Monumental Firsts and Well-Celebrated Lasts

The week that had passed was full of monumental firsts and well-celebrated lasts.

(And if I start an entry in this tone, you know you’re in for a lot of feelings so just a mild warning for you guys)

At 8:47 am last October 6 (Monday), I, together with three other friends, went on a spontaneous adventure and decided to climb Mt. Pico de Loro. Excited as I was, endurance is not my thing. But doubts were the last thing on my mind at this point: I could not pass up a chance to tick off something in my bucket list.

A heavily physical challenge was the perfect way to  start the week. Although I said yes to climbing, I guess I didn’t really know what I was saying yes to. What I actually signed up for was an 8-hour struggle with nature: with slippery soil that refused to cooperate with my shoes and even clung like koalas, with bamboo trees that had conniving self-defense mechanisms which pricked you if you held them the wrong way, and rocks that were half-friendly and half-cruel at the same time. And so we climbed with no training nor physical preparation whatsoever (I was fresh out of couch potato mode with the exception of the occasional afternoon run). We climbed until our hands were polished with dirt and our shoes were adorned in mud. We braved the mountain trail until we were lightheaded and breathless, until we reached the summit with a sense of accomplishment. A monumental first.


Mt. Pico de Loro - Monolith

* * * * *

At about 11:45 am last October 11 (Saturday), I, together with 1,282 graduates, raised up my right fist with reluctance and pride (reluctance because I knew this was the mark of a bittersweet end), to sing the La Sallian Alma Mater. It was officially my last day as a college student.

Graduating from De La Salle University was a bittersweet way to cap off that eventful week. La Salle has been my life since Junior Prep (when pencil cases and lunchboxes were fashion statements and cops and robbers in the nearby park was my highlight of the day) and saying goodbye to a place that  I considered my second home for more than half of my life was pretty difficult.

This may sound silly, but I was literally fighting back tears of joy and sadness and other equally overwhelming feelings such as nostalgia and fear. Nostalgia for the morning assemblies back in Zobel; running around in the school fair while booth catchers chase you until you reach safe zones – like a scene out of a Tom and Jerry show (and that proud feeling of immunity when I’m carrying around a drink that was full to the brim); for the infamous sizzling burger steak of La Casita; for the intramurals which brought out friendly competition among frenemies; and for the time well-spent with friends – may it be on the bleachers of the field, the Gate 5 parking lot, the CPA lobby, the Cadlum Hall (which I believe no longer exists anymore to date), or whatever nook or spot our “barkadas” have called dibs on (hello territorial instincts). Yes, a lifetime worth of memories played like a movie in the back of my mind in the duration of that 3 minute Alma Mater hymn. And then there’s fear. Of what comes next – the open-endedness of it all. What’s now left is a butter-finger hold on comfort zones and a pressing need to make life-changing decisions.

But before the decision-making queue gets too long and stressful, I guess this is something I have to do: to take a moment and just pause and to be grateful for all those years of constant learning. For all the cups of coffee that helped me through my long exams (especially those that require reading more than a hundred pages of font size 10 text), for the hand cramps I got from writing back-to-back essays, for the nerve-wracking recitations, presentations and defenses, for everyone who inspired me to stay curious and to chase my passions.

Now that I look back to that week, I can’t help but think how timely it all was: from the climb up the mountain to that climb up the stage to receive my diploma. How those events tie together to help me come with a simple realization:  You have to start from the bottom to appreciate what awaits at the top. Needless to say, struggles and success go hand-in-hand and I am sure that no one will ever be exempt from this principle. But the best part of the journey, and the hardships that come with it, is knowing that there are people that will make them worthwhile. Ultimately, graduation day was a well-celebrated “last”.

And now, there is a shift in the air: it’s intimidating but it’s definitely the good kind. A myriad of new monumental firsts awaits.

Graduation at PICC