After 4 Years of Commuting: This UST Graduate Proudly Wears Toga Made Of Bus Ticket 

People say that life is not always about the destination, but all about the journey you went through to reach it. But for Mark James Operiano Capulong, a graduate from University of Santo Tomas (UST), both the destination and the journey indeed matter.

For four long years, the young student go through regular five-hour travel from his hometown in San Pedro City, Laguna, to UST in Sampaloc, Manila, and back home.

Because of his perseverance and hard work, Mark James graduated as Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He ranked third among the graduates of their department.

The 21-year-old Capulong made rounds on social media after posting his graduation photos where he used a toga made from the bus tickets he collected through four years of college commute.

In his Facebook post, he shared that while graduating with flying colors was one huge recognition, surviving the “daunting task” and his daily journey between San Pedro and Manila was even more fulfilling and rewarding. So he has decided to be creative and use the bus tickets he gathered, instead of the typical graduation garment when his graduation photos were taken.

He wrote on Facebook, “I’m Mark, a Thomasian, and uwian ako from the South for 4 years!! All my college life I’ve been wanting to do this, so Team South and Team Uwian mag-ingay!!!!”

According to Mark James, he took this inspiration from other graduating students who tried to be creative with their graduation photos.

“Actually, the idea was inspired from graduating students who also went for being creative with their graduation pictorials, deviating from the usual formal norm. Before, the tickets usually accumulated in my bag, but after realizing that I can do the same with the said people, but using my bus tickets since no people have done it yet, I started collecting them and hiding them for safekeeping, until the time comes that I have to create that toga gown,” he said.

As of this writing, the viral post has gained more than 34,000 reactions and almost 8,000 of shares on Facebook.

His father works as an engineer in Saudi Arabia while his sister was a nurse in Abu Dhabi, UAE. That’s why he chose to take his trip and forego renting a place near his school or staying in a dorm as he could not leave his mother and brothers in their house.

“From keeping the household in order to assisting in managing the finances, eventually I had the responsibility of leaving our home sound bago ako pumasok papunta ng UST. Aside from that is yung palaging kailangan ako ng mga kapatid ko para tulungan sila sa academic needs nila, and si mama when it comes to processing things that involves the use of technology… may tita akong nakatira lang malapit sa main na hindi na din makalakad at nasa kama lang, and since kami pinaka-malapit, naging responsibility na namin mag-attend sa needs niya,” he said.

“Dun ko narealize na di ako pwede magdorm at basta bastang mawala sa kanila, and ang hirap iwanan ang pamilya mo pag alam mong may aberya. It’s as if para na din akong naging tatay,” he added.

Mark James also said that buses became his “third home,” because of his daily commute that usually took three to five hours due to heavy traffic along SLEX. He also shared some events that made his trips worthwhile as it taught him patience, a sense of discipline, and time management.

According to him:

“Naranasan ko nang bumaba at tumakbo pababa ng skyway, mahulugan ng daga habang nasa bus, mahulog sa manhole habang nanghahabol ng bus, at ang hindi mabilang na beses na ako’y pumila ng pagkatagal tagal para mag-abang ng bus or matraffic at ma-stuck sa kinauupuan every time there’s heavy traffic”

“One time I had to endure traveling from Laguna to UST kahit na katatapos ko lang maoperahan because of appendicitis. I also had to go to school with crutches (saklay) dahil I had a bad fall and sprained my left ankle when I was running towards a moving bus. There was a time din na I had to rush si mama sa UST hospital dahil nung kasama ko siya sa bus papasok, she suddenly suffered extreme pains sa abdomen and chest niya which caused me to be absent on one of my classes,” Mark James added.

“I had classes which started as early as 7AM and ended as late as 9PM. Aggravating the situation is that I had to excel on my academics, and at the same time tend to the needs of my family, so most of the time I am deprived of sleep and I frequently skipped meals… Worse is yung ang haba haba ng binyahe mo tapos malalaman mo na lang na hindi papasok ang prof, literal na mas matagal pa inilagi mo sa bus kaysa sa mismong school.” he continued.

The young man also encourages those who have the similar situation as his’ not to give up.

“No matter how heavy the obstacles and impediments are thrown at us, if we equip ourselves with a steadfast attitude of perseverance, hard work, dedication, and compassion, we’ll achieve greater accomplishments and successes our minds never even fancied. Nothing is impossible if one puts his mind and heart on the goal. Even if we go to faraway places, our hearts will perpetually seek the distinct comfort and convenience our homes provide. In our homes, we only experience a strange yet fleeting feeling of solitude, and I believe people who have the same or similar experiences would agree with me,” he said.

Last October, Mark James went to Europe to work as an English language instructor in Madrid, Spain. But he also plans to return to UST to enter law school.