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Community pantries address food insufficiency but gov’t must address food security—Simbahayan director

According to Froilan Alipao, there is a problem with society if people will continue to rely on community pantries for a long time. 

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KINDNESS STATION—UST Simbahayan and the Santisimo Rosario Parish opens their community pantries in P. Noval and Dapitan streets on April 24. Photo grabbed from Santisimo Rosario Parish’s Facebook page.

While community pantries help address the food insufficiency in the Philippines, government officials must also look into more sustainable solutions to achieve food security, the director of UST Simbahayan said Saturday, April 24. 

According to Froilan Alipao, who is also a faculty member of the University’s sociology department, there is a problem with society if people will continue to rely on community pantries for a long time. 

“Community pantry is an immediate response because there is a need for food. Pero ang pangit naman kung habang panahon may community pantry ka. Ibig sabihin niyan, […] walang malaking tsansa ang mga tao na they can produce their own food or they can purchase their own food. Ibig sabihin, may issue with food security,” he told TomasinoWeb. 

The community pantries, according to Alipao, should also help empower citizens and encourage them to participate in governance.

“Yun bang mga pumila, ‘yung mga mahihirap, na-oorganize ba sila para tumayo rin sila sa sariling paa o ma-realize nila ‘yung dignity nila and rights sa society? Ma-oorganize ba ‘yung mga tao na later magiging active participants sila sa governance,” he said.

He also stressed that sustainable development should also include environmental stability that will cater to the “whole society, especially the marginalized and poor sectors.” 

Government vs. community pantries

Malacañang denied on April 19 that community pantries were established as a result of government incompetence, and told the public to stop politicking amid the pandemic.

“Itong mga community pantry nagpapakita na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan. […] Sa panahon ng surge na ito, kinakailangan po talaga sama-sama tayong mga Pilipino. Kung hindi tayo magtutulungan, sino pang magtutulungan?” Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing. 

But according to Alipao, the hunger and poverty experienced by Filipinos goes to show that the government is not doing its job.

“Nakikita mo ang gutom at kahirapan—at ‘yun ang totoo, hindi ‘yun myth. Ibig sabihin niyan, […] they are not really doing their role as a government—to protect and to promote the welfare of the people,” he said.

The Simbahayan director also urged the government and the private sector to come up with long-term solutions to the country’s problems.

Solidarity not socialism

The community pantry “movement,” according to Alipao, is a form of solidarity which helps those who have little to no food to eat.

“Food is a felt need ng karamihan na walang hanapbuhay, lockdown, saan ka kukuha?  So sabihin natin na religiously, kung titingnan mo, miracle. Pero sa sociological and social science term, solidarity—‘yung pakikiisa doon sa mga tao basically sa pagkain,” he shared.

He added that he calls this a “movement” because many people took the initiative to put up their own community pantries without expecting any funding.

“Pero with a starting point of community pantry at talagang maraming sumunod, nag-advocate, sumupport, doon sa community pantry, ‘yung iba nagtayo na, nagkaroon na siya ng isang movement. Movement siya kasi dumami ‘yung gumaya without any expecting resources from any specific group—it is really community mobilization,” he explained.

Although he agrees that the community pantries show a “semblance of socialism,” Alipao mentioned that he is more comfortable with the term “solidarity.”

“[T]here’s a semblance of socialism—‘yung you will share your resources and then you get what you need, kasi that’s one of the principles of socialism. But on a small scale, I think parang solidarity is a form of sharing,” he said 

So in that particular scenario, food for example, in a very particular period of time like this, we can show our solidarity,” he added.

Alipao added that it is up to society to put a label on the new phenomenon. He also lauded Filipinos for their willingness to help amid disasters, highlighting that it is the country’s “cultural asset.”

“May espirito ang Pilipino na kahit anong hirap, tumutulong—and that would be a good cultural asset. And I think the community pantry, why it became a phenomenon that people are supporting, is because of the cultural assets or cultural capital of the Filipino people,” he said.

UST’s Community Pantry

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The UST Simbahayan and the Santisimo Rosario Parish opened their community pantries on April 25, which were placed in Gates 7 and 10 of the University in Dapitan and P. Noval streets.

These pantries, called “Kindness Stations,” are only operational every Sunday morning from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. 

However, Alipao said that on Mondays to Saturdays, UST also contributes to the community pantry in P. Noval street organized by the owner of Mang Toots, Toots Vergara.

Community pantries became popular in the country after small business owner Ana Patricia Non opened the Maginhawa Community Pantry on April 14, which is now located at 108 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village East in Quezon City.

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#TWenty: TomasinoWeb’s year-end 2021 special

Our triumphs emanated not only from the work of others but also from our own. But in every gain, there is loss—and this year was exhausting in more ways than one.

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Artwork by Wendell Adrian Quijado/TomasinoWeb

A letter from the editor 

The previous year was dreadful as it is; gatherings, handshakes, and even breathing became a luxury. Dealing with an existential crisis infiltrated our collective unconscious, filled us with fear and anxiety. and leaving us with nothing but a bitter aftertaste. Even so, I had strong faith that the next chapter would break the mold. 

The emergence of variants cornered us in a checkmate each time. As the virus found new ways to thrive, scientists around the world did the impossible, producing efficacious vaccines at an unimaginable speed. What was once a pipeline dream is now protecting humanity, including more than half the Filipino population, from the novel disease. 

Along with the vaccine, this year’s firsts were beyond belief: our first Thomasian Olympian, our first Olympic gold, and our first Nobel Prize. Even in the midst of chaos and strife, Filipinos proved to be better than their formidable foes. 

Our triumphs emanated not only from the work of others but also from our own. Through the bayanihan efforts of our community pantries and typhoon relief, we’ve indubitably shown that helping the community need not be initiated by personal interests and compromises.  

But in every gain, there is loss—and this year was exhausting in more ways than one. 

With the health crisis still unabated, most students and teachers had to endure another year of distance learning, whereas the unfortunate enough were forced to take a year off. Still, the learning adaptations demanded so much from both parties, causing burnout, mental health issues, and undue stress. 

Just as we were foreseeing a silver lining with the gradual reopening of schools, our political atmosphere proved otherwise. From the misuse of COVID-19 funds, the publicized PDP-Laban feud, to the unentertaining circus of the 2022 elections, a cacophony of power and greed deafened the Filipino people. 

After all the tussles, we managed to, yet again, see the final sunset. A virus-free world may still be far beyond our reach. But as our sojourn in the year of the ox comes to an end, I hope that our existence hereafter wouldn’t merely be defined by our survival of many tragedies. 

Rather, the chapter we pass on should be engraved with how we struggled and conquered; how we fought for truth and justice; how we had the courage of our convictions; and how we rose to the occasion for the common good, for this is how we truly lived. It’s a simple victory—one that may not be celebrated by medals, statues, and special holidays, but it is a testament that humanity doesn’t falter at the slightest downfall. 

Without further ado, I present you #TWenty: TomasinoWeb’s year-end 2021 special.

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May our country flourish with deserving leaders that would ensure our safety, safeguard our rights, and assure our dignity as individuals.

 

With a handshake, 

Marcianne Elaine Gaab

Executive Editor

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You cannot separate activism from student leadership — Artlet student-leaders

Student-leaders primarily represent and protect the student body, regardless if the university stands with them or not.

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ust protest
Dainish Samantha Santos/TomasinoWeb

Thomasian student-leaders reacted to the Faculty of Arts and Letters’s Student Council’s (ABSC) presidential candidate’s statements against activism by claiming that activism and leadership go hand-in-hand.

In a series of interviews with TomasinoWeb, Speaker of the Central Student Council’s Central Board, Nathan Agustin, and former UST AB Board of Major’s Speaker, John Steven Usero, stated that student-leaders should not shy away from activism.

“We cannot really separate activism with our roles as student leaders because, as we see, students do not really hold power within the university,” Agustin said.

During the Miting de Avance for ABSC’s Special Elections held on August 31, presidential candidate Denzelle Jude Caro debated against student activism.

“Student activism is not the only way for us to go through because currently, we don’t have the protection of our university,” he said.

Usero contradicted the statement, insisting that student-leaders primarily represent and protect the student body, regardless of whether or not the university stands with them.

“[I]f it’s against doon sa karapatan ng tao maging malaya […], kailangan manindigan ng isang lider na hindi siya dapat magplay safe — kailangan ichallenge niya; at the same time, pag chinallenge mo isang bagay, kailangan maging rational ka,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

The University has previously sanctioned students for joining mass organizations and participating in activism.

“Every channel is blocked because of the pandemic; in your student activism, currently, you are individualistic rather than collective,” Caro said, comparing student activism during the Martial Law period to that of today.

After admitting to being unaware of ABSC’s history, he argued that in this time of pandemic, student activism is more individualistic than collective as students do not have the masses to fall back on given the health restrictions.

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Agustin partially agreed with the security concern of practicing activism during the pandemic, but still believes that the claim does not stand well with denying student activism as a whole.

Usero further supported the statement by explaining that the essence of activism does not depend on whether or not it happens physically with the masses but rather on seeing the problems in society.

“Kapag sinabi mong activism, ibig-sabihin may mali sa status quo, […] [at] kailangan natin makibahagi sa mga tao […] hindi lang naman siya ‘Hoy pupunta ako sa labas, pupunta ako sa kalsada’ para masabi na nakikibahagi ako sa mga tao — kailangan natin pag-aralan ang lipunan […] [at] ang kultura ng mga problema,” he said.

Student activism is denoted as “the involvement of students in defending their interests and bringing about needed change that drastically affect their university life and society.”

Despite the backlash Caro’s notions received, both student-leaders called for discourse and open communication regarding these controversial issues.

“Imbis na i-condemn mo ang mga taong ‘yon, kailangan mong ieducate […] kasi biktima rin sila ng sistema, biktima sila sa lipunan,” Usero said.

The Special Elections for ABSC will be done online from September 13 to 18.

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Mga Tomasinong student-leader, dismayado sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

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Nanawagan ang mga Tomasinong student leader sa Unibersidad na bigyang-linaw at agarang abiso hinggil sa pagtaas ng downpayment ng matrikula para sa AY 2021 – 2022.

Noong ika-23 ng Hulyo, matatandaang ibinalik ng Unibersidad ang 50 porsyentong downpayment sa matrikula ng mga freshmen kasunod ng anunsyo na hindi ito magpapatupad ng tuition hike sa panibagong akademikong taon.

Nagpahiwatig ng pagkadismaya ang tagapagsalita ng Central Student Council (CSC) Central Board na si Nathan Agustin, Internal Vice-President ng Communication Arts Students Association (CASA) na si Jeia Jazul, at Internal Vice-President ng UST Journalism Society na si Sophia Castillo sa kakulangan ng komunikasyon at representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa mga inilalabas na patakaran ng Unibersidad.

“They should have consulted us through announcements man lang, even if hindi direkta agad sa councils, […] so that we may immediately say our views or if hindi na talaga mababago, makapag-prepare sana tayo, ‘di ba?” ani ni Agustin sa isang panayam sa TomasinoWeb.

Binigyang-diin ni Agustin ang pagkakaroon ng maayos na konsultasyon sa pagitan ng Unibersidad at mga mag-aaral bago magpatupad ng mga polisiya para maiwasan ang paulit-ulit na batikos mula sa mga mag-aaral ukol rito.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang pagkakaroon ng representasyon ng mga mag-aaral sa pagpapatupad ng iba’t ibang polisiya sa nakaraang State of Thomasian Address 2021 noong ika-24 ng Hulyo.

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Sa isang panayam, nagbigay ng karagdagang paliwanag si Jazul kung bakit mahalaga na bigyang-pansin ang mga hinaing ng mga mag-aaral sa mga ipinatutupad ng Unibersidad.

“Students are the main stakeholders of the University. The school should be listening to the concerns of its students, especially financial [matters]. Instead of increasing the fees, I would ask to please keep it at how much we’ve been paying before when consideration of the pandemic was still a concern,” aniya.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Agustin ang muling pagsingil ng mga dagdag na bayarin mula sa mga mag-aaral katulad ng energy, medical, at dental fees na hindi nagamit ng mga mag-aaral noong nakaraang termino.

“Although there are no tuition fee increases, tandaan natin, hiwalay ang other at miscellaneous fees. Wala ngang tuition fee increase, meron namang other fee increase, meron namang miscellaneous fee increase,” sabi ni Agustin.

Mas mababang downpayment, hindi pa rin sapat umano

Ayon kay Agustin, sa kanilang pagpupulong kasama ang Office of the Vice Rector for Finance (OVRF), sumang-ayon at binaba na ng Unibersidad ang downpayment mula sa 50 porsyento ng matrikula sa P15,000. 

Dagdag pa niya, sa kabila ng pagbaba ng downpayment, masyado pa rin itong mataas para sa ilang mga mag-aaral na nakararanas ng problemang pinansyal dahil sa mas pinahigpit na lockdown dulot ng lumalalang pandemya.

“Even if this amount may not be too much for some, it is too much for others, so there [are] students who may be discouraged to enroll, especially if they don’t know na may means pala para makapag-enroll sila by writing a letter to OVRF,” ani ni Agustin.

Para kay Jazul, hindi nakabubuti ang pagtaas ng mga bayarin sa kabila ng nagpapatuloy na pandemya dahil napipilitang tumigil sa pag-aaral ang mga apektadong mag-aaral.

“It doesn’t feel compassionate or caring at all to be on a scaled payment system. Not every student in the University has the definite means to carry on with their education, especially in times like this,” sabi ni Jazul.

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Inihambing ni Castillo sa isang bitin na eksena sa pelikula ang kanyang pangamba na posibleng hindi siya makapagtapos ng kanyang huling taon sa Unibersidad dahil sa nasabing pagtaas ng bayarin.

“Natatakot ako kasi paano if, yes, naka-enroll ka this semester, pero what if [sa] next sem, tumaas ulit ang tuition or ang downpayment? Parang nasa peak ka ng pag-aaral sabay cut eh,” aniya.

Nitong Biyernes, pinalawig ng Unibersidad ang enrollment para sa unang termino ng panibagong akademikong taon hanggang Miyerkules, ika-25 ng Agosto.

Iniulat ng Department of Education na halos isang milyong mag-aaral ang hindi nakapag-enrol ngayong AY 2021-2022.

Lee Seril
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Nathalie Porras
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