March 24, 2010. 0930 hours.
This was the day I would either hate the most or love the most. This is a moment so trying, nerve-wracking and spine-tingling that only five people are allowed to witness and be part of it inside a hollow, warm room. Only the fittest and the strongest shall survive and surpass the nostalgic stage.
This was the moment of truth. The declaration of the top 3 honors for the graduating batch of school year 2009-2010.
Okay, maybe I was exaggerating a little, but to tell you the truth, this was how I partly felt. The other part of me was scared and relaxed altogether because I know that things can change by just a small factor of one decimal point. The healthy competition I had with my other two competitors, Deuel and Abby, (who happened to be my two bestest friends in our batch) was a really tight, exciting one. Our scores and averages were so close that 8 or more teachers are required to meet together, calculate and decide who receives which. Although it was quite obvious that Deo (Deuel’s nickname) would be our class valedictorian, double, triple, and quadruple calculations and ‘checkings’ are required to avoid biases, miscalculations and other mishaps. To tell you the truth, it seemed like the competition was just between me and Abby. Not that we did not strive for the first, but our averages compared to Deo’s were as far as the distance a person travels by car from Makati to Ortigas on a Friday night. It’s possible, but it would take a heck a lot of patience, determination, diligence and perspiration. For that reason, I only had my hope on the second place.
So there we were–the three of us–inside our memorable room together with our adviser, Ms. Abarca, and another high school teacher, Mrs. Cayanan. After a word of prayer, Deo, Abby, Mrs. Cayanan and I sat on our unusually cold and plastic armchairs while Ms. Abarca remained standing. She explained how the deliberation process took place yesterday evening and a past session with all our subject teachers. They made sure that all the papers and grades were quadruple checked and calculated. She pointed our attention to the set of grades she wrote on the whiteboard earlier. Our final grades were written, but our names weren’t. This added tension. Ms. Abarca then wrote our names on the board. As expected, Deuel ranked first. The question now is, who’s second and who’s third?
It was an unexpected result. Abby and I tied. Our averages were exactly the same. To the very last decimal point.
If our ranking would be based on our scholastic grades alone, then our batch would have two salutatorians. Thus our school created a system for ranking graduating honor students. The 70% would be our academics, 20% extra-curricular activities and 10% character (since our school is a Christian institution). As for the extra-curricular activities, Abby ranked 1st, Deo 2nd and I third. As for charater, Deo ranked 1st, I ranked 2nd and Abby ranked third.
The question is not who ranked first since it was quite obvious that Deo aced the competition. The question is, who will be called the salutatorian?
Ms. Abarca did a mathematical evaluation with each of the three parts of our grades (academics, extra-curricular, character) to arrive at the weighted rank. The person with the lowest number is the 1st and the person with the highest number is the 3rd. (This is because our final averages were multiplied according to the factor indicated. Our final grades in academics were multiplied by 7 [70%], extra-curricular by 2 and character by 1)
Deo had 12 points. Abby had 19 points. I had 22.
As I saw those numbers, my world nearly crashed down. I thought I would emerge victorious. I thought I would land at a “Heavenly place.” Sa Tagalog, masayado akong nag-akala. Nakalimutan ko na lahat ng akala mali. Sobrang mali.
I can feel the tears about to rush out of my tear ducts and pour profusely down my face. I chose to reserve those tears for my alone time with God. I kept a firm yet happy countenance as we opened the dividers and let our other batch mates in.
We proceeded downstairs to head to our school-church’s auditorium. I wore my black, filtering shades because I realized I could not hide the tears any longer. I chose a path not-so-distanced from my classmates to avoid empathetic questions. I only had one question and it’s directed to God and myself. Why?
I took my iPod and wished I had the song “Just Once” so I could sing to the first verse and relate. I sung it in my head.
“I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough. ‘Cause here I am back where I was before….”
Here I am again, back at #3.
Later that evening, as I knelt down in prayer, I burst into tears, the tears I have been trying so hard to control. This time, I can cry all I want and the Person I was gonna cry to would never push me aside nor be judgmental towards me. Once again, God humbled me. He made me realize that I had even more potential and diligence to pour on my education; I wasn’t just seeing it yet. It was not impossible, but it’s certainly difficult. I would rather win third in the most challenging and difficult race in the world than first in the race I know I would ace so easily. When I read the Bible that day, I was encouraged and amazed by the strong and courageous leader, Joshua. An astonishing and seemingly impossible story about him and the Israelites could be found in the 10th chapter of his book. After hearing how Joshua and the Israelites defeated the kings of Jericho and Ai and how the Gibeonites made a peace treaty with them, five Amorite kings conspired against the Gibeonites and attacked them. By doing so, they actually planned their own tragic demise. God used Joshua and the Israelites to help the Gibeonites defeat the evil kings because the Gibeonites were the only foreigners kind enough to God’s chosen nation. As the battle waged, Joshua did an astonishing thing. He commanded, in the presence of God and Israel, the sun to stand still and the moon to stop moving. As a result, “the sun stopped in t he middle of the day and delayed going down about a full day!”
Scientifically, that is impossible! To me, it is very astonishing and amazing! I am also encouraged by the story and Joshua because I know what kind of God I am serving and entrusting my whole life to. Not because we’re sinful, He no longer listens to us. In fact, He delights in answering our prayers, as long as they are aligned to His will.
I may have landed third place in high school, but that is not the end of everything. In fact, it’s just a taste to what the real competition looks like: COLLEGE. I thank God because He never bases His love and acceptance and my worth on medals and other earthly achievement. As long as I performed the best way He wanted me to, I know He’s proud of me. I can see Him smiling.
The sun has not set over my time yet. It’s only beginning to rise.