WHEN it comes to school and dating, parents always say to finish studies first before jumping into a romantic relationship.
“Dili sa mag uyab-uyab ha (Don’t get a girlfriend or boyfriend yet),” is the common phrase you hear from anxious parents once their kids enter middle school.
For this couple, however, their relationship is proof that being in love and doing well in studies can be achieved as long as there is a certain amount of determination.
In the recently concluded graduation rites of the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP), the university recognized these graduates with outstanding awards of academic excellence.
The 21-year-old Rio Hillary Dalman graduated Magna Cum Laude for Bachelor in Public Administration.
She was also the fourth placer of the Quiz Bowl Competition Mindanao Association of State Tertiary Schools in October 2015, which was held in Pagadian City. Dalman was a consistent honor student since kindergarten.
Dalman hails from Sendangan, Zamboaga del Norte. She is the youngest in the family. During her stay in college here, she resided at her aunt’s home.
On the other hand, Christian Esclamado, graduated as Cum Laude from his Computer Engineering course. He was a USTP alumnus since high school. He is also the youngest in the family.
Esclamado received the University-Wide Best in Mathematics (from first year up to third year). He was a fourth placer of the Quiz Bowl Competition Mindanao Association of State Tertiary Schools in October 2015, and a second placer of the University-Wide Pitching Competition in October 2016.
The couple met when they were at the crucial stage of their studies. Dalman was in her second year in college, and Esclamado was in his third year. They were on the same training for Quiz bowl organization. According to them, they have had conflict of ideas which brought them closer and they just “clicked.”
“We are the same when it comes to our priority, which is our studies. He was a scholar, and me, I have assistance. So we have to maintain grades,” said Dalman.
“My priority is to study, study, and study. During examination time, a week before, we have our agreement that we don’t have to disturb each other. No texts and no calling this time. Because we have the mindset that we are in our critical year,” said Dalman.
“I am used to having many priorities at the same time. What I did was purely time management. I allocate my time well that I don’t have anything left behind,” said Esclamado in managing his studies.
Dalman was a consistent dean’s lister, while Esclamado had his two subjects below the required grade, but still, he managed to make it to the finals.
According to them, they always set a certain time for study every night.
“I am two weeks ready or one week, before examinations. I don’t really procrastinate. But for him, he always does because of his course,” said Dalman when it comes to getting straight A’s.
Right after their classes, the two of them would make a little time for each other, eating outside, and Esclamado would give Dalman a ride home in barangay Tablon.
Dalman said the journey to their love in college was very tough and challenging because they were both not allowed being in a romantic relationship. She was advised by her aunt and her family not to do so while still pursuing her studies. It was the same situation for Esclamado.
“Actually, while he’s still courting me, I told him to stop, but he keeps on insisting. Lisod man gud ma-happy ko, unya akong family kay dili (It's hard to be happy when my family is not),” Dalman said on choosing priorities.
Esclamado gladly accepted what Dalman thought would be good for both of them. They had mutual understanding and were exclusively dating. The relationship was kept a secret while they were still studying. It was graduation day that they became officially a couple.
It was on that day that they told their parents.
Even if they are now “official,” the couple does not post anything on their social media accounts. They believe it is unnecessary. For them, it is enough for people to see them together.
To them, graduating with flying colors amidst challenges is an achievement worth the struggle.
“I am very much overwhelmed because I was not expecting to be the Magna Cum Laude,” said Dalman.
“Actually, I am supposed to be a Magna Cum Laude too but then, I have two subjects that I don’t have the required grades for. But on top of that, I am very happy because I have achieved, we have achieved our goals (referring to Dalman),” said Esclamado.
Esclamado has this advice for students.
“Know your priorities. If you want to focus on your studies, keep in mind always that you should apply that every day. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in there. Give yourself a break too. Enjoy life with your friends, your partner, and other stuff. But don’t forget your prime concern,” said Esclamado.
After graduation, the couple will be facing more challenges. Whatever is ahead, their love for each other and determination will take them further.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 23, 2017.