MANILA — It's not "all work and no play" for the cream of the crop at the country's premier state university.
The University of the Philippines Diliman (UP) has recognized 150 students who will graduate summa cum laude, the highest academic distinction, this year. It is given to those with a general weighted average of 1.20 or above.
In a recent Facebook post, UP Diliman shared photos of the top students from this year's graduating class, which was captioned with quotes that gave the public a glimpse of their hobbies, struggles and advocacies.
"UP Diliman always publishes photos of students graduating summa cum laude to honor them for they are the pride of the University," Haidee Pineda, who heads the media and public relations section of the UP Diliman Information office, told ABS-CBN News in an email.
"We share their interesting information to let the public know that they do have a lighter side even as they pursue excellence in academics," she added.
Some of the honor students shared that they turned to music and TV shows to cope with the stress of dealing with schoolwork.
"Special thanks to Paramore, Panic [at the Disco], Bruno Mars, and Olivia Rodrigo for keeping me awake and motivated during all those sleepless thesis and plant design nights," said John Doungel Cagape, who took up chemical engineering.
Many identified as K-pop fans, such as mathematics graduate Jessa Pausal Gemperoso, who considers herself a "huge" supporter of boy band Seventeen.
"They played a big part in helping me keep my sanity for the past four years," she said.
Gaming also helped the students cope with the pressures of university.
"I escape my stress by playing 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive' with friends pero parang mas nakaka-stress pa matalo sa laro," said Joshua Therell Sayos Cuesta, who studied chemical engineering.
(I escpae my stress by playing 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive' with friends, but it feels like it's more stressful to lose in a game.)
"I play lots of competitive games and find myself in Discord with my homies at least 3 times a week," said electronics engineering graduate Marc Dominic Li Enriquez.
"It's a lot of time sunk into gaming but time you enjoy wasting is not necessarily time wasted," he added.
Enriquez said he almost did not push through with his college program because of his color blindness.
"People told me it wasn't safe for electronics engineers to be color blind because they'd misread a lot of markings. Being the hardheaded person that I am, I chose ECE anyway," he said.
"I've personally messed up a few projects from choosing the wrong resistors! There have been a few adjustments, but I have no regrets."
Electronics engineering graduate Dan Dave Abello Acosta proved that even top students have a mischievous side, recounting how he once jumped from the second floor of his dormitory to attend a party.
Gia Santos Evangelista bared that she did not initially pass the tough UP College Admission Test (UPCAT), calling it her "greatest insecurity as a UP student."
"But being here today, not as a [summa cum laude] but simply as a graduating student, means that if there's one thing that UPCAT has failed to measure, it's my grit," said Evangelista, who took up social work.
Regina Kyle Dosado Buco, who studied anthropology, recounted how she did not excel academically in high school.
"I was a so-so student in high school," she said, adding that she "even got line of 7 grades."
"But the privilege to major in something that deeply interests and matters to me helped in keeping me motivated. We all play different roles in society, everyone should get to decide what’s theirs," she added.
For Chrisdie Mycel Diaz Ruzol, who took up applied psychology, finishing her studies is not the only thing that she looks forward to.
"I'm [also] getting married this month," said Ruzol, a mother of 2 and former overseas worker in Abu Dhabi.
The number of students graduating summa cum laude this year is a big jump from just 29 in the previous batch. In 2019, 54 students graduated with the highest distinction.
The increase in the number of summa cum laude title recipients has prompted UP Diliman journalism professor Danilo Arao to start a discussion on grade "hyperinflation" within the school's University Council.
"That's not to say that they're not deserving [of Latin honors]. I’m inclined to think that they are. It's just that there's a need to review the old system of grading, given that there are now new forms of learning," Arao told ABS-CBN News in an earlier interview.
UP Diliman is scheduled to hold its graduation rites Sunday morning, returning as an in-person event after being held online in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FROM THE ARCHIVE