A Degree for Yourself, for Others, and for the Nation
27 Aug 2022 | Merimee Tampus-Siena PhD
Read the message on behalf of the 2022 graduate students delivered by Merimee Tampus-Siena, Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology, during the 2022 Loyola Schools General Commencement Exercises on Saturday, 27 August 2022.
Ilang beses mo bang naitanong sa sarili mo ang “bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to?” habang pinagdaraanan mo ang mga hamon ng graduate school?
My first time to ask that question was when I paid my tuition fees in my first enrollment. I even posted on Facebook ang mahal, para akong bumili ng kotse. “Bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to, eh sapat lang ang sinusweldo ko?”.
When I would run to the LRT platform to make sure I would not be late for class, because I had to travel for two hours from work to Ateneo, I would ask “bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to, eh may trabaho ako?”
One time, an Angkas driver canceled my booking when I was pinned at a wrong location, it was late at night. “Bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to, ang layo ng bahay ko?” I had to travel from Ateneo to Valenzuela where I live.
Again, I would ask “Bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to, eh may pamilya na ako” when I would have to breastfeed my first born at night while reviewing for a final exam.
“Bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to?” when I found out that the first day of my comprehensive exams would be on the same day that I was supposed to deliver my second child. Ano kaya ang mauuna, ang panganganak ko o yung comps, o sabay? Well, induced labor was the answer and so I safely delivered my second child a few days before the comps.
When my mother-in-law, Nanay Sally died of COVID, a few days before my dissertation proposal defense, I asked “Bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to at bakit ko pa ipinagpatuloy eh may pandemya?”. Would I cry because I was grieving for my loss or because of the anxiety I felt for the defense? I cried for both.
When I entered Ateneo, I only had one prayer, for God to lead me to a school where I am sure to graduate. And so when I passed the arduous admission process for the clinical psychology program, I started believing that God would help me graduate. But halfway through my schooling, I seriously thought of quitting because I could no longer afford to finance my education. Then one night, I had a dream that I was in the Office of the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and I was told that there’s a scholarship for PhD students. After that dream, I learned that there really was a scholarship, I applied, and I qualified. It was indeed a divine intervention.
Throughout my schooling I received various forms of support. My husband was there to fetch me during the nights that I had to rush home because I had to breastfeed. My in-laws had been taking care of my two daughters. And when my mother-in-law passed away, I asked my dissertation adviser, Sir Boboy, to give me more time to finish preparing for the defense. He called me and validated how difficult my situation was.
God put everything in place. Sa mga panahong mahina ako, napakaraming sumalo sa akin at napakaraming pagkakataon na ipinaramdam sa akin ng Panginoon na hindi Niya ako pinabayaan.
This degree is a reminder that I can be a responsible mother and fulfill my personal dreams at the same time; that I can doubt myself but I can prove myself wrong; that I can feel helpless and persevere at the same time; that life can be difficult but my strength and determination are greater than these difficulties.
In preparing this speech, I reached out to Emman Delocado who will be graduating with us today with a PhD Biology degree and Hernan Alar with a PhD Computer Science degree. Thank you Emman and Hernan for sharing your grad school experiences with me. And so please know that this speech is not only about me – it’s also about Emman and Hernan. It’s about the person beside you. This is about you.
Yes, so many times, I asked myself “bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to?” but I never told myself, “ayoko na.” At kayo rin, hindi rin kayo sumuko at nagsabing “ayoko na” sa kabila ng mga pagsubok at pandemya, kung kaya’t nandito tayong lahat ngayon.
But we would not be here without the help of others. We would like to thank everyone who helped us achieve this milestone. For those of us who are working, mine is at the Philippine Normal University, we thank the institutions which supported our endeavors. To our family and friends who have been patient, who gave their unconditional support and had a share of our sacrifices. On a personal note, I’d like to mention again my late Nanay Sally, and invite everyone to remember our loved ones who are no longer with us to witness this significant event. We will be forever thankful to you for reminding us that love is more important than any academic degrees that we can earn.
To the Ateneo community who gave us every support that we needed and encouraged us to excel – Thank you for providing a scholarship to students like me who have big dreams but who do not have enough financial resources. Thank you for transforming us into what we are capable of becoming. Doc Hernan put it as “I honestly never knew that such an approach to education exists.” More so, thanks to our professors who supported us from beginning to end. I’d like to mention Ma’am Lota, Sir Boboy, Ma’am Cara, and Sir Weevens. I know that you also have significant mentors in your personal journey. To all our mentors, please know that your presence and support gave us the assurance, comfort, and inspiration to persevere despite the challenges.
Pero ngayong suot na natin ang toga na sumisimbolo na nagtagumpay tayo sa paglalakbay na ito, ano na ang kasunod?
Our degrees are more than the letters we will put before or after our names.
Ang degree na ito ay para sa dalawang bagay: para sa iyo at para sa bayan.
Para sayo, sa lahat ng sakripisyo, pagod, puyat, pawis, at luha. Nawa ang degree na ito ay magsilbing paalala sa atin ng ating mga kakayahan sa mga panahong kinukwestyon natin kung ano ang kaya nating gawin. Para sayo, sa lahat ng ngiti, tuwa, at saya. Nawa ang degree na ito ay magsilbi ring paalala ng maliligayang araw natin sa pamantasan.
Para sa bayan. This degree comes with power. With everything that’s happening in our country, may this power enable us to act against oppression and injustice. May this power help us to combat misinformation and lies. May this power fuel and embolden us to initiate change and create positive impact. May this power help us pursue our advocacies in our respective areas of specialization.
At this point, I have a more certain and meaningful answer to the question, “bakit ko ba pinasok ‘to?” Dahil oo, ginusto ko ito. My motivation for pursuing this degree is to be of service to people, to do more, to advocate more.
As a mental health advocate, I have been working towards educating teachers about mental health and making mental health services more affordable and accessible, especially in public schools. I have been providing free mental health webinars and volunteering in institutions which provide free counseling services.
Our advocacy may also mean meaningfully influencing others. Let me mention Doc Emman’s discovery of Fr Jett Villarin Beetle which in turn paved the way for his advisee, Gero Sanchez, who’s graduating with us from the BS Bio program, to discover the Angat Buhay Beetle. For many of us, the beetle may just be an insect. But for them, it’s about promoting those who are often neglected.
This degree is a reminder that we are an epitome of grace – that we are gifted with blessings which paved the way towards our success. We are an epitome of courage – that we can overcome the challenges that come along our way. We are an epitome of hope – that the future holds good things and that we can do what may seem impossible.
Ipagdiwang natin ang ating mga sarili, ang ating tagumpay. Maglakbay ng pasulong, baon natin ang pagmamahal, dedikasyon, tapang at pag-asa.
Maraming salamat at kasihan nawa tayo ng Maykapal sa pagtugon natin sa hamong dala ng bagong antas ng edukasyon na ating natamo.
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