Ivan Brent Nara
Daniel Joshua “DJ” Beja
Erwin Tan Guipetacio
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an abrupt stop to the life of many. It has changed how a lot of people lived, from daily routines to national policy making. One of the sectors affected by such a jarring interruption˗ the youth.
For the graduating class of 2020, this year was supposed to be a pivotal point of their lives. They were transitioning from education to employment¬- towards that phase of finally establishing a life they can truly call their own. Except in this challenging time, some plans had to be put on hold. Graduation ceremonies and celebrations were placed on the sidelines or delayed in hopes of sparing people from the virus.
College students, particularly those who are graduating during the lockdown have to experience the first of many changes in their lives under the “new normal”. These youths who are about to brave this new phase deserve to be recognized for their hard work despite the difference in celebratory practices.
Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc (PSFI) is a committed supporter of young people’s dreams. In partnership with the Philippine S&T Development Foundation – Manila, Inc. (PhilDev), PSFI has been supporting scholars pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses from many colleges and universities across the country since 2013. This initiative offers a substantial scholarship that aims to help the Filipino youth to achieve their academic potential, enabling them to innovate and create technologies, products, and services that can compete in the global markets and stimulate economic growth for the Philippines. This year’s crop of brilliant graduates from Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan deserves a spotlight for their academic achievements and how they are coping with the “new normal”.
The first of the five to be featured here is Daisy Salugsugan. Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree and the distinction of being a magna cum laude, Daisy was all set to step out of school and pursue her career path. However, because of the lockdowns, it seems that she faces roadblocks ahead. In an interview, she said, “Right now, the future for me is very uncertain. Even my goal of passing the board exam this November is still unsure, for the situation (pandemic) might not be better and that could cause adjustments to the scheduled date of my test.” Yet, though her first step is shaky, her resolve to build her own future seems to be unwavering. “However, when I imagine myself in the future, I keep seeing the same thing and same picture: I see myself working in big companies to improve and equip me with the skills that a Civil Engineer should have. I still see myself giving back the blessing I received in college which is an opportunity to study without having to worry about the tuition fees. I firmly believe that I will be able to accomplish the same goals I have but just with a little delay. We don’t know, this little delay [could be] a blessing in disguise,” she voiced.
Another deserving graduate is Erwin Tan Guipetacio. He graduated cum laude with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. When the lockdown happened, he was looking forward to the graduation ceremony that he felt he deserved for all the hard work he had done. “Just like everyone else for the graduates of Batch 2020, I feel sad about the changes, but still proud. I feel sad because I have been working so hard during my 5-year stay in college to earn a distinction while learning [and gaining experiences] in both academics and co-curricular [activities]. Nevertheless, I feel proud because I made it through the tough course of my chosen college degree. I feel proud because I fulfilled my promise to my parents that I will graduate with distinction. I feel proud because I was able to… meet the demands of [academic] requirements and expectations of me.” But despite the seemingly disheartening end of a brilliant academic pursuit, Erwin remains focused on his future goals as an engineer. He stated, “In response to the evolving future, I would want to pursue one of my dreams to create and invent something that will help the world improve…. Specifically, [I would want] to find a way to improve the construction process of small to large infrastructures that will ensure efficiency, less wastage of materials, less pollution, and less dependence on economy-based process. While [doing that], I also plan to accomplish most of my dreams by establishing my own firm with trusted aides and partners. This plan was brought from being inspired by the reality today.”
Ivan Brent Nara excitedly anticipated the coming graduation because he knew that he would be awarded the honor of being a magna cum laude. He worked hard to finish his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering degree, as well as completing a tough internship program. All the sacrifices he made were because he wanted to put a smile on his proud parents’ faces. His parents planned to invite relatives from Zamboanga del Sur and make it a special family reunion, but the lockdown prevented all that from happening. Still, Ivan chose to be thankful for the blessings that came his way and he was happy to simply spend time with his immediate family and think about his future. He reflected, “The pandemic does not mean letting go of my future goals but rather [redirecting] my goals. I am still hopeful to continue the ‘KoolGear’ project [from his internship program] and contribute positive change in the community.”
Kenneth Postrero is also a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. A string of awards and distinctions could have followed his walk towards the stage during the graduation ceremony: Business Idea and Development Award- Grand Champion, Regional Invention Contest and Exhibit – 3rd Place, Kinaadman Support for Student Research – Awardee, XU Magis Awards – Exemplar Awardee, and to top it all off, the honor of being cum laude. Like his batch mates, he was disappointed for the missed graduation ceremony because of the pandemic, but he knew that these times, “…Safety should be the utmost priority,” he remarked. Although his family celebration was postponed, Kenneth’s vision of a better world holds clear and strong. He said, “I am positive that professional engineers, architects, innovators, doctors, and more people can help hand in hand to create such designs that can bring about new changes in the society. I’m planning to apply for post-graduate studies soon but as of the moment, I’m trying to relearn as much on engineering software as I possibly can, and apply it to work that is related to my field of choice for the time being.”
Last but not the least of these distinguished graduates list is Daniel Joshua “DJ” Beja, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering degree. Instead of preparing for his postponed graduation ceremony and planning a grand celebration with his family, DJ chose to help his community during these tough times. He narrated: “My family and I lived together with our relatives in a compound since our own house was to be reconstructed. In the compound, there was not that much to do because of the quarantine, but, together with my colleagues in Alyansang Atenista, we started a fundraising project for the front liners. This project was called the ‘Bayanihan Shirt Project’…all the proceeds were donated to hospitals around Cagayan de Oro. When the project concluded…I eventually started my self-review while waiting for the actual review to start.” When asked about how the future looks for fresh graduates like him, he answered, “I am that person who plans what to do and what to prioritize after college. The future is uncertain but life must go on. In this new normal one must be practical and rational in decision making, thus taking it step by step, I plan to first get my license as a professional chemical engineer.”
These five hopeful young graduates are proof of possibilities of what a future emerging from a pandemic may bring- innovative, strong and promising. This year as a pivotal point in their life remains to be true.
The world celebrated the International Youth Day (IYD) on August 12, 2020 with the theme “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, which aims to highlight the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels in enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes. Needless to say, Daisy, Erwin, Ivan, Kenneth, DJ and all other graduates this year, particularly the Shell-PhilDev Scholars, have exhibited these contributions in many ways, including their hard work and commitment to attain this new milestone.
You all deserve to be recognized and celebrated for your former, current and future contributions to society. Congratulations!