a Time to Celebrate, a Time to Reflect…

For many, the end of the school year is the beginning of the next phase of their life. In Hawai‘i, graduation ceremonies are marked with the tradition of lei giving, graduation parties, and congratulations from friends and family. It is a season of hope, fulfillment, and yes, for some, uneasiness and anticipation.

I fondly recall getting ready for my high school graduation in the Philippines as one of the most fun days of my life. My high school classmates and I had fond memories of the good times together and we were getting ready to embark on a new journey that would separate us from each other. The bonds of friendship would remain yet we would each start a new chapter of our lives.
My best memory of graduation was when my mother took me to a tailor to get me a Barong, a pairing pants and nice black leather shoes to wear during my high school graduation ceremonies. My family was very poor so this was my first formal wear and it being a barong made it even more special. (I treasured my Barong for a long time until I was able to pass it on to my son.)
On graduation day, as we marched to the stage, it was the proudest day of my life as I accomplished something my parents did not. Our high school graduation group photo is very memorable as I have kept it up to now—looking at it at times and reminiscing the past of my childhood youthful memories.

It is with this spirit of accomplishment and pride that The Fil-Am Voice features the theme of Graduation in this issue, in particular, high school valedictorians of Filipino ancestry. On Maui, there are at least thirty-four valedictorians of Filipino ancestry. Wow! That’s something that we, as a Filipino community, should be proud of—and we congratulate them as they begin their post-high school education. We look forward to reading about their college success and their college graduations.

For me, graduation from college was the ultimate fulfillment of my dream and the beginning of Life’s reality called work. In 1970, I graduated from the University of Hawai‘i-Hawai‘i Community College Hilo campus, majoring in hotel and restaurant management—a two year course. Graduating from college was the proudest day of my life. I accomplished what I set to do in a new country and I fulfilled my parents’ wishes for me to finish college and earn a degree.

My parents always told me that they didn’t have a lot of material things to give me but they were willing to work hard at two jobs each so they could send me to school to get a degree. On graduation day my parents said to me, “Son, congratulations, you have realized our dream. We are so proud of you. You are now on your own. Make the best of what you learned, work hard and save money.”

It is hard to describe my parents’ reaction but the best words are joyful and reborn. Reborn in a sense that I can finally walk on my own without them holding me up.
As a community, we need to continue to uplift all members… and graduation season is the best time to remember that we are all blessed with the opportunity that education provides each of us to excel, achieve, and grow together as a community.

The Fil-Am Voice extends its congratulations to all graduates and their parents and families for their hard work and sacrifice.