Highest honors for 3 SU students


Three students from different colleges of Silliman University were awarded summa cum laude at the university’s 111th Commencement Exercises at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium on May 26, 2024.

Garnering quality point averages of 3.9 and above, Daffodelle C. Alaba, Bachelor of Arts in Sociology; Julianne Rae G. Lagaac, Bachelor of Science in Public Administration; and Keanu Paul B. Sygaco, Bachelor of Science in Foreign Affairs, qualify to receive the university’s highest honors.

When asked what the award meant to her, Alaba said that the achievement empowered her. “It made me realize the futility of doubting myself and it has inspired me to take on new challenges as I embark on the next chapter of my life,” she said.

A student assistant at the SU President’s Office and then at the Anthropology Museum, Alaba said that her college life followed a routine of going to classes, to offices, and to her dormitory. She stayed mostly indoors, although she occasionally went to hang out with friends or watch movies. “I believe there is beauty in the mundane,” she added.

After graduation, she plans to keep her options open, although she admits to not having a specific plan for the future. For her, it’s all right to figure things out and learn things slowly even while feeling unsure about the direction of her career.

Striving for academic excellence since elementary, Lagaac considers obtaining the highest honors award a culmination of her academic efforts and her dedication and persistence. She, however, admitted that her college life had a rocky start.

“The first half of my college life was very difficult. In my first year, I was enrolled in a course that proved to be incredibly intense and overwhelming. The workload was heavy, and the expectations were high, which left me almost no time for myself,” she explained.

The pressure made it quite challenging for her academically and personally, prompting her to make a significant decision of shifting her focus and transferring to a different course. The change turned out for the better, as it stoked her passion for learning again.

“The new field aligned more closely with my interests and values which reignited my passion for learning. Suddenly, the work I was putting in felt fulfilling again. I was able to engage with the material in a meaningful way and this relevance provided a renewed sense of purpose in my studies,” she said.

Although her new field was intellectually challenging, she found meaning in the efforts she was putting in since she could envision herself working in public administration.

“The alignment between my studies and my career aspirations added a layer of significance to every school work that I had to do,” she added.

After graduation, Lagaac plans to take up law. She said, “My primary motivation for this is to advocate for and assist those who are often marginalized and underserved in our society—specifically, individuals who face disenfranchisement, discrimination, and those belonging to minority groups, like women, children, and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Repetitio est mater studiorum.” This was what Sygaco said when asked about the learning style that made him successful. Although he subscribes to the idea that repetition is the mother of all learning, he also acknowledges that varied learning styles need to be applied to approach different academic tasks.

“While my learning styles are quite varied, it can be summarized into one core principle: consistent discipline. Each academic task required a tailored approach, but I approached all of them with the same level of grit throughout college. This commitment to disciplined repetition and adaptability allowed me to surpass and truly master my studies,” he intimated.

Sygaco has been an honor student since his elementary days. While he intended to continue excelling academically in college, he did not aim to graduate summa cum laude. However, when he realized that he had the potential to attain the prestigious award, he decided to go all in. His focus, efforts, and hard work ultimately enabled him to secure three major awards: Most Outstanding Student of the Year, Outstanding Senior Student of the Year, and the University Honors Awardee in 2024.

When asked what the summa cum laude award meant to him, he said: “Earning the summa cum laude distinction means everything to me, and yet, nothing, because the journey does not end there. It is trying to translate these achievements into something tangible. What value do these honors have if they remain merely on paper? We carry the burden of this responsibility, to pave the way for a better life, a better community, and a better nation.”

After graduation, Sygaco plans to pursue more advanced academic undertakings. “Whether through research, community projects, or policy advocacies, my contributions aim to advance the interests of Silliman University and the country,” he added.

Alaba, Lagaac, and Sygaco were among the 1,367 students who received their diplomas during the commencement exercises.

Other Latin honors were also awarded during the ceremonies: 90 magna cum laude and 252 cum laude.

Hon. Justice Francis Jardeleza, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, served as commencement speaker. | NWI