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Honoring my Mother | Graduating in the new normal

For all the 2020 members of the graduating class in both high school and college worldwide, their culminating ceremonies in their various countries for this school year will undoubtedly go down in history as the most unique of all.

In the United States, a virtual graduation ceremony for all via live stream was held, and it featured a wide variety of commencement speakers, from former US president Barrack Obama, Michelle Obama, Beyonce, to BTS, a korean pop group. The television special, called YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020, aired simultaneously on all the country’s major (and competing) networks, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and was likewise streamed on social media giants like Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, plus other online platforms.

There were likewise reported virtual thesis defense and graduation ceremonies in other parts of Europe, particularly in the Netherlands. In Wageningen for example, where some of my friends study, the transitional processes leading up to a doctorate degree seem to be so seeped in so much tradition that it had been most unlikely that a virtual counterpart was ever imaginable. Always time for a first one though, proving once and for all that adaptation to change, particularly in these pandemic times is the way to go.

The most appealing of all happened on home soil. The first virtual graduation happened in Taguig. The high school’s award-winning computer department had made four remote controlled robots, adorned them in togas, and then had them march onstage, with portraits of the graduates on their face masks to receive their diplomas. All these, while the graduates along with their families watched in the safety of their homes. In another town up north in Isabela, a commencement exercise that did not feature big names like Beyonce or BTS, was done by a local high school. Its teachers thought that, if the graduates could not go to school for graduation because of the lockdown, let the school come to them right in their own front lawn, or backyard. As such, that high school in Isabela lavishly decorated an open truck to simulate a graduation stage and proceeded to the residences of each graduate, had them march up the truck slash stage to get their diploma, with the whole neighborhood as audience.

Lastly, in the prestigious Philippine Military Academy, a scaled-down graduation program was likewise held with strict social distancing guidelines in effect. With only cadets and officials in attendance, even the president and commander-in-chief had to deliver his commencement address via Zoom. Likewise, there were no outsiders permitted to attend, and this included family members and parents of the graduating class.

As I remember, it had only been a year ago when our son graduated from university. Who could imagine that a pandemic virus such as C19, and the resultant social distancing measures, like the lockdown would all but change everything a year hence? All this may all have been just a dream back then.

Now, to merely think of the crush of people, parents and graduates, as we patiently waited for our turns to march inside the huge expanse of the atrium, also filled with people, seems bizarre by today’s new standards. I am instantly reminded of a song my late mother used to love. What a difference a day makes. But life goes on.

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