(What follows is a letter-cum-essay that was published in the Youngblood column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer some years ago. I am not exactly proud of this. Looking back, I was rather insensitive and immature. But I am posting it here nonetheless as a tribute to UP who has served her country well in the past 100 years. This piece was reprinted in the UP Forum, official publication of the university community.)
DEAR Kuya Henry,
Allow me write this letter to you–a first in many years–as you exert influence on one of the most important decisions in the life of our beloved Sachi.
I have known that after a careful assessment, you have decided to send Sachi to xxU for college. While I receive this news with utmost respect, let me air my dissent and give you my thoughts on it.
I believe that xxU is a good school but I wish Sachi could go to the University of the Philippines because there, Sachi will grow among the best and the brightest, the future movers and shakers of our country. In UP, sure to open before Sachi’s eyes are doors of opportunities that graduates of lesser schools can only dream of. But above all, in UP, Sachi would continue to be the most promising person that she is by nature.
If Sachi were just a mediocre student, I wouldn’t care. But we know that she is far from ordinary. She has the skills and the attitude typical of those who make it “big time.”
Some of our relatives commented that it wouldn’t matter much where Sachi would go to college. She could go abroad and earn precious dollars, anyway. But if that is the case, we should as well let her go to a school in Timbuktu and the old American patient in San Diego she would nurse in the future would never mind.
Not infrequently, going abroad is a desperate move. It is an open acceptance of one’s failure to succeed in one’s own country. Overseas Filipino workers are not heroes all the time. Sometimes they are victims of poverty, if not of greed.
It is in this light that we admire Mommy and Daddy because they were able to raise us with success. They may have not set foot in college but their hard work, discipline and business acumen paved the way for them. They made a mark without a college diploma and without having to leave us to earn money elsewhere.
But Sachi wants to be a physician. Because entrusted in a doctor’s hands are lives of human beings, academic training is of primary consideration. Dr. Benjie Flor (Daddy’s cardiologist) knows that very well and so he went to UP for college. He also had the chance to go abroad, not to battle against time for green money, but to further his expertise. Now, Dr. Flor serves his Mother Ilocos by being a good and trusted professional. And his job pays him well.
I am both amused and saddened by the irony of it all: many parents break their bones just to send their children to Manila for better education. Not few of them do not mind if their kids go to the so-called “diploma mills” where degrees are gained without much pain. There are so many schools of that kind, many of them are in Recto. But to many parents, it really does not matter, basta mapag-aral lang sa Manila, okay na.
Here we have Sachi, admitted to the premier institution of learning in this country. And we do not send her to UP? Many UPCAT passers tender parties to celebrate their victory, their having won the key to their dreams. And on the bleak side, I have also heard of some young people claim their lives upon receiving the kind of “thank you but you did not make it” letter sent by the university. And we dismiss Sachi’s chance to go to UP with such ease?
I hope to make you realize that this humble request is born neither of caprice nor of boastfulness. This is born out of ambition and concern for our beloved Sachi.
I remember very well when I was about to go to college. Almost everybody did not want me to go to Manila. But Mommy was there and I will forever be thankful to her. Together, “Inkidem mi iti panagbasak (we just closed our eyes and went on against all odds).” In the same manner, let us transcend the present and on to the future.
Opportunities like these knock but once.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago once said that non-UP graduates belong to “lower life forms,” like insects. While we are much aware that the lady senator is really out of her wits most of the time, it is, to some extent, reflective of how society looks at graduates of UP and other top schools. It might be unfair, yes. But it is impossible to change the world in a few years when Sachi graduates from college.
Several times, I have heard personnel managers say that they do not bother to glance at the resumés of graduates who are not graduates of schools they consider reputable. These applicants’ papers are a regular visitor of the wastebasket. Such practice may sound unfair but not totally irrational. Graduates of top schools often need less training and are generally more competitive. Companies invest in them. And so, a UP Diliman diploma is a VIP passport that is recognized by every Filipino in any point and corner of the world.
One does not have to be an academician to realize that when you are a graduate of a well-regarded institution, you do not have much proving to do. And true enough, we do not always have the opportunity to present our collegiate achievements to other people. Sachi will not always be able to tell her patients that she enjoyed a scholarship in xxU or that she was awarded 12 medals when she graduated there. But If people know that you are a graduate of UP (no matter if you finished last and spent seven years to complete your four-year course), the assumption is that you are excellent, a cut above the rest.
You bear the indelible mark of greatness.
It is thus no wonder why the other honor graduates of Sachi’s class, from rank No. 2 to rank No. 7 are raring to go to UP. And after 25 years, when they meet again in their class reunion, how will our dear Sachi, their valedictorian, fare?
Looking at your concerns, I know how worried you are for Sachi’s safety and that financial concerns are carefully considered.
On the question of safety, we do not deny the risks. But if only to ease your worries, let me tell you, thousands and thousands of little probinsiyanas, like our dear Sachi (like Miriam then), flock to UP every year. With faith in God and in themselves, they emerge victorious! Many of them are my friends. We know very well that one does not have to go to Manila to encounter danger. Dangers and risks are eminent in Baguio too, even in Laoag.
As to monetary considerations, a UP education is a most profitable investment. Did you know that government subsidizes almost P50,000 for the education of every Iskolar ng Bayan every semester? Sending Sachi to Manila would mean a pocket less full, or even empty. But the money is never put to waste. Each centavo is an investment to Sachi’s character. From my humble means, I also offer to help Sachi in her finances if she goes to Manila for college.
A few weeks ago our family rejoiced because of Sachi’s feat. She graduated valedictorian in the best science high school in this part of the country. I hope we do not reward her by depriving her of the education she deserves.
To those who were given more, more will be expected. I pray that we present Sachi the treasure that is UP education so she could well serve God and country in the measure becoming of her.
I hope I did not sound antagonizing as I presented my views. My chest suddenly became heavy when Sachi told me that a decision has been made. I hope the decision is not irrevocable so that the feelings of grief and great loss–for the Sachi that should be–will leave me soon.
I never wanted to interfere with your affairs and so I always called Sachi to ask her to talk it over with you. But because she is a really good and understanding daughter, she could not demand too much. She pretends not to have any regrets but her voice says something and I am bothered. Before it’s late, please accept my last-ditch appeal.