Friday, April 16, 2010

The Stories Behind My College Medals

Hanging on a hook of my ancient cabinet are the medals I got in my life.  Actually, they are all medals I got in my college life, and any medals I got in my early elementary years are all lost (since I don’t value them at all).  I am not at all very active at school in my elementary and high school years.  I didn’t join school-accredited clubs, competitions, or extra-curricular activities.  Heck, I was never an honor student since I was Grade 3.  Maybe I am just too passive and lazy and bored to earn myself some achievements in my academic career.  I have the mentality that such are irrelevant to actual living and they are not worth bothering about.  It was never my cup of tea.  But, surprisingly, when I entered college, I found myself earning medals.  Hmmm.  As if the rule of Bernel “numbness” and laziness on school activities disappeared in college.
I am not that smart.  I am not really that active in school.  There are only 6 medals.  But compared to what I got in elementary and high school, which is zero, these are actually noteworthy.
So here is the story behind each of them, in chronological order.

Master of Strings – Champion (Freshman)

I am not actually thinking of joining any competition in our college intramurals as a freshman (with the course BS Accountancy).  As I’ve said, I don’t want to be bothered with any school activities.  I find them no fun.  Plus, the intramurals would serve as vacation time from school.  However, Juris, a senior of mine in high school, who is aware of my guitar talents, asked me to join him to play in the intrams’ musical competition.  Well, I really don’t want to join.  But I guess something in me was curious on what would it feel to experience it, that I agreed.
We would compete in the “acoustic rendition” and the “master of strings” competition – a competition for guitar instrumentals.  But our band of four only fully concentrated on the acoustic rendition competition, and had only a decent practice for the master of strings hours before the competition. 
That night, when it was our time for the acoustic rendition competition, I got my first taste of Murphy’s Law in a competition.  I found that the pick-up cable for my acoustic guitar was too short.  Bummer.  I had to settle with a microphone to amplify my acoustic guitar, but actually the mic was inutile since it can never really capture the sound of the acoustic, thus my guitar was impossible to hear.  We only ended up second in that competition, and I’ll give credit to our brilliant vocalist for getting us to at least second (more about her later). 

Now, though I am not very active in school competitions, I did develop a competitive nature.  This is because of playing computer games (I even won an award in a “Pangya” competition, though it was only my first time to play that game.  And never played that game again after the competition.  I just wanted the prize money) and being exposed to an internet café environment (very competitive).  I already knew we would not win in the acoustic rendition before the winner was announced.  I hate losing.  And I don’t like to come out empty handed that night.  Thus, I made a decision that when we play in the master of strings, I would stay near the sound system controls, which was down the stage and away the eyes of the audience, so that my short pick-up cable would reach the sound system and my guitar playing, which was our ace, would be heard.  Juris was the only one who stayed on the stage (his acoustic has no pick-up, but he made use of the four microphones available).   With that settled, we played some parts of “Hotel California” and Alamid’s “Your Love” – with me let loose for about 8 minutes of guitar solo.   We won.  Probably, the mystique of being an “invisible instrumentalist” (remember, most of the audience can’t see me since I was not on stage but beside the sound system controls) helped.  The management department actually had, I admit, the best guitarist of the college, but I got to beat him… at least that night.

I am always proud to be a guitar slinger.  But that competition made me a “master of strings”… at least, for that year.

Acoustic Rendition – Champion (Sophomore)

The loss the previous year in acoustic rendition left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I had already won a “master of strings”, and for that year, I wanted to concentrate on the acoustic rendition.  This time, I was the “captain.”   Thus, I had free reign of choosing the song and the appropriate musicians. 
I built a band that has lead guitar (Eugene), rhythm guitar (Janine), violin (Rich), percussions (yours truly) and, most importantly (voice quality has a major percentage in the criteria), lead vocals (Gra).  I wanted the performance to be “un-mainstream” and “show band-style” – to be close to a “professional-sound” as much as possible.  Thus, not only I instructed the instrumentalists to be polished, I also designed them to serve as backup vocals.  Yes, I was a “musical director”, but I did not make any much “directing.”  Yes, I gave the initial instructions, but I allowed them to figure it out for themselves.  It was a true team effort.  And, boy, these guys practiced well individually to get their part that when we finally put the individual parts together, it was so good.  Gra, as before, was the ace.  Her voice is one of the best I ever heard, so ideal to be the front of a band.  She ranks at my top three vocalists I had performed with (her bestfriend Kaye is also there.  I performed with them when I was in high school, in the Morph all-star band’s gig at the Pacifif Mall.  I could still remember the date:  December 17, 2005.  Pity, I do not have a video.  It was one of the best performances I was part of).  Our piece was The Corrs’ “Only When I Sleep”.  I am not exaggerating if I say that Gra sang it on par with Andrea Corr.

Of course we won.  No way would we lose with such brilliant teamwork of musicians. It was perfect from start to finish.  With the violin as the “X-factor” and Gra’s voice beautifully silences the crowd.  I loved that performance.  It is a pity I did not record it.

I was also part of the master of strings competition that year.    Just like the last year, our only real practice was hours before the competition.  But this time, we did not win.  That guitarist of the management department finally did something so awesome I actually considered conceding before it was our turn to perform. He probably wanted to get back at me for my “upset” win against him the previous year.
Academic Scholarship (Junior)

Failing my first course (BS Accountancy), I shifted to the new course of the college: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major in Financial Management.  And in that year, my third in college and my first in my new course, I got my first  academic honor since my third grade.  The taste of an Academic Scholarship was so sweet, not only because I got some refund of the tuition, but because I never thought I would ever have an academic honor in college.  The feeling was nice.  I never ever expected to experience having a medal hanged around my neck in a recognition day. 

The story of this medal is simple:  this medal gave me a “glimpse” of an “impossible” dream, that though I desire it, it seems still distant to think of yet.

General Information Quiz Bowl – Champion (Senior)

I was an officer of the newly-accredited Junior Institute of Business Administration in my last year in college (see, I’m more “active” in school than I was in high school.  Really strange) and I was tasked as top head for the intramurals that year.  So, I was tasked to head the organization of participants, and uniforms, and other matters regarding the JIBA’s participation for the intrams.  It was not as if I did it all, the other officers were actually more hands on, while I am more on assigning tasks and responsibilities and “putting it all together and making it flow smoothly.”    Too “busy” as overhead chairman of the JIBA for the intrams, I was still able to find time to join three events:  acoustic rendition, instrumental (replacing the original “master of strings” competition), and GI quiz bowl (I “captained” in all three events.  I applied and taught them the use of my usual strategy or practices, which includes a prayer before the start of the respective competition… and lots of psyching out strategies during or before the competition).  You can watch our acoustic rendition and instrumental performances in this site, which we lost (I could give reasons why, but a loss is a loss.  No excuses).  However, we won the GI quiz in an epic fight.

I christened our team as “Team Rabat.”  “Rabat” is a word in some parts of Bicol which means fluke.  It was our joke that we would win quiz bowls by “stroke of luck” answers.  Nonetheless, I assembled this team for the quiz bowl for the Management Days of the previous year.  I pick Jessie, for the “numbers”, and Gens, for the “words”, to join me, the ultimate “King of Analysis and Irrelevant Facts” (hahahaha!  To Jess and Gens:  you have to admit, though, I am the ace, and I make 60%-90% of our answers).  They serve as my “sounding boards”, to bounce out ideas or rationalization before I make an “instinctive” analyzed guess if we don’t know the answer to a question.   We actually make a good team, since we won our first quiz bowl together during the Management Days, and were rewarded a cash prize.

So, as overall head of the JIBA, I pick “Team Rabat” to compete in the college intrams’ GI quiz that year, now with a management days quiz bowl under the team’s belt.    We were never at all in the lead of the entire competition until that decisive last question.  We were second place so far and were down by 3 points.  The last question in the difficult category, which was worth 5 points, in paraphrase, was “what was the living together of animals for benefit?” (the question was longer than that.  As I pointed out, it’s my paraphrase).  I quickly wrote “symbiosis.”  Now, the usual answer that would be made would be “mutualism”, the popular example of symbiosis, and I know that it was probable that the other teams would have it as their answer.  My two teammates told me, “It’s mutualism.”  They wanted me to change it.  My rationalization: “We are down by three.  Now, the other groups, including the lead group, would probably answer ‘mutualism’ – the most popular type of symbiosis.  Now if all teams answer ‘mutualism’, and if it is correct, the lead group still wins.  And if all of the teams answer ‘mutualism’, and it is wrong, the lead group still wins.  Now, if we answer differently from what they are thinking, which is ‘symbiosis’, which is also probable to be correct, we have a gambling chance of edging them.  If ‘symbiosis’ is correct, and ‘mutualism’ is wrong, then we win by 2 points.  If we are wrong with ‘symbiosis’, it is no different from the scenarios in which we answer ‘mutualism’ like the other teams.  By ‘symbiosis’, we have a one last wild gambit.  Besides, I am almost sure that ‘symbiosis’ is the correct answer.”  My analysis and answer were correct.   The other teams answered “mutualism” but the correct answer was “symbiosis”, our answer, and we won by two points.  It was like a buzzer beater game winner.        

Dean’s Lister (Senior)

In the previous year, I got an Academic Scholar award during recognition day, this time, though it was the same type of medal, it was a Dean’s Lister award, after being an Academic Scholar for both semesters of the school year.   So, in my entire stay in college I get to be a three-time Academic Scholar (which also means I had refunded 50% or 75% of the tuition fee each semester three times), with the latter two making it possible for me to become Dean’s Lister.  

By this time, when I got this medal, I was now greatly praying for that ultimate prize, the “impossible” dream.  And that is, to graduate “Cum Laude.”

Cum Laude

This medal is the “King of All Medals.”  This medal alone outweighs all the previous medals put together.  Great was the joy I felt when I got it.    

Outrageous.  Me?  Cum laude?  I was never the scholarly type.  I was never an honor student in high school.  It was “impossible.”   

And that is why I appreciate this medal and this honor.  Because it is “impossible.”  But because of God, he made the “impossible” possible.    He gave me the wisdom and intelligence.  He made the high grades possible.  All Glory belongs to Him. 

These medals (especially the cum laude medal), and the honors they represent, are only temporary.  All honors and favors that bring me temporary joy, are only “glimpses” of the Ultimate Medal of True Honor and Unspeakable Joy that can be found solely in the Giver of these gifts. 

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