GenZer’s insights: ‘Sailing off without a map is marvelous’


Sonny Coloma

“Sailing off without a map is marvelous.”

Thus began the message of gratitude delivered by Laurice Frenzel DC. Belgica, valedictorian, of the Centro Escolar Integrated School (CEIS) in Malolos City, Bulacan at the school’s commencement exercises the other day. I was invited to be the speaker for both the moving-up ceremony for elementary (Grade 6) and junior high school (Grade 10), and the graduation of senior high school  (Grade 12) students.

She creatively imagined her senior high school experience as being similar to that of the main character in a Korean drama series:

“In the starting episodes, you encounter an unanticipated plot twist that changes how you study, bond with others, or mainly how you live your life so far. In the subsequent episodes, you are adjusting and trying various ways to adapt to these changes rapidly. Then the latest episode showed that you coped with the unexpected twist. Now you are wondering how the latest episodes unfold?”

Then she shared how it was like when she was about to enter senior high school: “Summer of 2020, I was elated with the sudden class suspensions as if I had escaped a prison full of academic responsibilities. Back then, I never thought and cared much about Senior High School. I did not even plan where I would transfer or will I even transfer schools. I still remember enrolling in this institution only a day before our classes started and because my friends encouraged me to do so. Who would have thought I would begin my senior high school journey in this institution only out of impulse? Nonetheless, it was one of my impulsive decisions that I never regretted.”

Recall that in March 2020, the government placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last few weeks of classes were cancelled and by the time the new school year began, Luzon and other parts of the country were still under lockdown. As it turned out, the Philippines would be one of the last countries to reopen schools. Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive, all K-to-12 classes in all schools were shuttered. Partial, experimental reopening was allowed in late 2021.  Former Education Secretary Armin Luistro urged the government in March 2021 to recognize that the country was experiencing a “learning crisis” that was exacerbated by the protracted lockdown.

Those who completed Grade 10 this year belong to the first cohort of students that enrolled in grade one after Congress passed the landmark legislation on “K to 12.”

In mid-2013, President Benigno S. Aquino IIII signed into law Republic Act 10533, the Enhanced Basic Education Act that placed the Philippines in the mainstream of global education design. For decades, the country was one of the last few nations that did not require its youth to go through 12 years of elementary and high school education. The new law added two more years of high school during which students could choose from three strands: Accountancy, Business and Management (ABM); Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS); and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Ms. Belgica gives a vivid account of how she and her school mates fared during two years of senior high school that were spent totally away from the campus and the classroom:

“The ongoing online learning setup is not easy for everyone. Ang online classes” ay hindi “only classes lang.” It was not easy to shift from the four corners of a classroom into a few-inch computer screen to communicate virtually with the school’s administration and non-teaching staff; to complete the learning tasks, to actively attend classes virtually, to fight the psychological consequences of the pandemic, to bear with all the distractions inside or outside our homes and to survive the challenges posed during the two academic school years. However, CEIS, our beloved institution, made it a lot easier for us. They helped us do our best by developing a blocking system, lessening the academic workload, utilizing an efficient video conferencing platform, and conducting more asynchronous classes than synchronous classes which made our senior high school journey bearable.”

She ended her speech the way she began: “How will the remaining episodes unfold? Who knows? After today, the pen is in your hands. We have the power to craft the next episodes of our lives; you can sail without a map as you embark on your next journey. Sailing without a map led me here. Indeed it is marvelous to be where I am right now and to see each one of us wearing togas and commemorating the fruits of our labor. I guess (that) sometimes, impulsive decisions that we thought were the wrong path(s) can lead us to better destinations.”

She concluded: “In reality, we are not always the main characters that people want to watch or sometimes the second leads…Still let’s strive to make ourselves better. Let’s work hard, and let’s keep fighting for our dreams. We will be surprised one day that our time has come and we are the ones in the spotlight. I will be waiting for the last episodes of your K-drama series. May it be a happy, sad, or open ending.”