Of Primus Eventus, Giants and Durian

11 May 2013 10:32 AM | Mary Rose dela Cruz (Administrator)

By Gina Santiago Eubanas, MD

My husband had been warning me about how storms have been raging in Davao much like here in Manila. So I pulled a red sweater and a pair of black pants for my flight from Manila that morning. Almost two hours later, I was welcomed by the scorching heat and the intense glare of the midday sun. Uh-oh! Well, at least I was spared of the burning radiation of the sun's rays, I said to myself.

Waiting right outside the doors was the amiable Ms. Suzette Palicte, a biology instructor and alumna of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) Southern Mindanao campus in Tugbok District, northeast of Davao City met me at the airport. We travelled for 45 minutes while exchanging pleasantries before entering a rotunda surrounded by a well-manicured lawn dotted with flowery hedges. Proceeding to a neat cantina where everyone was already having lunch, I soon had my fill of the freshest tilapia that was fried to perfection, sinigang na dinagyang and the freshest and perhaps the most delicious pineapples that I almost consumed the entire platter. Right after lunch ( which to me was a feast), no less than the tireless director herself, Mrs. Delia Legaspino, gave me a warm welcome and ushered me to the school’s conference room where I was to meet with some alumni.

The PSHS National Alumni Association (NAA), which I represent, was extremely grateful for the extraordinary efforts of Mrs Legaspino for arranging an entire afternoon devoted to the presentation of the NAA to both the alumni and the graduating class.

Nine alumni currently reside as faculty members in SMC, which in itself stands as a tremendous example of the amazing experiences these alumni must have had during their 4 years here. These alumni from different batches are dedicated enough to pay forward by coming back to teach, and that made me think about how nice a learning environment this campus must have always been.

The group was headed by Ms. Daryl Alegarbes who also happened to be the president of the PSHS SMC Alumni Association. As I presented and introduced the NAA, I couldn't help but notice how distinctive the culture of Pisay was. Despite the regional differences, the personalities of these breed of scholars have a commonality that eventually peeked and, without fail, always showed itself. I was glad to be among peers. The objectives, directives, current and future projects of the NAA were discussed including the upcoming First National Alumni Convention of PsHS (ANAC ng Pisay) where representatives of all batches in all campuses are expected to attend. Coincidentally, and without skipping a beat, two of the alumni were scheduled to be in Manila at the time and can attend the conference.

I met with the senior batch at the gymnasium. Out of the 84 graduates, I learned that more than 60 of them were bound for Manila this coming June. I soon realized that what genuinely caught their interest was the list of personalities who who they found out to be fellow Pisayans. I secretly hoped these inspiring figures will give them the added drive to achieve more in life. I left the talk thrilled by the thought.

The morning of the graduation started with a solemn inter-religious baccalaureate service concelebrated by Rev. Fr. Daniel J. MacNamara, Pastor William A. Lotero and Imam Abdul Basit A. Baraguir. The music, sung by members of the faculty headed by Engr. Cyrene Palparan, was very inspiring.

During the break, the students and their classes converged at the lawn surrounding the academic building and their official class pictures were taken. Despite the increasing temperature of the mid-morning sun, no one seemed to mind as the atmosphere remained one of excitement and anticipation.

The ceremonies began at precisely 10 o'clock. The opening remarks was delivered by Regiel Christian Q. Mag-usara, recipient of this year's Highest Honors and DOST Model Science scholar. He reminsiced on the four years of growing together and expressed his gratitude to his peers, parents, guardians, teachers and faculty from whom he and his fellow graduates learned their lessons and values that they now carry with them. Today is the culmination. Today is Primus Eventus.

The speaker was well-chosen. Being a mathematics full professor in Ateneo de Manila University and a mother of two Pisay scholars, Dr. Catherine Vistro-Yu certainly has the right to address this year’s graduating batch. She noted that the batch will have the privilege of celebrating its Jubillee year at the same time when the school celebrates its golden anniversary in 2038. She certainly did her homework too, interviewing Pisay college students on their experiences. “The first semesters will be a breeze to you” , she says, “ and there lies the trap. The trap of leniency and self-indulgence.” And before they know it, their grades and their aspirations start slipping away as more distractions take over. She advised well. Not a few has fallen into this trap.

Mr. Lorenzo M. De Vera, recipient of the Gerry Roxas Leadership Award and with High Honors, delivered the message of thanks. Invoking on the spirit of humility by quoting Sir Isaac Newton, he thanked the giants on whose shoulders they have perched upon to reach their goals. From the taxpayers who provided the funds to the lowly janitors to the teachers, staff and parents who selfishly kept their shoulders straight, never letting them fall. Finally, all praises and thanksgiving to the giant who carried all giants, the Almighty God.

And so, in this land of durian, pomelo, mangosteen and other delicious fruits one can have, with its endless sunny skies, buffet dinners and pearl farms, I got my first taste of the Southern Philippines and need I say it was awesome? It may sound cheesy for most travelers but I must admit this was quite an experience. And yes, take it from someone who's been there, batch 2013, this IS your beginning, this is where you take off. And the roots that bind you shall make you strong and indeed, make you reach for the stars, if you will hang on to it. In search for the untarnished truth.

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