We’ve come back to the normal we used to know. If graduates in 2020 and 2021 experienced the end of their college years in a virtual mode with their pictures “queued up” to be flashed to the beat of the graduation march and graduates in 2023 still wore masks despite the face-to-face Commencement, this year’s celebration is different. 

Now, the normal scene of Commencement is back to normal. The 4,227 recipients of degrees and certificates treaded the University grounds (one last time for the degree recipients) – towards the greater challenges of the real world, with eddies of leaves among tree trunks and green ones fluttering through the breeze.

In its 58th Commencement, the University awarded a total of 4,227 degrees and certificates.

Undergraduate degrees granted total to 2,984, while certificates are 1,015. Graduate degrees from the different Colleges total to  212. Of this number, there were 19 individuals conferred with doctorate degrees.

All figures include degrees awarded in Midyear Term 2022 and First and Second Terms, AY 2022-2023.

Indeed, Commencement 2023 on July 3 has been a feast for the eyes, the ears, the palate, but mostly the heart. There were prayers offered and advice given. Long years of toil are complete and lingering fears of failure are vanquished. And parents’ once hopeful pride is now openly worn.

It is indeed both graduation, the closing of a chapter and the relinquishing of a heart’s once fondest dream, and commencement, the beginning of what comes next for the graduates. No longer virtually, the day was about last laughs and wistful goodbyes of family, friends, and pride in studies finally done.

Holding fast to sincerity and honesty

As they prepare to get out of UNP’s wombs toward the cold world, graduates were advised to hold fast to sincerity and honesty, for these values, even in error and defeat. 

Very Rev. Fr. Nick Vaquilar, Rector of the Immaculate Conception School of Theology (ICST), celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass and advised the graduates that these two are not only Christian values but also fundamental human values.

From the Gospel on Thomas’s lack of faith to Jesus, Fr. Vaquilar also encouraged the graduates to strengthen their faith as they embark on their next journeys.

“As you will continue to face different challenges and even adversities in life, you must continue to trust and have faith in God because it is this faith that will let God’s power to work in you, that will produce good works in your lives, and that will sustain you in your earthly pilgrimage,” Fr. Vaquilar emphasized.

He also reminded the graduates that they deepen their faith in Him, for they “cannot do anything without God.”

In the same manner, Fr. Vaquilar, on behalf of Archbishop Marlo Peralta, the clergy of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, and the formation team of ICST, also congratulated the graduates.

“Along the way, there were people who encouraged, inspired, or challenged you to aim higher. Share your joy and success with them,” he reminded the graduates. 

The graduates’ diplomas and medals, Fr. Vaquilar emphasized, are “minted with the love of your parents made visible through sacrifice.”

He also congratulated the members of the University Administration for everything they do for students’ welfare and future.

Genesis Forneas (BA Comm, magna cum laude) leads the pledge of loyalty. Hon. Ryan Luis Singson, Ilocos Sur Vice Governor and Alumni Regent, inducts the graduates to the UNP Federated Alumni Association.

“Forever loyal daughter she will be”

Ms. Rhea Anicoche-Tan, Guest of Honor and Speaker, inspires the graduates through her success story.

“We hail to thee, dear UNP. We hail thee Alma Mater free. Though we may roam o’er land and sea, forever loyal son we’ll be,” Ms. Rhea Anicoche-Tan, Guest of Honor and Speaker, began her speech with the final lines of the UNP Hymn.

An alumna of the UNP Laboratory Schools and daughter of retired CTE professor Pacita Anicoche, she is now the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Beautéderm Group of Companies, primarily known for its high-end cosmetic products marketed by the biggest stars of today.

“Everyone has a story to share, and here is mine,” she begins, highlighting that, as is often the case, stories inspire and propel other individuals to take action and transform their lives.

She shared her several secrets to success. The first one is honoring her roots. “Even if you’re already old and have college degrees, listen to your parents,” she said.

Always grateful to her parents, she recalled how her mother sold embutido, insurance policy, jewelry, and lunchboxes to augment her income and send her children to school. 

“That promise that I will build her a mansion one rainy day when I was young came true 30 years after,” Tan pointed out.

She also advised the graduates to “dream big, have faith, and trust you can, while staying grounded and remaining grateful.”

According to her, also important is giving back: first and foremost to one’s family and to others. In fact, she provides scholarship grants to her employees’ children, up to three. And in the University, she has selected and supports her Beautéderm Scholars. The first batch looks forward to graduate in the next academic year. She also maintains a foundation for the needy, which is the Beautéderm Corporation Foundation. “The ambition became a mission,” she stressed.

She also encouraged the graduates to pray always, “pray unceasingly and ask the guidance of the Lord.”

“The University of Northern Philippines contributed a lot to my success. It gave me a great and strong foundation. UNP molded me well and brought me to where I am today. So thank you, my beloved UNP and my mentors in the Laboratory Schools,” she added.

Similarly, she encouraged the graduates to listen to their inner gut, pray, and not forget to be kind.

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