Graduation and growing old

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Alice Bustos-Orosa

Alice Bustos-Orosa

My daughter, Beatrice graduated from 7th Grade last weekend at a solemn morning ceremony in her school auditorium. As expected, parents and families came to school early morning dressed in their formal attire, with bouquets of fresh flowers in hand, and cheerful dispositions.

This time in March, it is no surprise to see graduation photos from a lot of friends too of their own children holding diplomas in hand. Even more poignant are photos of little Kindergarteners on stage for Moving-up Day, with a perfect smile on their faces donning white togas.

All schools pride themselves in the way they mark this end-of-year event, often with a variety of ceremonies—from Baccalaureate Mass, to family brunches, and then evening ceremonies.

As we all go through grade school and high school graduation rituals only once, it is but fitting that the rites have a bit of drama and theatrics. It is understandable how parents turn teary-eyed during these occasions.


The pomp and circumstance that surround graduation rites are equally signified in the graduate’s garb—the toga. Even for the Ancient Romans, from whom this costume originated, the toga distinguished a formal event from everyday life and, from one who held a position of power from an ordinary citizen. Thus, as a ceremonial garment, the toga is a visible badge of honor worn by the graduate at least once in a lifetime.

For most Filipinos, we truly put a premiumon education, paradoxically marked by one document—the diploma, often framed elaborately and flaunted proudly on living room walls. For many, the diploma symbolizes the promise of a better future, a prospective career and even a means of overcoming abject poverty in the family. It’s interesting to think how one document often changes lives and decides career options. It’s consoling though that in the modern world, education allows for social mobility and opportunities for a decent means of living.

Graduation day is perhaps so awaited that every celebration accompanying the affair is but well deserved. After all, to reach this one simple ceremony means years of earnest work and perseverance on both the graduate’s and the family’s ends.

Hence, for most, the day itself is an event shared and marked with friends and family over a well-prepared spread. But to me, seeing families all together revel in the success of one’s child, grandchild, sibling or cousin, is an enviable reflection of the close family ties we have. It is therefore not surprising to see even grandparents who bravely climb bleachers and stairs, even with canes in hand, just to see their grandchildren march on stage.

We often hear so many words often associated with graduation speeches, expressions like milestones, challenges, success, hard work, perseverance, the bright future, among others. It is pretty difficult, I imagine, to write a valedictory or an inspiring speech without echoing these same sentiments. And yet, no matter how much these expressions are repeated year in and year out, they carry a different and sublime meaning for each graduate and his family.

As my daughter, Beatrice stepped on stage that morning, it seemed to her Dad and I that she had just crossed the threshold between childhood and adolescence. As high school draws near for her, she will yet again build memories and friendships and learn more about herself and the world.

Perhaps, graduation is the one perfect poignant reminder of time—how childhood and youth are never reclaimed. And for many parents like us, it is an apt occasion that nudges us a bit about growing older and hopefully, wiser.

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