Last Thursday, I was putting up tarpaulins for the COA Central Board 2010-2011 Elections when Miggy uttered a realization: Two weeks na la’ng may kapalit na ako/tayo.
I was not really into extra-curriculars when I was in High School. As much as I want to be a student leader, my goody-two-shoes subconscious goes ahead of my will, effectively forbidding me to do any activities outside the academic sphere. I made sure that I aced Advanced Algebra, Differential Calculus, Elementary Physics, English, Filipino, MAPEH, TLE, Values and Religion, CAT, and Latin before I kiss the bishop’s ring come graduation day. I failed in my own game though, our school after all demanded holistic formation such that those who gave the school honor and prestige through regional contests were highly considered for the Valedictorian and Salutatorian spots. (Dear Marx and Ronel, I honestly approve of your awards. You really deserve them.) I thought being Battalion S-2 Officer and Academics Chairman was enough. In the end, I was given the title First Honorable Mention (and Best in English).
I entered the Ateneo with no other dream but to get two Bachelor of Science degrees and a Latin award. I want my High School (and Grade School, and of course my clan) to be proud of me. I want an easy way to get me enrolled in the best graduate schools around the globe. Thus, I made a partial resolution to continue on with my no-to-extra-curriculars mantra. And so, during our Freshman Orientation Seminar, I turned a deaf ear to the forty-three or so organizations who painstakingly set-up their booths in the hopes to recruit us. I wanted to get started with General Chemistry I (Ch7) already. No need for other mundane things.
Come first week of classes, I signed up as a member of two chemistry organizations, the Ateneo Chemical Society (ACheS) and the Philippine Institute of Chemistry Students, Incorporated (PACS, Inc.) only so as not to be left out. I also signed-up in Youth for Christ Ateneo (YFC-A) only because I was a member since 2002 (and I was a former member of Kids for Christ (KFC)). I was never really active in either organization. If there were announcements of general assemblies, sports festivals, or parties, I would just use my simple excuse: I need to go back home to Bulacan. True enough, I would leave my apartment unit in Xavierville II on a Friday evening and come back on a Monday morning.
The first year of my life as an Atenean was really uneventful, save for our block gimmicks (actually I was a late bloomer — I did not really join block outings until second semester) and a D in Mathematical Analysis I (Calculus I, Ma21). My QPI was above average but I wanted to raise it to higher levels. I blamed my weak study habits and promised that for my second year, I will pump my grades up.
Sophomore year was one of my memorable years, for reasons I will keep just between my friends and some blockmates. My QPI soared to very high levels — I managed to get my name included in the Dean’s List. Well, putting those aside, it was the year where three of my blockmates decided to take on Executive Board positions in ACheS and one in PACS, Inc.. I merely shrugged and continued on with my being org-inactive. Who cares about the “on probation letter” I received last year? I’m going to receive another one this year and I don’t care. However, I always felt that something was missing in my life.
Come second semester I was asked to head a Christmas Party together with two of my blockmates. We all decided to take the offer. (I have to admit that I was probably the most inactive Project Head then, but then again I still gave my inputs.) For the said project, we had an activity in which the current Executive Board must do some Amazing Race-sort of challenge before actually proceeding to the party venue. In my spot, I was really overwhelmed with the passion the officers were exerting for the said activity. One of them even had a heart problem then, but she still went on with the task. It was that day that my memories of our Freshman Orientation Seminar flashed back to me. I admired the energy those org officers just to get some members. They were freshmen three or four years ago as well, and somewhere in between a spark ignited in their hearts. I wanted to be like them. I want to be an org officer as well.
However, my mind was clouded then. My first intentions as to why I want to become an org officer includes having an additional entry to my resume. Passion came in just second while service had no place in my to-do list. I targeted a low position. To my half-surprise, I lost the elections. Right after losing, however, I was invited by PACS, Inc. to take on the post of Vice President for Publications. Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Publisher were never really my stuff, but then again, I decided to give it a shot. I won. And in the end, I learned how to befriend the said programs.) I won. Hurray, that’s an entry in my resume at last. What’s more, it’s an nation-wide organization.
Junior year entered. I retained my academic status despite being an officer of PACS, Inc.. During my stay, I was able to make new friends with chemists and biochemists from universities outside the Ateneo — licensed or not. My work took much of my time such that I started not going home to Bulacan during weekends. Despite my added load, I was surprised to see myself happy and fulfilled. I never imagined that being an org officer would spell out much fun. At the end of the day, what adds to my fulfillment is seeing the happiness and contentment of our volunteers. I lost some sum of money due to meetings and all those stuff, but the smiles we were able to paint on the faces of our members were simply priceless.
With a heavy heart, I decided to say my adieu to PACS, Inc. before I started my Senior year. (Well it was not a total sayounara, as an ex-officer I still enjoyed my Executive Board member status.) I wanted to go back to ACheS — the very organization which taught me to appreciate and love student leadership. With the administrative roles I developed in PACS, Inc., I decided to run as Vice President for Publications and Documentations. This time with a strong-willed spirit and a passionate heart, I won the elections. It was in my Senior year that my grades almost touched the roof. Believe it or not, org work inspired me to do more than well in my academics. Seeing all those wide grins and hearing all those infectious laughters of our members all gathered in our tambayan takes all the drowsiness and tiredness out of my soul. Working with my fellow officers gave me lessons I can never hope to learn inside the four walls of our laboratories in Schmitt Hall. It was the company of my fellow Executive Board officers that kept me sane and cheerful, despite the five deaths I have experienced last school year. While Senior year was also thesis year, I was able to maintain the perfect balance between academics and extra-curriculars. In one way, I put all my heart to my thesis, thinking of inspiring our members as well. My toils were rewarded and last March 2009, I got my first Bachelor of Science title.
As I look at my first college diploma, I can’t help but realize that I failed to achieve my original dream. My grades from freshman year pulled my overall ranking down to the point that it sat merely an inch below the cut-off. While I still have another year and graduation to go, I decided to let go of my dream already. I found a deep passion for student leadership that for my last undergraduate year, I want to give my very best shot.
For my Super Senior year, I wanted to take things higher by taking on a council-level post — something I missed during High School. I decided to ran as Head of the Science and Technology Cluster (STC), half-intimidated with eight (outgoing) presidents who looked as if they might poison me any moment I gave them a false-hope propaganda. I was preparing myself to say my real adios to org life when I was surprised with an announcement from my peers saying that I won the elections.
At first, the job seemed scary to me. I knew that I will be really slumped with an Everest of council work. I was also afraid that the 24 fellow Central Board members and my eight presidents would wake up the competitive tiger in me, something that as much as possible I want to outgrow. I tried to make plans of how I will deal with these people and the yottagrams (grams times ten to the twenty-four) of business we have to settle. Things did not proceed as I drafted them however. They happened the natural way — bonds blossomed and time strengthened our relationships. I can’t help but be amazed that despite the diversity of our courses and our difference of interests, we found in ourselves a common thing to share: the burning passion to serve. At the end of the day, what matters is how we executed things. At the end of the day, what is important is to get our hands dirty and make an impact in the lives of our constituents. At the end of the day, tightening friendships and making people smile is the reason for everything. Student leadership is all about organizations, and organizations are all about members.
Being Head of STC was all worth it. My thesis may be lagging a bit, my grades may have taken a slight dip, but in the end everything was all worth it. I have learned to love my presidents, their roster of officers, and all members of their respective organizations. I have learned to love sleeping late at night not to do academics but to read and write Org Status Updates, Cluster Monthly Reports, Project Proposals, and the like. I have learned to love the art of mentoring, to share my experiences and stories to my friends. I have learned to smile again, to simply forget the worries of my life which took most of my life energy after experiencing five deaths in just a year’s span. I have learned to hope again, to always wake up and think of new beginnings. I have learned to dream again, to attempt to reach for the infinite, to put the moon out of its orbit, to jump five feet above the ground on Jupiter, to brew a panacea for AIDS, and to pass on all of those crazy thoughts to people who would care to listen to me — my friends.
I learned how to imagine, to inspire, and to influence.
If there is one thing I appreciate the most in my Metallic Materials (MSE111) course, it would be the concept of strain-hardening of metals. You see, metals are very intriguing materials. You strengthen them by continually deforming them to the point that they almost reach their breaking point. At the moment that tensile load is released, one would observe that the metal is harder than before, such that deforming it to almost-breaking levels would just make it stiffer and harder. However, with anything in life, there must always be a limit. Metals which are continuously subjected to strain-hardening lose their ductility exponentially such that they become very brittle. A simple knock may cause the stretched and dislocated metallic bonds to break easily (no matter how hard the metal seems to be).
Connecting metals with real life, experiences will give us a huge amount of challenge. How we respond to them depends on our attitude (like metals, which have different strain-hardening profiles). In general however, these experiences will shape us into better (and stronger) persons. However, this does not guarantee our omniscient abilities. There will come to a time that a really unique situation will take the most of us. The question here is how can we protect this brittle side of our personality. After all, those past experiences that we’ve had might shape us into a character the world might never learn to appreciate. What makes us different from metals is our ability to respond to such situations and prevent our brittle fracture from taking place.
And as Miggy said, two weeks from now a new batch of leaders would be replacing us. While my brain screams for a second undergraduate diploma, my heart wants me to stay. But like organic chemical reactions, for a synthesis route to proceed, I must be willing to give up a pair of electrons to initiate new atomic bonds and finally, the final product. With the short amount of time left, I promise that I will give my 1000% energy to my work.
Annacee, Zel, Nic, Trisha, Meki, Giz, Mei, Bianca, and Stif. Miggy, Diane, Mina, Claudia, Bob, Cindy, Sel, JJ, Ara, Leo, Sol, Aaron, Mikey, Chantal, Jana, Hannah, Ken, Bambi, Aika, Mian, Beng, Kim, and Kathy. We can do this. Let’s go.
At the end of that long season, when I finally go down the hill with two undergraduate diplomas in my hand, what really matters for me is the new friends I have shared my life with, not the numerical value of my QPI. I think it’s about time we make a Latin honor for leadership.