Other half of rule number 1

“Give time and appreciation to those who value you more than anyone else. I failed to keep one person in my life and realized that she’s more important than any award and recognition I’ve received.”

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I HAD set 2 rules for myself to survive the onslaught of college: rule number 1 – finish your bachelor’s degree in 4 years; do not hold any position in any student organization; rule number 2 – go back to rule number 1. That was the master plan. But, just like other stories on TV and books, mine have twists too.

Eight years ago, the senior students in my course spearheaded the founding of a new student organization in the campus named BSEE Guild (or BSEEG, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Guild). Its mission was to promote academic excellence and camaraderie among electrical engineering and electrical technology students in the campus. It was said that a question popped up from nowhere and they asked, “ECE has IECEP, why can’t we have our own?” With the strength of more than 200 members, the organization was founded. Naturally, our seniors, the experienced ones, held the top posts in the organization. There were more than 10 Accredited Student Organizations (ACSO) at the time in the campus, academic and non-academic, and BSEE Guild was one of them.

After a year, the officers were able to organize activities that helped furnish the loop holes and the challenges of taking care of the newbie in the campus. It was the start of the first semester for academic year 2008-2009. I was a sophomore. It was announced that the election for the next set of officers will be held a week after.

The election came. The outgoing BSEE Guild president started with, “The nomination for president is open, any nomination?” I was holding my notebook at the time in preparation for the exam the next day. I really didn’t care about the meeting. I just wanted to attend as told by our class president. And then, for some reason, while I am reviewing Newton’s Laws of Motion, falling in love once again in the concept of gravity, and smiling all by myself for the realization that my answer to the question, “What is Matter?” is wrong all along as explained earlier that day by Dr. A (our professor in Physics and Chemistry), my classmate who was sitting beside me on the floor) suddenly looked at me and said, “Ben, na-nominate ka!” (Ben, you were nominated!). I was irritated at first and asked, “Ano ba? ‘Wag mo kong guluhin! (What? Don’t distract me!). I came back to reality. Everyone was looking at me. I looked at the white board and saw my name next to the words – Nominees for President. I observed that no one’s listed other than me. I heard the crowd saying, “Unanimous na yan, siya na president natin! (It’s unanimous, he’s the new president!). I can’t believe it at first. I lifted my black bag and stood in front of them. I told them my rule number 1 – I do not want to hold any position in any organization in my stay in the campus. But still, they insisted. I saw them smiling back at me. The mood was positive. They told me that I can do it. They shouted my name as if I won a boxing match. They learned that I was an officer in high school and represented the university in an inter-campus speech competition; they thought I was the right fit. Finally, I accepted it. That afternoon, I received the congratulatory remarks of everyone. Just like what might happen to any rule, half of rule number 1 was thrown out of the window.

Things changed in a blink of an eye. My day no longer ended in my affair with Calculus but by saying goodbyes to other student leaders in the campus after attending a meeting. Sometimes, they would call me Mr. BSEEG instead of my first name. My bag no longer contained just notebooks, pens and books, inside, it also had a clear book where almost all of the important documents of the organization were kept. While my classmates were solving word problems in Strength of Materials at home, I was still in the campus, preparing a document to be submitted to the Office of Student Affairs as a permit the next day. Or while one of them is inside his room, thinking about the type of flower to give and the lines to utter when he finally ask one of my classmates for a date, I was there, staring at the heavens and chatting with the guard, waiting to talk to a professor from other university in the metro with a master’s or doctorate degree in social sciences or engineering, convincing him or her to be the next speaker for a seminar or training – for free. Most of them declined after hearing the last 2 words of the invitation. Suddenly, my opinions mattered. I found myself attending symposiums with the officials in the main campus in Manila and other universities. I also gained more friends.

Like the colors in a rainbow, there were days when l felt blue. There were days when I was frustrated and angry as yellow because things didn’t go my way. Most days, like red, I was oozing with confidence and passion that our projects would be realized.

One day, the other half of rule number 1 was in danger. My grades were not impressive. I can no longer give time to the people close to me. There were pressures all over. It was as if I was in a tank full of water and there was no way I can breathe. I wanted to resign.

I searched for advice from different people. But inspiration came from inside. I told myself that if I give up now, I will give up the future. And almost everything went well.

After a year, we successfully organized more than 20 major and minor activities, had more than 20 organizational meetings and were awarded the “2nd Most Active ACSO” in the campus. I attended more than 20 internal meetings (meaning inside the campus) mostly sponsored by the Supreme Student Council and more than 10 activities organized by local and national organizations like the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines – Alumini Community (TOSP-AC) and the Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers – Council of Student Chapters (IIEE-CSC). I have met some personalities like the president of the university system, student leaders from other campuses and Sonia Malasarte-Roco, the wife of former Senator Raul Roco.

Looking into everything, I realized 3 important things. First, you are just a passerby. You will leave your position someday, be it chairmanship, or presidency or any other posts. You will soon graduate and a lot of people might forget about you. Make the most out of it, live in the moment and leave a positive mark. This is also true with your job. Second, relationships matter. You may be the president or an officer of an organization, but keep your eyes wide open to the micro level. Give time and appreciation to those who value you more than anyone else. I failed to keep one person in my life and realized that she’s more important than any award and recognition I’ve received. Lastly, not everything that you learned is right. Just like what your mind dictated you as the answer to the question by Dr. A., “Matter is anything that has mass and weight.”

Yes, I have violated half of rule number 1 but I have never imagined how good life would get.

No regrets.

Author: Benre J. Zenarosa

Lasallian Scholarum Award-winning essayist

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