AS A FRESHMAN, I despised commuting. Probably because I disliked being with strangers, commuting felt like I was wasting hours of valuable time.

My commute would take two hours from my home to UST. The first hour of travel was bearable. Sure, it could take a while to find a ride with a vacant seat, and traffic on Ortigas could be irritating. But I still looked forward to school because of friends. On the second hour of travel, all of my enthusiasm would turn to aggravation. By then, I would already in Manila where pollution was the worst.

I also hated how I often got lost. I was an inexperienced freshman who was poor with directions. At times, I mistakenly took the wrong jeepney that would take me to the wrong places.

But after four years of commuting daily, I got the hang of it. I acquired a few skills: I improved my sense of direction. I found ways to be productive during my two-hour travel, like studying and sleeping peacefully without missing my stop. I guess we also gain from things we dislike.

***

The University of the Philippines was the desired destination by almost everyone in my high school. Maybe because of my parents’ wishes or peer pressure, it was mine too. When it was clear I would not be able to study there, I was forced to go to the more accessible UST.

I was convinced that I was going to be a UP graduate. So when I started in UST, it felt like I took the wrong jeepney. I felt like I was going to be lost, bound somewhere I did not want to be.

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But I met many great people and experienced things I know now can happen only in UST.

Now that I’m a UST graduate, I realize this was the ride I was meant to take. Truly, it was never about the destination, but the journey.

***

On the third year of my Thomasian journey, I took a detour. I applied for the Varsitarian, a random decision. Without any background in journalism (or in writing decently), I was surprised to find out I passed. Until now I think I was just lucky.

My first year as a ‘V’ writer was full of enthusiasm. I was eager to learn how to write well, I was excited to see my articles published with my byline, and I was ecstatic because of the fact that I was a student journalist. But on my second year, I started to feel the fatigue. Work became toxic. Like my commute, I just wanted to finish the year as soon as possible.

But my two-year stint in the ‘V’ taught me time management, good work ethics, responsibility and perseverance. I did not only become a writer, I also became a janitor, archivist, public relations officer, food server, band manager, counselor, and events organizer. But the best thing I got from being part of ‘V’ was the friends I made.

My journey as a ‘V’ staffer was an unexpected one. I owe my fulfilling college life to that random turn I took in my journey. Do not be afraid to try different routes, you might discover something priceless.

***

I joined the ‘V’ because I wanted to do something worthwhile during my free time. Describing ‘V’ as demanding is an understatement. It did not just consume my free time, it also took my time for academics and social life. What ‘V’ asked from me was not simply worthwhile, it was grueling. I want to use this little space of the paper to show gratitude to the many people who helped me survive this journey.

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First of all, thank you to my family that has been the most supportive. Even though I do not spend as much time as I should with you, and even if you always fell victim to my grouchiness, you always remained understanding. I will make it up to all of you.

For the opportunity of a lifetime, thank you to the Selection Committee. Until now, I do not know what they saw in me to accept me to such a prestigious institution. Whatever reason it was, thank you for the life-changing experience.

To our advisers, Sir Ipe, Sir Ian, and Sir Lito, thank you for the guidance and trust. I’m sorry for my many shortcomings.

Because of the position entrusted to me, I became equipped with skills no ordinary journalism student could have learned from a regular journalism program. And I can boast that I covered Pope Francis' visit to Leyte. I’m very grateful for the privilege. To Kuya Enzo and Kuya Yuji, whom I consider my role models, you do not know how much I look up to both of you.

To my online team, my work would have been twice as hard if it were not for you. Thank you for always being reliable.

My biggest gratitude goes to all of the people in ‘V’ with whom I shared hardships and joyful memories. If I included all of your names here, I might as well have inserted the whole staff box in this short space. Thank you to all of you for being not only my friends, but also family. I’m proud to say: Once a ‘V’ staffer, always a ‘V’ staffer.

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***

Looking back, my “commute” as a Thomasian and a ‘V’ staffer was exhausting. But it brought me to places I had never imagined. I may not want this journey to end yet, but I have arrived at the last stop; there’s nowhere else to go. Another journey beckons.

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