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Graduation Rites in the Philippines

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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Graduation (Filipino: Pagtatapos) is the award or acceptance of an academic degree or diploma [1]. For Filipinos, the term “graduation” usually refers to the graduation ceremonies undergone by graduates who have finished a level of education. Some view a person as having truly graduated only if they have “marched” (Filipino: nagmartsa) onstage to accept their diploma during the graduation ceremonies. Thus, graduation may be also considered a coming-of-age ritual for young Filipinos.

Graduation ceremonies are held at the end of March or, in some cases, the beginning of April of every year.


Filipino take part in a graduation ceremony every time they complete an educational level. These ceremonies are usually held for graduation from kindergarten, elementary school, high school, vocational school or college, and graduate school.


In past decades, elementary school and high school graduates usually wore white: white dresses for girls and white polo shirts and black pants for boys. The same went for kindergarten “graduates” except that girls usually wore identical dresses in a style and color agreed upon by the parents. Recent trends call for togas and mortarboards as standard graduation attire. The Department of Education also recently called for austerity measures, prohibiting extravagant spending and requiring students to wear only their school uniforms under their togas.

Graduates of vocational schools and colleges usually wear togas and mortarboards or caps. These are usually black, except for those colleges and universities who have togas made in the school colors. Underneath, the graduates wear formal clothes which may range from “Sunday best” to party attire.

Those who finish post-graduate studies usually wear slightly different togas from those who finish undergraduate degrees. They also wear hoods banded with the color associated with their particular post-graduate course.

All graduates usually wear corsages pinned on the left lapel or left breast of their clothing.

Baccalaureate Mass

High school graduation ceremonies usually have a baccalaureate mass before the actual graduation ceremonies begin. Elementary school and college/post-graduate school graduations may or may not have baccalaureate masses.

Universities and colleges usually celebrate the baccalaureate mass and baccalaureate ceremonies on a separate day, usually the day before the graduation ceremonies. On this day, the awards for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities are given out, leaving only the major academic awards to be given on the graduation day itself.


The giving of awards for extra-curricular, co-curricular and academic activities are not the same throughout the country. Schools may give out all the awards on graduation day itself, or may do so on a separate day before the graduation ceremonies.

Schools with a small student population usually opt to give out all awards on graduation day itself. However, bigger schools may give out lesser awards on the day before, which is called Recognition Day or Baccalaureate Day. These awards include those for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities like Athlete of the Year and Dancer of the Year, as well as “good conduct” awards such as "Most Behaved" and "Most Neat and Clean". The number and name of the awards may vary from school to school, depending on whom the teachers wish to honor.

The major academic awards given out on graduation day for elementary and high school are the awards for valedictorian, salutatorian and honorable mention. Many schools give awards to their top five graduates as follows: valedictorian, salutatorian, and first, second and third honorable mentions. The other awards are usually the Leadership Award and the awards for those who topped the different subjects. The latter are usually referred to as the “Bests”, since they start with the words “Best in...” such as, for example, “Best in Math”.

College and post-graduate schools usually award the following awards: summa cum laude (with highest honors), magna cum laude (with high honors), and cum laude (with honors). Unlike the awards given in elementary and high schools which depend on class ranking, undergraduate and post-graduate awards are given based on grade point averages, so that there may be more than one graduate with the same award, or in many cases, none at all.

Awards are usually given in the form of ribbons on which are printed the name of the award, or medals with the name of the award engraved on the back, as well as certificates.


Although ceremonies vary from school to school, certain basic elements are usually the same. A typical graduation ceremony starts with the processional, which in some cases consists of the graduating class and their parents who formally walk side by side into the venue for the ceremony. Some schools have the students leave their parents at their designated seats. Boys then go up on the stage from the left and girls from the right. The two lines meet in center stage and go down the front steps, each pair bowing to the audience just before they reach the top step.

After the processional comes the invocation, which may either be spoken or sung by a choir or by the graduates themselves. Then, the national anthem is sung and the salutatorian gives their salutatory address which serves as the welcome address or opening remarks. The keynote speaker is then introduced. This speaker may be a notable person, a person of some authority or influence, or even a former student who has made good in their chosen field and whom the school feels should be an inspiration to the graduates. After the keynote address, the school principal, or chancellor in the case of universities, presents the graduates to the representative of the appropriate government institution by having them stand up. The representative in turn declares the students graduates. After this declaration, the graduates are then awarded their diplomas.

The actual diplomas usually are not awarded during the ceremonies; the graduates get their diplomas and other pertinent papers after they have complied with their clearance. In the past, schools usually handed out rolls of paper tied with a ribbon, symbolizing the diplomas. A graduate came on stage when their name was called, accepted the diploma with their right hand, then transferred it to their left hand and shook the hand of the person awarding the diploma. The graduate then went front and center, held the roll of paper at a slant between their hands, left hand at the bottom and right hand at the top, and bowed, then went down the steps and back to their seat. Present trends, however, are for schools to give out leatherette diploma holders during the ceremony, thus eliminating the need for the formal bow and expediting the ceremony. After the awarding of diplomas, the class valedictorian then gives their valedictory address and leads the school pledge of loyalty. The graduates then sing their graduation song and the awards for outstanding graduates are then given out.

After the awards, the school principal then gives the closing remarks and the graduates may sing their closing song. The students and parents then exit the area with a formal recessional. However, they then usually return to have their souvenir pictures taken on the stage.


DepEd readies employees for automated election

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Department of Education, one of the government agencies actively involved in the May 2010 elections, conducted a voter’s education forum for the employees to better appreciate election automation.

DepEd has allotted time to conduct this activity to familiarize its employees on how the new system of conducting the electoral process works. It also allowed the participants to experience the actual shading of the training ballots and the use of the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines.

Training ballots were of the same size as the actual ballots that will be used on May 10. However, a different set of names was used. The event was among the activities prepared by DepEd’s Staff Development Division (SDD) as part of the celebration of Women’s Month.

“DepEd central office staff will not man the polling precinct. However, since they are voters themselves and this is a new system, they also deserve to know how the new process works prior to the actual elections,” said Nerissa Losaria, SDD Head.

For its part, Comelec said the purpose of the automated election system is to increase accuracy in counting and reduce time for canvassing. “This is the reason why we are pushing for election automation” explained Atty. Adolfo IbaƱez, director of the Comelec’s Personnel Department, the forum speaker.


Damath: learning math the Pinoy way

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Damath comes from the Pinoy checker boardgame called “dama” and mathematics. It blends local culture, education and digital technology that aim to make math teaching and learning child-friendly, challenging and interactive. In its unique way, damath boardgame ushers the Filipino school kids into the new millennium by equipping them with competitive life-long learning for understanding and ICT-fluency skills.

When school children play damath boardgame they also learn to explore, firm-up, deepen, and transfer to daily tasks the concepts of real numbers and its properties and operations.

Moreover, it stimulates the children’s capability to think deeper through creative math storytelling, flowchart, concept map, tree diagram, picture riddle, haiku, cryptogram, secret code decoding, simulation, role playing, jingle or rap composing, reflection journal writing, and problem solving.

This joyful and practical approach to contextualized teaching and learning math is the brainchild of 1981 presidential merit medal awardee teacher Jesus L. Huenda.

As a public high school teacher in Sorsogon, Huenda always thinks of ways to optimize his talents to help others. This describes best this ordinary teacher who was cited by no less than the President of the Republic for his out-of-the-box “contribution in terms of innovative approaches in teaching and learning mathematics”.

According to Huenda, this is how damath works: “I integrate some math concepts and numeracy skills in the indigenous boardgame of dama. In the 32 white squares (the other 32 alternately arranged squares are colored green) of the 8x8-square damath playing board, I put the symbols of mathematical operations like addition (+), subtraction (-), multiplication (×) and division (÷). The 12 damath chips for each player are divided into two sets (blue and red chips): those with zero, and even numbers with positive sign (+); while odd numbers have negative (-) sign. The two players try to capture chips by adapting the existing dama rules to numeracy skills which result to higher positive points, while evading those with lower negative points.” When the learners play damath, they aim to get higher point over the opponent. Capturing the opponent’s dama chips is strategically planned such that a player would target a chip representing high number. The game becomes a combination of strategic higher order thinking skills and basic mathematical operations.

This strategy in teaching and learning math with Understanding by Design (UbD) framework has helped students look at Mathematics as a subject not so difficult to learn.

“Unknowingly, the players are using the mathematical fundamentals when they play damath”, Mr. Huenda explained. “Those who used to dislike math is actually learning how to use math when he/she plays the boardgame and in the process learn the subject,” he added.

Aside from “damath”, Mr. Huenda has also developed the “pierdi-gana” boardgame. He calls this boardgame “scidama”. This is the opposite of damath in the sense that the players’ main target is to have their dama chips consumed by their opponent in order to win. Scidama is focused on bringing about environmental consciousness among the school children.

Literally, pierdi-gana means to let go by disposing water, fuel and energy consumption that contribute to global warming and climate change. The main objective of the players in scidama is to divest themselves of extravagant consumptions that can lead to environmental degradation. Here, the scidama chips represent kilowatt hours of electricity used, cubic meters of water consumed, liters of oil consumed, cooking gas used among others.

The players strategize in such a way that they will have to reduce their consumption of these resources and in the process help in arresting global warming and climate change. “The less you consume resources, the less you contribute to the destruction of the environment. This is what we want to instill in the minds of our learners,” Huenda pointed out.

In the scidama, the player’s main objective is to have his/her dama chips be captured by the opponent in order to win. The player who first has his/her chips decimated by the opponent wins the game. This means that the winner is able to divest himself/herself of these resources and does not use them unnecessarily.

|“Kabaliktaran ng damath ang scidama kasi ito ay pierdi-gana o ubusan ng chips. Dapat maubos ang chips mo para manalo. In other words, I have to dispose off my expenses in water, electricity, oil and others so that I will not contribute to global warming and climate change. Kung malaki konsumo ko, I will contribute to the destruction of the environment. Gagawa ka ng plano na pagkatapos ng laro konti lang konsumo mo at ibibigay mo ang dapat mong konsumo sa kalaban mo upang hindi ka makasali sa paglubha ng kapaligiran”, Huenda added.

Another collaborative innovation which Huenda did in cooperation with some Computer Science students is the “eDamath” which uses digital technology in playing damath against the computer itself. The damath computer game helps develop the strategic and analytical thinking skills of the students. Similarly, when two players are interconnected in their computers through the Local Area Network, they can play damath in a remote platform and the computer becomes the arbiter or scorer.

Mr. Huenda’s electronic damath playing board can be accessed through the DepEd website ( The eDamath appears in the computer monitor together with the damath chips that are properly labeled with positive and negative signs in even and odd numbers, respectively.

Playing the electronic damath is also a contest on who gets the higher positive score which entails the use of the fundamental operations in math. “When students play the game, they tend to have deeper consciousness on the intricacies of the game. They get to consider every step that they make and how this can contribute to winning the game. In the process they develop analytical thinking skills,” Huenda explained.

And there is no stopping Huenda from inventing edutainment games that teach students the basics in living such as entrepreneurship. Thus he came up with “entrepinoy damath,” a business venture game.

Here, the fundamental operations of math and basic accounting are also used in the board game including debit and credit, simple bookkeeping, balance sheet and the like. The first set of damath chips represent rent, taxes, salaries, bonuses, discounts, cost price, and other operating expenses. The other half represents income like selling price, profit, savings, real property, building, equipment, etc.

The game is played with the damath chips properly labeled: business expenses on one hand and business income on the other hand. The game is won by the one who has captured more chips representing incomes rather than expenses. “With this learning for understanding approach, the learners are honed on strategic business models like the efficiency of incurring less cost in order to have more income. The learners also become conscious of effectively running a business venture,” Huenda explained.

But in business as in life, the learners still have to be trained on values and ethics. So he came up with “damath de honor”. Here the damath pieces represent positive and negative Filipino ways including interpersonal relation, consumer protection, anti-corruption and red-tape practices.

“Ipapakain mo ang negative values at makakaipon ka ng positive values. Dapat walang greed na siyang dahilan ng corruption at illegal business transaction,” he emphasized.

“Have you heard of damath on health and nutrition, People Power EDSA revolution, English-Filipino-Korean vocabulary-building? Or damath with three players? This is just the tip of the iceberg”, Huenda shared.

Huenda remains a very active staff at the DepEd Central Office. Although he is a superintendent-eligible, Huenda opted to focus on educational technology innovations that will make a difference in basic education. The beneficiaries, no doubt, are the young school children who never imagined that the lowly boardgame of dama would ever play a significant role in their learning of life’s lessons.


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