These interesting times remind me of an uncle who belonged to Class 1942 in the military academy. Of course, he and his mistahs had to be graduated ahead of the traditional March graduation. Or was it April? Such details confuse me now after years of retelling. What is certain is not long after their premature graduation, they were forced to join the Death March and suffer hardship and torture even as their fellow soldiers died. It was a horrific experience that changed the core of their being, even hardening some of them.
It is probably harsh to compare this year’s graduates to those who were supposed to graduate in the summer of 1942, but their challenges are probably just as severe, especially since the enemy today is unseen and what it has done so far to the economy and lifestyle of the people is just as tragic as what World War II did to the young people of the early 1940s.
But as hope springs eternal, and the Filipino, having been exposed to so many challenges, is inherently resilient and adaptively undaunted, while keeping his sense of humor intact, I dare say our young people are the first to bounce back.
I interviewed a number of high school graduates from various top schools in the country and their answers to my questions affirm my belief that theirs is a generation of courageous and high-spirited Filipinos, notwithstanding the common view that the world has produced spoiled, young people with a strong sense of entitlement. If we had every reason to believe that they were a bunch of kids that needed reining in, all that has changed as they proved themselves equally persevering and brave as the other members of their family with whom they had been “locked up” in their homes.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the graduates of the summer of 2020:
Louisa Lourdes “Louise” Locsin Buenaobra finished Grade 12 at the Assumption College where she was the Captain of the High School Volleyball Varsity Team. She is a three-generation Assumptionista. Her mom, Ma. Esperanza Lourdes Locsin Buenaobra is a member of the Assumption College High School ’94 and her maternal grandmother, Leonor Bautista Locsin, belongs to AC College ’70
Louise’s favorite subject in high school was ACx or the Assumption College experience. She shares, “This class basically used literature such as Shakespeare’s plays and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables to teach students about the different problems and issues that the world is currently facing while still integrating the teachings of Saint Marie Eugenie. This does not only allow the students to create solutions for these issues; it allows the students to be more engaged in society. Thus, this class has allowed me to see the world in a different perspective and enabled me to step up and do my part in solving all the problems our world faces. As a result of my exposure, I have become both a woman of faith and a woman of action.
Being the captain of the Volleyball team enabled Louisa “to have a deeper sense of leadership. It made me understand that being a leader is more than just telling people what to do; it is about guiding people and about being there when they need you. Being a captain has also allowed me to be more compassionate and see things from the perspective of others.”
Looking back, she says, “As a leader, I needed to do what was always best for everyone. I had to always make sure everyone in the team was doing well and excelling; even if that meant I had to make certain sacrifices. Whenever misunderstandings happened within the team, I did my best to listen to each person so that no biases were made.
“Being a captain has taught me the importance of grit. As a captain, I experienced numerous rejections, failures and struggles, may it be from my coach, training, games or even teammates.
However, I never let those hurdles stop me. Instead of dwelling on them, I learnt from them and used those learnings to be better and stronger. No matter how many times I get knocked down, I get up and try again.”
As a student of Accountancy, Business, and Management, Louise saw “how businesses and corporations are able to contribute to society. From bringing innovative products to creating solutions to problems our world now faces. Because of this, I became intrigued to pursue such a career. I want to be able to be part of something that will allow me to bring positive changes to the lives many people. I believe that no business is too small and that every business has a purpose. The world of business has endless possibilities and I believe that these possibilities can allow the world to be a better place.”
The one lesson that she will forever treasure and live out “is being a woman of faith and a woman of action. Assumption has allowed me to not only grow closer to God but it has also enabled me to use my faith to be able to be a servant leader to those in need. From the beginning of my journey as an Assumption student, each lesson, program and project taught us to not simply be a bystander but to be the spark that ignites change. Assumption has taught me to take action and not settle for mediocrity. One has to go beyond.”
John Michael “J3” Feser III graduated from the Inderkum High School in Natomas, Sacramento, California.
At the time I sent my questions to J3, he was preparing for his graduation which, a few days later, May 21, was live-streamed through his school’s YouTube page. Thus, It was his grandmother, Tina Estrada-Africa who shared with us her thoughts about her good-looking godson.
Tina explained that, John and Maricel (nee Africa), J3’s parents, “attended” their son’s graduation “by connecting through Zoom. There were 570 graduates, so they divided the classes to at least 130 each for each live-stream that went on all day.”
Tina claims that J3 is “quite a shy individual. But more than that, I believe he is a very private person. This is reflective of his family, whose members prefer to just stay on the sidelines and do things quietly.”
J3’s mother is a full-blooded Filipina who migrated to CA with her family since she was 9 years old. His dad’s father had European roots while his paternal grandmother is of Indonesian descent.
According to Tina, “J3 played baseball for two years during high-school after playing for Little League and Major League baseball for the city of Natomas since he was a Kindergartener. He took a few units in as a College Prep in a community college where he had been on the honor roll. He now works at an ice cream shop every weekend in Sacramento’s tourist district called Old Sacramento.”
J3 is getting ready to attend the California State University in Long Beach to take up Film. He admires Steven Spielberg for the blockbuster movies that he directed.
Alejandro Jose “Sandro” Gutierrez Lim, who graduated from La Salle Green Hills, counts among his distinguished forebears the late Senator Justiniano Montano Sr. who authored the resolution creating the powerful Blue Ribbon Committee, tasked with investigating graft and corruption.
Sandro enjoyed his Math and Business subjects in high school. He considers “being of service to others as my passion because I have always been elected as a class officer since my grade school. Being active in leadership positions has made me open-minded.”
He is grateful that his parents, Alejandro G.Lim and Ma.Regina Ligaya G.Lim, enrolled him in La Salle Green Hills where “I was privileged to acquire an education that molds Christian gentlemen who live the gospel and help others through faith, service and communion.”
Taking inspiration from his maternal grandmother, Annie Montano- Gutierrez, business executive and restaurateur, Alejandro intends to “contribute to society by studying well when I pursue a business course and eventually opening a small enterprise even while in college so I can start earning even a little.”
One not easily discouraged, Sandro says, “This pandemic has made me a better person by allowing me to see the importance of the little things in life, to be humbler, to live simply and become more appreciative of the people and things around me.”
The pandemic experience has also taught him that “Life is indeed short, that we must live to the fullest every single day. We must forgive more and pray fervently.”
His advice to other young people on how they should live their “new normal” lives: Learn to be open to change for change is the only constant thing in this world. Do not be attached to material wealth, but at the same time, prioritize saving money, which means spending less and buying only the essentials. We can no longer do what we used to do before. In times of lockdown or enhanced quarantine, focus on helping your parents and family in the daily home chores. If you have siblings, help your parents to take care of them. Eat healthier and better and exercise more to have a sound mind body and spirit.
Romano Santino Lauro “Santi” T. Puno finished his grade 12 at the Everest Academy Manila where he served as the President of the Student Council.
The son of Donnie Puno & Anna Teodoro-Puno, he traces his roots back to the late Department of Justice Secretary Ricardo Puno. His paternal grandparents are television personality Dong Puno and his wife Christy. His equally prominent maternal grandparents are Lucel Villanueva and Gregorio Teodoro.
Only up to this late April, Santi could not decide between “taking up Management Engineering in Ateneo De Manila University and attending a top university in the United States.”
He decided to stay in his country and pursue a college degree in Ateneo, however, because, as he puts It, “I believe that there is still much that can be developed in the Philippines and I want to be a catalyst in our country’s growth as soon as possible.”
Recalling his high school years, he shares that his most memorable experience was “the first day of freshman year. From being kings of Middle School to being at the bottom of the food chain in High School, I was reminded that there will always be people better than I so I have to constantly work and put in effort to get to where I want to be.”
His pandemic experience taught Santino that “nothing in life is certain and that once in a while we have to reassess ourselves, the world around us, and the path we are on. I have become more appreciative of the things that our busy world takes for granted.”
Passionate about playing and watching basketball, he realizes that “both will definitely be different in our “new normal “, but I see it as a challenge to our creativity and am excited to see how the basketball world will be able to unite people around the globe in this time of isolation.”
Grateful for life’s many gifts to him, including a family that loves him and a good education, Santi believes that “the best way to give back to God is to let others see Him in you. With the way our world has shifted, I think it is a reminder to do our best to be everything that God is: generous, compassionate, and forgiving.
“To truly honor Him as well as the loving family He has blessed me with, I have to be all of that every single day with every single person I come across, in the hope that I can help people feel His love.”