My gold medal  

Posted by Laya in ,

I got it back only yesterday. It had been sitting in the pawnshop for the four years I have been in Manila, but I finally got it back. My graduation medal.

It is the season for graduation once again, and while we watch those whose turn it is to march this year, we remember the times when we ourselves made that walk and that bow.

This is my own graduation story.

I graduated high school in 1995. Four wonderful, adventurous years when we felt that all the world was ours and there was no limit save the preparations we made. And we rose to the challenge. Even now, in that small high school in the heart of Christian Mindanao, they remember the batch that graduated in 1995 as one of their best.

We took on everything. After the first-day fuss of June had died down, July brought the Nutrition and Health Month with its attendant competitions. August was Language Month, with its cultural and literary competitions. After those, the events came fast and furious. Future Homemakers of the Philippines. Science Fair. Intramurals, Municipal Meet, Zone Meet, Provincial Meet. Sayawit Cultural Competitions. Division and Regional, even National Schools Press Conferences. Every other week, it seemed, there was an event. Every other week was spent in preparation. The furor slowed in December, with the Christmas vacation, to resume in February for the school Foundation Anniversary Week, and CAT (Citizens Army Training) officers’ boot camp. By then, everybody was winding down towards graduation, and two lazy summer months, storing up energy for June again.

And we won. Not all the contests, of course, but we rarely if ever went home empty-handed. There was always a trophy to be added to the shelf in the principal’s office, a medal to be added to those hanging on the wall at home, a sash to be draped inside the cabinet. Those who know me now would never believe it, but I also took a turn in walking the ramp. It was a rite of passage for girls in the top half of the honor roll – walk the ramp in your junior or senior year at least once. I brought home a Third Runner-up trophy and sash, as well as a Darling of the Crowd award, from my stint in the provincial Bb. Agham (Miss Science) contest.

That was why, when it came our time to graduate, our class adviser decided to do something different. He decided to give his top five students gold medals for their graduation awards… not the customary “gold” medals given out all over the country, but real gold. And he didn’t tell us. All he said, when he gave the usual pre-graduation instructions on solicitation of medals, was that even if we asked our family and friends to donate medals for academic and co-curricular awards, we should not worry about the actual honor medals themselves because he would take care of that. And he did. He raised enough money to buy gold—local Mindanao gold, to be sure, but gold just the same—and commission a local jeweler to make the medals and their chains. They were tiny, of course, thumbnail size, but engraved with the torch and olive motif on ordinary medals. The rank determined the karat and the length of the chain. On Graduation Day, all gasped when, upon the imposition of the medals for valedictorian, salutatorian, and the three honorable mentions, our parents placed the necklaces around our necks.

It was the most valuable thing I ever owned. I used to wear it around my neck all of the time, inside my clothes, but later on I became afraid of losing it or having it stolen, so I put it away. When I came to Manila and decided to stay and find a job, I had to pawn it to pay the rent for a time until I was earning money. It took me four years to get it out of the pawnshop, but I didn’t mind.

That little medal is worth more than its weight in gold to me. It tells me that once upon a time, our teacher believed so much in us that he gave us a stake in our future, for he also told us that he intended our medals to be useful instead of mere decorations. It stands for a lot… a teacher’s pride in his students, a school’s recognition of achievement, my own belief in myself. It reminds me that I better be worthy.

This entry was posted at Monday, April 06, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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