Overcoming, Bearing Pain


[Ninth in a series: Valedictory addresses from the different colleges of the University of Northern Philippines are here featured as excellent graduates reflect on the journey behind them and as they forward to the next.]

Amid a global pandemic, Maria Angela B. Oriente, BS Social Work magna cum laude, persevered through the challenges of her college education to emerge as the valedictorian of the College of Social Work, Class of 2024. “The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it,” she recalls in her valedictory speech. “Ti laeng pamay-an tapno maparmek ti saksakiten ket iti umuna a panangsursuro no kasano nga ibturan daytoy,” she expounds.

Oriente’s journey was far from easy. The COVID-19 pandemic struck, altering the landscape of learning and personal relationships. She recounted the difficulties faced by her classmates, particularly those from upland areas who struggled with poor internet connectivity and limited access to essential technology. The adjustments to hybrid learning were equally daunting, as students and their families grappled with the financial constraints.

Yet, Oriente refused to be deterred. She embraced obstacles as opportunities for growth, drawing strength from the experiences that tested her mettle. “Without these accounts of challenging experiences, we cannot grow into the person who we are today,” she reflects. “We cannot achieve the things we have in our lives at present.”

Oriente’s own struggles were not limited to the academic realm. As an active participant in extracurricular activities and a student-government officer, she faced the challenge of balancing her responsibilities and maintaining her academic excellence. “Being in these arenas was my first times; thus, it offered a different kind of pain every time I feel short for not exerting effort that is at par with my performance when I was just a full-time student,” she confessed.

However, Oriente’s resilience shone through. She empathized with her fellow students who shared similar experiences, acknowledging the difficulties of being a working student. “I see you and I feel you,” she assured them, recognizing the sacrifices they had made to pursue their dreams.

Oriente’s inspirational journey reached a pivotal moment during her field practicum deployment in Pampanga. Faced with a hectic schedule and challenges to her mental health, she was on the verge of giving up. But she was reminded of the invaluable opportunity she had been given, an opportunity not afforded to everyone. Persevering through the challenge, Oriente immersed herself in the stories of the children she encountered, gaining a deeper appreciation for the meaningful impact of her chosen profession.

“Buti na lamang at pinanghawakan ko ang salita ng ating mga tagapagsanay at sa walang sawang suporta ng aking mga minamahal sa buhay, dahil, kung hindi, hindi ko sana natunghayan ang iba’t-ibang mga istorya ng mga bata sa RSCC na-abandona at nakaranas ng karahasan at nasilip kung paano naging makabuluhan ang ating propesyon sa buhay nila,” she shared.

Oriente’s speech reminded her fellow graduates that the challenges they faced were not obstacles to be overcome, but opportunities for personal and professional growth. “Remember, it is in our darkest moments that we find our greatest strength,” she urged, inspiring her peers to embrace the difficulties of their journey and emerge stronger.


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