CATARMAN, Northern Samar – Protests and hate comments flooded the social media after several graduating students collapsed on their seats during the 58th Commencement Exercises at the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP), this town, held on Saturday (June 15).
Records from the university clinic disclosed that 23 graduating students collapsed due to exhaustion and too much exposure to sun.
Unlike in previous commencement exercises, UEP hold this year’s graduation rites early morning which ended in the afternoon due to the big number of graduates.
The occasion was held at the uncovered UEP R.A.B. Amphitheater.
The processional started at exactly 6 am as scheduled even if the commencement speaker, Senator Cynthia Villar, has not even arrived.
Ronnie Ballado, dean of Student Affairs, told Leyte Samar Daily Express that the change of schedule for the graduation rites was to accommodate Villar who was said to arrive at 10 am, or four hours ahead of the start of the graduation rites.
“It was really our plan to start with the program without the guest speaker and when she arrives, she will directly deliver her speech then she will leave immediately for her other commitments. We understand she had a meeting scheduled at lunch,” Ballado said.
Villar arrived at 9:45 am while the distribution of diplomas was ongoing.
After the formal introduction by Rolando Delorino, the university president, the senator gave her 30-minute commencement address to the 2,361 graduating class after which she was excused.
Villar’s staff, Candy Buenaventura, said that some students were already fainting before the senator arrived.
After the speaker left the venue, some more graduates collapsed one after another as the distribution of diplomas was ongoing.
On its Facebook page the university campus paper “The Pillar” posted that 23 graduates collapsed “due to complaints of dizziness, diarrhea, headache, and difficulty in breathing”.
They were rushed to the university clinic where the university physician, Elizabeth Dubongco, explained that the patients’ conditions were the results of “too much exposure to heat”.
The paper tried to reach Delorino for his comment but the latter has not yet answered as of press time.
Many netizens, who witnessed the affair, took to social media and vent on their disappointment about the incident.
It was learned that the graduating students were told to be at the venue as early as 5am with the ceremonies ending at 1 pm.
“This is outright stupidity on the part of the (UEP) administration. They fully know that the sun’s heat is at its height at 8am to 3pm why would they hold the ceremony at that time? It must have been a nightmare for the (graduates) wearing that toga…’ a netizen said.
“Shame on UEP for allowing this to happen,” another one remarked.
A father of a graduate expressed his pity for all the graduates who he said apparently did not enjoy their moment.
“I’m sure walang retention sa graduates ang speech ni Cynthia Villar. Kasi uneasy sila because of their hellish situation,” he said.