He climbed up the stage and stood in the podium. All eyes were on him. He smiled, glancing through the speech he was about to deliver. He looked through the faces of the people – young dreamers wearing the same toga as his, bearing the same experiences as his, feeling the same excitement he was also feeling that same moment.
His throat was burning while his eyes began to mirror the inexplicable sentiment within him. He started speaking through the microphone. That’s when the kaleidoscope of memories began to play.
Aiman Calimbaba Cairoden came from a humble family of Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur. He is the eldest of six siblings. Although his parents were only high school graduates, they dreamt of providing a better future for him.
“Actually, yung father ko, gusto niyang maging engineer. Kaya lang due to financial difficulties, hindi niya yun nareach,” Aiman shared, adding his father really dreamt of him to become a doctor.
His father, after marrying his mother at a young age, worked as a driver in Saudi Arabia.
“One of my inspirations talaga is my father. Kasi,to tell you frankly, hindi kami mayamang pamilya,” said he.
Aiman shared that it was his father who really pushed him to aim for the best, especially in his academics. It was in his elementary graduation that his father went home from abroad. However his father challenged him.
“Sabi niya, ‘Aiman, hinding hindi ako ang magbibigay sa’yo ng medals, ribbons or whatever achievements na makuha mo hangga’t hindi ikaw yung valedictorian.’ Kasi class salutatorian lang ako sa Saguiaran Central Elementary School. So from that time, naisip ko na sana maging valedictorian ako,” he narrated.
Those words hit him so he strived to become the first during high school. However, during his high school graduation, his father was not able to go home.
“[Patuloy siyang nagtrabaho] para matustusan ang pangangailangan ng pamilya namin. Kasi parang naisip niya na lumalaki na ako, kaya’t lumalaki na rin yung gasto. Mas nagpursige pa siya.”
Frustratingly enough, his high school graduation was only video recorded and was sent to his father overseas. Since then, he promised to see his father climbing up the stage and award him his medals come college graduation.
“Pero ngayon, wala siya dito kasi he passed away noong November 30, 2011. Pero siya talaga ang nagging inspiration ko,” he said, adding that the car accident that ended his father’s life did not kill his dreams of giving his best for his late father’s honor. Aiman became a consistent Dean’s Lister, a four-time Chancellor’s Lister and a President’s Lister as well. His simple dreams of giving honor to his parents resulted to an achievement not only for his family but to the entire Meranao race and to the history of Mindanao State University. He became MSU’s first Muslim Meranao Summa cum Laude.
“Kahit ako, hindi ako makapaniwala. As in. Pero ako na thankful ako kasi Maranao rasied ako. Nakakaproud. Kahit nga yung iba nashock. Kasi hindi naman talaga kilala yung pamilya ko. Talagang low profile,” he said.
“Isa na rin sa mga inspirasyon ko yung mother ko, my very caring mother,” he said adding that his mother once encouraged him to give all his best in studying.
During his speeches, Aiman always emphasized the importance of sacrifices to reach one’s goals and become excellent.
As an MSUan, he shared that the first sacrifice he has to make is commuting from his hometown to the University every day.
“Everytime may schedule ako na 7 or 6 am, kailangan maaga ako dito since sa Saguiaran pa ako umuuwi. So talagang mga 5:30 pa lang, naglalakad (nagbabyahe) na ako papunta dito sa MSU,” he laughingly said.
Contrary to what most believe, he is not somebody who always puts on his nightclothes for overnight studies.
“Akala nila na na-achieve ko to kasi siguro daw every day akong nagoovernight. But no. Kasi parang kawawa naman ang sarili ko kung ganoon,” he clarified, pointing out that he does constant reading and studying days or weeks before the examinations.
“Dapat before examination, nagsastudy ako in advance. Para when examination comes, review na lang. Hindi ako nagka-cram.”
Aiman admits that he is an anime addict.
“Feeling ko mas malaki pa yung ginugugol ko na time dun,” he laughingly said.
He shared that while he was doing his undergraduate thesis, the anime series and movies had become his stress relievers.
In his four years in being in MSU, he admits that there are things that he has not yet done, like joining semi-academic organizations. However, he holds no regrets of being an MSUan.
“For me, hindi ako nagsisisi. Talagang mas thankful pa ako na may MSU hindi lang para sa amin na mga Muslims kundi sa ating lahat. Kasi kung wala ito, hindi ko maaabot tong achievement na to,” said he.
Being awarded a Summa cum Laude is yet too fulfilling, but to be tagged as the first ever in one’s race is beyond any achievements to harbor.
“Thankful ako na nakuha ko yung title na first Meranao Muslim summa cum laude pero kahit na naachieve ko yun, still parang for me normal na sa akin. Kahit na nakuha ko yung achievement na yun, kung ano man ako noon, ganun pa rin ako ngayon.”
When asked what his message to his fellow MSUans is, he said, “Talagang ipursue niyo yung mga dreams niyo. Cherish them. But before you reach that you have to undergo the challenges. Hindi niyo yan maiiwasan. You have to develop the senses of selfsacrifice, self-reliance and determination. Always pray, of course, dapat hinding hindi ka nakakalimot. And then dapat maintained yong humility within you.”
Finally he said, “Thank you very much, MSU, for molding us into globally competitive individuals!”
He left the podium with the applause of people he touched and inspired. Still wearing that smile, he walked down the stage with a bigger challenge to face. But with a humble heart and a personality who has known the importance of sacrifices, Aiman will go places. Because at the end of the celebration and graduation beats, even without the maroon toga, he is still Aiman – a son, an MSuan and a legend.
Full interview transcription at the Mindanao Varsitarian’s FB page.
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