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April 2022: A new chapter approaches

Even amidst all this chaos, as what Jodi Sta. Maria said, ”papunta pa lang tayo sa exciting part.” While waiting for the new chapter to arrive, let’s look back at the events of April 2022.

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(Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb)

As days get dangerously hotter, the unpredictability of March bleeds into this month as the election season nears its climax. Thomasians also choose their next leader, both for their student councils and their country. Even amidst all this chaos, as Jodi Sta. Maria said, ”papunta pa lang tayo sa exciting part.”

While waiting for the new chapter to arrive, let’s look back at the events of April 2022:

1. Thomasians elect new CSC, local student council officers

(Photo by Aliah Danseco/TomasinoWeb)

UST students elected a new set of Central Student Council (CSC) and local student council officers last April 4.

Garnering 27,809 votes, former Civil Law Student Council president Nathan Raphael Agustin became the new CSC president. 

Agustin faced possible disqualification due to the non-issuance of his temporary transcript of records, which is a requirement for candidacy. 

Meanwhile, College of Education’s Francisco Mayuyu, UST-Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy’s Benjamin Amper IV, Faculty of Arts and Letters’ Dale Dale Ignatius Marollano, and Conservatory of Music’s Rhojen Sianda are the new secretary, treasurer, auditor, and public relations officers, respectively. The position of the vice president remains vacant.

The elections were also held online through an electronic polling system like last year. This year, there was also a higher voter turnout, with 30,924 votes cast compared to last year’s 28,848.

The UST Central Commission of Elections proclaimed the officers for AY 2022-2023 on April 26, where it also affirmed Agustin’s win after facing a disqualification case.  

2. Provincial bus operators, commuters bemoan new window hours scheme

(Photo courtesy of Russell Palma/The Philippine Star)

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) implemented a “window hour” scheme to facilitate the return of provincial buses on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA).

Based on the agreement of MMDA and provincial bus operators, buses with private terminals in Metro Manila can traverse EDSA from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. 

The buses should also terminate their routes at the North Luzon Express Terminal and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange outside the window hours instead of their terminals.

The announcement confused bus operators, announcing that they would only operate during the window hours set by the MMDA. Commuters were also left stranded at terminals in Metro Manila as the buses cannot go directly to its private terminals.

People also lamented online over the window hour scheme, expressing how commuting to Manila became more difficult. Some lawmakers also want a House probe on the said scheme for the “significant delay and convenience” it caused.

The  Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) distanced itself from MMDA’s scheme, saying that the agency is not “privy” to the agreement’s details.

3. Holy Week activities resume after two years

(Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cedric Landazabal/TomasinoWeb)

After the coronavirus pandemic halted Holy Week activities for two years, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) allowed the resumption of Visita Iglesia, Salubong, and processions this year.

Visita Iglesia is a tradition of visiting at least seven churches during Maundy Thursday or Good Friday in remembrance of the Stations of the Cross. Salubong, on the other hand, is a reenactment of the meeting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ after the resurrection.

The CBCP advised devotees to place religious images in motorized vehicles instead of carozas pushed by people and shorten the procession routes. 

Although, the Department of Health reminded the people that kissing and touching religious images are still prohibited. Minimum health standards are also still in place even as more areas shift to COVID-19 Alert Level 1, the lowest quarantine classification in the country.

4. UST becomes fifth top-performing law school in “historic” 2020-2021 exams

(Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

The University became the fifth top performing school in the cluster of schools, with more than a hundred first-time takers in the 2020-2021 bar exam.

The Supreme Court (SC) announced on April 12 that UST has a passing rate of 93.05, or 201 passers out of 216 takers. 

This year’s Bar Exams gathered a “historic” 11,402 examinees, as the SC suspended it for two years due to the pandemic.  

The Bar Exams were also held digitally and locally for the first time. Coverage was also shortened, with only two testing days instead of the four-Sunday Bar Exam.

5. ‘Agaton’ onslaught leaves 224 dead, P3 billion agricultural damage

Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard

Tropical Storm Agaton flooded several parts of the country, leaving 224 dead and  P3 billion in agricultural damage.

“Agaton” formed inside the Philippine area of responsibility and intensified into a tropical depression on April 9. It made landfall on Basey, Samar, in Eastern Visayas on April 11.

The intense rainfall flooded parts of Visayas and Mindanao, displacing over two million people.The Department of Agriculture also reported that “Agaton” left around P3 billion in agricultural damage, affecting the livelihood of 67,586 farmers and fisherfolk.

6. UAAP opens its doors to live audience after two-year hiatus

(Photo by Corinne Vizconde/TomasinoWeb)

For the first time in two years, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) opened its doors to a live audience last April 5. 

After initially starting Season 82 of Men’s Basketball through a “bubble” setup, the UAAP announced on April 1 that it would accept limited spectators, provided that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and follow minimum health protocols in place.

As of the writing, the UST Growling Tigers had three wins and 10 losses and was also out of the Final Four race after losing to the NU Bulldogs on April 26.

The Women’s Indoor Volleyball Tournament will start on May 5, with the Growling Tigresses opening the season against the FEU Lady Tamaraws.

7. EJ Obiena to carry PH flag at 31st SEA Games

Photo courtesy of Jerome Ascaño

After missing the World Athletics Indoor Championships due to the Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association’s (PATAFA) non-endorsement, Thomasian pole vaulter EJ Obiena is set to be the country’s flag bearer at the 31st South East Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.

This announcement came after Obiena and the PATAFA found closure after the Commission of Audit cleared the former of his liquidation issues.

PATAFA also endorsed the pole vaulter for the SEA Games and the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA.

The Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino revealed they nominated Obiena and Olympic gold medalist, Hidilyn Diaz, to carry the Filipino flag at SEA Games. Although, only one flag bearer is allowed per country.

The weightlifting star gave the other thumbs-up, emphasizing that Obiena is the “story of every Filipino athlete who fights to bring home pride and glory to the country.”

Obiena is one of the 656 Filipino athletes competing in 39 sports in the SEA Games, which will run from May 12 to 23.

8. Thomasian groups endorse Robredo-Pangilinan tandem

A month before the May 2022 elections, more Thomasians supported Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan’s bid for the two highest seats in the Malacañang.

Last April 2, six out of eight UAAP student councils, including the UST CSC, endorsed the Leni-Kiko tandem after the respective council’s mock polls.

Over 7,200 UST alumni also endorsed the tandem as both have “demonstrated integrity throughout their entire political careers.”

UST faculty members also backed Robredo, who said their students “can look up to and emulate.”

Last December 2021, several alumni, faculty, and students launched Thomasians for Leni Facebook page.

9. Several presidential bets hold joint Easter press con

(Photo by Lisa Marie David/Reuters)

Presidential aspirants Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and former defense chief Norberto Gonzales held a press conference on Easter Sunday to “call for unity.”

In the presscon, both Domagoso and Lacson hit Vice President and fellow presidential candidate Leni Robredo for “fooling” them at the unity talks before filing their certificate of candidacies.

Domagoso urged Robredo to “make the supreme sacrifice” of withdrawing from the 2022 polls as he claimed that her rivals had a better shot of winning the presidency against Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who was the top candidate in surveys.

Lacson also said Robredo rejected his unification “framework” as it required the latter to drop out of the presidential race if she lagged behind the polls. 

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Ka Leody De Guzman chided his rivals’ Manila Peninsula presscon. He also rejected their call for Robredo to withdraw.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao was also invited but did not show up at the presscon, much to the relief of his campaign team.

On the other hand, Robredo asked her supporters to intensify their campaign for her candidacy and for them to be unswayed by emotions after the tirades against her.

Several netizens urged others to ignore the presscon as it coincided with the surprise reunion of K-pop girl group 2NE1.

10. Scientists stage worldwide protest against climate crisis

(Photo courtesy of Brian Emerson)

Over a thousand scientists from 25 different countries staged the “Scientist Rebellion,” a worldwide protest against climate change and the inaction of governments to address it.

The protest followed the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report stating that the world needs to deeply cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 to avoid “irreversible” environmental damage before 2100.

The protest went viral after National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist Peter Kalmus and other experts were arrested after chaining themselves to JPMorgan Chase & Co in Los Angeles, California, a top financier of fossil fuel projects.

“We’ve been trying to warn you guys for so many decades that we’re heading towards a fucking catastrophe, and we’ve been being ignored,” Kalmus lamented.

Many pointed out his call to the events of the movie “Don’t Look Up,” a satire about climate change and how the world ignores scientists and their findings.

The protests made the #LetTheEarthBreathe campaign went viral, prompting many to do little acts to help reduce their carbon footprint, from deleting unwanted emails to using search engines like Ecosia, which promises to plant a tree every day 45 searches.

Although some climate activists pointed out that systemic change can better save the environment, the top 10 percent wealthiest people in the world are responsible for 34 percent of the global carbon emissions, more than double what the 50% of the worldwide population in the low-income bracket produce.

11. 2ne1 rocks Coachella with reunion performance

Screengrab from Coachella’s YouTube page

K-pop legends 2NE1 surprised Blackjacks worldwide after their surprise return performance after seven years at the Coachella Music Festival last April 17.

After 2ne1 leader CL’s performance in the 88rising’s Head In The Clouds Forever, she went off stage, coming back with fellow members  Bom, Dara, and Minzy.

In a Billboard interview, CL revealed that the intention behind their performance was “simply” for the group, serving as a “celebration.”

K-pop fans also felt a wave of nostalgia, pointing out how 2ne1 remains iconic even after all these years. Fans also rejoiced after witnessing the return of Bom’s red hair, Dara’s wild hairstyles and Minzy’s dance moves.

The group debuted under YG Entertainment in 2009. The group disbanded in 2016, after their last performance as a group at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards.

12. ‘Your daughter’ remix goes viral

Screengrab from AC Soriano’s official Twitter account

Papunta pa lang tayo sa exciting part.”

A new earworm arrived in town as netizens were left repeating the  “your daughter, is sleeping with my husband” remixed monologue in the show “Broken Marriage Vow.”

The remix came from social media content creator AC Soriano’s (@ItsAC’sLife) one-man show featuring the roles of actress Jodi Sta. Maria called “Jodi Sta Maria: The Unauthorized Rusical.”

AC, who was also known for impersonating actress Toni Gonzaga’s political performances (as “Otin G”), lipsynched to Doc Jill’s dinner revelation scene mixed with Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction.”

The “Unauthorized Rusical” entertained more than 12,000 live viewers, including Jodi Sta. Maria herself. The actress even performed the acapella version at the show’s virtual media press conference.

Ian Gabriel Trinidad
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2022 Elections Playlist: Tayo ang Kasaysayan

Sa darating na halalan, iboto ang alam mong titindig para sa karapatan nating lahat.

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Sa dinami-rami ng mga pangyayaring nagdaan sa loob ng anim na taon sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte, hindi na lamang ito isang karapatan. Responsibilidad na natin ang pagboto. Kahit sino ka man, kahit anuman ang estado mo sa buhay, kailangan mong bumoto. Hindi lamang para sa kinabukasan mo, ngunit pati na rin sa kinabukasan ng mga taong nasa paligid mo.

Para sa darating na halalan, gumawa ang TomasinoWeb ng 2022 elections playlist kung saan mapapakinggan ang mga kanta ng Eraserheads kasama sila Francis Magalona, Gloc 9, Ebe Dancel, at iba pang mga pangalan sa larangan ng OPM. Hanapin ang liwanag sa dilim sa mga tanyag na kanta ngayong darating na eleksyon. 

Iboto ang alam mong titindig para sa karapatan nating lahat. Nagkamali man noon sa pagpili ng mga pinuno, ito ang pagkakataon upang ihalal ang tunay na nararapat. Tandaan na nasa atin ang panahon.

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It’s time we talk about fetishization in BLs

There and then, when the object of production becomes subsumed into the gaze of only those who do not own the narrative and, by extension, to sell under the status quo, these stories translate to sheer fetishism. Same-sex relationships are only seen under stereotypes and cookie-cutter characteristics. 

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

In the early days of lockdown, everyone was strapped in their homes for what would become a global health crisis. 

With time ticking ever so slowly while the world seems to collapse, people turned to entertainment to catch slivers of hope and in a time when our feelings swing unabated from anxious to sad, to fearful, to bored.

As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed one afternoon, I chanced upon this post about two young, good-looking Thai best friends (later, I learned that they are apparently love interests). People in the replies were gushing over them, of course, I had to poke around. I let it rest in my mind, at first, going on with my usual routinary, monotonous day in quarantine.

A week passed by and Bright and Win, “two best friends”, or, lovers’ names, kept horning in my feed, even on Facebook. Friends, through direct messages, kept telling me about it as well; how it was so refreshing to see a queer love story on a mainstream platform with so many fans talking about it. To put an end to all these virtual pressures, I had to check it out myself. In short, I fell into the Boys’ Love series wave.

I finished binge-watching one BL series after another. Sometimes, I’d sandwich one show with another to speed up my viewing time. Often, I’d pair it with films and other forms of content.

For me, after watching BLs, apart from the usual kilig and jitters, I feel a sense of novelty. Yet somehow I still feel discontented with what I saw. In other words, unrepresented. But before I take a deeper dive into the world of BL, I think it’s good to have a quick history lesson about it.

From yaoi to BL

Screengrab from MyAnimeList

The origins of the BL phenomenon as well as its roots as a literary genre come from Japan — primarily in its anime and manga literature — that thematizes young male homoeroticism between two men. 

Commonly referred to as “yaoi,” the genre began as fan works written by female fans from a personal interest to push the boundaries of comics at the time. 

In fact, the literary genre has been so that the term fujoshi, which translates literally to “rotten girls,” or female anime fans who enjoy and often obsess with male-to-male romantic relationships in the works came to light. This already gives us an idea how this grew as a spillover effect to the current forms of BL not only in Japan but also Thailand, China, and the Philippines. 

In its early days, it presented only fan works showcasing platonic relationships between male characters in the form of parodies. The magazine June is attributed by literary and media scholars to be the earliest iteration of the theme since it was one of the first magazines that published male-on-male tanbi literature in 1978. 

As time progressed, the proliferation of Japanese yaoi manga that was intended for women audiences and consumption converged with queer desires and transnational fandoms, generating a diverse, new set of platforms (music, films, and series) catering to broader audiences and creating more sundry narratives.

With this, I think it already gives us an overview of the problem with BLs in general, and, perhaps, it also handed me the answer to my iffy-ness with it afterward. While many developments have been made in the genre, I still do believe that BL has carried over remnants of its prime form: the intention to “sell” queer narratives to non-queer individuals who consume this content.

Just to add a caveat as well, while this is already the case for male homosexual narratives, much more whittling in terms of representation and focus is experienced by Girls’s Love or sapphic stories. Usual storylines would not even delve on their quotidian queer realities but instead highlight sex not to empower but to fetishize and become objects of sexual pleasure.

There and then, when the object of production becomes subsumed into the gaze of only those who do not own the narrative and, by extension, to sell under the status quo, these stories translate to sheer fetishism. Same-sex relationships are only seen under stereotypes and cookie-cutter characteristics. 

Towards a progressive gender politics

Screengrab from Hello Stranger/Black Sheep

How do we then draw the line between genuine representation and plain fetishism? 

I believe that the answer to this lies in the intent and the effect on its audience. With BLs’ audience getting broader, the responsibility to shift to more inclusive, gender-sensitive, and socially aware is all the more apparent. 

Of course, we can’t deny the roots of yaoi and BL. And progressive gender politics cannot be realized in a snap of a finger. What I’m saying is that perhaps it’s time to push the envelope away from stereotypes that fetishize queerness.

For BLs form and content not to develop and be swayed to the progressive causes, such as representation in media, are refusals to recognize issues that the subjects face in the context of their true environment outside of fiction. To refuse fetishism is to promote criticality and elevation of queer societal discourse.

I still do enjoy BLs, especially new releases. I just wish that moving forward, we can challenge dominant narratives, and realize our imagined aspirations. Else, we’re stuck and the genre’s progressive potential to forward causes and cultural development won’t come up to scratch.

Paolo Alejandrino
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Ingenues: The ‘Maria Clara’ stereotype

While there’s nothing wrong with having this ‘Maria Clara’ identity within someone’s personality, it becomes complicated when it’s coerced down our throats by sexist voices mingling about in the room. It’s not easy; it’s a dauntingly exhausting idea to keep on thinking about.

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(Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb)

As the alpha male persona grapples with the existing beam of light shining from women in the 21st century, it is still difficult to forget the tide of stereotypes radiating off plain misogyny and poor accountability that apparently emanated from our own history. 

Thus, enters the ‘Maria Clara.’ 

I first read Noli Me Tangere during ninth grade and yet even as it was compulsory by the curriculum, I enjoyed relishing and getting emotional over the gruesome fate of its characters up until El Filibusterismo. Historically, Rizal was nearly right in painting Maria Clara as his own Leonor Rivera; but damagingly wrong to allow people to insinuate that that’s how Filipino women should always act and come to be. 

But nowadays we have the Dalagang Filipina. We have these connotations that almost stem from the history of the conservative Filipina in which Maria Clara undoubtedly ensembles. It’s no joke that the stereotype still lives on in the minds of many; alive but subtly ravaging.

How long are we going to endure the fate of having an idealized ‘Maria Clara’ trope to ruin the Filipina image? Our own image?

Reshaping the narrative

Photo courtesy of Preen.ph

Rizal’s books are one of a kind一in both good and bad ways. It’s embedded within the educational system and retells history with hints of symbolism and imagery during the events of the Spanish colonial period. 

Of course, we know about the story of Maria Clara一Crisostomo Ibarra’s lover. But what else is there that doesn’t meet the eye?

Maria Clara personifies a ladylike virtue; a reserved yet elegant woman. Her character gave life to the ideal that we almost have to adhere to until now. Encompassing the traits of religiosity, obedience, and modesty is something we’re inclined and taught to express rather than deem it unsettling and problematic. 

While there’s nothing wrong with having this ‘Maria Clara’ identity within someone’s personality, it becomes complicated when it’s coerced down our throats by sexist voices mingling about in the room. It’s not easy; it’s a dauntingly exhausting idea to keep on thinking about.

I’ve had my own fair share of experiences that made me realize being forced to succumb to the stereotype everyone else might be challenged with. From clothing, interests, to having a deeper voice different from the rest, the stereotype feels alive when it’s being used as a basis for our own expression because of societal and feminine expectations. You don’t have to be a woman to feel forced into this kind of preference, but it does feel much worse.

Colonialism may have brought the traditional idea that women are incapable and patriarchy prevails. But pre-colonial times have proven that female leadership and empowerment were much stronger before and have since brought to us the existing girl power we all needed.

With this, how do we reshape this long-standing narrative that spanned decades since the Spanish period?

We already did. It’s still ingrained within our Filipino culture but it’s been barely breathing ever since women have stood out and fought the good fight. It’s waning, while it has also become quite a deeply questionable cultural symbol involving time and change. 

It’s honorable and deeply appreciated to see a Baro’t Saya or Maria Clara still worn in this time for formal events and respect for tradition and culture. That’s why it’s hardly unforgettable because it gave reverence to the feminine Filipina in which tradition has brought us to respect but shouldn’t entirely glorify.

Yet, if the Filipiniana can evolve into numerous versions and styles, the mentality and acceptance against the stereotype can change too. 

Maria Clara may have resembled women in her time一and much respect to that一or her own cultivation of womanhood and heroine story; yet it doesn’t mean that the Filipina image has to be limited in this way until tomorrow.

A third-person perspective

If the norm was to disallow women to wear what they want because of unpredictable tendencies then there’s something definitely wrong, including the tolerance of rape jokes. 

The same goes for forcing someone to act a certain way or maybe even holding a press conference to counter nonsense to an exceptionally empowered woman. It could all boil down to one singular problem but it could also be deeply rooted in colonial history.

Looking more closely, Maria Clara’s fate in Rizal’s novel was troubling; alarming, yet ignored by many. This issue of rape, sexual assault, and abuse is still recurring一from the Japanese era’s comfort women to today’s victims一 and yet it became commonplace to normalize the instigation of these horrifying acts and systemic sexual abuse by misogyny itself and its perpetrators. 

The #HijaAko movement from the #MeToo movement of assault survivors and victims sparked from Ben Tulfo’s tweet rattling the red flags and saying that women shouldn’t, in fact, wear revealing clothes to avoid “unleashing the beast”. Yet another thing is, increasingly people like him might have already caved into the fact that this is normal; and one way to avoid it is to either engage in victim-blaming or ignore it fully.

The current administration provided the machismo epilogues of Philippine politics and cornered women into seeing them as a powerless state of being. If this were a Netflix series, then this is another episode from patriarchy originals that I’d be tired seeing of. 

And it’s problematic. It’s like wearing glasses that aren’t meant for the eyes because it looks cool even though they’re going horribly blind. 

Challenging the status quo

Photo courtesy of Wonder PH

But given this context, it’s heartwarming for the very least to see how long women have come from the iron-clad grips of male dominance in society and stereotypes like this. We still have much work to do, but awareness is heightening and conventional wisdom could be breaking.

We might not be able to separate the idealized Maria Clara from her fate in the story because it was written that way. But we can try to change the overwhelming stigma of rape culture and victim-blaming if we finally let go of the stereotype一unattach ourselves from it一and avoid glamorizing it more so as to hold perpetrators more accountable.

I may never be thankful enough to live in a period where beauty queens gained the Miss Universe crown for the country; witness a female Filipina journalist win a Nobel Peace Prize amidst the political noise or celebrate the first Olympic gold medal because of a female weightlifter. Add to that mix a fully capable female leader who withstood sexist rivers as a vice-president, and a traditional tattoo National Artist.

There is so much more to celebrate in how we challenged the boundaries of this stereotype and won against the current of a supposedly demure stature imaginably meant for women. 

Feminism and reshaping this narrative in the country is in progress against an oppressive male-dominated system, but we must never stray away from our own self-expression to fit in with the beliefs of others. 

The ideal to be like the ‘Maria Clara’ is a social construct that needs to be questioned because it does not only imply the mere idealized standard of what it means to think and act like a woman; but instead, this ideal also likely pulls out the gravity of the situation in how women are perceived and possibly generalized even up to this day. 

Because if I did keep on thinking that way and strived entirely to be like her, then my mind is my own oppressor in expressing who I really am as a woman born in this democratic country.

Instead of Maria Clara, Ben&Ben’s portrayal of a woman named Sabel could maybe give us the guts more to express womanhood on so many levels rather than attributing it to just one. Maybe it’s time for us to finally say, “Sabel, nariyan na ang bahaghari.”

A woman could be a fearless leader or an unflinching athlete; an artist, housewife, lawyer, activist, scientist, or journalist that transcends the boundaries of knowing the truth and expressing genuine freedom. She could be just a normal average person, living her daily life, taking care of her children, and practicing her rights. 

Whichever story there is, history will always exist to teach us; but her story will continue to be different and free from any biased belief.

Her story is not Maria Clara’s. It’s their own. 

It’s our story to tell.

Sophia Katherine Sarmiento
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