If Only

Words by Kyle Ramiel Dalangin

I was born and raised in a family of UPLB alumni. I grew up hearing stories about how amazing and homey it was. In fact, I went to senior high school already thinking about my future experiences in UPLB. 

My household made me want to study in the university– or, looking back, maybe I just didn’t have that much of a choice. The pressure of having three sablays in the family and everyone expecting me to bring home the fourth, weighed on me like a ghost sitting on my shoulders. 

The ghost, eventually, became my own soul.

My heart broke when I did not pass the UPCAT. If only I passed, I would be on cloud nine. I was ashamed of myself, but I still gave it a second try. I applied for reconsideration which I am very confident that I’ve passed. Again, I failed. 

I felt my whole world crash. I was so disappointed with myself. I was so angry for disappointing my family and everyone who expected more from me. For months, I couldn’t eat. I went to the University I enrolled in with the course I’m not in love with. I forced myself to get through every day. 

If only I passed, I would be studying what I love. 

I was not happy until I tried for the third time. Finally, I successfully transferred to my dream school with my dream course. 

I remembered how happy I was that time and how happy I was once I started my classes. I remember telling myself that I would no longer cry at night. I remember feeling relieved that I could now smile genuinely. I’ve met their expectations, and now, I can finally breathe and be free. I also remember being thankful that we were on an online setup which, I thought, made everything easy for me. 

This thought proved me wrong. 

The school year started in an online setup. Everything was done virtually; discussions, assignments, and quizzes. I was satisfied and doing well in the first week. But then, the second week passed, and then the third, and the fourth… 

Strangely, I’m starting to cry myself to sleep again. The expectation that I thought I overcame was coming back. The only different thing is that it is heavier this time. The pandemic made it a hundred times worse. Instead of focusing on my goal, I now have to think about everyone’s health. Amidst this threat, I have to satisfy the requirements to avoid the disappointment I dread the most. 

My mind is a mess. I couldn’t focus on my studies whenever one of my relatives or friends was sick. My mental health became unstable which affected everything and everyone around me.

At that point, I was just confused. Why am I forced to focus on my studies when thousands of people are dying? How am I going to think about what to write in my essay when a relative tested positive for COVID-19? Why are we still in this situation after months of being in lockdown? 

These questions kept on spiraling in my head, but something else hit me.

I am lucky to be thinking about my mental health right now. Someone out there doesn’t have the same privilege as mine. Some are forced to work outside with the threat of the virus just to afford the resources needed for their classes. Some have no choice but to stop studying because their family lost their jobs. It is heartbreaking and angering to think that this pandemic took many lives and ruined so many dreams. 

If only it was handled the way it was supposed to. If only officials would think about the masses instead of their own interests. If only we had better leaders who listened to the calls of the students and minorities. If only the blood and sweat of the people who are tirelessly calling for accountability, and the tears of the people who have lost their loved ones were given the attention they deserve, we could have saved more lives. 
However, these “if onlys” does not strip away our right to organize; it is now expected of us to continue the struggle to make these “if onlys,” the reality of the Filipino people. [P]

graphics by Kyly Hendrick Sigaya

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