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To lose is to gain

I do not aspire to be a walking accolade—I want to be part of the collective that changes the society for its betterment. TomasinoWeb is a part of that collective, and I hope they continue in doing so.

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Computer science students are expected to finish their undergraduate degree in four years—an expectation I failed to meet. However, it did not stop me from crossing the Arch of the Centuries in last year’s Baccalaureate Mass. 

Yes, you’ve heard it right. I crossed the monumental arch on a non-graduating year. 

Hindi ba ako takot ma-debar? Hindi ba ako natatakot na ma-extend lalo yung stay ko? Bakit hindi? Pakunswelo ko na lang ‘to sa sarili ko dahil madedelay din naman ako kahit hindi ako tumawid diyan. Siyempre, gusto ko din makasama yung mga kaibigan ko sa paglabas ko sa arch, kahit hindi pa ‘yun yung “official” bacc-mass para sakin.

I felt so sorry for myself. I considered myself a failure because I couldn’t give my best on an undergraduate program that I am not fully interested with. At some point, I thought that my father’s resources were wasted on someone who can’t excel academically. I barely survived every semester. I neglected every opportunity to shift into another program because I was scared of going back to square one.

Of course, I forced myself to adapt—I wouldn’t last five years in the University if I didn’t have the motivation to finish my degree just for the sake of “finishing”. The thought of barely passing each major subject is too much for me to handle. I can recall computing my grades instead of solving discrete math problems on a Finals exam, just to make sure that I can make it through the cut-off. 

I decided to join University-wide organizations during my sophomore year because I thought that exposure to different Thomasians might help me find myself in the process. When I joined TomasinoWeb, I wasn’t sure how I’ll fare within the organization. I wasn’t sure how I would fit within the organization’s standards, either. 

Halfway through my journey in the University, my sanity began to collapse. I committed irreversible mistakes. At the same time, my academic and extracurricular workload continued to increase. 

I started to question my position in the campus. Student-leadership began to inflict more harm than good. There are also people who took pleasure in lambasting my character and personality. I was called irrational due to the progressive beliefs I uphold. I was called a “novice” who wanted an iron grip in the highest room. Furthermore, holding a leadership position as an irregular student had my opinions debunked right away. 

In a room full of academically decorated student achievers and leaders, how do I even fare?

Rabin Bote, TomasinoWeb outgoing president for PY 2019-2020

Despite all of these, I persisted to serve and survive. I realized that my struggles as a student is maneuvered by an invisible wheel steered by systemic oppression. If I fail to challenge dominant narratives, then what purpose would I even serve? I do not aspire to be a walking accolade—I want to be part of the collective that changes the society for its betterment. TomasinoWeb is a part of that collective, and I hope they continue in doing so.

Giving up the Tan Yan Kee Student Center Building as my second home in the University sounds easy, but I simply can’t. Through TomasinoWeb, my orgmates and I were able to stand for the truth despite the risks. Hindi ako mapakali na manahimik sa sulok habang may kapwa-estudyante akong inaapi ng sistema. Kahit sa TomWeb man lang, maging boses kami mga para sa nakararami. Ika nga, kapag namulat ka na sa katotohanan, kasalanan na ang pumikit.

However, just like my journey in college, this article has to end.

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to all of my blockmates since first year. Finally, I can catch up with conversations filled with corporate slang and employment woes. Of course, I would also like to thank all of my close friends for staying despite my lapses as a friend. You know who you guys are.

To my college instructors and professors, thank you for your effort in educating me and my blockmates. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to be less of a headache in the near future.

I would like to thank UST Computer Science Society for introducing me to the University and to the “org-life”. Although I did not pursue any executive board position in CSS, I remain indebted to the organization for its contribution to my overall growth.

I am grateful for my tenure as the corporate secretary of the Student Organizations Coordinating Council. I hope you can forgive me for being conflicted all the time.

To TomasinoWeb Core 10 and 11, thank you for bearing with me. I have learned a lot in my first two years of officership in the organization. Without the guidance of Julius Renomeron Jr. and Erica Ang, I could’ve been worse than that Rabin who accidentally deleted the organization’s alumni database. 

To TomasinoWeb Core 12, thank you for a year of spontaneous meetings and last-minute decisions. For those who chose to step up as core officers for the next academic year, I am optimistic that you can surpass what my term has achieved. I hope you guys can continue being beacons of truth and justice inside and outside the University.

To my father and my sister, thank you for supporting me in my five-year stay in the University. You are the cornerstone of my struggle. Your love and guidance helped me achieve what I have right now.

I have lost a lot in my stay at the University. I have nothing to lose but my undergraduate status.

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Everyone has their own pace

Another chapter of my life has ended and here I am bravely entering the real world, as we know it.

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I’ve been in UST for seventeen years now and picking my dream program has got to be one of the greatest decisions I have made. Computer Science is one of my dream programs. However, during my stay at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Institute of Information and Computing Sciences (IICS) I did it in five years, instead of four. Am I happy? Not as much, as I feel like I did not do well in my program.

I was happy to see my batchmates during the live stream of the Baccalaureate Mass and their exit from the Arch of the Centuries in the previous year. At the same time, it made me realize that I should’ve been there as well, which left a hole in my heart and made me realize that I’m a failure. I considered myself as one because there is this unspoken pressure in finishing school immediately as the eldest child of the family. I also felt that I disappointed my parents. But I told myself that there’s nothing I can do but to keep moving forward. I wished I could turn back time to fix all the mistakes I’ve made.

During my senior year I decided to join a university-wide organization to help me step out of my comfort zone and expose myself to the my field in order to help me grow with the passion I have for Computer Science. After contemplating from the multitude of organizations the university has, I decided that I want to join TomasinoWeb. Upon joining TomasinoWeb, I was thrilled that I got to know more people from different colleges. By that time, I was unsure how I could help the organization. Luckily, one of my blockmates Ezekiel David, who was the former Chief Technology Officer, helped me out in the process. 

Before, I wasn’t really invested in the idea of an “org life” because my studies really got to me. A year have passed and the term was about to end. I was planning to apply for a part-time job since I am an irregular student and I have a few courses left which made me contemplate if I should renew my membership in TomasinoWeb and other organizations I was part of during that year. It then led me to a decision to stay in this organization because I wanted to experience the “org-life” and I because I feel that I can still grow my skills there. In the following year, I then became the Chief Technology Officer of TomasinoWeb

I got the opportunity to let myself grow and to lead people. Through TomasinoWeb, I had a second home which is the Tan Yan Kee Student Center Building and a second family with Core 12 and alumni as well. The organization gave me the growth I wanted and needed as well as friends along my journey in the university. What I really appreciate about TomasinoWeb is that it serves the people and it stands for the truth despite the risks.

Another chapter of my life has ended and here I am bravely entering the real world, as we know it.

Jon Errol Damias, TomasinoWeb outgoing Chief Technology Officer for PY 2019-2020

My final year made me realize that everything happens for a reason. It’s okay if you make mistakes, but you have to learn from it. It’s okay too if you grow differently, since everyone has their own pace. If some things do not come your way, just keep moving forward. My experiences in college has definitely been one crazy rollercoaster ride.

It would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my beloved parents and my brother for their love, encouragement and, unbounded support and love.Without them, I am not who I am today.

I would like to thank my elementary, high school, and college instructors for educating me throughout my student life in UST. I will continue to uphold the Thomasian values you taught me.

To my college batchmates, Thank you for the 4-5 years of fun and excitement. I really look forward to the success that is waiting for us. I’m glad that I got to meet most of you guys in my time as a student.

To my close friends from elementary until college, thank you for the patience and understanding especially during my tough times and the never ending support for every decision I make. 

To the TomasinoWeb Core 11 and Web Technologies team, thank you for accepting me to be part of the family and entrusting me to be part of Core 12.

To TomasinoWeb Core 12, thank you for a year of fun and spontaneous meetings. It made me feel that I have a second family. I am thrilled for the future of the next core leaders. Continue to uphold truth and justice inside and outside the university.

To Rabin, Joshua, and Ezekiel, thank you for the guidance and support you have given me during my term. 

To Trish and her friends, thank you for being part of my journey. I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me. I wish for the best for you guys.

Thank you UST for the wonderful seventeen years!

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Opinion

Social distancing’s more than one meter

There is something almost sacred about Duterte’s absolutism: his iron-fisted governance must be upheld at all costs because blind subservience to his authority is the only way to survive.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended to maintain a meter of distance from someone who’s coughing or sneezing. We call this social distancing. Alongside other safety measures, we do this to prevent ourselves from contracting the new coronavirus.

However, social distancing kills the ordinary Filipino; it breathes life to the greedy and the unjust at the expense of our lives.

A picture of a barangay captain beside a dog cage filled with curfew violators circulated on the Internet a few days ago. Although it is already gruesome at first sight, the existence of the coronavirus pandemic makes the picture look worse. Another set of curfew violators are bound to be seated on monoblock chairs under the heat of the sun. If coronavirus won’t kill you in that scenario, heatstroke will.

How about jail cells filled with prisoners? Given the situation of prisons and correctional institutions, there’s no way wardens and prisoners could survive the pandemic. How about public hospitals full of patients waiting to be tested? How about our ate and kuya GrabFood drivers who courageously go back and forth just to deliver that Jollibee Burger Steak you ordered yesterday?

Meanwhile, various government officials are being tested despite the majority of them showing no signs of symptoms. Some celebrities and social media influencers are treating the pandemic as a way to “reconnect with nature” and to “spread good vibes”. Those people we are supposed to look up to are reaping the benefits of their privilege while being detached from the struggle of the majority.

This is another manifestation of social distancing—a barrier of apathy that divides the fortunate and the damned. 

When President Duterte declared the enhanced community quarantine, an obvious disregard for a pro-people provision was evident. Those who are bound to lose jobs due to the quarantine are left empty-handed in their homes. Health workers are reporting shortages in personal protective equipment, only to be “debunked” by House Speaker Cayetano as fake news. We lack assurance from the national government because they are disconnected from the people who elected them in their respective posts. 

Moreover, Duterte’s request for emergency powers is a decision worthy of scrutiny from us. Despite being approved by the Congress and the Senate, the ‘Bayanihan’ bill raises a lot of questions due to his track record of inefficiency. We have seen him handle the Marawi crisis through a three-year martial law in Mindanao, but peace and order in that region remain unsolved. How sure are we that Duterte’s newly granted powers can save us?

This is a cycle in Duterte’s governance. When all else fails, he seeks absolute power to provide a solution. Instead of governing through a progressive social praxis, he alienates his constituents away from the government. His draconian approaches are a result of his apathy; his failure to empathize makes him demand obedience without question instead. His privilege has blinded him to become an effective leader during this crisis.

Despite being devoid of social analysis and empathy, Duterte finds himself surrounded with an unrealistic mob of supporters on the Internet. Even a number of your relatives are still fixated with his junta-like leadership. Probably it is due to his “strongman image”— a continuous showcase of dominance. By aligning himself with the gods, he consolidates a near-absolute power in today’s era, where the divine right of kings is far from a legitimate doctrine. 

The current administration is a false religion of its own. Duterte and his lapdogs can’t hear our prayers. No matter how far-fetched the solution, you are required to obey. There is something almost sacred about Duterte’s absolutism: his iron-fisted governance must be upheld at all costs because blind subservience to his authority is the only way to survive.

But even unwavering obedience can’t exempt the masses from suffering. One test kit wasted from a VIP is one test kit deprived from a person under investigation. Your fanaticism to Duterte’s antics won’t help you reach that ten-kilometer grocery due to the cancellation of public transportation services.

While it is not your fault that you are spending the quarantine binge-watching Netflix series, we become contributory to the oppression when we fail to recognize that not everyone is as financially secure as we are. By failing to acknowledge the root cause of the problems plaguing our society, we become enablers of the status quo. Recognizing our part in the greater scheme of things is always a good step, to begin with.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing has remained a fixed variable in the context of the Philippine society—the ever-growing disparity between the rich and the poor makes the former thrive while the latter succumbs into hopelessness. 

However, the revolutionary Filipino spirit remains a nightmare in the fantasies of the elite. If criticism and dissent are heresy to Duterte’s religion, then we are unbelievers cast away from their “salvation”. However, no cult can deliver salvation. Only the masses can genuinely dictate their own fate.

The masses giveth and the masses taketh away.

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Opinion

DRRM: Disaster Resilience Romanticization and Management

Disastrous events are not a time to romanticize the people’s resilience and heroism as it only justifies the incompetence and neglect of our leaders’ duties and furthers the unjust service of the government to the people it serves.

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Being an archipelagic country sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is a hotspot of calamities. In fact, the past year ended with a Typhoon right on Christmas day wrecking regions in the country’s central islands. And in less than a month, Filipinos again faced another catastrophic event to kick-start their New Year, the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas after half a decade.

In times of calamity, Filipinos were known to be resilient. The spirit of bayanihan manifests greatly in these times, giving us hope despite all the other problems keeping the country apart. Many photos of Filipinos helping wash cars covered in ash, kids cleaning cars, food vendors offering free food, and a lot more acts of helping and resilience are now drawing attention in the news and  online—which happens every time a catastrophic event hits the country.

There is also this interview with a fisherman in Batangas who went to his house a day after Taal Volcano starts to erupt only to find his house destroyed and his farm animals dead. We have also seen people giving out free face masks, while some stores drastically increase the price of these necessities due to its ‘high demand.’

It is upright for us Filipinos to be resilient, brave and helpful, but it seems that we have been stuck in this situation of being left with no choice but to adjust to the failure of those who should be doing all these acts of service and do their job instead.

Those kids helping clean cars should not be doing that in exchange for a little amount of money. Those vendors should not give up their sales to offer free food to calamity victims, or be forced to go back to dangerous areas just to sell and earn for their daily needs. Farmers affected by the ash fall should not only be offered with loans. Every Filipino should know the basics of disaster risk reduction. No Filipino should be forced to buy basic needs at a very high price which should actually be given to them for free.

These people who are commonly the victims not just of disasters, but of abuses too, have become resilient because they have to survive after being neglected. And in these times, they are the ones who took over the responsibilities of the institution which neglected them. What Filipinos need is genuine service, proper education, proper healthcare, and safe and decent evacuation centers in times of calamity.

These acts of bravery and service performed by common Filipinos are the responsibilities of the government to whom we pay taxes. But to our misfortune, the top leader of our country is nowhere to be found in times of distress, a common thing for many of our elected leaders.

In his press conference yesterday, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo is still uncertain when he will be meeting with the President to talk about national concerns including the disaster brought by Taal Volcano eruption in parts of Luzon including the nation’s capital region after the President’s weekend vacation in Davao.

Just last year, the calamity fund, for rehabilitation and risk reduction in times of calamities was again cut by P4-billion which is now P16-billion. When he assumed office, President Duterte already cut the calamity budget allocation by half from the budget allocation of the past administration. In this year’s National Budget, the Transportation Department had the biggest loss and the Public Works and Highways had the highest gain. 

Meanwhile, the Palace’s intelligence fund got a whopping P4-billion—only for confidential intel funds which seems to be resorting to poor research and editing skills.

The budget cuts for the immediate service of the people is an insult to these people who worked for those budgets. The country’s top leader not giving a word after all the disaster faced by the people strongly shows the government’s failure to offer its genuine service to the people it serves. 

Disastrous events are not a time to romanticize the people’s resilience and heroism as it only justifies the incompetence and neglect of our leaders’ duties and furthers the unjust service of the government to the people it serves.

Since the colonial period, Filipinos have been adjusting to the inhumane governance of opportunist leaders who ruled the country. We have withstood many calamities and wars through our resilience and helpfulness. But have we ever thought of when will our government—which we pay and which should serve us—perform its duties genuinely and be with us in our bayanihan?

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