Dream so big that not even the gods could hold you back.

Georgina Mia B. Gato

Delivered by Ms. Georgina Mia B. Gato, BA Political Science, Summa Cum Laude (GWA 1.11) during CAS Recognition Day held at UP Theater on June 21, 2019.

Mr. Danilo Concepcion, UP President; Atty. Gaby Concepcion, guest speaker; Mr. Roberto Lara, University Secretary; Dr. Carmencita Padilla, UP Manila Chancellor; Dr. Leonardo Estacio Jr., CAS Dean; Prof. Ignatius Vinzons, CAS Secretary; esteemed guests, professors, administrators, department coordinators, graduates, family, and friends, good morning.

I remember reading once, in stories I’d fondly enjoy growing up as a child, that “to dream would be the greatest privilege.”

You see, I hardly dreamt until the day came that I was set to enroll in UP.

My story isn’t exactly a secret. As many of you may have known, I was a shiftee. I was that girl who entered the INTARMED program and promptly moved out a year later to join PolSci. Everytime I introduced myself, I’d always get the weirdest looks from the people around me. But why, they would say, why would you leave the prestige of IMED? Why would you throw away your slot in the UP College of Medicine?

Each and every time, my answer would be the same: honestly, it simply wasn’t my dream.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I tried to want it. Really, I did. I gave it a shot for a year and went to all my classes day in and day out – no cuts, ah! – and tried to find, as my queen Catriona Gray would say, the silver lining. But then I realized, somewhere along the way with my head in the clouds and the sky to my back and some poor carcass of a brainless frog lying helplessly in the crevices of my sweaty, gloved, Bio 22 hands, that I no longer wanted to be a doctor in the first place. In fact, since I was young, it had always been my dream to become a lawyer or an officer in the foreign service. Even if my parents had allowed me to take up law after my seven years of medicine, I could not find it in myself to devote those said seven years wholeheartedly to a career path that strayed far from my true ambitions.

And so, in the summer of 2016, I decided to follow my dreams. And boy, let me tell you, was that a nightmare.

Shifting to CAS was the best decision I had ever made, because it was here that I was able to learn under the greatest mentors – hi po DSS profs, thank you for adopting me! – and make the greatest friends (shout out to my polsci fam – I love you all!). I gained valuable lessons and priceless memories, all of which are treasures I would never trade for the world, nor for a sale item in Topshop, Zara, or H&M. But even then, I must admit my journey here as a student was not easy. There’s the paperwork, the clearance, the messed up SAIS accounts I had to deal with every semester. There were the endless debates, the family discussions, the numerous doubts people would cast on upon me — and of course, the tantamount anxiety, ever present, ever looming, about whether or not I’d be able to graduate on time.

Now, I know I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way. I’m not the only one who had to face this, or rather, these kinds of challenges.

Not a lot of us had our ideal college experiences, sure. Whether you were a regular student from block 3 or 4 or like me, as a shiftee, 3.5 – this will remain a fact that will always hold true: UP put us through what were perhaps the biggest hurdles life had to offer. Be it finding an (e)x…in the algebraic equations of Math 17, writing out a solo hundred-something-worded thesis in our respective degree programs, or chugging five straight cups of coffee in two hours to cram a semester’s load of information for an exam, we all had our fair share of hardships in our respective academic journeys. In light of all these, at least this much was clear: we were truly in hell.

But, take note, that hell raised us properly.

In the years we’ve spent under the College of Arts and Sciences, our professors have molded us, equipped us, and suitably prepared us to be able to face those challenges head on. Despite our hardships in dealing with depex after depex, in walking through the rat-ridden streets of Padre Faura, and in holding classes in cramped rooms of GAB or even the lobby floors of RH, it was thanks to all these experiences that we were able to grow into the Iskolars that we now are today. It’s like art. Life is our masterpiece, and all its strokes are important. Your starting point and your ending point are not the only things that matter; the route you’ll take and the way you’ll get there have just as much, if not greater, value.

Our UP education did not mean simply reading up tens or thousands of pages of photocopies of books, but rather, it was an exposure to the hells of our reality – to the social situation of our people. In the seconds that we’ve glanced upon the urban poor beggars who loitered around the campus streets, we are made to realize our privilege as the educated elite. In the days that we’ve waded through crowds of protest rallies just to get to class, we have come to understand the value of suffering, of resisting violence and working together, banded as one, for a greater cause. In the lessons that UP has taught us both in and out of the classroom, we have come to learn of our people’s needs, their worries, the things they fight for, and most of all – the change they wish to accomplish.

Be it building a career in medicine or law, instantly entering the workforce, or taking a master’s degree to join the academe… know, my fellow graduates, that the education you’ve received from the University, from its College of Arts and Sciences, has developed you to be able to achieve any and all those dreams. For many of you, you may even be living out your dreams at this very moment: standing proud in a glimmering auditorium hall of our very own esteemed institution, all accomplished men and women in your own right, sablays draped proudly across your chests as you walk away with your honors and diplomas in hand. After all, this is your special day – both yours and your parents’. Thank them for their sacrifices in raising you and providing for the education you have received these past four or five years. Rest easy with the knowledge that you truly have been able to make them proud. Congratulations!

Now, with your heads held high and your voices, bright, loud, and clear, shout out to the world – let this be your promise to be whatever you want to be.

Then, allow me to ask of you this: keep dreaming.

But dream bigger this time. Dream so big that not even the gods could hold you back. Dream of hope, of progress, of justice, and of equality. Dream of rights fulfilled and enjoyed by all. Dream of a brighter future, not only for your own selves but for the sake of the entire nation. Dream for the Philippines. Dream for the Filipinos.

Education is a right meant to be enjoyed by everyone, but as our country stands today, unfortunately, that is not yet the case for millions of our fellowmen. Thus, it is our duty as Iskolars ng Bayan to make the most out of what we’ve learned here these past four years and apply them in service to the people– to open our minds towards comprehending the problems underlying our current reality, and to commit our hearts in working towards saving those who lie in positions of weakness. Utak at Puso, as one would fondly say. Honor and excellence, in the pursuit of a dream.

After all, to dream would be the greatest privilege, for the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Padayon, CAS graduates of 2019! Let’s keep on dreaming, so that we may one day soon make them all come true.