(This is the third segment of a five-part narration of how committing plagiarism led me to heal a wound stemming back to my high school days. A recent plagiarism controversy involving Philippines Senator Tito Sotto and American blogger Sarah Pope reminded me of a similar offense that I committed while attending graduate school. Committing plagiarism needed to happen in order for me to heal a long-standing, 30-year old wound.)
I immediately knew that something deeply buried was being unearthed from how my body reacted upon hearing the news that I committed plagiarism. As I reflected, I was instantly transported back to my high school days, three decades prior.
The stigma of being in a “non-honor section”
During my senior year in high school, I was kicked out of the honor section. During my time and in the educational system followed by the school that I attended, the honor section was considered the top class in the batch. You have this image of being better, intelligent, and the cream of the crop when you belong to this section. You’re smart and a cut above the rest.
I belonged to the honor section since I was in kindergarten. So, to suddenly find myself in the company of supposed “less than intelligent” classmates during my graduating year was quite traumatic for me. It left me with a huge stigma.
Within that year, I committed an offense for which I was given a “D” in conduct during the last grading period. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to graduate. The offense? Smoking.
A schoolmate was caught smoking. I wasn’t one of those caught in the act. But she submitted my name when pressured by the principal to identify all the other students — be it those who smoked with her, or those who, to her knowledge, also smoked in the same “smoking area” designated by the so-called notorious students, and whether or not she personally witnessed them. I happen to have smoked there only once and this particular student wasn’t even there when I did.
Sure, I get that just as plagiarism is plagiarism, intentional or not, likewise, smoking within the school premises is an offense — whether caught in the act or not.
But because I wasn’t caught in the act and smoked only once, I felt that I wasn’t being treated fairly. I felt that I was being punished unjustly by the high school principal. I felt like it wasn’t a fair trial, and I so resented it.
And I was now faced with a challenging and terrifying dilemma. How was I going to tell my parents and how would they would react to the news?
Growing up in fear
My siblings and I grew up in fear. We were terrified especially of our Dad when he would get disappointed for any wrongdoing that we committed or when he would get angry for any other reasons. It had become “normal” for my siblings and I to pee in our underwear out of fear of our father in anticipation of our punishment. We received such brutal beating and spanking which left marks on parts of our body where my father’s hands or the buckle of his belt or his slipper landed. We would pee in our underwear as we were being punished.
Clearly, that memory was embedded in every cell of my body. My body reacted in exactly the same way when I learned about the plagiarism offense that I committed. As I listened to my program director’s voicemail message and when I read the e-mail of my professor, I was peeing in my underwear. It was as if every cell was breathing out fear, and all that fear was brought to the surface once more.
Shaming is a big no-no in the Asian culture, particularly the Philippines
Having been kicked out of the honor section and receiving a “D” in conduct for smoking was so embarrassing. I felt so ashamed, and I felt terrible for having disappointed my parents. In the Asian culture, particularly the Philippines, losing face and bringing disgrace to the family is looked down upon and something to be avoided — at all costs.
Thankfully, despite the disappointment that I caused my parents, my mother supported me and tearfully begged the principal to allow me to march down the aisle during the graduation ceremony. Thank God my mother’s being such a drama queen, came in quite handy! 🙂
But my agony didn’t end with being able to graduate.
I was so scared that my tainted academic record would hinder me from being accepted in the university for which I applied to earn my undergraduate degree. I was afraid that no university would accept me. Or, that I might end up being accepted in one of the less prestigious schools. Fortunately, the smoking offense was a non-issue. Thankfully also, the university didn’t give any importance to whether or not the student applicant belonged to the honor section.
To be continued
References and related articles:
- How I healed a 30-year old wound through plagiarism – Part 1
- How I healed a 30-year old wound through plagiarism – Part 2
- Ribaya, R. (2012). Blogger: Sotto a ‘lying thief’; solon’s staff admits shortcoming. Retrieved August 20, 2012 from Yahoo! News Philippines website: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogger–sotto-a–lying-thief—solon-s-staff-admits-shortcoming.html
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