“There are only two things that will happen to a Pisay graduate,” our high school chemistry teacher once told us, “either you sink or swim.”
Many of us reacted violently, knowing that such statement was totally revolting and downright blasphemous. We were shocked that our teacher, both a Pisay graduate and a UP alumna, was pessimistic and doubtful of our potential as future scientists, engineers and leaders of this country. She was directly attacking our capability to survive in UP and graduate on time. Being the idealist we were, we never believed her because she was aggressively undermining our future, discouraging us to dream further. And we stopped listening to her classes.
How on earth could a Pisay graduate “sink” or more appropriately “drown” in UP? It was like asking if Eric Buhain would drown in the middle of a race. Come to think of it, we are provided with the best secondary education the Philippine Government could offer. We have the best and brightest instructors and mentors. In fact, most of our teachers are master degree holders or are currently taking up their MA’s. That’s not all, two of our teachers were recipient of the prestigious Metrobank Outstanding Teachers Award. We are also provided with the best curriculum – training us extensively in the sciences to become the future intellectual heavyweights. We are the cream of the crop, the brightest, and the intellectually-gifted of our generation. And to top it all, our education is free plus some perks that are the envy of others – we have stipends and traveling allowances. With these amenities, perks and training, how could a Pisay graduate “drown” in the seemingly friendly waters of the University of the Philippines?
Equipped with raw idealism and innocent perspective about life, I became a man on a mission when I entered here in UP. I will prove my teacher wrong, I will prove that all Pisay graduates could swim effortlessly the shores of UP. I will make her eat her own words, until she blows out and die instantly. So I did my share of the bargain, I studied. I got decent grades, respectable enough that my parents were so elated when they saw it. And the semesters went on, and my grades were getting lower and lower much to the dismay of my parents who were expecting much from me. Until finally I got my first 5 .
My hand was not shaking when I was holding my class card in Physics 72. I was even surprised that they never gave me a grade of 6. So this is the feeling when you get a five: you feel numb, you don’t know whether you are happy or sad. Your emotions are clashing, fighting for your attention, racing to be expressed. But you feel nothing and no emotions were leaking out. I was a perfect study of someone who was manhid . I was standing outside NIP, near a tree for ten whole minutes. I was standing there like a statue: firm, solid, immovable, and emotionless.
A haunting voice was haunting me over and over in my sleep that night, “either you sink or swim.”
I woke up and realized that I have failed in my mission. I should have listened to my chemistry teacher after all and asked her why it was happening. But there is no point in regretting the lost opportunity because I could never go back and asked my teacher again. That night I understood why she said it, I understood the reasons for her telling it: to ready us for the shark-infested waters of UP, to warn us that swimming in UP is not an easy task, that it requires patience, perseverance, consistency and diligence.
I continued with my miserable academic life, collecting a bunch of 5s, 4s, 3s, INCs and a solitary 1 along the way. I continued drowning and gasping for air in the not-so-friendly, shark-infested and stormy waters of UP.