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Friday, July 12, 2024

Tigers Don’t Belong in Cages

4 min readHistory tells us that we didn’t bow easily to unfavorable circumstances. But today, demonstrations, including the silent ones, are often stifled, with student activists frequently facing repercussions.
Profile picture of Kurt Alec Mira

Published 2 months ago on May 03, 2024

by Kurt Alec Mira


Main image of the post

Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb


Out of curiosity, every now and then, I tune in to wildlife shows narrated by David Attenborough, which capture the reality of the natural world. Perhaps I love how my laptop screen would come alive with vibrant colors and breathtaking backdrops of the animal kingdom, temporarily transporting me to far-off places.

Sometimes, I like to watch how prey survives their predators like in this video of a baby iguana escaping the jaws of death. However, there are moments when I find myself in awe, watching predators as they go about their lives. Take tigers, for example. These magnificent creatures belong in the wilderness, where they are free to roam and hunt. That's precisely why they aren’t meant to be held in captivity.

But despite their powerful stature and majestic yet frightening nature, these apex predators find themselves at the mercy of men. For instance, the Bengal tiger is classified as an endangered subspecies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Poachers and illegal wildlife traders have ruthlessly targeted tigers, similar to what our Philippine Eagle has to endure. Tigers have become commodities, coveted for their pelts, fangs, and other body parts. Every single part of the tiger is seen as profitable.

Worse still, some have been subjected to the indignity of being confined to cramped cages and forced to perform in circuses under the control of a tiger tamer. Which is an oxymoron—how can one tame, let alone control, a tiger?

With this notion in mind, it prompts the question: have we, like tigers, found ourselves constrained within cages and barricades?

(Photo from Jilliane Louise Domantay)

(Photo from Jilliane Louise Domantay)

History tells us that we didn’t bow easily to unfavorable circumstances. Thomasians, ever loyal to the European colonizer, defended the Spanish crown during the British Occupation of Manila. For this, King Charles III of Spain granted the University the title "Royal" in 1785. Almost 200 years later, students in the late 1960s staged demonstrations demanding the Filipinization of the University.

Let’s not forget what happened in the 2017 Central Student Council (CSC) Executive Board Elections. In an unexpected turn of events, Thomasians overwhelmingly rejected candidates for four out of six positions on the CSC Executive Board, including the presidency, by voting to abstain. Only the candidates for secretary and public relations officer, both independent, rightfully won the election.

Imbued in the rich history of the University, we have fought and resisted wrongs across different periods of time. Generations of Thomasians have passed through the arch, upholding the very core values of being a Thomasian — compassion, commitment, and competence. It's incumbent upon us to continue this legacy. However, the present climate threatens to undermine this legacy.

“It's in the student handbook” is a phrase we would often hear to suppress progressive movements in España. The same way die-hard fans of Christianity would say, “That’s against the Bible,” on topics like same-sex marriage and abortion. The notion of progressiveness is regrettably perceived as a regressive step. No wonder we’re lagging behind the big three universities.

Protests, including the silent ones, and other forms of demonstrations are often stifled. Thomasian student activists frequently face repercussions like receiving show-cause letters or being denied certificates of good moral character. For example, Raven Racelis, the current chairperson of the youth organization Panday Sining UST, was compelled to explain her alleged infraction of the Code of Conduct. This happened after she spoke out against the student repression in this yellow school.

For legal purposes, the most recent case that occurred subsequently the day after the Catholic version of Barbenheimer, may or may not include a convenience store and an inside joke.

All jesting aside, the events of February 15th — which snowballed to a national embarrassment — shed light on two critical issues. Firstly, on how a particularly infamous and beleaguered University office firmly grabbed our throats with their hand in an attempt to show who has the power, as if there’s no war in España. And secondly, the prevailing student apathy that followed afterward.

For the Thomasian community, it marked a watershed moment. Not only was the office the talk of the town, but it also received coverage in several media outlets. Even the alumni weighed in with their perspectives on the melodramatic nature of the office, a concern that had been plaguing student freedom and progressiveness for years.

We all endured the pains of talking with the adults in that office, as if our own adulthood had escaped their notice. In their eyes, we remain kids who require supervision.

As an executive member of EARTH-UST, the sole environmental organization on campus, I experienced firsthand the delicate balance student orgs must maintain. We couldn’t say no every time this office requested our time to find volunteers as green marshalls during University-wide events, especially if it falls during the accreditation season.

Let’s not forget the tons of paperwork that orgs begrudgingly prepare to prove that they are worthy of recognition, similar to the red tape of getting an identification card in this godforsaken country. We, much like society at large, are a microcosm of its own.

Just like a government that suppresses critical thinking, going as far as to censor the media if it doesn't act as its public relations arm, the office stifles any dissent and independent thought. Furthermore, there's time set aside for retreats and reflection papers, but it seems there’s none left for implementing urgent changes on the campus.

Unfortunately, our captivity within this 21.5-hectare square seems to have bred apathy within us. It appears that, even if it's not in our nature, we have been conditioned to fear our own fangs—our own capabilities to stand for what is right and assert what is just.

There are individuals actively advocating for change, while others opt to remain silent. Some are vocal about their concerns, while others are preoccupied with academic pursuits or solely with minding their own businesses. Some are hesitant to speak up due to fear, while many view their time here as temporary, like being on a stopover and looking forward to leaving again.

Leo Laparan II, the former adviser of TomasinoWeb, has lodged an administrative complaint against top officers of the aforementioned office, alleging that they infringed upon his academic freedom and the freedoms of expression and press of the organization.

Currently, we have dialogues in Tan Yan Kee (TYK) while the person who must not be named is on medical leave. Times change, so the University must show some sign of maturity. A total overhaul of the system is long overdue, as the current structure fails to address students' evolving needs and aspirations. The necessity for reform has become apparent.

Moving forward, only hope and a House probe can instill confidence that such dialogues between the administration and student organizations will yield fruitful outcomes.

However, change is unlikely to occur if only a minority takes a firm stance.

We came from a long line of Thomasians who have fought against repression, some even our national heroes. What is there to be afraid of, if not the frightening thought of remaining still?

We’re the Growling Tigers for a reason.




Profile picture of Kurt Alec Mira

Kurt Alec Mira

Blogs Writer

Kurt Alec Mira is a Blogs Writer at TomasinoWeb. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing much about Kurt—except that he’s a D’Cream enthusiast and lover of all things matcha. For someone whose personality depends on the latest film or series he watched, he enjoys voicing out his fact-based opinions through social commentaries and pop culture reviews—ultimately writing for the organization. Kurt listens to many kinds of music, as evident in his library of playlists on Spotify. But among all genres, P-pop will always have a special place in his heart. If given the chance, he would love to interview Philomena Cunk and talk about her mate Paul. And one thing you should know about him? He listens to Skusta Clee in secret.


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