“As one of the University of the Philippines Baguio’s most special traditions, we perform this Lighting Ceremony to show the passing of knowledge from the University to us. This is also done to remind us of our responsibility to keep this flame alive and to pass it on to others, to the masses, and to our fellow Filipinos.”
This was the introduction read in Filipino by Patrick James F. Penales who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a degree in Biology, magna cum laude, on June 22, 2017. Penales’ task was to lead the graduates of UP Baguio in a ritual called the “Ritwal ng Pagtatanglaw.”
This ritual is a unique feature of UP Baguio’s commencement rites, featuring a candle-lighting ceremony within the graduation. Candle-lighting rites may be commonplace today, but the history of this ritual dates back to the 1960s when UP Baguio was an arts and sciences college of UP Diliman.
Senior faculty members of UP Baguio recall that the inclusion of this ritual was recommended by the late Social Sciences professor Carol Brady. The ritual takes place before the singing of the university hymn, and right after the graduates take their oath as members of the UP Baguio Alumni Association.
The chancellor reads the context of the ritual (originally written in English by Brady) and says it symbolizes the transfer of wisdom from a single source, “Ang Inang Tanglaw” or the Mother Light. He explains that the light from the candle represents the process that each bearer of the light goes through: their determination to seek knowledge; generosity and magnanimity; creativity and synthesis; knowing and understanding; and their enthusiasm in the search for wisdom.
The ritual ends with a reminder that the quest for knowledge and wisdom is in perpetuity and it is in this manner that the light of knowledge is kept burning within each and every graduate of UP Baguio, now and in the past.
Part of the tradition is the task given to an honor graduate to “interpret” the ritual on behalf of the graduating class. In 2016, magna cum laude and BS Biology graduate Rabbiah Dispo used the Promethean analogy to say that the light represents “forethought,” as the name “Prometheus” meant in ancient Greek. “Forethought is careful thinking or strategic planning for the future. As students, we entered this university knowing that this was the initial step to fulfilling our personal visions for the future,” she said.
Dispo, who had intimated that she wanted to study medicine after graduation added, “We came and we sought—the wide-eyed, hopeful young ones that we were, with the acknowledgment that every stride we took forward was progress towards the finish line, towards our ambitions of becoming scientists, doctors, lawyers, public servants, journalists, writers, artists, educators—becoming additions to the existing pool of human resource in the community.”
There’s little doubt that this light will burn on in Baguio, down the generations. (Contributed by Prof. Roland Erwin P. Rabang)
Prof. Roland Erwin P. Rabang is the director of the UP Baguio Office of Public Affairs. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.