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O Jubilee

Figure 1 Benton Hall – UPCBA Building

Jubilee is an appropriated word from the Bible. In its original meaning (Leviticus 25), it has much to do with the land (the land being given its own Sabbath rest) and with freedom (e.g., from debt, servitude and slavery). In its current iteration, it simply means a 50th year celebration – as it is written: “…then have the trumpet sounded everywhere! Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants…” It is in this spirit that the UP College of Business Administration, Batch 1971, takes pride in celebrating the joy of our 50-year existence – truly, a Sabbath in each other’s company, and an emancipation from our quotidian anxieties.

Granted some of us have gone on to that by-and-by beautiful shore, we nevertheless rejoice in our remembrance of them. Granted we look back on the road before not as a bed of roses, but always with an eye on the prize, in whatever form this may be, in our service to industry, family, and self. Yet we hallow our tenacity and resilience – from the battlefield of our graduating year in which we witnessed the First Quarter Storm, the Diliman Commune and returning to classrooms with missing desks and chairs that were used as barricade material – to our individual calling to different arenas in the business world – and the pandemic chaos that greeted us in the past two years and remains as persistent as a seeming curse in our Jubilee. Yes, Gloria Gaynor, I will survive – or, we will survive, and we will thrive!

It’s been an arduous journey for me and while I don’t relish the years flowing so swiftly before my eyes, yet, I am grateful for what life has offered me. Life happens when you are making other plans (John Lennon). I had the intention of returning to the homeland after finishing my MBA at UBC. Afterall, my father ran a seafood processing plant in Makati, and I was eager to assume the reins. However, the Martial Law and my father’s discontentment with the system cracked the best laid egg of mice and men. There is nothing but omelette ahead – the grace of fortune meets me here. And at the blink of an eye, I am a Septuagenarian, collecting pension and old age security. Here, in the fertile soil of Richmond, BC, I have experienced the unimpeachable joy of etching out a professional existence (Canadian Chartered Accountant, now retired for at least a decade; serving as a partner of a local public practice, and then as financial consultant for start-ups), raising a family (two sons), being saved by God, and spending my quiet remaining days reading and writing – and longing for that day when the pandemic veil over our faces lifts and we are back to seeing people in person again. As it goes, I do try to praise the mutilated world, remember the wild strawberries and the drops of rose wine.

Alfred Kwong, 1971

1971 was a bittersweet time for me, and I guess my graduation picture depicts that uncertain youth yet unwilling to be launched into the wider world, notwithstanding the friendly persuasion of the photographer to beg me for a smile. Of course, I was pleased with the degree, and my academic standing of cum laude, membership in the honorary societies, but there was a reluctance of letting go of the many years of campus life in which I learned more outside the classroom than in: the extra-curricular activities of writing in newsletters, participation in dramas and musicals, involvement in political campaigns, and unity with students voicing their discontent about a corrupt system which culminated in later years into a despotic conjugal dictatorship.

That summer, I took that last fling – not the romance type, but going whole hog in joining a road trip for a troupe presenting revolutionary dramas and, to my slight shame, participating in a Filipino movie as an extra. Looking for a job, which ought to be the natural evolution of a degree-bearing aspirant, was unfortunately farthest from my mind. My parents, out of frustration, made that fateful decision to ship me off to the Canadian tundras. Looking back, I thought it was the best nurturing gesture they did for me. And the best blessing of all – in Canada, I found my faith and surrendered my heart to Jesus Christ.

There was this refrain I hold dear:

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

– Psalm 139:8-10.

Per Ardua Ad Astra
(“Through Adversity to the Stars”)

 

 

by Alfred Kwong

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