I have several favorite months of the year. December is one of them because of Christmas, May because it's my birth month, January because it's New Year and March because of many reasons.
In the Philippines, think of March and think of garlands of flowers, togas, medals, ribbons, certificates, diplomas and celebrations because one school year has ended thus it's time to reap whatever a student has sown in the whole school year. Yes, I like March because it's time for recognition programs and graduation ceremonies.
When I was an elementary kid I always look forward to this time of year because it would mean that I will be getting a new shirt, a new shorts, and a new pair of slippers because I will be going up the stage to receive my ribbon for being an honor student. My parents don't give me presents during Christmas or during my birthdays. I don't ask them why because young as I was, I already understood then that gifts are only for the well-to-do families. I saw kids in the neighborhood having new toys and clothes during Christmas and how I envy them but I just can't dare ask something like them from my parents or I'll get nothing but spanks. Food on our table was the only concern during that time, nothing more , nothing less. That's why in my entire six elementary years, I was always excited when March is imminent because this was the only moment that Papa and Mama become extra generous . During closing ceremonies, they always make sure to have me look my best when I go up that stage for that one-minute fame of receiving that single memento that I did good in school that year - my ribbon.
My graduation in high school was a lot meaningful not only because I graduated with flying colors but more importantly because I went through a lot during those four years. Although I was the only one being sent to school by my parents, still they hardly can survive my daily needs. Farming was the only source of income and we lost all of our farms for reasons I don't know. On my second year, we need to go back to the place that we left behind to turn it into "kaingin". We needed to start afresh. I needed to move from a private school to a public school. It was hard. I had to walk to and from school everyday, more or less ten kilometers in distance, morning and afternoon, rain or shine, most of the time all by myself. The most difficult parts in those times were those I was asked to join presentations in school or inter-school competitions wherein I have to figure out where to borrow some outfits and how to ask for an allowance from my parents. Believe me, they never had extra for my extra-curricular activities. But I was lucky that throughout those years, I had teachers in school (Esperanza National High School) who were never just teachers to me. They turned out to be parents, sisters, friends who did not only inspire me to continue but they also contributed a lot for my graduation.
"I needed to move from a private school to a public school. It was hard. I had to walk to and from school everyday, more or less ten kilometers in distance, morning and afternoon, rain or shine, most of the time all by myself."
The most defining moment was of course, my college graduation in the Philippine Normal University. I never thought I would be able to reach that stage of my life after I stopped for two years. It was a long story but basically the reason is because of financial constraints. In those two years, I ventured as a free teen-age man in the huge metropolis of Manila. I had several attempts to enroll in some universities but I failed so when my parents decided for me to go home and go to school, I never gave it a second thought although life in the city is full of vigor and excitement especially for a young man like me.
Just the same, life in PNU was never that easy as well. It was still like a roller coaster ride but what makes it different was my old folks were in full force behind me. They used to be so unwilling to send me to school. They got this ideals from my grandparents that education can't render any food at our table. That's one of the reasons why I can't force them to give me everything that I need in school because when I do, it was always easy for them to tell me to stop. But then again, they came to realize that I was better off finishing college and great that in those years I saw how they did their best to provide my regular weekly allowance. They both gave up smoking. They utilized all the vacant spaces around the house to plant vegetables to sell around the neighborhood. Both of them, hand in hand, had to endure all the heat just to make and sell local sweets during weekends. I am proud that this degree that I have now is a product of "bibingka at suman" and a product of the many generous benefactors and donors that I met along the way of which I am always and forever be indebted to.
One of the many reasons why I consider myself lucky is because my graduation would have not been in time of March because I was an irregular student at PNU-AC if not with the wonderful people God has blessed me with. (I was admitted on the second semester of 2000 so I was supposed to be an Octoberian graduate.) But great again because in the university, I met instructors who became more than just mentors but family. It is really worth mentioning that my adviser back then who is now the PNU-Agusan's Executive Director - Dr. Adelyne M. Costelo-Abrea and the then University Registrar Prof. Emerita M. Gumapac had been very patient in arranging my schedules each of those semesters I was there just so to make my March graduation possible.
So there came March of 2004, after all the battles I went through, after all the sleepless nights and the many obstacles I had to face, I proudly marched going to the stage side by side with both Mama and Papa, who for the first time escorted me to the stage, something which he never did in my elementary and my high school recognition programs.
March is one of my favorite months of the year because it takes me back to where I started. It connects me to the people who have contributed of who I am today. While reminiscing all these, I am humbled all the more and I feel so much blessed for all that I have now. I may not have everything but I have enough...and I am happy... and truly grateful.