Believe it or not, Giland almost gave up on her dream of graduating summa cum laude. But the power of friendship came to her rescue. Yes, really.
Graduating college is a definitive highlight for most students. After spending years grinding it out in school, they have finally made it to the end. To be able to wear the actual toga and cap and be in the moment clasping the diploma can be a lot to take in. But when you’re chosen to give the commencement speech in front of the entire batch, it becomes a whole different game. That’s the situation 22-year-old Giland Lim found herself in. The Broadcast Communication graduate already had a lot to look forward to considering how she finished with a grade of 1.107, and was one of the 150 students from UP Diliman graduating summa cum laude. And not only that, she was also chosen as her college’s valedictorian.
But all that paled in comparison to when the university informed Giland that she was chosen to give the commencement speech to her batch, which was the first time UPD returned to in-person graduations since 2020. It was definitely a moment for a student who initially was ready to give up her academic dreams early on in her college life.
COMING INTO UP DILIMAN
While the stereotypical way of describing someone who graduates near top of their class is that they’re anti-social, keeping to their studies, or aren’t social in any way, that doesn’t apply to Giland. “I think I’m very outgoing. I’m very goal oriented. I’m a go-getter, basically. I really like to try new things, and I’m adventurous,” Giland tells NYLON Manila in an interview. True enough, her years in UP Diliman saw her do more than just focus on her studies. She was, among other things, a member of the UP Streetdance Club, UP JMA, the former president of the UP Broadcasters’ Guild, a student jock on RX93.1’s Radio1, and a former vice-chairperson of UP Diliman’s Freshie Council. “I just like to try new things, explore new opportunities when something comes my way.”
As for why she decided to choose UP Diliman, it bore from where she came from. She completed Senior High School in Ateneo de Manila University and the experience inspired her to try new things. “I think it really ties in to that adventurous side of me. I wanted to try out what it was like in UP Diliman. I really felt that UP would be the place where I could grow not just as a student, but also as a person, because you really learn more than just lessons inside of the classroom. Like it’s really inevitable for you to be exposed to social issues and different views.”
Not to say that her time in Ateneo was bad, in fact she initially was 50/50 on whether she wanted to go. But to her, she felt that the growth offered in UP Diliman was something she wanted. “We should be more aware of not just what happens in our house or in our school, but also in our country on a greater level.”
Her course of Broadcast Communication, meanwhile, stemmed for her love of the media, like TV and radio. “I thought that it was a really interesting course to take because well, our lives are very mediated and mediatized. Right now media is pretty much everywhere in our lives. So for me, it’s really an important field of study to venture into because I think understanding media on a deeper level would also help me in my daily life better.”
And on another level, she has her eyes set on taking up law in the future, particularly media law and saw broad comm as her first step. “I also want to focus on media and communication law in the future. I think it also aligns with my passions as well. I just thought that well, since UP law is gonna be a tough four years, might as well just have fun, pick something I would enjoy for my undergrad.”
REALITY KICKS IN
It is often said that students from UP Diliman are smart and can handle all the academic challenges given to them. But speak to any student from the university, they will tell you that being a student in UP is not easy. It has kicked the butts of many students over the years. And that too applied for Giland. While she initially had aspirations of graduating summa cum laude when she began college, the UP reality soon set in. “When I actually got in, and then I took the classes, I got my grades on my exams and I was like, this might be harder, much, much harder than I thought and somewhere along the way, I kind of gave up. And I really thought you know what, let’s not aim for summa, magna would be fine with me. Let’s just try my best to survive.”
It was a daunting experience for Giland, to say the least. “A lot of people are much smarter than you. The classes are hard. Sometimes the profs’ standards are hard to understand and all that, and the requirements are just hard to meet the deadlines of. At some point in time, I really gave up on that dream.”
So, how then did Giland manage to go over this slump? As cliché as it may sound, it was with the help of her friends. “UP is something that you can’t do alone. You really need the help of other people and this could be whether it would be in the form of emotional support, people just believing that you can do it, or it could also be tangible concrete support like them giving you tips, reviewers and all that on how to better review for this class.” Throughout her time in UP Diliman, she relied on a close knit group of friends and family who helped, sympathized, and struggled alongside her many struggles.
“I felt like getting high honors impossible when I was in my first year, but then when I made more connections with people I really got to know, people who pushed me forward in the sense that they inspired me to work harder, because I saw them working really hard as well. And in the sense that they really showed me that they believed in me and supported me. So, along the way that dream of mine was reignited, then I thought maybe it is possible.”
That support system was essential for Giland to thrive and eventually ace many of her classes. And speaking of classes, when asked what her favorites were in UPD, she cites two. The first, understandably, is media law. “For me, it was really interesting, it was really important, that class. I really learned a lot of things. Because our professor showed us cases that you would not believe were actual things in the sense that you wouldn’t think that those kinds of conflicts would happen with our current technology and with our current laws and by rules.” The second was media and human rights, which hit her on a deeper level. “It was just really interesting to see how intertwined those two things-media and human rights-how media can help forwards human rights, but also how the media can curtail human rights.”
MORE THAN “LABAN LANG”
Fast forward to 2022 and it’s graduation season for batch 2022. Giland was already looking forward to celebrating given how she achieved her once dropped dream of graduting summa cum laude. But the accolades wouldn’t stop there. First, she was informed that she will be the college of Mass Communication’s 2022 valedictorian via email, a moment she said she was shocked by. Next, she was told that she would give the commencement speech for the college of Mass Communication.
But the real kicker came when UPD informed her that she was giving the commencement speech for the entire batch. “I think that was even more of a fever dream than graduating summa cum laude,” Giland frankly shares. “It’s something that I think I would never come again. And, of course, it came with the pressure, because I was speaking on behalf of not just myself, but basically 3000 plus graduates, some of whom are even masters, definitely more experienced and knowledgeable than me.”
But after she shook off the nerves, Giland knew she had to deliver. Not only was she giving a speech infront of thousands of people, but she was doing so to fresh grads like her in the uncertain times we live in now. “I just need to send out a message that I felt was relevant to the times and I felt passionate about, but also something that I felt was also reflective of their thoughts and their experiences, especially that we all went through this pandemic. So there was a lot to consider.” UP gave her the theme of Dasig with free reign to say what she wanted. With the help of her friends, she set about writing the speech and immediately knew that her address couldn’t just be about persevering. It had to be more than that.
What came about was her speech entitled “Labang Isko: Higit sa Hindi Pagsuko,” an inspiring body of work that looked beyond just the simple “laban lang.” As she said during her commencement address, “Laban lang sabi ng kapwa nating Pilipino, but for laban lang to take effect, our intentions must be accompanied by concrete action. And these actions must be directed towards targeting the root cause of the inequities we face.” She admits that she was nervous when giving the speech. But looking back, she feels proud of what she accomplished.
“I had one shot to deliver this 10 minute speech to 3000 people and counting, including the people in the live stream. And it was a bit nerve wracking, to be honest, my legs were shaking. But I think after I got past the initial greetings and gave the actual message of the speech, it really was more natural to me. And I think I really felt the emotions that I felt while writing that speech. And I’m glad that I was able to bring out those emotions. I’m really glad that I was able to write something that was meaningful for me, and that a lot of people have told me it was also meaningful for them. It’s just really touching to know that those 10 minutes were able to resonate with them.”
THE POWER OF THE SUPPORT SYSTEM
These days, Giland is currently getting ready for law school as she’s set to begin her law degree at UP Law this September. And looking back in her time as an undergraduate, she’s thankful that UP taught her carrying on is not enough. “In order to carry on and fight on, you must really do it not just for other people, but with other people. And I’m very grateful for that. Because I think it’s something that I always struggled with as well because I thought that independence was a sign of strength, that being able to do this alone is your mark of being a competent, capable person. But there’s no shame in asking for help. And when it really comes to tackling the bigger problems in life, the bigger issues, you do really need to turn to other people and work with them.”
She adds, “I’m just really grateful for everything. More than the actual achievement, I am more grateful for the support that I’ve received from people. And it’s just really nice to see everyone who was a part of my college journey congratulating me for those efforts, because all of those would not be possible if it weren’t for those people. So, I’m happy that they’re also happy about it.”
Aside from getting that law degree though, Giland also hopes to purse her other media passions, even on the side. “I don’t want to stop working in the media industry. So want to explore what opportunities lie for me in the media industry, if it’s possible to do it alongside studying for law and preparing to be a lawyer. I would also like to try out broadcast journalism or maybe I could continue my stint as radio DJ. It’s still something that I have yet to fit into my plan though.”
Finally, as a new batch of college freshmen begin their college journey, Giland shares the importance of believing in your power. “I think they should know that what they have to say has impact that can really cause change. So, I think that they should just really do believe in themselves, and also show other people that they believe in them. Because it’s important to always feel that support. And when you don’t feel it from yourself, when you don’t believe in yourself anymore, you really need to rely on other people to really raise your spirits and give you that confidence that you need. Never be afraid to speak truth to power. Never be afraid to take that next move. Don’t be afraid to take action because you never know: what you might do today may really cause a big change for our tomorrow.”