Seven years. It took me seven years to earn a college degree. That’s a full Hogwarts education right there. That’s as long as Carson’s college life and unrequited love for Dio in I’m Drunk, I Love You.
Still. It has been seven years of grace for me. True, it took me a long time compared to my classmates in high school—but, more than anything, these past seven years have been formative. I have learned to look at the bigger picture: that there is a world out there lacking sorely in justice and compassion, but this world is where my true calling lies. To help, to serve.
In 2010, I started out in UP Manila as a Dentistry student. Young blood, eager, nearly tireless. I itched to prove that I was something. My first two years in UP were wonderful—learning so much from dedicated and passionate professors, going through tough exams (notable are College Algebra and Organic Chemistry, both of which I was scared I’d fail), sharing various experiences with my blockmates.
(Then it all changed when the fire nation attacked.) During those first two years, I vacillated between fear and want: I was considering shifting to BA Creative Writing in UP Diliman. In the end, I decided against it because I was scared I wouldn’t do well as a writer. I frequently doubted myself, it was almost a pathology.
Things did change when I entered Dentistry proper. Prior to that, I remember people in the higher years really, sincerely asking us if we were sure we wanted to continue. I didn’t really understand why until I was finally in the thick of things. I’ve written so much about Dentistry already, so I won’t go into detail here about how I ended up leaving the course.
So I left, world-weary, questioning my capabilities. I missed my friends—the hardest part was having to leave them. Once again, I had to extricate myself from a place I’ve grown rooted to. Despite having transferred so many times in my life, I still ached in the tenderest places. It felt like part of my destiny was having to pack up and leave every time I’ve finally settled somewhere, finally started to call some place home.
A lot of people grow incredulous when I tell them I left UP. They all think of what a waste it was to do so. And at first, that was how I thought of it.
I transferred to UE Manila and became a Biology student. Among the natural sciences, I’ve always had a soft spot for Biology. I had great professors in all my Biology subjects in UP, so it was interesting to me. However, during that time, I had already decided to pursue Medicine. Truth be told, I couldn’t see myself in any setting other than a medical one. Having grown up with parents who are both doctors, I was already aware of how it went to have a career in the medical field (i.e., so much sacrifice).
Used to being the youngest one, I was suddenly thrown into a group of people two years younger than me. Everyone called me Ate, but it was an easy role to slide into. My new batchmates were warm and welcoming, and they valued their academics highly. They took me in, and I was home again.
The past three years as a Biology major allowed me to experience the natural world and to grow in my appreciation for it. We studied microorganisms, plants, animals. We tried the aged microtome in preparing ribbons for slides (the department really needs a new one, so if you’re reading this, UE, please invest in the Department of Biological Sciences!). We climbed a mountain for our Ecology field work. We went to the beach to collect algae and seagrasses, and then I scraped myself against a rock while riding the waves near the break water in Bolinao with my friends. We were ridiculously scared of the sea urchins there, we had to have fearless scouts (Fhil, Carl, Rizza) who’d alert us so we wouldn’t step on one. Then we had our theses, a different challenge altogether. We grew more mature and responsible. But we also played a lot of games in the process, courtesy of the game master, Sean. Nothing was as fulfilling as wrapping up the final defense and celebrating with so much food and great company afterwards. I also gained a new family in the form of my groupmates, Fhil, Sean, and Hazell, and our thesis adviser, Sir Steve Obanan.
I write this with brimming gratitude in my heart. For my friends in Dentistry, Block 15, and Batch 2016, my former batchmates. For all the professors who taught me both in UP and UE (especially Sir Steve, Sir John, Sir Axel, and Ma’am Arizo). For my batchmates in Biology, Batch 2017. Special mention to Nozomi, Grace, Leyann, and the Chipettes: Micha, Faith, and Charene. And of course, for Blackylu, my favorite bunch of kids, who took me in: Shyla, Rizza, Ruth, Britanny, Hazell, Christine, Lore, Des, Carl, Fhil, Sean, Kenneth, Dominic, and Reniel. Also, for my life constants: Kea and Lyndon, Jose and Jonna—you all make beer taste sweeter with your company.
And to Roi, my love and light. We both started in UP and ended up in UE. You were there with me in every weather: my storms of self-doubt and self-loathing, cloudy days of hopelessness, rainy days filled with inexplicable sadness, and sunlight—bright and happy and grateful to be alive. Thank you for keeping me in check, and for holding me at the seams, and for loving me whole, soul to soul.
Best of all, to my family, especially Mommy and Daddy, who stood with me, believed in me, guided me, and supported me through it all. To Mama, who raised me. To Papa, who told me to leave because he knew I needed to. He may no longer be here with us, but this degree is also for him.
What is it they say?
On to the next great adventure, then. Serve the people.
Sjerlive Clare C. Dioneda
Bachelor of Science Major in Biology
University of the East – Manila