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Student leaders, activists call on fellow graduates to serve the people in 2022 grad rally

The rallies conducted last August 6 and 7 were the first to be conducted after two years, after the tradition was halted by the pandemic.

Words by Shelow Monares

After the tradition was halted for two years due to the pandemic, graduation rallies were finally conducted last August 6 and 7. The rallies accentuated the calls for the students to continue serving the masses outside the University.

Lightning rallies were also conducted after the ceremony to congratulate the graduates. Therein, speakers tackled the educational crisis in the country, and called on graduates to continue fighting for inclusive education and against anti-people policies.

UP Student Regent Renee Co joined the rally and highlighted the threat of the Marcos-Arroyo-Duterte administration. Anchored on the call for Ligtas na Balik Eskwela, Noreen Flores from SAKBAYAN talked about the fight for inclusive education for the people. 

41st UPLB University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Jainno Bongon stressed that the graduates must continue to call for safe, quality, and democratic education.

Kagyat na tungkulin natin ang patuloy na paggiit ngayon ng mga estudyante para sa ligtas, dekalidad, demokratiko, at abot-kayang edukasyon kasabay ng ligtas na pagbubukas ng mga paaralan, upang hindi na muling mangyari ang mga madidilim na taon na ating naranasan,” Bongon said.

[“It is our responsibility to continue to fight for safe, quality, democratic, and affordable education, along with the safe reopening of schools, so that the dark years that we experienced will not happen anymore.”]

(READ: Dating USC Chair Bongon sa UPLB graduates: ‘Tumindig, makibaka laban sa mga inhustisya sa lipunan’)

Despite the challenges faced by the students in the past years, brought by the pandemic, recent calamities, which were worsened by heavy academic workload, the speakers recognized the victories achieved by the student body. These include the junking of the Student Academic Information System (SAIS) and the continuation of the #OccupySU campaign (READ: Glitch in the system: A history of SAIS and the six-year clamor for its junking; UPLB student leaders recount student militancy leading to victory of #OccupySU campaign).

Meanwhile, despite still having some pressing student concerns, the speakers recognized a major step for the Ligtas Na Balik Eskwela campaign with UP’s announcement of its adoption of blended learning in the first semester of A.Y. 2022-2023.

The mode will combine online setup and face-to-face instruction, in reference to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) Memorandum No. 2022-088 regarding Learning Delivery Modes in the First Semester of AY 2022-2023.

First onsite graduation in two years

The 50th Commencement Exercises for Class 2022 were held last August 6, which is the first face-to-face graduation done after the pandemic.

For two straight years from 2020 to 2021, UPLB’s graduation ceremonies were only held virtually. In relation to this, a separate onsite ceremony was held last August 7 for the 1,630 graduates of 2020 and 1,036 graduates of 2021.

Both ceremonies were held at the Edwin B. Copeland Gymnasium, and not in the usual venue in UPLB Forest Park, due to a conflict with the bidding in relation to the tents that will be used.

The sole bidder was reportedly unable to present the documents required by the Business Affairs Office (BAO), according to UPLB University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Gean Celestial.

College testimonials were also held prior to the university-wide graduation. 

In her valedictory address, UPLB Class 2022 Valedictorian Angelamae Morales called on the graduates to uphold values of honor and excellence despite a “challenging period” in the country.

“Moreover, as we try to navigate our lives in this challenging period in our nation’s history when the son of a dictator has been elected to the highest position of power, may the values of honor, excellence, and service guide us towards forging unity in our society – one wherein diverse individuals are united by the truth and nothing but the truth,” Morales remarked.

She reminded fellow graduates to “value the process”, “strive for consistency”, and “develop a sense of empathy”. Morales added that these lessons are essential to standing for truth and justice amid the prevalence of fake news and historical distortion (READ: Class Valedictorian Angelamae Morales calls graduates to forge unity in society through honor and excellence).

Meanwhile, the Perspective was initially denied to cover the university-wide graduation, after a series of negotiations and requests were made by the official student publication with the University Police Force (UPF) and administrative staff in asserting their right to cover the event.

After a few hours, two Perspective staff members were allowed to enter the gymnasium.

However, the publication expressed concern on the initial denial of its right to cover the graduation as a free press, asserting its right to cover major University events. Its freedom of expression and autonomy is protected by the UP Charter.

Testamento ang mga pangyayaring ito na lalong kinakailangang tumindig para sa kalayaan sa pamamahayag kahit mismo sa loob ng pamantasan,” the publication wrote in its editorial.

[“This is a testament that we have to stand for press freedom even within University grounds.”]

Serve the people

In their graduation rally speeches, Kabataan Partylist 4th Nominee Jianred Faustino and former USC Chairperson Merwin Jacob Alinea challenged the graduates to serve the masses and fight for a free and democratic country.

Tayo ay namulat sa realidad na hindi lamang tayo nabubuhay para sa ating mga sarili. Huwag tayong pumikit sa harap ng pananamantala, ating tanganan ang interes ng kapwa nating mamamayan at itaguyod ang malayang lipunan,” Alinea reminded.

[“Our eyes were opened to the reality that we do not only live for ourselves. Let us not close our eyes in front of exploitation, and let us forward the interests of our fellow Filipinos and uphold a free society.”]

They emphasized how the election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte as the country’s leaders will only continue former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “all-out war” against the people, citing the killings of Maximino Digno and Kyllene Casao, and the arrest of Daisy Macapanpan.

Digno and Casao were Batangas residents killed amid a heightened militarization in Batangas (READ: Magsasakang si Maximino Digno, batang si Kyllene Casao, pinaslang sa militarisasyon sa Batangas).

Macapanpan, meanwhile, was an environmental defender who spent two months in prison over over trumped-up charges, before finally being released Wednesday, August 10 (READ: Mga progresibo at makakalikasang grupo, patuloy na nananawagan sa paglaya ng inarestong environmental defender).

The speakers also celebrated the lives of youth heroes who died for the country, including Ian Maderazo, Jonas Burgos, Edrean Baez, Carlo Alberto, Rjei Manalo, Jurain Ngujo II, Kevin Castro, and Chad Booc.

Faustino urged the future professionals to take the road that will lead them to truly serve the masses.

Sa mga magiging abogado, doktor, inhinyero, ekonomista, guro, historyador, sosyolohista, pilosopo, siyentista, mamamahayag, artista, manunulat, mananaliksik – tumungo tayo kung saan ang mga kalsada ay lubak, kung saan ang mga guro ay salat, at kung saan ang mga pagamutan ay kakarampot. Mangahas tayong sumulat ng mga akdang maglalantad ng kabulukan ng estado, manaliksik para sa katotohanan at pag-unlad ng ating kultura dahil doon tayo tunay na makapaglilingkod sa sambayanan, kung saan ang kaalaman at rekurso ay salat, kung nasaan ang masang api, doon tayo kinakailangan,” she said.

[“To future lawyers, doctors, engineers, economists, teachers, historians, sociologists, philosophers, scientists, journalists, artists, writers, researchers – let us go to places with uneven roads, where there are lack of teachers, and where there are few hospitals. Let us dare to write pieces that will expose the rotten core of the state, research for truth and progress of our culture, because it is there where we can truly serve the people, where knowledge and resource are lacking, and where there are the masses, there we are needed.”]

(READ: Hamon ng mga nagsipagtapos na lider-estudyante: ‘Isulong ang interes ng masa; itaguyod ang malayang lipunan’)

Furthermore, Bongon strengthened the calls to fight against injustices in the country, and to stand for a society that is free from oppression.

Hinahamon tayo na patuloy na tumindig at makibaka para sa lipunan kung saan pantay ang lahat ng kasarian; lipunan kung saan may lupa ang mga magsasaka, may nakabubuhay na sahod ang mga manggagawa; lipunan na ginagalang ang mga karapatang pantao; at lipunan na matatawag nating tunay na malaya,” Bongon expressed.

[“We are challenged to continue standing up for a society where all genders are equal; a society where farmers are not landless and there are enough wages for workers; a society that respects human rights; and a society that we can call truly free.”] [P]

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