The University of the Philippines Diliman community was up early on Sunday, July 26, 2020, to witness the very first virtual commencement exercises in the constituent university’s (CU) history. The event, formally titled “109th Pangkalahatang Pagtatapos”, was live streamed via UP Diliman’s official website at 7:00 AM in the morning, reaching the homes of its 3,789 graduates and their families. Replay can be viewed at the UP Diliman YouTube channel.
The UP Diliman Class of 2020 was led by 28 summa cum laudes, who graduated with a weighted average grade (WAG) of 1.20 or higher. Alongside them were 302 who earned magna cum laudes (WAG 1.40 or higher), and 683 cum laudes (WAG 1.75 or higher). Those who attended virtually got to know UP Diliman’s summa cum laude graduates better, as the program included their observations and reflections on their achievements amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maglingkod, Magmalasakit, Maningidgan” was the theme of Diliman’s 109th commencement exercises. With this theme the graduating class was called upon to “serve the country with empathy and conviction so that excellence, rights, and justice might prevail”. Of the students who were conferred their degrees, 2,892 received baccalaureate degrees, while 897 received either diploma, master’s, or doctoral degrees.
This year’s commencement speaker was none other than former UP Diliman Chancellor and UP Professor Emeritus for Anthropology. Michael Lim Tan. The focus of his graduation speech concerned what he called the “art of accompaniment”, which he said he imbibed from Pope Francis’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. It was described, Tan said, as the respect that involves “removing our sandals before the sacred ground of the Other”.
“We are a culture of accompaniment,” Tan explained, citing the prevalence of the prefix ‘ka-‘ in Filipino languages, which is used to create nouns of inclusion and accompanied action. Drawing evidence from UP’s recent initiatives during the COVID-19 period, Tan praised both UP Diliman and the UP System for displaying “accompaniment” via its efforts to assist front liners, stranded students and staff, and other members of the UP community, citing efforts like the recent #KaagapayUP project. “Andito kami is becoming andito tayo,” said Tan.
The last few months, according to Tan, revealed the difference that a leadership based on accompaniment made when struggling against the pandemic, mentioning New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern as one example. “Rushing to the scenes of disaster to comfort people, to share their grief. To explain—that is so lacking in the Philippines. To give options when needed and then to speak out when needed with a firm resolve to bring justice.”
Tan said he believed that the Philippines, too, has such leaders-in-the-making, and soon it would hopefully be their time to be recognized. “Don’t let your diplomas, don’t let your new positions get into your heads,” he advised the graduating class. “Leadership by accompaniment means you do not go off on your own for people to follow you. Accompaniment is being at one’s side and sometimes being behind them, watching their backs.”
Deans and heads of the 27 degree granting units of UP Diliman presented their respective graduates to the current Chancellor, Dr. Fidel Nemenzo, who in turn presented them to UP President Danilo L. Concepcion for the official conferment of their degrees. The ceremonial shifting of the sablay was also done virtually, signaling the graduating class’ official status as alumni of the University of the Philippines.
The backdrop of the commencement exercises is the Dalunduyan, a triptych of arches depicting portals created by artist and UPD faculty Toym Imao. The title of the work is said to be a portmanteau of three words: ‘daluyan’ (channel or portal), ‘lunduyan’ (center) and ‘duyan’ (cradle). It will remain in Quezon Hall until December, marking the duration of the University’s lockdown due to the pandemic. Finally, the “UP Naming Mahal” was performed by the UP Symphony Orchestra (UPSO) to close the ceremonies.