MY heart goes out to Krisel Mallari and her family. When you take your studies seriously – as all kids should – graduating with honors is something that you expect of yourself.
I went to high school at the Rizal Experimental Station and Pilot School for Cottage Industries (RESPSCI), where the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports’ (DECS) Home Study Program or the Balik-Paaralan Program (BPP) of the 90’s was being offered.
BPP was part of the public school that was RESPCSI, but BPP operated with its own set of rules. Students were not expected to come in regularly, and our learning was only measured through modules and tests. Mostly made up of working students, celebrities (at that time from That’s Entertainment and Ang TV), and kick-outs and drop-outs, very little was expected of the BPP students of that time. Show-up once a week, do a test, get a new module, chika the teachers and you should be fine.
I was probably the only student who took those modules and tests seriously, and the only one who did want to learn despite the circumstances of the educational institution. I was there because I had a swollen painful knee through most of high school, and couldn’t handle regular school.
By the time I was in fourth year, I had already been first honor three years in a row, which was no surprise to anyone. I didn’t think much of it either, knowing full well that I was the only one who even really studied and read beyond the modules – because you’d pass anyway no matter how you failed the tests.
But in fourth year things changed. A family of swimmers became BPP students, and started participating – and winning! – as representatives of RESPSCI in the Palarong Pambansa. The fourth year swimmer was of course the biggest winner: he would be declared valedictorian based on the extra points he was given for bringing honor to the school.
I cried like a baby. The BPP adviser felt bad for me, but seemed to not know what else to do. Even the swimmer himself was surprised that they gave it to him – he had witnessed as well how I was one of few students who took the work in BPP seriously. More seriously than he did, in fact.
We didn’t think of raising a fuss. We all knew the systemic dysfunction that had led to this decision, and anyone who graduated with me from BPP that year knew it was all a matter of politics. I was not going to question teachers’ prerogative to give a boy who had won swimming medals extra points. I saw our grades too, and knew that it had been computed as such.
On graduation day, I was given the Leadership Award alongside second honors. The valedictorian and I both had our own speeches to deliver. I don’t remember now what I talked about, but it was obviously not about the system that had made me lose out on getting valedictorian.
I was not as brave as Krisel Mallari.
Because when I heard of what she did during her graduation rites in March, I was awed. That was what I could not do at my high school graduation rites, mostly because I thought it was not a battle worth fighting.
Besides, at that point I had already passed the UPCAT, and I thought that was the greater feat, coming as I did from a dysfunctional homestudy program.
But maybe the bigger difference was that I got a lot of kindness from my teachers and the school administration of BPP. They were one in deciding that I get the Leadership Award. They never questioned that I felt bad about not getting valedictorian. And the valedictorian himself was so nice about it, even willing to give it up except that it would be an affront to the teachers who had given him higher marks, too.
This is the thing that’s been missing in the case of Krisel.
I can’t believe how unkind people have been, how badly she’s been treated. Not only was she interrupted mid-speech during graduation – an embarrassing thing not just for her, but even more so for the school. Online, so many have called her arrogant and bitter, full of herself and unable to accept her own failures.
And when news broke that her school was refusing to give her a Certificate of Good Moral Character, which she needed to enroll at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for college, Krisel again fell victim to bullying and name-calling. Online, people said she deserved this kind of treatment for having embarrassed her high school.
It didn’t matter that the Court of Appeals had sided with her on this, and had ordered Krisel’s high school to give her the certificate she needed to enroll in UST. But of course instead of giving Krisel a standard Certificate of Good Moral Character, the school issued a “’qualified’ certificate that detailed the status of the cases filed with the Court of Appeals and the Quezon City Regional Trial Court,” which to Krisel sounded ‘sarcastic.’” (GMANetwork.com, 4 Aug)
It is beyond me why the school must be so mean. Why it can’t just let it go too, write it off as the daring of a young girl to take a stand, a young girl who is a rarity anyway.
Thank heavens for UST
Thank heavens UST knew to accept that “qualified” Certificate of Good Moral Character, whatever it contains. At least it had the sense to accept Krisel based on her credentials, and over and above what she was expected to submit from her high school.
Sometimes the better schools are not the ones that we’ve considered home for years, but the ones that we are transferring to. One trusts that UST will know to nurture and cradle Krisel’s daring and courage. We could all use more of her on this side of the world.