Thursday, April 9, 2009
(Blogger's Note: This is the second of a 2-post series celebrating the end of classes in Sagada. The school year ends before the Holy Week. The first post is titled Sagada Elementary Closing Exercises)
Grade 6 was an exciting grade level for me. There were a lot of firsts – my first time to win a student election, first time to be part of the school’s newsletter, first time to join a debate, first time to write a love letter and actually give it to someone (ehem!), and of course, first time to graduate.
For the first time too, I was finishing the grade not as the #2 student. I’ve changed and was graduating as #3 in the class. (Hehehe) In earlier grade levels, there were 2 classes per grade, and each class had different sets of honor students. For the sixth grade, there were still 2 classes but the rankings were merged to determine who finished in the Top 10 of the graduating class, and who finished as #1, #2, #3, #10, etc… I clearly recall that the competition between us top three were very close, and only 0.5 separated #1 and #3. As a very competitive person, #3 is not good enough, and that’s how I felt back then. Still, I have to give it to the 2 other students ahead of me – they are friends, and I got easily along with them. I even followed our valedictorian all the way to high school in Manila, and to the same university, and try as I might academically, I just couldn’t match up with him. So since I couldn’t beat him in school, I eventually gave up and befriended him instead. He turned out to be the best man in my wedding. Moral of the Story: if you can’t beat them, make them your best man.
Going back to my elementary graduation - only the top 2 students gave speeches. As #3, I was tasked to do the invocation before the graduation program. Before anything started though, the graduation procession started with the graduates lining up in Bomabanga’s multi-purpose playground. Each student was accompanied by his parents / guardians during the march. I was accompanied by my paternal grandfather, a very respected man in Sagada. I was named after him too. I was marching behind #1 who was accompanied by his maternal grandmother. (In high school, we soon learned that #1’s maternal grandmother was my maternal grandfather’s 3rd cousin. That explains it – genius runs in our family! Haha.) At the procession, the boys were lined up in alphabetical order, and the girls followed, also in alphabetical order. We looked fresh for our graduation but we had on simple attire. Blue jeans and white shirts were the only uniformity for the boys. Some wear shoes, some wear slippers. The girls were more uniform though – they wore the traditional skirt and belt (tapis and gateng), and a white blouse/shirt. And all of them were required to be barefoot. This is fine if the weather is sunny as it is on most graduation days, but it would be a problem if the ground is too warm or muddy.
I didn’t notice it back then, but I later reflected that majority of the students marched with their surviving grandparents. We had some students from Kalinga in our graduating class, and their elders came to visit them. It is perhaps the only time their elders would visit the school. We may have taken our graduation for granted, but if you reflect on it, a lot of those accompanying the graduating students have not even attended school. I’m sure it was a great sense of pride that their grandchildren are completing their elementary education.
For the graduating class’ presentations, we did a couple of choir songs. We also presented our entries for the regional speech choir competition. We represented Mountain Province in this contest, having beat other Sagada schools, and the top Bontoc school during the division competition. We did English and Filipino pieces titled “The Six Blind Man of Industan”, “At the Seashore”, “Ang Mangga at ang Bakawan”, and “Kabataan, Ang Pag-asa ng Bayan”.
During the recognition part, medals and ribbons were given to the top 3 students, the top 10 students, special awards, and competition awards. Every graduating class member was accompanied at the stage by his/her elder, and each of us was given a diploma and a ribbon. We had a special award during our graduation – for the first time ever, a contestant from our small school won the national Shell art contest besting thousands of contestants from all over the Philippines. I still remember vividly what his painting was. It was a satellite-like machine floating amidst a backdrop of rice terraces and other Igorot sights.
Our guest speaker that day, if I remember right, eventually became a 2-term Sagada town mayor. He helped distribute the ribbons and diplomas to the graduating students. As the ceremony ended, the graduating class sang “Bomabanga’y Kagawisan” – Bomabanga the best. It was a song paying tribute to the school, and it has a line containing a promise that we, graduating students, would look over it. Now that I write this post, somehow, I feel that promise have not been met. Or wasn’t it? It’s a good thought to revisit.