Apr 192012

The first time I sat through a UP Integrated School graduation, it was my own. And while I still remember the first two lines of Mr. Lauron’s ridiculous graduation song, the only other thing I remember is how emotional the farewells and the hugs were after the ceremony. We didn’t have Facebook back then. A few were leaving for the States, and not all of the rest were going to UP Diliman for college. We were uncertain if we’d meet again. And at that moment the special friendship you had with that special friend is made all the more precious and fleeting.

31 years later, there I sat again. And while it was now my eldest who was graduating, I was still emotional. My wife had passed on barely a month earlier. Diego’s graduation was something of a goal she held on to for strength as she wanted to be there. And I don’t know which was more emotion-inducing, the hard fact that she wasn’t there, or the fervent wish that perhaps the truth was that death was the only way she could leave her disease-ridden body and be there.

Add another 2 years, and I’m there again for Nicco’s graduation. I knew it was the last time for me to sit there – for a while maybe, should it still be the school for some of my future grandchildren. And while I wished for something to make the moment extra special, the stoic me just sat there like a lump. That was, of all things, until the valedictory. Most valedictories are boring. It’s delivered by the student with the highest marks and most awards and while one marvels at the big words and ideas, it usually sounds like a slow homily. But this time, you know it’s going to be special when in the middle of his speech, the top student pauses and says something like – Hindi ko nga alam ba’t ako nandito, eh tambay ako ng guidance office (I don’t know why I’m here doing this, when I’ve always been summoned to the guidance office). He then proceeds to take a dig at his teachers -very subtly and with a lot of class, and he mentions his special friends and thanks each one for the different things he learned from them. You know it’s almost the end of the speech, then he says something like: At higit sa lahat gusto kong pasalamatan si J—, dahil tinuruan mo akong magmahal (And most of all, I’d like to thank J—, because you taught me how to love).

And as the graduating class cheers, he goes on to describe what was like to be in love with this girl. And the graduation ends on such a high cheery note that I forget to pump my fist on the last stanza of UP Naming Mahal.

Bold, honest, and innocent. Even bolder when I find out later that J— isn’t the valedictorian’s girl! And I guess that explains why after the ceremony, I saw his dad talking to the girl’s dad and trying to pass off his son’s statements as a youthful prank. BTW the girl’s dad was a pastor.

But you and I and anyone who has ever been in love know that it wasn’t just a prank. So there I sat, thinking about this young man’s pure and innocent emotion overwhelming him, and then thinking about how complicated love gets as we grow older. Or maybe love never really gets complicated, but we do.

This is for FH and RO, who are going through a rough patch. Time does heal all wounds, I know that now. The thing is, we don’t know how much time each of us is given.

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