Before I went to UP…

1. I was bent on studying to be a lawyer. I was enrolled in a Political Science program at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City, with the President Jaime Hernandez scholarship under my belt.

2. I was engrossed in wishful thinking, spending much of my waking hours letting my imagination fly, and even stealing from my sleeping time dwelling on the what-ifs of my teenager’s life. (what if I had straight hair? what if I were movie star? what if I were the most popular gurl in the campus?)

3. I was a Mills and Boon addict. As early as 13, I was already into pocketbooks. I refused to go to dreamland unless I was done with the last chapter of whatever it was I was reading (usually the mushy stuff). Never mind if I had to use a flashlight under my blanket because strict Nanay already switched off the lights. Pocketbooks introduced me to the fascinating world of words, and taught me (erroneously at that!) that life was all about roses, kisses and happy endings.

4. I was a secret air-head. I thought I was one among the blessed few (if not the only one) who had the two B’s every Romeo would go wild after –Beauty and Brains. (Well, I later learned the Bs should be four, not two. For a girl to catch her dream man she should also have the Body (which obviously , I didn’t have, as I was as skinny as a bamboo pole) and yup, Bucks (I don’t remember even owning a decent wallet as I had nothing to stuff inside anyway.)

5. I was possessed by a green-eyed monster named envy. I secretly coveted Ms. D’s life ( a high school contemporary enrolled in an exclusive school.) Statuesque, queenly and smart, Ms. D seemed to have it all–beauty (I wish I had her smooth, alabaster skin), brilliance (she was a class topnotcher) and yup, bucks and the body.

6. I was a driven and passionate gal who never settled for anything than number one. I had to be always on top. Being number two meant I was a loser, and losing was an unacceptable proposition. From my nursery years, I was always the class topnotcher, I thought I shouldn’t go anywhere.

While at UP

1. I learned what humility is. (The academic jungle is a humbling environment.) I realized I was just a speck among the thousands who were academically superior if not excellent. UP is a melting pot of brilliant minds, diverse cultures and differing personalities. It is where the rich and poor, the ‘cono’ and promdi’ meet eye to eye and still become friends, if only to overcome homesickness during the freshman years. (During my first week in UPLB, I always went to sleep with a soaked pillow. My, I terribly missed my family and friends in the province.)

2. I became spiritually-alive. My involvement in the Navigators, an interdenominational Christian campus ministry, made a huge difference in my college life. My pocketbooks and thick paperbacks were replaced by just a single book that had it all– the Bible. I felt as though huge scales were peeled off my once blind eyes that I began to pant for the water that never runs dry and to hunger for the bread that never spoils.

3. I understood what heartache meant! (And this had nothing to do with my academic life.) Still fresh from stacking and sealing my mushy reads inside a miniature balikbayan box–ready to be shipped aboard the Tsug-tsug train for Bicol, I fell hard for a tall, eloquent classmate who never even gave me a second look, much more bothered to talk to me). Of course, I was devastated, especially when I found out he was pursuing a girl who looked, well, just ordinary if not homely (to me, that is.)

4. My wishful thinking turned into frantic doing. Academic requirements compelled me to concentrate on studies and set aside, if not totally eliminate my secret world of what-ifs. I had to face reality–exams, reports, reaction papers, presentations– there was no way I could still allow the regal me to waltz with my imaginary prince underneath the pale moonlight.

Six years in UP and 14 years thereafter, here is how I view life now.

1. I ended up putting into reality, and hopefully converting into cold cash, my MBM diploma. Nope, I did not end up in the courtroom, but in the wash room (cleaning up and trying to remove the smell of detergents in my hands, after distributing these items to my customers.)

2. The four Bs are worldly standards I have long rejected to define a woman. The Proverbs 31 woman (and I Peter 3:3 woman) way surpasses she who has the Bs. The Word of God has long liberated me from doing to please men, who ironically, couldn’t care less about me.

God does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 14:7).

3. Life is not about moonlight and kisses but daylight and dishes. It is marked by thorns and thistles, and fraught with struggles and uncertainties. But hang on I must because the future has long been carved out by He who was, is and is to come. We are not left without a compass and blueprint to make a go of this transitory earthly life. The treasure lies in the pages of His love letter to us.