I get emotional every graduation season.
I am a proud Thomasian. I earned my Bachelor's degree in Zoology from the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest Catholic University in Asia. This is the same university where my parents met. Dad was a student in the College of Medicine, Mama was enrolled in the College of Commerce. Most of my aunts and uncles are Thomasians too. My sister graduated here with an degree in Economics. My daughter followed the same path and earned her Economics degree in 2007. My son opted out, not of his choice but because he was sidetracked by all his extra-curricular activities which took up most of his study time. He vows to come back and earn a master's degree.
There are many challenges to face attending classes at the University of Santo Tomas. The long commute, the flooding during rainy season, the commitment to learn and to be an embodiment of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, no matter how long ago it was since you've last been at the UST, the phrase, "Once a Thomasian, Always a Thomasian," stays with you forever. A visit to the campus gives you unexplainable joy. Memories of being a shy 16 year old college freshman comes alive. You would really want to retrace the steps you took everyday to get from the España gate to your building. You'd want to see the classrooms where you had your gym classes and kneel down in prayer inside the Santissimo Rosario church. The last time I visited the university, I peered through the wire fences of the botanical garden, where me and my friends spent hours trying to classify the different kinds of leaves and insects. I wanted to go up the 5th floor of the main building where the Anatomy and Chemistry laboratories were, however, the entrance says "Students and Professors only."
My only regret, is not attending the Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation Ceremony. I felt it was not yet the end of my academic journey, since I was going to enroll in the College of Medicine in the following school year. I told my parents that I am happy to have earned my Bachelor's degree, but will only attend the graduation ceremony when I earn my degree for Doctor of Medicine.
Sadly, I did not graduate from the College of Medicine. I have written about this before, and I will write about it again. I am content with what I have achieved in life and if I could go back in time, I would probably choose to finish my studies in Medicine, provided that it will be the only thing I would change in the past. I would have wanted to experience the passage through the Arch of the Centuries, the lighting of the candles, and the tearful good-byes to classmates.
Since we can not go back in time, I relive the joy every time I see videos of the Baccalaureate Mass in the University of Santo Tomas. I see myself in those smiling faces, I remember the "uniform signing," I remember the feeling of happiness upon seeing my name in the Official List of Candidates for Graduation. What a great time that was.
I am sharing with you the video of the 2015 Baccalaureate Mass held in the University of Santo Tomas. Witness the hope and joy in the eyes of these youth. So heartwarming.
Congratulations to the graduates and a big pat on the back for the parents who stood behind and fueled the dreams of their sons and daughters. Mabuhay po kayo!