UST student who endured daily long commutes graduates magna cum laude
MANILA, Philippines – It might be the end of long and tiring bus rides for 21-year-old Mark James Capulong, at least for now.
Capulong endured a maximum of 5 hours of daily travel from his hometown in San Pedro City, Laguna, to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Sampaloc, Manila and vice versa, for 4 years.
Not only that, he obtained his bachelors degree in Economics, magna cum laude, and ranked third in the Economics department of UST.
Mark’s story has inspired a lot of netizens when he posted his graduation photos wearing a toga plastered with bus tickets, which he collected from his daily commute.
As of this writing, the post has more than 33,000 reactions and 7,639 shares.
But apart from the guy who became an inspiration to many netizens because of his perseverance and dedication, Mark has a lot of stories to tell more than what his post shows.
Coming from a family of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Mark already learned the value responsibility from an early age.
His father, Reynaldo, has been working abroad for 20 years now as an electrical engineer in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His older sister Abigail works as a registered nurse in Abu Dhabi.
Being the eldest son, Mark takes care of the household by helping his mother manage finances and looking after his younger siblings. He also attends to the needs of his aunt, who is physically disabled.
“Much is expected from the eldest sons of any family; they are seen as role models who must imbibe fatherly values that their younger siblings would do well to follow as example,” Mark said on his social media post.
The responsibility and love for his family were the main reasons why he decided not to live in a dormitory near UST.
“Noong papasok pa lang ako ng college, nag-usap na kami nila mama na kailangan ko na mag-rent ng dorm. Pero naisip ko na mas kailangan nila ako sa bahay eh,” Mark told Rappler.
(When I was about to enter college, we were open to the idea that I needed to rent a room in a dormitory. But I thought, my family needs me more in the house.)
“Naiisip ko kasi noon na at the end of my college life, alam ko na mahihiwalay din ako sa kanila kasi magkakaroon na ako ng sariling pamilya kaya gusto ko na lubusin 'yung time na kasama at mapagsilbihan sila,” added Mark.
(I realized back then that at the end of my college life, I would have a life of my own and eventually leave my family so as much as possible I wanted to spend the most time with them and serve them.)
Mark said that choosing to live with his family while studying entailed a lot of sacrifices. It prevented him from joining university-wide activities and organizations. But those were nothing compared to the sense of fulfillment with being with his family.
Like people of his age, Mark also enjoys surfing the internet during his free time but he spends most of his leisure time reading books on history, general information, and economics.
Daily commute experience
Long daily commutes can be dreadful and tiring. But according to Mark, those made him experience a feeling of solitude.
There were moments that his travel from home to school made him reflect on things: “Ano ba talaga ang purpose ko in life?” (What is my real purpose in life?)
It wasn’t all success and fun for Mark for he also had a fair share of memorable mishaps during his commutes.
“Isa dun is yung nahulugan ako one time ng daga sa loob ng isang bus while I was studying for a final exam in Philippine literature,” recounted Mark in his post. (One of those mishaps was when a rat fell on me inside the bus while I was studying for a final exam in Philippine literature.)
He also fell in a manhole when he ran towards a moving bus. He also experienced walking along the Skyway when a bus had to offload passengers due to technical failure.
“Sinamahan ako ni mama buong araw sa school noong inoperahan ako sa appendicitis. Binibilinan niya mga kaibigan at professors ko na tingnan-tingnan ako,” Mark told Rappler. (My mother accompanied me to school the whole day when I had my appendicitis surgery. She told my classmates and professors to look after me while I was in school.)
Mark also lost weight as there were times he had to skip meals because some of his classes would start at 7 am and end by 9 pm.
He got used to his classmates teasing him, “Mukhang pagod at puyat (You look tired and sleep-deprived)."
It seems being an OFW runs in their blood. Mark will go to Spain in October for an 8-month contract with a university in Madrid as a language professor. This means he would live away from his family but Mark takes comfort in knowing that he would be back in a few months.
"Konting buwan lang naman 'yon. At least dito, alam ko na babalik din ako sa Pilipinas," said Mark (It's just a few months anyway. At least I know that I'll be back here in the Philippines.)
Mark plans to pursue law after his teaching stint in Madrid.
Mark’s ticket to success was keeping his priorities and finding motivation to attend to them.
Asked for his message to students, Mark said, “Choose your battles in life. Follow your dreams. Keep your eye on the goal, keep your priorities straight.” – with reports from Dane Dagatan/Rappler.com
Dane Dagatan is a Rappler intern. He is a Broadcast Communication student at the Lyceum of the Philippines University.
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