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This hot graduation season: a reflection

The end of the second semester is always a headache for professors like me. For one thing the real summer has kicked in. As someone who keeps tab on climate as part of my career responsibilities, I can probably divide the Pinoy summer into two “sub seasons”. The early summer (late Feb and early March) is when the last of the northeasters blow and the NW Pacific high pressure ridge is over us and the weather while warm is still pleasantly dry with tolerable humidity. The second is the long hot muggy summer (late March to mid May) when the easterly wave brings slight winds but high humidity. Traditionally the Holy Week is the start of the muggy summer season.

Unfortunately the end of sem and graduation season falls right smack into the muggy season. The graduating students have to be given their grades and I make it a point to conduct informal “exit interviews” before informing them of their last grade as undergraduates. I have not been in the teaching business for a long time unlike my senior colleagues. But from the exit interviews I have conducted I share what University of the Philippines President Emerlinda Roman writes in her graduation message to the UP class of 2009. I believe most if not all of our university presidents and rectors will be giving a similar message for their own graduates.

When I left my undergraduate days twenty years ago, I had little of the uncertainty that plagues the students today. There are some differences and similarities then as now. The Aquino presidency was losing its saintly halo and the bloody Gringo coup was a few months into the future. ( I remember that since on that November 1989 day, my dad and I picked up the new car, which still runs and beats the SUVs of 2009) only to be confronted by a loyalist tank near Cubao.) The brownout season was a year away. Even then there was an upbeat assessment. UP graduates while not aiming for a good paying starting salary, nonetheless by virtue of their being UP alums, had not much problems finding jobs (unless they were too choosy).
The students tell me today cannot even bank on their UP alum status. So I wonder if the Blue Eagles and Green Archers can bank on theirs in the job hunt. In 1989 we did not know what a call center was about although there were new startups in Metro Manila called data outsourcing centers. But these did not employ many new grads as the call centers have done recently till the recession took a bite.

For those who wanted to enter grad school as I did, it was still affordable and scholarships can be had.

Thus the uncertainty. The students today are confused about their options. The global economic recesssion has taken the luster of the migration option. There is a view that the usual destinations like the USA have become as third world as ‘Pinas. Not a few of the graduates have relatives or even parents that have gone home after years as overseas Filipinos since they lost their jobs due to recession.

This confusion is over or is it underlain with what Professor Roman writes as

“Many have expressed grave concerns over the confusion, perhaps even the erosion, of values among young Filipinos. Some believe that the problem is as basic as the inability to distinguish between right or wrong, between honesty and dishonesty, between integrity and expediency.”

and she continues

“I am sure that you have yourselves experienced this kind of ambivalence at least now and then. Given the world in which you have come of age—given the developments which confront you every single day, on cable TV if not in your personal lives—it is hardly possible for you to escape this uncertainty about where you stand and what you believe in.”

As the University of the Philippines “applies for its true copy of grades at AS 101″, it begins to reflect after the 2008 centennial celebrations. Roman will call a UP system wide conference in May to discuss what came out of the centennial lectures (some readers may have viewed the lectures on webcast).

And I believe the confusion extends to the rest of Filipino society and politics as oftentimes discussed in this blog. How do we go about to restore the ability to ” to distinguish between right or wrong, between honesty and dishonesty, between integrity and expediency”?


Aji said…
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