May 12, 2020
Dion Ong, Valedictorian of the Ateneo de Manila Senior High School Class of 2020

We were all looking forward to March 29 our Senior High School Graduation. But our world changed with the enhanced community quarantine. Instead of the barely contained excitement, there’s a pervading sense of sadness as the unfinished business of saying proper goodbyes weighs heavily on us while we continue to mull over the fact that our years of hard work may not be given the traditional recognition. Silently, we mourn the loss of unrealized moments in Ephemeral, our Seniors’ Ball, and the snatched memories of year-end class get-togethers. There’s also the occasional anxiety gripping us because it’s a critical time to decide on our final choice of schools and majors. Transitioning from teens to more adults aside, we will be marching into an uncharted territory of blended in-person and virtual classes. 
Truly, the virus brought anguish and angst yet we refused to wallow in sadness and self-pity. To some, the lockdown has made us reflect more on what ultimately matters: our humanity as defined by the relationships we forge – not material wealth or fame. Throughout these totally unprecedented circumstances, we’ve had no other choice but to bounce back as things get tougher by adapting to changes and being resilient. To keep busy, we rekindled our love for music and arts, enrolled in online classes, and helped out in household chores. The pandemic also challenged us not only to think of how we can solve problems for ourselves but to actually reach out to others. 
The Ateneo community has been at the forefront in this fight against COVID-19 through individual initiatives of raising funds to donating homemade face shields and bikes, and more so, our collective efforts. To date, the Ateneo DReaM Team has distributed thousands of bags of groceries and PPE’s to almost 100 hospitals and partner communities nationwide. For its part, the ASHS Katipunan Fund Drive supported this endeavor while the Class of 2020 decided as a batch to donate the refunds of the graduation ball payments to help those in need.
On a more personal note, the quarantine gave us time to think and reevaluate some of our perspectives. For me, it’s rediscovering family. With time in our hands, lunches and dinners became riotous affairs even as we grew more prayerful together. Having focused on school work, college entrance tests, and extracurriculars throughout the year, this pause made me appreciate the small moments - an infectious laugh, a tight hug, a meaningful conversation.
We may not be able to take pride in receiving our diplomas on stage as of yet but we have learned a lot about humility. There’s an awareness that what we deemed important only last month seems insignificant now because suddenly, it’s not about us anymore. With all the uncertainties, we realize the need for spirituality to anchor and bring meaning to our lives. So we cede control to God. 
Today, we don’t have all the answers to many of our questions. But this test of fire and the Atenean values we hold close to our hearts give us courage to face tomorrow.
I believe this experience will ultimately define us, and we shall overcome, with or without graduation rites.