IN MY time, not so far, away, commencement exercises are one big solemn event the graduating students, parents and faculty await with pride and anxiety.

In that time, not too long ago, permit me to say, there were no lavish parties to indulge in after the graduation rites but only simple salo-salo of rice, menudo and one big can of Del Monte pineapple juice tempered with ice and tap water, sometimes the latter is greater than the juice so you'd expect the drinker guest to spit it out as soon as he drank the prepared liquid! A P150 budget would have sufficed then as compared to about P15,000 today, for food and preparations.

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Marching to the canned and recorded tune of Aida March (roughly translated from Ides of March) and a forerunner of Pomp and Circumstance, now widely used and heard in most graduation rites, we the graduates sheepishly lined up to the stage to get our mock paper diplomas from the school head, some guests and faculty members, of course, to the studied applause of fellow graduates.

As today, lengthy speeches dotted the commencement program and we had to endure the monologues, the white toga, tussel and borrowed shirt notwithstanding.

Yes, during our time, we had to make do with borrowed things for our graduation: shoes, shirt, even socks. We simply had to attend to this precious, coveted event by hook or by crook.

Ah, graduation rites nowadays are occasions to flaunt each graduate's afluence and connect, complete with expensive parties and gifts, including Hong Kong trips, lap tops and top-of-the-line cellphones. Signature pants and shirts are worn beneath the customized toga and hired photographers make sure the graduate gets the best shots.

Present candidates for graduation never had to scrounge for funds to defray their expenses. Their parents or guardians have prepared before long for graduation day. That being so, they (the graduates, that is) need not worry with graduation blues.

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I had a pleasant talk with vice gubernatorial bet Marcos Jose Tirona Lazatin, a native of San Fernando, Pampanga. A Don Bosco alumnus, this hands-on manager who keeps daily tab of Essel Supermarket at Telabastagan, now wants to enter politics seriously and give his managerial skills a test at the provincial legislative branch. He wants to be a full-time presiding officer at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, compared to the incumbent who comes to office only once a week and spends most of his working time as supervising coach of a basket ball team. Let us await Marco's turn at the Sanggunian then.