By Raffy Cabristante
Vol. XCI No. 5
Aug. 28, 2019
“Raf, ang haba nitong leave mo ah. Ano bang meron ‘pag August sa inyo? Hindi naman Pasko o Semana Santa.”
This was the question I would often get from my bosses and colleagues from my old newsroom in Manila whenever I filed a weeklong vacation leave to go home to Dumaguete every August. It would take time for me to explain what Hibalag and Founders Day is all about (along with the fact that I do miss home and my parents). But I later came to realize that no matter how hard I tried to make them understand how much Hibalag means to me, they never will. Why? Only Sillimanians seem to appreciate it well. They have a phrase for it—they call it the “Silliman Spirit.”
I may not be the first person to notice or talk about this, but it still is fascinating how we often ask our fellow Silliman grads every August: “Mouli ka for Hibalag?” Fascinating, because many of us use the word “mouli” (go home) even if our fellow grads aren’t necessarily Dumaguete natives. Anyone who attended Silliman will always have a tendency to feel that this is his or her home, which is something that I love about this university.
But I’d like to believe that over the years, the way we see Hibalag has changed. As college students, we considered Hibalag a way to reward ourselves after the turmoil of midterm exams. As alumni and as young adults, we now consider Hibalag a beacon to escape the struggles of the quarter-life.
At least for a week, we can be (or at least pretend to be) college students again. But of course, things are different now that we’re adults. For starters, we barely know anyone in the booth area anymore. We go back to drop by the booths of the orgs we used to be in back in college, and while we meet familiar faces along the way, we also find ourselves lost in the sea of new and younger ones enjoying themselves.
But I guess what makes Hibalag different for graduates like us that we don’t have the same idealism and carefree attitude that we used to have back as college students. I can still remember that fire I used to have five years ago; armed with a diploma and Latin honors, I felt like I could take over the world and change it one news story at a time. But nope, the world doesn’t work that way—and that feeling of disillusionment scars you for life.
Then again, our years at Silliman have taught us to brave the storms of “adulting” with faith. And I’d like to believe that’s part of the reason why we come home every August: to remind ourselves that we may be lost, but we will never be hopeless.
The last verse of the Silliman Song means so much more to me as time goes by. It will forever be a reminder that despite the struggles, trials, frustration, and confusion that come with adulthood, we will always find our strength in our love for dear old Silliman. This love will always be the reason that no matter how long it has been since we graduated, we will always come home for Hibalag:
“Or in high place or in lowly, fortune sends us joy or pain
Still our love for dear old Silliman, loyal shall we’er remain.”
Raffy Cabristante graduated from Silliman in 2014 with a Bachelor of Mass Communication degree, magna cum laude. At present, he is a Dumaguete-based print and broadcast community journalist, pursuing his Master of Journalism degree at the Ateneo de Manila University.