It's the graduation season in Lianga nowadays and, in the case of this town which is host to a public elementary school, two public high schools and the Lianga campus of the Surigao del Sur Polytechnic State College, the excitement can be exceedingly contagious especially if someone in the immediate family or neighborhood is actually graduating from any of the above mentioned educational institutions.
Local folks like most Filipinos, place a high value on education for their children and diplomas, particularly those conferring college degrees, are often viewed as tickets to social advancement and financial success in life for their offspring. Thus graduation ceremonies are important milestones in the yearly calendar of activities for the whole community and occasions for conspicuous celebration for those families with graduates of their own from whatever level in the academic ladder.
In the family house in Lianga in particular, two of my mother's house helpers are getting ready to receive college degrees of their own and all of us there have been feeling more than some of the heat from the graduation fever that has most of the town within its insidious grip.
Ferlyn and Noime are SSPSC students, the former soon to get a much sought after bachelor's degree in elementary education while the latter has just finished four grueling years of a business management course. Both come from impoverished families in the rural countryside with no hope of ever getting a college education in the cities. Lianga has given them a fighting chance to make something of themselves and these year's graduation ceremonies are a specially poignant time for them and their parents.
Of course, the college's year-ender activities this year will take place in a rather inopportune time and under a general atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty in the light of the global financial crises and a stagnating local economy. Jobs for the new graduates will be extremely scarce and even for those who are lucky enough to get some form of employment, times will remain hard and challenging.
Noime who has already gone the rounds of job interviews and has gotten her first taste of being rejected by HR managers knows the situation very well. Ferlyn, on the other hand, knows that the competition for the few vacant teaching slots in the local government elementary school system is fierce and the number of applicants far too many. Both of them know that they are most assuredly in for trying times ahead just like the rest of their batch of new graduates.
Graduates of Lianga's schools also worry about being truly competitive and good enough to try their mettle elsewhere especially in the cities and other parts of the country. They often feel inferior to their big city counterparts who may have access to better teachers, more superior school facilities and have better exposure to the latest developments and trends in their fields of study.
Being considered provincial and rustic, in this case, can be a drawback, and being labeled as such and then be discriminated against in the labor market as a result of such labeling can be an unfair and unjust burden for many of them to carry.
With so much stacked against them, one wonders how graduates like Ferlyn and Noime remain basically optimistic about their future. Is there really any hope for the likes of them.
The truth remains that graduations ceremonies or, more appropriately, commencement exercises, as they are more popularly known nowadays, not only mark the end of an arduous apprenticeship to learning and the assimilation of knowledge, they are also tributes to the Filipino's undying optimism for a better future for themselves and their children. It is really about the "can do" spirit and the stubborn determination do make do with one has and make something better and greater out of it.
And there may be some hope for local graduates as far as the local employment situation is concerned. With the completion of the current road rehabilitation and concreting program in the province which would have a great impact on Lianga itself, more business investments are expected to make their way into town. That together with the relatively strong showing of the local resort and tourism industry could provide many fresh graduates with the opportunities they need.
Thus, Ferlyn and Noime, like the rest of their fellow graduates, are caught in the crossroads of change, on one hand, snared in the negative consequences and turmoil of the current economic unrest while, on the other hand, holding on to the optimism and hope that things will eventually turn out for the better and that things will ultimately work out for all of them.
Came of think of it...... just like all the rest of us.