[ NOte from NOel : Though we were thousands of kilometers away on his graduation day yesterday, our heart was with Bunso, who was accompanied by his proud grandparents and sister. We share with you below our letter of congratulations to him, greetings as well to all graduates this March! Please spare a few moments today to whisper a prayer for our compatriots awaiting a stay of execution in Shenzhen and Xiamen, the People’s Republic of China. Thanks in advance for reading the longish letter ! ]
Dear Bunso :
I am so happy that you are nearly at the end of your high school journey. Wasn’t it only yesterday that I was wishing you well on what was undoubtedly going to be a most remarkable valedictory of your passage into young adulthood, your transition from big fish in a small pond into the ocean of the much larger world outside? I know in my heart that the fleeting time did not diminish, in fact it heightened the sweetness of your high school memories.
I wish I could say that you are entering a world better than the one I joined when I left high school myself, but I will not even try, as I’m sure you will not permit such a delusion. Nature has continued her cyclic rampages, despots contine to claim the divine right of kings while trampling their citizens underfoot, our OFWs continue to be exploited, wrongfully imprisoned, and even executed abroad, and everywhere, people who need the help most urgently continue to be deprived by governments who should be doing the most to help them. Indeed, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Of course, I’m proud that you passed the admission exams of both the Green Archers and the Blue Eagles, especially since those schools were your first two choices. Despite what your uncles, classmates, and comrades tell you, ultimately it is your choice that counts, for after all it is you and not anyone else who will be attending school. So there.
** ** **
I wish I could impart to you the wisdom of the ages as you embark on a new phase in your academic career, but I cannot. For me, college was just one party after another, half-hearted attempts at erudition, chivalry or achievement, most ending in vain. Among the few truths that I learned then and which stayed with me to this day, if I may, was that pleasure, fair-weather companions, and the eye candy purchased by wealth and privilege are all ephemeral and will immediately desert you in hard times. Only the fruits of education and hard work stay true and loyal to you, even in your darkest times.
Just a few observations that I hope will serve you well in your college adventure. Now and then you will called by your peers to join the effort to agitate for change, redress grievances and challenge injustices especially against government , big business and the prevailing social order. Use your own good judgment, follow your conscience and I only hope that at the crucial time, you will be on the right side of history :
Never underestimate the power of peaceful protest. Our February Revolution of 1986 (two years before Kuya was born), the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square at the end of the last century, the current Arab Spring and probably most of the uprisings yet to happen in your lifetime are linked by peaceful protest that grew and grew until social change was inevitable. The symbol of one man standing against armies, tanks and the Establishment is a potent one, raising goosebumps, inspiring revolutions and summoning the groundswell of historic reform. The youth component of peaceful protest is often a crucial one, and before you reach your 20s you will probably join a handful of these causes. Choose your battles carefully, and lend your talents and energies to those that you think will provide meaningful change.
Don’t forget the playground rules that applied in high school are still applicable in university : Some notables are (1) you scratch my back, I scratch yours; (2) In any kind of group work, 20% of the team does 80% of the work ( so choose your groupmates well ) and (3) there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Not set-in-stone rules, but worthwhile to remember.
Lastly, this piece of advice hardly needs to be said, but just in case, make friends from all over and enjoy yourself in college. You will naturally and inevitably be drawn to those who share your likes and interests, but try to diversify the mix of your acquaintances, then choose those whom you will be most comfy with. In particular, try to reach out to those of humbler backgrounds, from remote hometowns, and those who won’t readily gravitate to the popular cliques. It might sound unlikely now, but these fellows are the most interesting ones and will enrich your life and experiences.
Beyond all these, you are in for a wonderful adventure, where you will undoubtedly shape your career and make friends and memories that will last you a lifetime. I envy you because of your youth and opportunity, but I’m so happy for you for the very same reasons. Your life as a collegian awaits!
Congratulations again anak, I love you always, kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos.
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