MANILA, Philippines – Online discussions have been heated since news broke of University of the Philippines’ summa cum laude graduate Tiffany Grace Uy’s near perfect overall grade. (READ: How a UP student’s near-perfect grade got people talking)
While many praised Uy’s achievement, others criticized it. A famous post by UP professor Gerardo Lanuza angered many because he said Uy’s achievement did not amount to ‘intelligence.’ He called her a “puppy of her parents.”
Others, however, came to Uy’s defense. One of them is her own friend and fellow academic achiever, Carmela Lao.
Lao graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a near-perfect 4.9 out of 5 grade point average. In her iSpeak article, Lao wrote that people should “be incensed” over the negativity towards Uy. She also rallied against bigotry and narrow-mindedness. (READ: On the online bashing vs Tiffany Grace Uy)
‘We have to move with one heart’
A friend of Uy from nursery and a Chinese-Filipina herself, Lao said in her post that now is not the time to be “sad or silent.”
In a phone interview with Rappler, Lao said “silence is acquiescence to the claims other people are making. It is time to NOT be silent.” She clarifies however that she is not calling for a war or hostilities. She said she only desires for Chinese-Filipinos to be accepted and that people should be willing to call-out the racism of others.
Lao shared her frustration at people who automatically assume Filipinos with Chinese heritage would automatically side with China in the dispute over territories in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Chinese Filipinos urged to step into PH-China row)
While Lao struggled with the diversity at first, she said learning to adjust to the perspectives of others was beneficial in the long run because it helped her develop more holistic perspectives in creating solutions to problems. Lao graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, majoring in Mathematics with Computer Science and a minor degree in Japanese studies on June 5. Despite studying in a foreign country, Lao says she didn’t feel alienated because of the diverse community and the collaborative approach to teaching at MIT.
“There’s not a lot of politics here. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed,” Lao added.
While MIT does not award Latin honors, Lao received the “Distinguished Student Award for Language Learning.” She was also a member of various organizations, namely the South East Asian Service Leadership Network, the Undergraduate Society of Women in Math, the MIT Tech Catholic Community, and the MIT Asian Dance Team.
Lao will be working as an algorithmic trader in New York come August. She says she intends to pursue further studies after a few years of working. She also plans to return to the Philippines someday and teach mathematics.
When asked for what she wants to tell her fellow fresh graduates, she says, “Do your best in the things you are good at and help our country in your own way. Don’t settle for mediocrity. We are individuals but we all share one dream of a more progressive Philippines.” – with reports from Aika Rey/Rappler.com