Fail With Honor Than Win By Cheating

I was planning to work on my thesis tonight, but tonight’s trend on Krisel Mallari wouldn’t leave my head. For the record, I haven’t read a lot of legit online articles on it, and my main source of information and opinion is Twitter. Moreover, I honestly don’t have investigative journalism powers to spend on this story. It won’t leave me though because it reminds me of my own high school experience.

When I was a high school senior, just about to graduate, I was ranked seventh in the batch in terms of raw grades. I graduated fifth though because I was active in co-curricular activities, and apparently 30% of the criteria for over-all awards and ranking came from all those hours spent organizing outreach programs, singing for the school choir, and editing the school paper. In my ‘promotion’ from seventh to fifth place, I jumped over two girls – twins, and lovely girls I’ve been classmates with for eight years. I was – and to this day, am – iffy about how I ended up at fifth place even though my grades obviously said I belonged in the seventh spot, but I never felt hostility from the twins. They never complained, and I never heard their parents complain. Maybe their parents simply didn’t care about grades, much as my parents never did.

Why am I sharing this? I’m getting this origin story over and done with because what I’m about to say about Krisel Mallari may partly be attributed to what I experienced as a fifteen-year-old. Krisel, as batch salutatorian, chose to use her opportunity to give a speech during the 13th commencement exercises of her school as a way to express her grievances towards its administration. I skimmed through a copy of her full speech, and in between words of gratitude to the members of her family, one could feel the bitterness that was oozing from her very being, no doubt caused by the alleged favoritism of her school. Since she graduated salutatorian, I would assume someone ranked higher than she did, eventually graduating as valedictorian. Was her tirade directed towards this person and his/her family, in addition to her teachers? Reports say yes.

I first heard of this story because it trended on Twitter, and when I checked its mentions, it was obvious that the general mood of Tweetland was supportive of this brave young woman and her one-girl-fight against the oppression of her school administration. Even some of the friends I follow on Twitter are supportive of her, claiming that it isn’t a matter of being GC (grade conscious) anymore; it’s a matter of graduating with honor. Something didn’t sit well with me about the case though, so I texted a trusted friend of mine. After sharing that this happened during her elementary days as well, confirming that this is apparently a common thing in the Philippines, she said something that properly summed up how I feel about the issue: “basta kasi mejo hindi ako agree sa eskandalong way of doing things” (It’s just that I don’t agree with the scandalous way of doing things).

What Krisel did was very brave, very smart, and mind you, very eloquent as well. To me though, the fact that not one person on Twitter recognized the scene she made for what it essentially was – a scene – bothered me. Is it because Filipino kids are so empowered on social media that we applaud every instance of hormonal imbalances folding in the face of reason and dignity? We went crazy over 1D coming to Manila – I have feels about that, but that is for another blog post altogether – and Philippine daily trends consist of TV show hashtags, some celebrity’s birthday, or, in particularly news-worthy situations, political disasters. Those of us who despise Marian Rivera hate her for being palenkera (uncouth) but are we really any better?

It doesn’t help that the official statement of Sto. Nino Parochial School succeeds in giving the impression that Krisel’s family is extremely competitive and grade conscious. I agree with my friend who said that this case should have been handled in private – or, if Krisel really wanted to complain publicly, she should have written a well-researched and well-founded open letter, which I’m sure would have made its rounds around social media as well. It may turn out that she truly deserved to graduate batch valedictorian, but the opposite is possible as well. To quote the official Twitter account of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, “Krisel Mallari is such a brave young woman. But we have to know the whole story before we judge.”


For the record, I do hope that the right awards go to the right people. What I have a problem with is how Krisel conducted herself and is being hailed as a modern Tandang Sora because of it – and yes, that’s an actual analogy someone used on Twitter.


I hope, in my heart of hearts, that she at least gave a sliver of thought to the valedictorian whose life she has publicly scarred forever. Krisel was brave, and I have no doubt that she’s an independent, strong-willed person. But just as people laud her for standing up against the administration, I warn you now – tyrants are made because we allow them to trample on our traditions, our systems, and our collective sense of pride. Someone should at least let Krisel know that overflowing bitterness is a major turn-off.


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