Rewind to 14 years ago: the place was the PICC Plenary Hall. The event was the graduation ceremony of all economics and accounting students of UST.
I came with my parents, 2 sisters and my grandmother. Full force. Well, I was the first grandchild in the family, so it was a big deal.
I remember when it was my turn to get my diploma and awards. Papa went up to the stage with me and as I was heading towards the stairs, I heard laughter from the crowd. I looked behind me and saw that he was being his usual goofy self: waving comically to my sisters and grandmother at the gallery.
After the awarding, I went up the stage for a second time to give my speech. A few days before the ceremony, the dean asked to read my speech and ultimately butchered it. Apparently, she felt I was exaggerating. In the ceremony, I read my original speech and I don’t think she noticed it. Score!
I wasn’t exaggerating. I was nostalgic, relieved, in shock even, that despite having to work while studying, I still finished at the top of my class. I wasn’t gifted at all. I suck at math, and I hated a few subjects and professors. But I was disciplined and I was very driven and I believe that skewed everything in my favor. The Universe smiled and made me a Cum Laude. But no chance at Magna Cum Laude. You still suck at math, the Universe said.
Everything felt surreal as I looked up at the gallery section. Wow. So many people came for all of us. All sharing this proud and happy moment. But someone in the crowd was the happiest for me and that is papa. I knew how he was fighting back his tears as I was making my speech.
I remember the promise I made to him at the start of my 4th year: I will give him an award. And I worked hard for it. He deserved it. As a government employee, he worked his ass off to send his children to good universities. This is my way of giving back and showing him that his efforts were not wasted.
As I was going down the stage, Professor Cabral was waiting for me at the foot of the stairs. Her face was beaming, her smile so huge as she shook my hand and said “Miss Ramos, continue making us proud”.
Professor Cristina Castro-Cabral’s classes were some of the most challenging to me but also the most interesting. I hold her in the highest regard.
4 years. Full of challenges and fun and friends. If only a piece of paper could talk.