On July 24, 2020, a historic event took place as the University of the Philippines Baguio celebrated its Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2020, titled “Pagtatapos 2020”. Due to mass gathering restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the event was held virtually, streamed via UP Baguio’s official Facebook page at 11:00 AM that day.
The online program began with a demonstration of the historic and cultural importance of the UP sablay, the University’s official academic costume. The paglilipat ng sablay or shifting of the sablay from one’s left to right shoulder is done before the conferment of a degree on a candidate during UP’s commencement exercises.
Making a difference was one of the central themes of the event, which was immediately made evident by a message from one of the representatives of UP Baguio’s Class of 2020, Paul Jeremiah D. Naraval. The BS Computer Science graduate cum laude opened the ceremonies by stating that making small but meaningful changes is a completely viable start for idealistic graduates of the University who dream of making an impact.
“For us Com-Sci people,” he began, “we don’t expect that we can create a platform that can overtake Facebook in connecting people or Google in answering questions. We dream of it, but for now we can create a system that automatically computes an employee’s leave credits. It could be anything just to improve the state of others.”
This call to service was echoed by UP President Danilo L. Concepcion, who also put into perspective just how special the graduating batch is for graduating under difficult circumstances. “Kayo ang katangi-tanging Batch 2020. Natatangi sapagkat nakapagtapos sa gitna ng pandemya,” (You are the one and only Batch 2020. Unique because you managed to graduate in the middle of a pandemic.) he said.
Despite the uncertainties of the times, Concepcion advised the graduates not to forget the quality and integrity of the training they received from the country’s only national university. “Ating tandaan na ang panahon ng krisis ay hindi lamang isang masamang panaginip. Ito rin ay isang mabuting pagkakataon upang tayo ay lalong magpunyagi, magpakahusay, at makapaglingkod sa bayan. Isabuhay natin ang diwang UP—ang pagkakaisa, ang paglilingkod ng buong husay at dangal; at patunayan nating walang hangganan ang pag-aambag ng ating Unibersidad at ng kanyang alumni sa paghahanap at paglalapat ng mga alternatibo at solusyon sa anumang suliranin.” (Let us remember that times of crisis are not merely bad dreams, but noble opportunities to strive, to attain expertise, and to serve the country. Let us live the spirit of UP—to stand united, to serve with excellence and honor; and let us be evidence that there are no limits to our University’s and its alumni’s search for alternatives and solutions to any problem.)
This rousing speech was followed by the presentation of graduates from UP Baguio’s three colleges by their respective deans. Prof. Jimmy Fong represented the College of Arts and Communication; Prof. Dymphna Javier represented the College of Science; and, Prof. Arellano A. Colongon, Jr. represented the College of Social Sciences. The entire Class of 2020 was then presented by UP Baguio Chancellor Raymundo T. Rovillos to President Concepcion for the conferment of their titles.
After the graduates virtually gave their oaths to the University, UP Baguio held its historic Ritwal ng Pagtatanglaw, where the flame of a single candle is used to light even more, smaller candles to symbolize the pursuit and sharing of knowledge. The program was punctuated by a final message from a student from the graduating class, this time delivered by Miguel Ulrick Rillorta, BA Communication, cum laude.
Rillorta highlighted the fact that in more ways than one, his graduating class took the path less traveled on the way to their degrees. “Breaking the mold does not mean failure or inadequacy,” he said. “I would like to believe that breaking the mold serves as a symbol of growth and change.”
Rillorta said that now more than ever, these difficult times call for what he called people of the broken mold.’ “We know what uncertainty feels like and we know how much it can get in the way of our day-to-day. If we are to maneuver through the coming uncertainties, we need to draw from the experiences that led us to this point. We need to be strong and proactive to be ready for all challenges to come. Most importantly, we need to stay hopeful and grounded through it all.”