The lengthy class suspension because of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has given me one undeniable benefit: it enabled me to have the time I need to focus on finishing my master’s thesis.
I’ve enrolled in the University of the Philippines Diliman’s master’s in history program since 2011, and the pandemic jolted me into action. After spending several weeks finishing the required end-of-school year paper works as a teacher and the final paper from March to April, I began crafting a roadmap toward finishing my thesis.
By June 8, I was already able to submit the first draft of my thesis. Then after several weeks of back and forth with my thesis adviser, Dr. Neil Martial Santillan, and the designated reader-critic, Dr. Maria Luisa de Leon-Bolinao, my work was endorsed for final defense set for August 3. My final defense was set for August 3 via Zoom, and I will be writing more about that experience in a succeeding post. Going back, I passed my final defense with the panel just recommending me to do some minor revisions and proofreading.
I submitted the final soft copy of my thesis (eventually retitled “Examining the Works of Clodualdo del Mundo, Sr., 1911-1977“) by August 20 as required, while I was given up to the end of the year to submit bound copies. With this chapter of my life finally behind me, allow me to look back on my nine year-long journey toward a master’s degree.
After finishing my journalism degree at the UP College of Mass Communications back in 2010, I set my sights on getting admitted to the master’s program in history offered by the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. I have always been a passionate student of history dating back to my days as the representative of my alma mater Ramon Magsaysay High School-Manila during Social Studies competitions. Thanks to my good grades during college and to the recommendation from four former professors, I was admitted to the program.
By 2011, I already began earning master’s units and by 2014, I was already done with all subjects I needed to take before beginning the work for my master’s thesis. I never got a grade below 1.50 in any of my graduate classes, and I was confident about being able to finish the MA History degree within the five year-period prescribed by the university. However, instead of being able to swiftly reach the finish line, my graduate school work came to a standstill.
I bounced from one possible thesis topic to another, with my initial enthusiasm gradually extinguished by the realization that I do not have enough sources to make the project work. Other factors came into the picture as well. The implementation of the senior high school (SHS) system starting school year 2016-2017 meant that non-tenured college faculty members like me had to move down to the SHS level if we wanted to continue teaching.
Since I am not an education graduate, I had to enroll in a teaching certificate program to earn the units necessary to be able to take the licensure examination for teachers. I completed the TCP program in 2017 and subsequently earned my license later that year.
Earning a professional license is undeniably a major achievement, but it sidetracked me from pushing forward with thesis work. In fact, by late 2017, I was already considering transferring to another school or dropping out of the MA History program altogether to start something new. But heck, I had to stay in the fight!
By early 2018, I enrolled in a class in Media Historiography with the hope of using it as a launching pad for me to settle on a research topic for my master’s. And I succeeded! That’s when things began to fall into place for me as I settled on Clodualdo del Mundo, Sr., a prominent writer and komiks creator from the 1930s up to the 1970s, as the subject of my thesis. I had my proposal defense by July 2018, with the expectation that I can wrap it all up within a year. However, that was not the case.
Around the same time I was preparing for the thesis proposal defense, I secured both a permanent teaching position with the Department of Education as well as a lucrative side job as a review center lecturer. While the two developments are very good news for my finances, I was sidetracked yet again from finishing my thesis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This journey lasted for almost a decade, and I am not embarrassed about that. While I ideally should have finished my master’s degree years ago, fate took me to other places first – a side trip that enabled me to develop The Filipino Scribe, win writing recognitions, have speaking engagements across the country, and earn a teaching license – before I finally got to this point. I will forever be grateful for all those opportunities. So if you have been stuck in your graduate studies for many years just like me, it is not too late to sort things out and find a way forward! Keep forward!