I CAN be as overly sentimental as I want to be and speak of personal things you may never understand or relate to. But I will not do that, simply because I feel that even this little precious space that this beloved publication has allotted me for the very last time must be deserved by every Thomasian reader.

In the same way that I still have my “Amazing Spider-Man 2” hangover, I will be the first to admit that, more than a month after graduation, I have yet to fully absorb the fact that college is already over. While some of my batch mates are busy preparing for graduate studies and others are already employed, here I am, writing this “farewell column” and pondering about all that has been. Either four years went by really fast, or people only have this tendency to adopt such perspective every time the end of a phase is reached. After all, I’d like to believe that the most difficult stages in life are not the phases themselves but the transitions between them.

I have said this once and I will say it again: Even if I had another chance to choose a university, I would still choose UST (Yes, even if I passed the UPCAT, which I did not). UST is my dream school, and this is despite the public perception (let’s face it, it exists) that Asia’s oldest and only pontifical university is “inferior” compared to other “top schools” in the “Big 4” such as Ateneo de Manila and the premier state university. The Varsitarian article “No sweat Ustet?” (May 2007), still one of the most read and discussed articles on the ‘V’ website, is a proof that such popular opinion exists. Don’t get me wrong—I am not underestimating my Alma Mater. After all, UST just marked its 403rd foundation anniversary last April 21. And while longevity isn’t everything, it is truly something. UST, which has produced national artists, heroes, presidents, and saints and martyrs, among others, would not be called by the Commission on Higher Education in 2012 as the “biggest producer of Filipino professionals” for nothing.

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Maybe it’s true that UST imposes a less demanding and less selective policy of student admission, but the difference in procedure does not make it lesser of an educational institution. After all, UST does not intend to collect bright students and put them on display; it produces them, as proven by its roster of alumni. So what if UST accepts more students, including those who have failed other entrance tests? So what if UST gave these students the chance that they needed to unlock their untapped potentials? Sometimes, a single chance is the only key for something to flourish. For all we know, it is through these students—who have so much room for improvement—that institutions of higher learning like Santo Tomas are serving best their purpose of education.

What sets UST apart from the rest is the environment of balance and diversity that it creates. Its students may not be the most intelligent in terms of grade and richest in terms of material wealth, but they can be the most committed, competent, and compassionate ones that this country could ever have. UST creates an aura of harmony and normalcy that assures its students that they don’t have to be extraordinary to fit in—a home of some sort where Spider-Man can just be his Peter Parker self and share stories and jokes with Aunt May without being judged. Up to this day, it still amazes me how a sense of family and belongingness is very evident in a community of about 40,000. Nothing beats the magnificence of the Thomasian experience, something that traverses even the beauty of the campus itself.

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But not everyone share the same luck that I had—to have the freedom to study in my dream school. Others might have landed in UST simply because their parents wanted to, or probably due to the relatively cheaper tuition. So if you are as lucky as I was, don’t waste the privilege (yes, privilege) of being able to pursue your dreams.

But whatever the situation is, college has taught me to stop stressing over the things I can’t change. Whether you chose to be here like Gwen Stacy chose Oxford (and study there if only she did not die), or otherwise in the same way that Peter did not choose to be bitten by a genetically modified spider in the film’s first installment, the best thing to do is to embrace the present and make the most out of everything that is in front of you. Willingness is key to moving forward.

No matter what challenge or responsibilities come your way, never lose your true self in the process. Amid the competitive environment and with all the temptations and distractions in the sidelines, always keep track of your true purpose and remind yourself why you are here in the first place. Trust me when I say that fulfilling one’s duties while being an “ordinary human” is entirely possible. One does not need to eliminate the other; you don’t have to sacrifice your normal social life to achieve academic excellence. Remember the web-slinging superhero who almost missed his graduation rites in an attempt to save the world? You can be your own Spider-Man and Peter Parker, too, and it is just a matter of juggling priorities.

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College is like a film series, and you are the main actor, director, and producer all in one body. If you do not want to suffer the same fate as the tragedy that is “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” you must exercise the freedom to make decisions wisely. You have the choice to pick your own battles, friends, and other characters that will surround you. Most especially, you can choose your own storylines. But in your sequels, you can’t afford to spoil the good foundation and strong fundamentals of your first film in an attempt to be involved in everything and offer too much. If that is the case, there is no doubt that you will lose your vision and sense of direction. You may not be able to choose or predict your villains, but like Spider-Man, one sure enemy of yours is the one in the mirror. Don’t miss the opportunity of a good start by turning it into a mess; learn how to play to your strengths instead.

To Batch 2014, college may be over but I hope that this ending be the same as the ending of Gwen’s life; it disheartened Peter at first, but it eventually pushed him and gave him hope to continue fulfilling his mission and advance to the next stage.

Borrowing Gwen’s words: “What makes it valuable is that it doesn’t last forever. What makes it precious is that it ends.”

Thomasians, make sure your college life would be a worth-watching blockbuster. Graduates, go out and be the “Amazing Thomasians” that you are destined to be.

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