There was quite a sustained period at the start of April when I was flooded with cute, cheery, slightly heart-melting pictures of former students graduating from Senior High (the first batch!). In scattered efforts, I tried not to self-critically renounce the cheeriness while also not withholding critical caveats.

On the one hand, Edel is lingering in my head—and I wanted to picture him neither as smug nor self-righteous, just someone with staid—“sagacious” would be too much—statements. Here he is, teeming with and piquing in his implications in the poem “Propesor/I”: students were “musmos-bingi? pipi? bulag?” They will be offered with Marx, Mao, Boni and Bulosan upang “di naman mabalisa sa lohika ng susuunging pabrika’t multinasyunal na…tutuyot sa kanilang mga laman, isa o dalawang taon mula ngayon.” Too much for the graduation vibe?

Still from Blue is the Warmest Color

Elsewhere, online friends are pointing out the questionable makeups of other school yearend events such as recognition ceremonies. How such handing out of awards reinforces competitiveness; how the decorated students will just soon be fodder for companies seeking hardworking, underpaid laborers (to put it more soothingly, “professionals”); how education has been divorced from learning and became obsessed with quantitative outputs, score cards and medallic achievements.

But as with any proposition, a qualification is welcome, not just to make clarifications but to possibly expand the conversation. To the above points, I mostly agree but I want to test myself in articulating them more effectively perhaps—in a way that looks less antagonizing and more constructive. I guess this reticent resort to conscientiousness is coming from my personal involvement—however fractional—with the students whose graduation smiles flooded my online hovel. These were the first batch of the DepEd’s debatable K to 12 Program—so depending on what glasses you’re wearing, you can look at them as guinea pigs or again, more soothingly, the “pioneer batch.” More personally, these were the batch of students that was literally with me as I also risked a “pioneering” stay or a guinea pig experiment to work in Manila two years ago. More vitally, such geographical experiment coincides with my first stint in teaching in the formal classroom, something that turned out not just not bad but actually a bit self-affirming.

So inevitably—since I check Facebook from time to time—these graduation photos say Hi to me. As I see them, I bear Edel in mind on the one hand and on the other, I’d like to think that these former students are all smiles because learning has been fun and now they have finished one level and will move on to another. And I’d like to extend my fancies and think that they will start wondering, why does education (learning?) need to be arranged ladder-like, with those left behind (dropped-out, retained for various reasons such as academic ‘incompetence,’ inability to pay tuition fees) sometimes feeling leaden and are literally left out. All these scurrying for books, posting for pictures and assessing the shape of laboratory flasks and gauging the humus content of soil, what is the magical point behind all of them?

Sometimes I let my guardedly critical self be sprinkled with some faith, and then work from there. I put faith on students/graduates not just eyeing a university education or a prized paycheck in an employment somewhere but also wondering, wandering at the gates, the graduation halls: after this, what now? How have I changed? Did the world become a bitter place? Was that a tree singing to me, walking inside my ears, inserting some music whose meaning I will figure out?