Dominican gets 1.167 GWA, named Batch 2020 valedictorian

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A DOMINICAN from the Faculty of Sacred Theology emerged as this year’s valedictorian, after obtaining the highest general weighted average (GWA) of 1.167.

Siddharta Bayona Chiong, O.P. led Batch 2020, who graduated amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He earned a summa cum laude distinction.

“Excellence is a virtue, and virtues are forged out of our daily struggle. [O]ne of the things I did right was to choose to be part of this Dominican Thomasian community,” he said in a pre-recorded valedictory message during the virtual send-off ceremonies for Batch 2020.

Chiong said he dedicated his award to his “tight-knit” Ecclesiastical Faculties community, his family and his closest friends who believed in him and supported him, and to God who had brought him to where he was “because of His grace and mercy.”

“[A]s I have been nurtured by my Alma Mater, I realized that it is my turn to pay it forward. After all the graces we have received, it is now our turn to share it to the wider society. […] We are equipped to contend with the challenges of life, and so, take pride of that, because we have been imbued with unending grace,” he said.

UST Vice Rector Fr. Isaias Tiongco, O.P. led the opening Mass for the virtual send-off ceremonies at the Santisimo Rosario Parish, reminding the graduates to be bearers of truth by helping others, and inspiring them to acknowledge Jesus’ love and presence by their words and actions.

“[W]ith the other virtues and skills you have developed over the course of your academic training, you are well-equipped with tools that can enable you to stand head and shoulders with those who have carved a reputable name for themselves in society and in their chosen industry,” Tiongco said in his homily.

Michelle Rizza Ong, the Batch 2020 salutatorian from the Conservatory of Music, also delivered a pre-recorded speech.

“It was that eagerness to learn and discover myself alongside my friends and professors who shared the same love for the field that fueled my grit, persevering and believing that I am capable regardless of the results, which I embraced as long as I know that I’ve given my best effort,” Ong said.

University administrators and faculty and college deans gave their send-off messages to the graduating batch.

Prof. Cheryl Peralta, vice rector for academic affairs, lauded the Thomasian graduates for rising above the fears and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic and continuing to pursue their dreams.

“This pandemic has developed a new breed of resilient Thomasians whose unwavering commitment to excellence amidst diversity will serve as [their] armor as [they] join the workforce,” Peralta said in her message.

Vice Rector Tiongco lamented how the pandemic had prevented UST from holding the traditional passage through the Arch of the Centuries — symbolic of the graduates’ academic achievements and milestones as Thomasians — as well as the colorful and boisterous baccalaureate ceremonies.

“The sparks that will glitter your life from now on will be more than enough to contain and even break the number of artificial sparks that last only a few minutes. It will be God who will bestow you those authentic brilliant moments that can last a lifetime,” Tiongco said in his message, concluding the send-off ceremonies.

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