Among the 383 members of UP Cebu Class of 2019 who marched onstage to receive their diplomas at UP Cebu’s 82nd Commencement Exercises held at the campus in the afternoon of June 28, 2019, one stood out because of her absence.
Ms. Kis Tryvl Cabasag Ramos, who would have graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology alongside the rest of her batchmates, was fatally shot on April 11 along with two of her workmates and the café proprietor at a coffee shop on F. Ramos Street in Cebu City where she worked.
Two months later, her parents, Mrs. Elvira Ramos and Mr. Juan Reynaldo Ramos, who himself graduated from the UP Diliman Institute of Social Work and Community Development, marched onto the stage to receive the diploma on their daughter’s behalf, amid bittersweet cheers and applause from her fellow graduates, UP Cebu officials and faculty, and the audience.
Later in his speech on behalf of the graduates, BS Computer Science, magna cum laude graduate, and Class of 2019 valedictorian Juan Carlos “Jace” Tabacon Roldan gave a touching tribute to Kis, a former student leader and writer for UP Cebu’s official student publication, Tug-ani: “I would like to acknowledge one who had yearned and fought and shone despite the tyranny she had bravely stood against: our friend and kauban, Kis Tryvl Ramos, who is with us in militant spirit today. She had had a chance to touch the souls of many in this University, and she deserves a seat alongside us, just as much as the rest.”
Roldan urged his fellow UP graduates to continue to work and fight for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed minorities, especially after they have learned how to foster righteous indignation and cultivate an understanding of society in UP. “We have been asked to make the profitable choice. . . but the logic in the gears of the iskolar ng bayan is not predicated upon the blind search for more. The algorithm or blueprint for being iskolar ng bayan does not dictate making choices simply towards seeking prestige in the fields of industry or in the academe. Being iskolar ng bayan is in the realization that the struggle in here is a part of the struggle out there and making the correct choice to fight alongside it.”
UP Cebu Chancellor Liza D. Corro prefaced Roldan’s call to the graduates in her opening remarks by referring to UP Cebu’s slogan, nurtured to create, inspired to innovate, destined to serve, printed across the backdrop of the stage. “It is just fitting that before you start going out to the real world, you all remind yourselves that we in UP are a sui generis. Many may not understand why there are rallies in UP, even during commencement. Actually, what we do here is not so much for others to know but it is more of a reminder to all of you, our dear graduates, and to us in UP, that service is what we are destined for.”
UP Cebu Class of 2019 produced 70 honor graduates. Five were magna cum laude graduates and 64, cum laude graduates, while one graduate student who earned a Master of Education degree was recognized Most Outstanding Graduate.
Gracing the occasion as commencement speaker was Executive Vice President Maria Luisa Aboitiz Booth of Mehitabel, Inc., which is one of the Philippines’ most prominent members of the furniture-making industry and one of Cebu’s most enduring institutions.
Booth shared four simple truths and guiding principles that she thought would be helpful to them, truths she learned, not when she graduated from college or law school in the US, but during the course of her life.
The first principle is that the straight path is not always the only path or the right path. “You must give yourself room in your life to change directions, to adopt new ways of doing old things and to learn from your mistakes and your bad decisions, because trust me, you will make mistakes and you will make some bad decisions. It’s okay,” she said.
The second principle is not to be afraid to take the road less traveled, as it might make all the difference in their lives. The third is a quote from the 19th century French novelist, Marie-Joseph “Eugène” Sue: the hand that gives gathers. “Most of us would like to earn a good living, be rich, drive fancy cars. That is human nature after all. However, those who selfishly acquire property and goods without regard to the damage they are doing to the world and without using their gifts to improve the lives of others are destined to live unhappy lives,” Booth said.
And the last piece of advice Booth gave the graduates: “Try to be a shepherd. Don’t be a wolf. Look for those who can benefit from your knowledge and experience, and help to protect them and guide them. Always try to use your skills for the betterment of those around you and you will never have regrets.”