For a while now, I’ve been at loss as to what to blog. Scenes of devastation and the actual loss of life and property to millions of Filipinos were overwhelming. It didn’t feel right blogging about anything else where almost everything else will pale in gravity. Guilt perhaps, the very fact that I am able to blog in convenience indicates that, unlike majority of Filipinos who are poor, I am “unaffected.” For a while, blogging in the time of crisis reeked of insensitivity. Some people say blogging and online social media networks played a crucial role in the relief and rescue operations. I agree. But then again, the people who need the relief aren’t online, and prolonged online “involvement” seemed to me like a convenient excuse not to immerse with the people and get dirty with the actual operations. Posting and re-posting relief and rescue operations has to translate into actual relief and rescue operations. Many times, especially during the immediate days after the typhoons, they do, as proven by the thousands who flocked to organized relief operations. With an inept and inutile government, private citizens and civilian organizations needed to fill the vacuum in social services. But for how long? Especially when all those volunteers go back to their schools and to their workplaces?
Tisay celebrated her fourth birthday last Monday. We had planned to spend Sunday in a theme park, but since the metro was still reeling from the aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy, we decided to have a simple feast of Chinese food at home.
We had a small sansrival cake for Tisay but we even forgot to buy proper birthday cake candles, so we made do with a medium-sized wax candle. Tisay’s understanding of “birthday” unfortunately, is of a party, so all along up until today she doesn’t believe it was her birthday. She insists that she still has to celebrate her “birthday” distinct from the simple celebration we had last weekend. If the weather permits, we will push through with our trip to the theme park this weekend. I think she even expects to give a blow-out bash to her kindergarten classmates.
Last Wednesday, the sub-committee hearing the budget of state universities and colleges (SUC’s) unanimously committed to restore the budget to its 2009 level. It means to say that the proposed P3 billion budget cut by the President and the Department of Budget & Management is rejected at the sub-committee level, and the budget for the country’s 110 SUC’s would be back to around P24 billion.
Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino remarked that this is imperative, as the proposed budget has barely any allocation for SUC’s capital outlay. How then can SUC’s affected by the recent calamities rebuild their schools? A few days earlier, the DBM released a statement defending the budget cut in response to several protests launched by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).
They claimed that the proposed P21 billion budget is sufficient to sustain the services of SUC’s, as they are anyway allowed to generate their own income. What they didn’t say is that this forced income generating policy is done at the expense of students, through tuition and other fee increases. The statement only proves that our analysis as correct, that budget cuts and tuition increases are state policies that harm the future of the youth and the nation.
For the most part of the university’s existence as a higher institution of learning, policies were crafted and imposed by the Board of Regents (BOR), the highest policy-making body in the university, without the students’ participation.
For the longest time, the BOR had no student representative–the university’s largest constituency long subjected to policies they didn’t see coming. Through sustained and collective efforts of the students, however, which began during the First Quarter Storm, heightened and intensified further during the dark years of Martial Law and beyond, the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) was established.
The OSR serves as the student-run institution where the Student Regent, the sole voting member of the BOR, who comes form the university’s largest sector, is seated. Instituted in 1986, it has served to uphold the interests of the students, voting and arguing on their behalf from issues ranging from appointments of deans to increases in laboratory fees and tuition.
The enactment of RA 9500 or the new UP Charter, however, endangers this institution, under the smokescreen of democratization, by actually subjecting a decade-old Student Regent selection process crafted by duly-elected student council representatives across the UP System and subjected to debates and amendments every year, to a terribly difficult challenge–a challenge that the administration cunningly knows, given the trend of student election turnouts, has the tendency to fail. UP, after all, has more than 55,000 students system-wide.
At the beginning of 2007 I had a mental checklist of things that I would do and a checklist of predictions on how my life would turn out for the year.
However, 2007, turned out to be so much different from how I imagined it when it started. So, so much different, I’m telling you. Fate (or destiny?) had something in store for me, and it really caught me unprepared in the beginning.
By the end of January, I suddenly found myself being invited to join a greek-letter fraternity. You gotta be kidding me, I thought to myself then. List some stereotypes of fratmen and I probably am the opposite to a number of those. But what the hell, weeks later, I eventually became an Upsilonian. It was a life-changing decision and such a difficult process that I’ll never forget nor regret.
So, from the most utterly painful to the most stressful to the most euphoric, ecstatic and fulfilling of experiences of my life this year (and probably of its 19-year entirety to date) belong to this, my junior year in the fraternity. Tangina na lang. Hehe. It’s quite difficult trying to word it out and explain the countless individual experiences adequately without using too many superlatives or revealing things. I guess you just have to take my word for it. If I’m compelled to sum up 2007 in one sentence, I would easily and confidently say, “It was the year I became an Upsilonian.” ‘Yun lang.
(On an interesting note, this blog played a big role in how and why I was recruited into the frat. Oh boy, the things my blog get me into, right? At the beginning of the year, I was hoping it would be TV guestings or something. Hehe, just kidding. Guess the blogger who invited me.)
Anyway, the next big thing for me this year came shortly after I joined. It was late February and early March–campus elections season in the University of the Philippines. It’s not easy explaining to non-UP people how serious elections in this university can get. It’s probably one of the most fiercely contested campus elections in the Philippines, with ideological and historical bitterness and baggage.
Anyway, I was running for college chairperson under STAND-UP. And it was a challenge because students were bitterly divided on some key issues, there was an apparent strong anti-radical sentiment, and we were being contested full-slate for the first time. As everyone in my college knows, despite my “pre-election popularity,” I was defeated. And honestly, for a while then, I was depressed. But as the adage goes, when one window closes, another one opens. It definitely didn’t end with the loss. I eventually got absorbed into the university-wide committees of STAND-UP and from there I worked with the various social and political campaigns throughout the year.
This year-end recap can’t be complete without mentioning that it was the year I first visited the United States. It was a family vacation. We were there for three weeks. Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas. There. I think I’ve chronicled it enough already, so I won’t talk much about this. It wasn’t particularly life-changing, but yea, since it’s a major first, it’s worth the mention in this entry.
I’m sorry, I tried to keep this as short as possible. There were a lot of other things that happened this year, of course. I’m sorry if you’re expecting some things I missed out in this entry. Basta, 2007 will forever be etched in my consciousness for many various reasons. These three simply make the top spots.
Similar to last year, I celebrated the New Year with the family in our family-owned grocery in Bulacan. In the land of firecrackers, fireworks aren’t necessarily those beautiful fiery explosions in the sky that one would normally imagine, but they’re definitely heart-thumping and loud. Just when the year was about to change, the bomb-like explosions of the strong firecrackers went off and it went on for a quarter of an hour, with no half a second of silence.
A little past twelve, I went up to our top floor and watched the landscape flicker in chaos. Tens of thousands of mini rockets exploding everywhere across the landscape of Bulacan. It was quite amusing–I imagined it as a scene from a war, with thousands of anti-aircraft missiles flying in the air to fend off a foreign invasion.
We went back home to Quezon City at around 1 in the morning. It was an interesting sight. There were no other vehicles in the expressway except ours, seriously. It felt like we owned it. Or we were the only survivors of my imagined New Year’s war.