAT.  After her BS and MS in 2007 and 2013, respectively, she is now PhD, all in physics.

High school buddies Junji &
Mike graduate as engineers.
Based on the university records, there were only one or two summa cum laude graduates or none at all, from 1919 to 1959, although there were five in 1929, and three in 1952. In the 1960s, there were only two. During the years of student ferment, from 1964 to 1972, there was none at all. The double-digit number of summas started in 2005 although there were only eight in 2007.

Many alumni wonder why it was so difficult to earn the highest Latin honor in their time although they had magna cum laudes in their classes.

Chancellor Michael Tan attributed the seeming phenomenon to change, citing factors such as easier access to information from various sources, improvement in the teaching methodologies (the ‘terrors’ are disappearing, he quipped), among others. 

Tiffany Uy was more down-to-earth with regard to her grade. To her, it just a number, only a circumstantial evidence of what [she] has learned.  “A true measure of what you’ve learned,” she averred, “is (its) application toward serving the country.”

Muslim Filipinos are integral part of
the academic community & the nation.
Pag-uugat, Pag-uugnay, Pagyabong.  “This theme,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual in his message to Class 2015, “mirrors your transformation from idealistic young freshmen to accomplished graduates.” He reminded that they were nurtured in integrity so they can proudly stand as “the best and the brightest in the country.” 

He emphasized on “pag-uugnay” in the process of growth as true iskolar ng bayan, in the practice of excellence to achieve honorable ends.

 “Many of our graduates like you,” he said, “have seen how each individual is connected to the whole—that the nation’s issues are your issues. You have been witness to how one can, under the banner of truth, improve the world through strength of mind and will. And this is done through building networks, cooperation, and interconnections.”

The iconic clenched fist in UP rites.
Secretary Armin A. Luistro of the Department of Education, the ceremony’s guest speaker, urged the members of Class 2015 to become living heroes, “mga buhay na Oblation.”

In good humor, Luistro said that he was told he would become a rock star if rallyistas appear while he is speaking.  Placards were flashed while he spoke, and the mass action, which was quite expected, came before the formal closing of the program. The protest principally focused on the K-12 program.

Luistro hurled challenges to the graduates focusing on his turf: the state of public schools in the country. He asked for who can help install solar or micro-hydro power in schools that still do not have electricity. There are also more than 6,000 schools that have no access to clean water, and thus, rain catchment facilities are needed to be constructed.

He cited the Brigada Eskwela program, and he challenged the engineering graduates to volunteer in constructing around 40,000 new classrooms in far-flung areas and islands. He assured that the locations are the most beautiful in the country.

The Colleg of Law contingent singing the UP Naming Mahal with passion.

Luistro would also like the graduates to look at the out-of-school youth.  According to him, there were 2.9 million of them in 2008, and this reduced to 1.2 million in 2013.  “If you see a child who is not in school,” he said, “text or email us at DepEd and we will take care.”

He called attention to other challenges that graduates cannot evade: the turmoil at the West Philippine Sea, the issues on the Bangsamoro Law, which is deemed to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, and the election of right government officials in 2016.

Response on behalf of Class '15.
Summa cum laude graduate Ma. Patricia Riego De Dios (BS Psychology, 1.139 WAG) spoke on behalf of the graduating class with “Mga Katanungan ng Payabong na Iskolar ng Bayan” vis-a-vis the graduation theme.

She recalled that their growth as iskolar ng bayan was nurtured in the university by information, friendships, experience, failures and interconnections.

“Mga kasama kong nagsipagtapos, tayo ay magiging ganap lamang na mga iskolar ng bayan sa ating pag-angat sa lupa,” she implored. “Magiging ganap tayo na mga isko at iska kapag yumabong na ang ating mga tangkay, mga sanga, at mga dahon sa kanya-kanyang propesyon at karera sa buhay: paghanap ng trabaho, ng boyfriend, girlfriend, asawa, pagpasok sa med school, law school o graduate school, at pagpapalawak ng ating kaalaman.

“At dahil nga tayo ay naka-ugat sa UP, sisikapin nating maging pinakamataas na sanga, pinakaluntiang dahon, at higit sa lahat, pinakamatibay at pinakamayabong na puno na nakapagbibigay ng silong sa nakararami.”

Strung across the front of the stage for all Class 2015 is a giant streamer, a reminder that they should go and serve the people: 'Paglingkuran ang sambayanan.' 

The lightning protest demonstration toward the end of the graduation rites.

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