On April 20, the actress-model will graduate with a degree in Visual Communication from the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
She started the course three decades ago, also in UP. Laughing, she recalled her reason for dropping out at the time: “I was young and stupid and got married!”
Bing and ex-husband Mark Gil (Sid’s father) had been separated for 25 years when she decided to go back to school in 2005.
She explained that she had several reasons for returning to UP, both professional and personal—foremost of which was “to inspire my children to pursue their own education, no matter how late in life.”
Alien on campus
On her first day on campus, Bing was on pins and needles. “I felt like an alien,” she recounted. “I was no longer familiar with the grounds. There were new buildings everywhere and I didn’t have anyone to hang out with.”
She felt out of touch. “My biggest fear was looking embarrassingly dumb in class,” she admitted. “Memorizing data was challenging—especially dates and places in Asian and World History classes, which were conducted in Filipino!”
She was then doing an ABS-CBN teleserye (“Maging Sino Ka Man”) but she persevered, researching on subjects and teachers that were “student-friendly.”
Bing, who turned 50 this year, recalled that every time she entered a classroom, she was mistaken for a teacher. “The advantage was that my opinion was always respected. I pushed my classmates to work hard and didn’t allow anyone to goof off.”
She imposed the same high standards on herself. “I couldn’t play around because my classmates expected so much from me.”
Bing believes her “maturity” was an advantage in dealing with teachers. “I got along well with them, but I listened carefully and followed their instructions. One teacher was younger than my eldest son Timothy (Sid’s real name) and started to call me Tita toward the middle of the semester.”
Her family fully supported her decision: “Timothy is familiar with drawing and photography techniques. He would give me tips every now and then. He also shared his thoughts on my thesis.”
For her thesis, Bing wrote, directed, and produced a short film on environmental awareness entitled “Aki Ning Maisog (Maisog Child),” shot in Mampurog River, Camarines Norte.
Going back to school was an eye-opener. “I realized that as one gets older and becomes more responsible, learning becomes easier,” she said. “The old adage ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is a fallacy.”
Her stay in UP exposed her further to social realities. “Some students skip meals to buy school materials. Others walk under the heat of the sun or in the rain because they don’t have transportation money. More kids from affluent families should be sent to UP.”
Advice to women
She has a simple piece of advice for other women who may want to embark on the same journey: “Go for it, because those who did, wished they had done so much earlier. Education is truly liberating.”
Her mother, coloratura soprano Carmelita Custodio, was her inspiration. “My dad said that women didn’t need to graduate from university because their husbands would take care of them. But my mom, who was busy with her masters in Music then, pushed me to finish school.”
On graduation day, when she marches up the stage with her batchmates, her father, the late politician Marcial R. Pimentel, will be on her mind.
“I dedicate my diploma to my father who passed away on March 7,” she remarked. “On my last semester, he asked what I was going to do with my degree. I replied that I didn’t have any plans . . . That I did it for personal gratification.”
In hindsight, she wished she had answered her late dad’s question by telling him, “I’ve done well in different fields—modeling, acting, garments, the flower business, events planning and consultancy. I intend to continue what I’ve been doing all along and perhaps do more personality development seminars and events. But now I will make short films as well—and this time I shall be behind the camera!”