ONE OF our “younger siblings” here in the Varsitarian recently shared how his parents thought that a Latin honor is better than writing for the country’s premier student publication.

He noted this with what seemed to be a mixture of sadness, frustration, and uncertainty, bringing me back to how I felt weeks before my graduation last March.

I was supposed to be relieved then only by the fact that I made it to the final list of candidates for graduation. But a friend of mine started talking about how I was going to be marching with a cum laude medal waiting for me on stage, given how she saw me as one of the best in class. Some of my blockmates picked this up and, after seeing our grades for the last semester, cheered me on.

What was stupid was that I let myself be drawn into this tiny hole of hope, leading me to the hapless, dying-to-know-but-scared-to-ask feeling. For days, I tried to go to the Registrar’s office to find out if I was on the list of honor students, and when I finally had enough guts to ask, I inquired using that friend’s name instead. The lady who attended to me said “Yes, cum laude,” then “Sino ‘yun? ‘yung sa’yo lang dapat!” when I said my name.

Determined to get it all over with, I computed my grades over and over and over, losing sleep and feeling the sting of how I was close enough to making it, but not quite.

But what pierced through me was what seemed to be the longest pause on a phone conversation after I told my mother that she and Papa wouldn’t be accompanying me on stage because I was not graduating with honors.

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The select friends to whom I confided my sadness consoled me by saying that grades are not everything and that I should not be sulking over a Latin honor because I am a good writer, and that’s better than getting a cum laude.

This is a heartbreak known to ‘V’ staff members who strive to do well in class as I had done for the most part of my four years as a Journalism student.

It’s weird, though, how most of us never seemed to blame the ‘V’ for this loss.

Perhaps it’s because—as a fellow editor (and, incidentally, a blockmate) commented on the young writer’s tirade—we learned so much more in the ‘V’ than we ever did in class. In fact, having been in the ‘V’ seems tantamount to earning a bachelor’s degree in itself—major in Journalism and minor in logistics, events planning, public relations, accounting, human resource, and crisis management.

I told this young writer that, yes, it’s sad that some people never really understand this journey, but he has to be proud of the fact that he’s still in the toughest challenge he’ll ever face not only as a Journalism student, but as a Thomasian. Being in the ‘V’ is a service to UST like no other, where you have to balance pride and gratitude with accuracy and faithfulness to what is true (even when it is not good or beautiful).

I ended my comment with: “The only [thing] that makes it easier is knowing that you’re not alone in it,” finally sharing why I never stepped out of the Varsitarian’s doors even after all the attempts and threats I made to just storm out of them and never return.

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Because amid all of the editorial cycles, the blood pressure-rising extra-editorial activities, and the life dramas in between, the ‘V’ has become a home for me.

In this “kingdom of Journalism”, I have been blessed to be under the tutelage of three of the best professors there are: the “matinee idol” Lito Zulueta, whose ability to be charming amid his disbelief and criticisms has taught me to stay humble; the fatherly Felipe Salvosa II, whose tough love I appreciate very much; and the dashing Christian Esguerra, whose silent editing made me trust myself a little bit more.

To my editor, Aya dela Cruz, who let me grow wings of my own (too bad they had to be clipped, temporarily I hope), and to my predecessor, Sarah Pauyo, whose hard work and endless encouragement made me understand the hardships that seem mandatory for a Features editor to face with a tough, open heart.

Despite not being on the same page all the time, I’m still happy to belong to this year’s staff, where I learned that respect, patience, and love could rise from differences of opinion. To next year’s staff, learn to care for one another and face the trials as one. It has been a pleasure working with all of you.

I’m sorry for not being the best mentor to you, Mia and Meg, and I hope that, in time, you will understand the pressures of delivering the best in a given deadline.

To Cha, Jilly, Ailex, and Josa, thank you for being an extension of my family.

To my partners in different aspects—AJ, Dana, Jenn, and Aki—thank you for putting up with me and carrying me forward.

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To the few but golden friends I have outside the ‘V’: thank you for the distraction and your sweetness. I’m especially grateful for my cum laude friend, April, who got me through tough times and of whom I’m proud of.

To my family, my primary source of love and support, I’m sorry for my silence. To Tita Bar, our angel, thank you very much for all your help.

I’m grateful for Cliff, my editor in chief, not only for giving this column space a name, but for putting up with my “tantrums” and “editorializing”. Thank you for giving the reasons that kept me here in the ‘V’.

And to the action star that made me believe again, my very own Robin Padilla, I’ll be here as you let the “lights guide you home and ignite your bones.”

To God and Mama Mary, I lift everything up to you along with my gratitude.

Finally, as I prepare to leave this home where I found the dimensions of my altered ego, I breathe with both relief and anxiety: “Minsang ‘V’, mananatiling ‘V’!”

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