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Battling Architecture: A score of vulnerability and survival

I don’t know how to religiously deliver such a formal speech since it took me time to sink in the task Sir Warren told me, “maghanda ka na ng speech mo iche-check ko sa Monday.”



CAMELLOSpeech delivered at the Solemn Investitures of the College of Architecture last June 3

Very Reverend Father Gerard Francisco Timoner III O.P., Vice Chancellor [of the] University of Santo Tomas; Reverend Father Manuel Roux O.P., Regent, College of Architecture, Architect John Joseph Fernandez, Dean, College of Architecture; Asst. Prof. Warren Maneja, College Secretary; Architect Mariano S. Arce, President, College of Architecture Alumni Association; our esteemed faculty members, beloved parents, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!

I don’t know how to religiously deliver such a formal speech since it took me time to sink in the task Sir Warren told me, “maghanda ka na ng speech mo iche-check ko sa Monday.” I was stuck for days and admitted by Monday: “Sir, wala pa akong nagawa.” And flourishing my excuse “kasi Sir feel ko hindi pa ako enlightened.” Convincing enough – but I honestly just overslept.

This, my friends, is an epitome of procrastination that we, Architecture students, graduates rather, are most well-known of.

I wish not to sound too dignified in front of the academe as it would make me look pretentious. I decided not to quote prominent people to make you feel how significant our roles we are about to take or to make you realize that perseverance and other countless virtues are the keys to success. Expect that I will not give you any anecdote of realization how life-changing a novel I once read, and purposely compare you to the characters behind the story. I am standing in front of you today, to scrap all the metaphors and stereotypes of graduates and for once, to get real.

Fellow batchmates, gone are the days that choosing the most appropriate crayon is the hardest decision we could ever make. Who would have thought we would have to choose the best color after knowing Kurecolor offers 11 shades of cool gray and 11 shades of warm gray? Not to mention the slate gray, dark gray, and gray tint in between. We were torn with choices. One day, it took me time to decide over which brand of T-square would make me look cool as I walk down the campus. The next day, the crucial moment of choosing a topic for thesis daunt my innocent being.

Let’s not be hypocrites and admit to ourselves that Architecture students are not the ideal ones and to be honest, we don’t love architecture all the time. In those five years, can you count the times you had a break down, or the times you’ve cried, “Ayoko na?” I know some of us here enrolled in this course for reasons other than passion. And yes, the popular phrase of, “’Di ko nga alam ba’t ako nandito e,” still dominates. As for us who had Architecture as our first choice, we entered the College with [a] heart full of positivity, but I guess no hype can overthrow the pain of this dreadful course. I never knew I would tell myself, “Bakit ba kasi ako nag-Arki?” but well, I actually did.

So why are we hating architecture?

The endless paper cuts will forever be an inevitable torture. The Mighty Bond on our hands when we make scale models and the gross pain of peeling them off with skin attached. The frustrations of crashing AutoCAD and SketchUp [a] few hours before the deadline. A test of patience on long lines in Joli’s and Nitz for printing. The family and important events we’ve missed just to finish our plates. Not to mention the tuition and expenses paid (sic).

We had doubts, of course. The scale of the sketch of the Benavides statue, the champectives we passed because we have no choice, the zoning of required spaces down to the man-eating last two semesters of thesis. I even dreamt of my site development plan once, and that was a subtle warning that thesis will eat all that is left of me. We shrink from Architecture because at some point we realize that despite all our efforts, it will never be enough as design is a matter of perspective. It will always be subjective. Creativity, no matter how much we force it to happen, it will not come out the time or the way we want it.

But you see, despite all the pain we have endured, all the tears we’ve shed, all the hangouts we passed, all the money we splurged, all the sleepless nights we suffered, all the times we have failed and broken down, and mostly, despite how Architecture can actually devour our entire being, we have to admit, we still love this drastically compelling five-year course. Yes, I can say, we are martyrs, true heroes and soldiers of love.

We cannot deny that within those five years of hardship, drafting and rendering can also be fulfilling. The happiness after finishing the major plate and the victory of getting a high grade over a plate you crammed in one night. The fun part of enhancing our perspectives by putting our friend’s photo as entourage. The satisfaction we get after pulling off our design from rough sketch to a virtual reality in SketchUp. And of course, the unequalled feeling of getting your thesis defended.

In my nine-year stay in this University, I realized that success was a mere open cloud waiting for people to hop on. The travel time to reach this destination matters by your choice of transport. It is not an imagery of flowers by the field, nor a domain of high grades or currency.

Architecture has driven us to become the brave souls we are today. We have survived, my fellow graduates. We have conquered the complexity of this course. This is probably the most authentic image of success, perhaps in an Architecture student’s perspective: Painstakingly bearing all the hardships in five years despite the downfalls we’ve been through, and ending college life with [the] sincerest smile and humility.

With this, I am very honored to speak in behalf of my entire batch that these students could not have worn that well-ironed toga if it wasn’t for the people that have been with us throughout this journey.

This is to our dearest alma mater, University of Santo Tomas. You were more than our training ground to victory but our second home where we will return to cherish all our memories together. Let’s keep our words as we say, UST, you will never be forgotten for our journey within your four walls has molded us to become the alumni you will be proud of someday.

We have entered your portal with the initial 3Cs marked in our souls: commitment, competence, and compassion. And after spending five years in Beato Angelico, thank you College of Architecture because by the time we leave your historic fortresses we are carrying another 3Cs –  courage, camaraderie, and the innate skills of cramming. This is to our dearest College for shaping us to the future architects ready to make a change and beautify the world.

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And with this, we give our utmost gratitude to our professors. They have been the soil to our initial roots, the trunk to the brittleness of our branches, and the twigs to our withering leaves. Thank you for generously sharing the knowledge we are to carry on in the real world. There will never be a perfect student as there will never be a perfect mentor. And so, let me also take this opportunity, to say sorry for all the times we hated you for moving the deadline earlier than expected, for giving us questions we never really encountered on (sic) discussions, and for scrutinizing our plates and engraving to our minds that our design was once (sic) hell of a trash. This is to all our mentors, most especially to our respective thesis juries, who gave us the wakeup call that we all need tons of criticisms to make way for improvement and that, great architects are rooted from failures and disappointments. Allow me to specially mention my thesis adviser, Architect Rogelio Caringal. Sir, your fatherly love and concern have overthrown all those vicious looks you gave upon our works. Sir, know that 5AR9 will always be grateful for having the sincerest and sweetest mentor we ever had.  Thank you to all our professors, we will forever be indebted in you!

My fellow graduates, let us also take this moment to give our sincerest thank you to the person on your left and right, to that person in front of you, and the one behind your back. Batchmates, we were survivors by the time we overthrow the nightmare of cutoff during our first year. We have battled the AUSAT and ARCC with rushed nights of reviewing handouts, desperately squeezing [four years] worth of knowledge in one night and by alternative, holding on to the stock knowledge we never actually trusted. We have faced issues together and shared the remorse after announcing that the Architecture Week float parade we had was our first and last. Nonetheless, our journey, may it be a rolling stone of stress and tension, we keep our heads up because at the back of our minds, we do believe our batch is now leaving a legacy to be remembered.

To your friends and blockmates, who have lent you pens you never returned, who gave you [sheets of] yellow pad [during] surprise quizzes, who have been your partners in “Walang magre-remind kay Sir na may homework,” who have been your echoes on, “’Wag na mag-quiz!”, “Pa-move ‘yung deadline!”, “Free cut na!”, who have influenced you with the hype of Kopiko and a toast of energy drinks the night before submission, who have shared the buckets of cold beer after handing the major plate, and who have been your fellow crammers at times of “May nagawa ka na?” “Wala pa.” “Ako din!” Thank you for we wouldn’t have come this far without them. Their presence, in any way, has led us to reach this memorable day. Let me also give my personal gratitude to my UST High School friends, TomasinoWeb family, CASC 2014-2015, previous blocks, 1AR3 and 2AR7, and as promised, my blockmates since second year, please stand to be recognized, as I am most endeared to shout to the entire Batch 2016 that I would not be able to speak in front of you today without the best company of my college life, 5AR9!

Allow me to mention this great army of friends who have always been there for me since day one: Miguel, Gio, Jett, Pau, Andrea, Krizia, Fatima, and Maricar, thank you for all our sleepless nights, cramming sessions, and all our exchange of conversations (sic) of “Matatapos kaya tayo? Girl, tiwala lang.” Thank you for being my withstanding and unbreakable support team. Most especially, thank you to RD, for enduring all my rants and stress, for cheering me up at times I feel emotionless over my thesis, and for giving me encouragement when I needed the most. With you, I am indeed #blessed.

Above all the people we are surrounded today, this is to our parents and guardians. For all their hard work and sacrifices, we wish to repay you in whatever way we can. This may be our ending rites but this ceremony is also dedicated to you. Finally, they are also graduating from printing expenses, repetitive reminders that we need to rest, and satisfying service on our sleepless sessions. This is to our parents for constantly seeing the best in us when the whole world has ignored us.

Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. I would not be standing here at this moment if it wasn’t for your undying love and support. To my dad, thank you for all the hard work. [Even if] you are […] away from us right now, he’s watching right now, your presence is always felt. Thank you for making me laugh despite all the crankiness Architecture has caused me. And of course, I am proud to give recognition to my ever bibo and stage mom of all time, please stand as I wish to give you the spotlight you truly deserve. Mommy, this is to all the times I dragged you to places for printing and buying materials, to all the times I cried at the edge of giving up, and to all the times I can’t believe in myself anymore but you still continue to lift me up. I know I may not be the perfect daughter, but I hope I made you proud. I love you Mommy and Daddy, and to my sister, I love you, sometimes!

Congratulations dearest parents, you also made it! And no matter how many times we thank you, it will never be enough.

Let me close this speech with the last genuine thing I experience (sic) in my struggle for survival in this field. I get teased with questions of “Ano bang kinakain mo? Paano mo ginagawa?” Let me tell you that no special food or vitamins or potion intake actually made me stand in front of you today, but only prayers. This is to God Almighty, for giving us strength to reach this moment and for guiding us to the path we took and the roads we are about to take. At times we felt undeserving for your love, you still continue to shower us with countless blessings. Lord, thank you for giving us double quarter pounder beef burger when we asked for a simple ham sandwich.

Batch 2016, we may have been a controversial batch, I must say, but we were survivors after all. So by now, let’s continue chasing our dreams, choosing our transport towards our goals and hopping on to the success we will soon reach. Let’s claim it, congratulations future architects!

Ang galing nating lahat!

Maraming salamat at magandang hapon!



Ang kabataan ay lalaban

Ito ang panahon upang basagin ang takot, maghimagsik at kumilos, sapagkat ang magbalikwas ay makatarungan sa harap ng isang berdugo at pasista tulad ni Duterte.



Malinaw sa atin ngayon na pinaninindigan na ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang pagiging pasista.

Makapal man ang piring ng kanyang mga sunud-sunuran sa kanyang walang-awang pamamaslang at patuloy na pagpapahirap sa mga maralita, magsasaka at mga katutubo, gayundin sa kanyang panunupil sa mga kritiko at mga mamamahayag, ang kabataan ay hindi mananahimik.

Ngayong araw, daan-daang mga mag-aaral mula sa iba’t ibang mga paaralan at pamantasan ang muling magmamartsa at magtitipun-tipon sa Mendiola upang ipakita ang kanilang pagtuligsa sa pasista at berdugong si Duterte. Nakasisiguro ako na ang kanyang mga kampon sa social media ay muli na namang babatikusin ang mga lalahok sa pagkilos na mag-aral na lamang sa halip na magprotesta sa mga lansangan.

Kung maari ko po lamang ipaalala sa mga nakatatanda, hindi na bago ang pagkilos ng mga mag-aaral at kabataan sa loob man o labas ng bansa—nasa tradisyon na ng mga Pilipinong mag-aaral at kabataan na tumindig laban sa mga manlulupig, mula kina José Rizal, Andrés Bonifacio at iba pang mga bayani ng himagsikan, hanggang sa mga mag-aaral na nangahas na lumaban sa diktadurang Marcos noong Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto at maging ang apat na araw na pagkilos sa EDSA na nagpabagsak kay Marcos na siyang gugunitain natin ngayong Linggo.

Handa ang kabataang Pilipino, kasama ng malawak na hanay ng masa, na lumaban at magbuwis ng buhay para sa kalayaan at makatarungang pagbabago. Ipinapakita lamang nito na, sa kabila ng lahat ng mga natututunan ng mga kabataan sa loob ng kanilang mga silid-aralan, hindi sila nagpapakulong sa intelektwal na tore ng akademiya at bagkus ay handa silang tumugon sa lipunan gamit ang kanilang mga natutunan.

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Subalit, sa panahong ito, matindi ang hamon sa kabataan, lalo na sa harap ng laganap na indibidwalismo at pagkakanya-kanya, na magmulat, mag-organisa at magpakilos.

Napakadaling magbulag-bulagan, magbingi-bingihan, at patuloy na manahimik; napakadali ring magkunwari na may nagagawa ang pag-“like” at “share” sa social media na baguhin ang mga konretong suliranin ng lipunang Pilipino. Bagamat dapat nating gamitin ang social media upang ipahayag ang ating pagtuligsa sa pamahalaan, wala itong saysay at magiging mga simpleng salita lamang kung hindi ito tatapatan ng konreto at kolektibong pagkilos—isang pagkilos na nagpapakita ng pakikiisa ng kabataan sa pakikibaka ng malawak na hanay ng masang api na wala sa burgis na espasyo ng social media.

Sa panahong tumitindi na ang mga pasistang pag-atake ng pamahalaan sa mga aktibista, mga kritiko, at sa mismong sandigan ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas, ito ang oras upang kumawala sa tanikala ng ating pananahimik. Ito ang panahon upang magsalita. Ito ang panahon upang basagin ang takot, maghimagsik at kumilos, sapagkat ang magbalikwas ay makatarungan sa harap ng isang berdugo at pasista tulad ni Duterte.

Ito ang panahon upang muling magtungo sa lansangan, kung saan ang kabataang naglilingkod sa sambayanan ay titindig at lalaban.


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TRAIN: A new wave of war against the poor

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law will gravely hurt the poor, and the administration was aware of it from the beginning.



We are, once again, being strangled by the despots that lead the very country that they promised to secure and we are doomed enough to witness.

With the new tax reform law at hand, the lives of the Filipinos, especially the citizens in the middle class and the poor sectors, are terribly at stake as they will be asked to make further sacrifices and pay more taxes to fund a grandiose program of the government.

As we celebrated the new year, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, or Republic Act No. 10963, left its station and started moving on the rails—a big leap after living in the shadows and remnants of the outdated National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for 20 years.

A major component of the new law, and rather drastic change from NIRC, is reducing the personal income taxes of the citizens: An individual with a taxable income of 250,000 pesos or less is, from now on, exempted from income tax and those with a taxable income of above 250,000 pesos would be subject to the tax rate of 20 to 35 percent effective this year, and 15 to 35 percent effective on 2023.

Additionally, it abridges the estate tax, the donor’s tax and the Value Added Tax. But, in turn, it imposes higher excise taxes on automobiles, cigarettes, manufactured oils (petroleum products) and mineral products; on passive incomes, including interest income from dollar and other foreign currency deposits; and on documents (Documentary Stamp Taxes).

To top it all off, the new law also introduces new taxes levied on sweetened beverages, non-essential services (invasive cosmetic procedures), and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office winnings.

In short, while TRAIN cuts some taxes, it also increases the taxes on various products—particularly on basic commodities.

Will the new income taxes even matter, particularly to the poor who are mostly minimum wage earners to begin with, now that people have to pay a higher price on the commodities and the necessities of daily living?

It is with great insult that I find the administration has taken us for indolent fools allergic to heavy text and numbers.

It is, however, with much joy do I indulge myself into, knowing how careless and the real fool the current administration is in embarrassingly trying to cloak itself as “for the poor.” Among others, take the jeepney drivers for example: After slapping and exhausting them with plans of jeepney modernization, the government, again, mercilessly hits the drivers with a great hike in diesel.

If the dogs of President Duterte—and even he, himself—continue denying the obvious, they should do a better job at hiding the evidence.

Furthermore, TRAIN embodies the demise of employment in the country—an increase in fuel is basically the bearer of inflation and one who tips the first domino in line. In fact, several employers of companies are now at unease, noting that they have not included the sudden shift in their plans and marketing strategies. Prices of goods, even those untouched by the excise tax, have also been soaring since the implementation of TRAIN.

The new law has practically campaigned the crucial and decades-old problem of the country: Poverty. With all the unjust hikes, we might as well witness more people starving in the streets, and the police, with guns on their hands, taking “care” of them.

TRAIN will gravely hurt the poor, and the administration was aware of it from the beginning. So, the Department of Social Welfare and Development provides a program that will transfer 200 pesos per poor family per month for this year, and stokes to 300 pesos in 2019 and 2020.

But are these enough to aid each poor family that constitutes the majority of the country? More so, how sure are we that these politicians will not exploit the transfers, like what they are doing with the workers now, given that they cannot even present a detailed budget plan with TRAIN’s revenues and when they cannot even solve their own case of chronic corruption, especially in the Bureau of Customs?

As much as TRAIN will likely yield a positive look for the country, the ambitious program it supports still remains a big if, a question mark. Are we really willing to let the people suffer and receive the burden of hopes plastered on a project that is even uncertain to succeed?

This is no less than the administration’s campaign against drugs. The people, mainly the poor, are not funding the “Build, Build, Build” program with money but with blood.


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‘Why are you so hateful?’



Often after the publication of a scathing critique or an explosive exclusive on TomasinoWeb, several individuals would go on Twitter and comment on how the article is supposedly seething with hatred. Of course, the commentaries from Twitter are usually less eloquently worded — some simply say, “this article is full of hate” — but regardless of the lack of linguistic finesse, the message they are trying to communicate is clear: The people behind the official digital media organization of this University is propagating hate.

But first, let us define “hate.” According to the ever-trusty Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hate is “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.”

Looking back at my last year in the University, I have felt all three sources of hate: I have been afraid of not finishing my degree, of not accomplishing my thesis, of failing to submit crucial requirements, of failing TomasinoWeb, and of failing myself. I have been angry at incompetent groupmates, at heavy traffic and LRT disruptions, at jeepney drivers who insist that I have not paid, at friends, at my family, and at myself. Many times over the past year, I found myself hurt by the product of my shortcomings — all the failures haunted me at night and it made me angry, it made me afraid, and the cycle of hatred continued.

Even beyond the personal, I also felt fear, anger and a sense of injury.

I feared policies and systems in place which only served to repress people. I was angry at those too, and even furious at people who were capable of addressing these unrestrained exercises of power, but chose to turn a blind eye or worse, participate — all for their personal gain. I felt hurt and betrayed by these people, some of whom I believed and trusted in and eventually voted for. Moreover, I was hurt during times when I, TomasinoWeb, members of the campus press, ordinary students and ordinary citizens became targets of repression.

Perhaps, people were correct to tell me that I was hateful: I hated systems that oppress and repress people. I hated the people who continue to enable and perpetuate these systems. But is it wrong? Is it morally incorrect to feel repulsion towards injustice?

During our retreat at Caleruega in Batangas, we were told of a quote by anti-Nazi German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

When our block went to Pansol, Laguna for a swimming trip, I and The Varsitarian Editor-in-Chief Kathryn Baylon got to talk while we splashed around in the hot spring pool. At one point in our intoxicated babble, we told each other that we have developed a dislike for our job. It is far too demanding for hardly any recognition. We had to deal with staffers, complaints from readers and deadlines while dealing with papers and projects for our classes. We could have chosen the life of an ordinary Journalism student at the Faculty of Arts and Letters. We could have quit earlier and lived a quieter collegiate existence. It was just easier to not care about pressing issues in the University.

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But as much as we disliked doing our job, we did it anyway. Both of us felt that we were morally obliged to our publications and to the students. We needed to tell stories — both good and bad — not because we were serving an agenda or we hated the subjects of our stories. Kathryn put it best, “Baka kasi mahal pa rin natin ito.”

I believe that there is no love which is not difficult, and loving this University is no different. It was hard to love an institution marred by controversies and I would have to admit that at one point, I found myself saying that I hated this institution — but UST taught me better. Early on, I learned that hate is not the opposite of love, but indifference. Apathy is the antithesis of compassion and not antipathy.

Turning a blind eye is easier than gluing both eyes and telling stories. But I cannot bear the heavy burden of indifference, especially if I love this institution so much that I want it to change for the better.

A mother does not hate her drug-addicted son if she turns him in to the police. Love is what moved her to choose losing constant contact with her son rather than allow his self-destructive lifestyle to continue. It is a difficult kind of love, but it is a noble one.

Xave Gregorio, Editor-in-Chief

At this point, I would like to thank my parents for loving me so much that they sent me to UST and spent a hefty sum of money to earn a degree of my own choice. Thank you for feeding, clothing and sheltering me, and for constantly guiding and affirming me, especially in times when I felt lost and worthless.

I am grateful for the love of Lorenzo Gantuangco that had kept me moving. These past two years would have been far more difficult without you.

I thank Roselle Habana, Michelle Del Agua, Armando Razon, Penny Cuenca, Marla Papas, Tovy Bordado and Anna Mogato for their various expressions of love. You are people I could always count on. Trust that you can always count on me too.

To the crazy kids of 4JRN1, I love all of you. I am proud of what we have achieved. I know that we can get to greater heights.

My fellow TomasinoWeb editors and Core officers, I admire the love that you have poured out for our organization to keep it running. For those who will remain and become the next set of editors and officers, I hope you exhibit the same love that we have shown. Make TomasinoWeb your partner (or third party, if you already have a partner.)

To my teachers from nursery up to my senior year in college, your love for educating students put me where I am now. Thank you for everything.

Finally, for my fellow Thomasian graduates, always be moved by love to speak out against injustice and to serve the people.


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