After 38 years, since I was conferred the degree of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and left the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), and now, I am home with fellow alumni and members of the CLSU faculty and staff of my own alma mater.
Who would expect after all these years I would be speaking in front of my fellow alumni. I am proud and honored that we all have reached this far. Despite all our travels and with difficult odds, we are here today gathered to acknowledge each other, not just colleagues, but as family. And like any family, we share, we learn, we argue, we listen, we seek and give guidance to each other, and most importantly we support each other no matter the disagreement. Gathering with you all, brings back wonderful memories, which reminds me that CLSU shaped my life. The structure and discipline it gave me, helped create the stepping stones that enabled me in my travels.
Thinking back, arriving at 5:00 in the morning, a 16-year old girl getting off from the bus coming from the province of Isabela. I walked to the main gate of CLSU, dwelling on what’s to come, and anxious to go to college, was an excitement within itself. When I arrived at CLSU main entrance where a security guard stood, and informed me, as I approached, that I needed to stay in the office and wait for the University registrar. My excitement didn’t make me aware that I was two hours early, so I waited.
Two hours later a gentleman in a jeep approached with a kindred smile exchanged words with the guard, and let him through. It was only later I realized, it was Mr. Lapitan, the University Registrar, the man whom I would show my admission and scholarship papers. After first impression, I understood he was a man of social distinction, which made him very approachable. He made me aware that enrollees were assigned by block grouping. I was assigned as Block 4, and helped me enroll in 21 units, that exclude my WATC in lieu of my PE units. He also introduced me to the Ladies Dormitory Matron, Ms. Corazon Cautivo and that, before I knew it, I was already officially enrolled. I went home that same day and came back later for the start of class. After all this excitement; it wasn’t until later that I realized I haven’t eaten anything and I had only 5.00 pesos to my name. My excitement distracted my hunger, for I was happy that my Scholarship that I acquired, the hard work I maintained as a salutatorian in high school, has earned me the privilege as an entrance scholar at CLSU.
Going into this University would be difficult for me, without my scholarship. I have nothing to start with, and just enough to finish high school with distinction. The lack of financial resources from my family did not deter me to find ways for financial assistance; therefore, we have a local government whose mission is to provide students who come from destitute families and insight a brighter future. I took the chance to see the Office of the Isabela Provincial Governor, during my high school and was fortunate to be awarded the First Governor’s Scholarship recipient and continued on until I went to the university.
Having a Scholarship helped made a difference in my life. This reminder has brought to my attention that CLSU wants all their students to excel. The discipline and the importance of every student needs, and to academically succeed, motivates me to do better.
As a freshman student, I stayed in Ladies Dorm 2, and with that in mind, we were told rules and regulations, with curfew hours, and study time, visiting hours for those with friends, particularly male friends were not accepted. All guests and male visitors have to log in to the Dorm Record, time in and out. As for weekends to visit home, permission needs to be filed ahead of time. Noisy occupants were punished of free labor on weekend. No visitation during school days and all were geared toward getting a passing grade at the end of the semester. As students we were responsible also for the upkeep of our dormitory. Even though these rules were enlisted in our conditioning, these disciplines helped shape who we were going to be; therefore we are better for it, than without it.
Transportation like any college in the world we used bicycle or we walked for means of convenience. Cars or tricycles were not common. Even though the campus was 70 years old at that time, the roads between buildings in the campus were not paved. You can imagine during typhoon season, the roads were not pleasant to walk on. I remember during our Dairy Science subject under Mr. Baula, all students enrolled in his class were assigned and responsible for a heifer to take care and fed dairy farm Napier grass every morning. Responsibility for baby calves is a chore within itself, this occupied a lot of my time and not enough to get ready for the next class.
The experience I had in taking animal science subjects and the fact, I saw “Bituing walang ningning” (stars), after being kicked by a heifer during Rodeo Competition, led me not to pursue animal science as my major. One of the assignments was to collect Queen Termites. Finding termites colonies was difficult because all the mounds around CLSU and nearby towns were all torn. I asked assistance from my parents to collect Queen Termites, and was successful. Another task was to observe and write a report, regarding the complete insect metamorphosis, from eggs to adult stages. Those were examples of many frustrations and some sleepless nights due to lack of specimens in lieu of rat infestations consuming the insect population. Horticulture was another subject that required much time and effort and it seemed that during those years, that a kind of pre-requisite was to have assistance or a friend to help even with more than hundred meters long vegetable garden. But I survived without assistance, and I still managed to complete the task and have a good harvest from my garden. Like many colleges of extreme discipline, like Harvard, Stanford, UC Davis, this institution is no different from having a small social structure in which students participate in activities that enable them to vent out any emotional frustration during their class semesters. Among those activities, I joined the Ladies Dorm Basketball Team and the Rancher Club, just to have continuous physical activities beyond social norm.
As a Women Auxiliary Training Corps advance cadet officer and a Commander, I had the privilege to command my WATC Team cadets which made us the best in our corps command. As a team, we worked together and garnered many awards and also the First Championship during the 1976-1977 Regional Tactical Inspection. I had the opportunity to graduate with a degree with my WATC Advance Courses, a very rare moment in my life, because it has never been done before in the history of this University.
Our generation did not have e-mails, social internet networks, any accessible computers, electronic devices or any external electronic phones. Despite not having all the technology, that the new generations are fortunate, I persevered through adversities. In those days, the nearest college was an hour away and travel was difficult to even meet new friends or communicate with other professors outside our university. Communications in any form was minimized through letters and telegrams.
Most of my generations are not fond of advance changes in the beginning, like me. I was not fond of social network, but out of curiosity and social trend, I gave in, due to my nieces and nephew taunting me to create a Facebook account. Now, there’s not a day that I check my FB account to see what my family is doing from across the Pacific Ocean. I was captivated by the amount of people I was able to reconnect due to this technology. Imagine what we could have done in the past with this type of communications; this would have advanced our society by millennia.
The CLSUIAA Expat website showed the members and the history of the organization. I discovered that Expat, a permanent or temporary living outside the country, has been existing for sometime that I was not aware of. So, I joined for the first time, and attended the 5th CLSUIAA Grand Alumni Homecoming which was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was able to connect with old friends and acquaintances and started to exchange messages and photos. To name a few, I connected with Miss CLSU, Marlie Ruba Ayala, a former beauty contestant, and Dr. Nora Padrigo Lucero., whom both women are close friends of mine. We all decided to meet and attend the alumni homecoming to capture old moments with dearest friends.
From a 16 year old adolescent and to 38 years later, we got the chance to surround ourselves with moments of reflections over our years of life journey. The three of us stayed together in one room at the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, a courtesy of Marlie and her husband Gilbert Ayala.
Together with their respective husband and me, we attended the Gala night, wherein we met the CLSU President, Dr. Tereso Abella with his family and friends, and Dr. Zenaida Serna, the Chief of CLSU Alumni Relations Office, until midnight. Afterwards we toured the city down to Las Vegas main strip. After the night, Marlie, Nora and their husbands, we had breakfast at the hotel lobby. Afterwards, we joined up for the last time with the alumni for a picnic event and had a wonderful time. The time was short but we had a lot of quality time to bond and enjoyed each other’s company.
After parting with my co-alumni, my dearest friends took me to the airport to say our final goodbyes. Flying back home gave me a chance to reflect a comparison of my life if I didn’t have friends versus having them. And with this homecoming, I am extremely grateful to be surrounded by them, and within itself I am by my own definition, successful.