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Never again to martial law?

“‘Di lamang kwento ng mga Marcos at Aquino ang Martial Law […] ito ay kwento ng sambayanang Pilipino,” historian Michael Charleston Chua said.

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Militant groups gather around the “Rody’s Cube” effigy at Mendiola during the National Day of Protest, Sept. 21. Photo by Audrey Janelle Fontilla/TomasinoWeb.

“History repeats itself” is very much an overused — if not, often erroneous — saying.

However, for those who were lucky to survive the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Marcos, it seemed like the current administration is replicating what happened 45 years ago.

It was this agitation that led activists from various sectors to take to the streets last Sept. 21 not only to commemorate the anniversary of Marcos’s proclamation of martial law in 1972, but also because they are seeing the same pattern in President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

With his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the streak of various human rights violations committed in the name of his anti-drug campaign and even a threat of nationwide martial law, activists are claiming that Duterte is closely following Marcos’s footsteps.

In the forum “What Now? Martial Law: Yesterday and Today” last Sept. 26, a historian, a Martial Law-era survivor and activist, and a Lumad volunteer teacher gave their insights on the events of both past and present to assess if the Philippines is indeed leading to another dictatorship.

De La Salle University historian and lecturer Michael Charleston Chua discusses the events that led to Marcos’s declaration of martial law. Photo by Christel Maliksi/TomasinoWeb.

Beyond Marcos and Aquino

Martial Law, for historian and lecturer Michael Charleston Chua, was a product of various factors both inside and outside the country — but he claims that a large portion of it was driven by Marcos’s own delusion of power.

“There is nothing as successful as success,” Chua read from one of the late dictator’s entries after successfully declaring martial law.

He also added that the Marcoses “were great in perpetuating themselves in the mind[s] of the people” by building numerous public infrastructures.

Thus, Chua said, Filipinos developed different perspectives based on what they experienced, with some favorably viewing the Marcos regime as an era of peace and order.

However, the lecturer urged Thomasians to also consider the other side of the story, particularly the stories of those who were killed fighting for the country’s democracy.

“[The] EDSA [People Power Revolution] was not [a] four-day peaceful revolution: It is only the highlight, the climax, of a 14-year struggle,” Chua said.

However, he also encouraged the youth to look beyond binaries, particularly those concerning the Martial Law era.

“Hindi lamang kwento ng mga Marcos at Aquino ang Martial Law at People Power; ito ay kwento ng sambayanang Pilipino.”

Martial law activist and playwright Bonifacio Ilagan discusses his experiences during the Marcos regime. Photo by Christel Maliksi/TomasinoWeb.

Martial Law then and now

Meanwhile, for Martial Law activist and Palanca Award-winning playwright Bonifacio Ilagan — whose struggle during the Marcos regime was portrayed by actor Alden Richards in the recent GMA documentary “Alaala” — very little has changed since then.

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“Yung iilang naghahari noon, sila pa rin ang naghahari ngayon,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan recounted his life as as student in UP Diliman during the years leading up to martial law, as well as how he was driven underground and subsequently arrested in 1974 where he was subjected by the Philippine Constabulary to different forms of torture.

Freed in 1976, he continued to be involved in the activist movement after his sister, Rizalina, disappeared and was never found shortly after he was freed.

Ilagan’s sister is just one of the many cases of forced disappearances — or desaparecidos — during the Marcos regime.

The activist also supplemented Chua’s historical background, saying that similar events during Marcos’s regime are becoming prominent again under Duterte’s administration.

“Ang best practices ng martial law ang ginagawa pa rin ngayon. Extrajudicial killings, one of the best practices,” Ilagan lamented.

Nonetheless, he also called on the youth to act against Duterte’s “creeping tyranny” and the revising of Martial Law era history.

“Nasa [kabataan] ang hamon upang pigilan ang pagbabaliktad sa kasaysayan. Sana ‘wag niyong biguin ang ating bayan.”

John Romero, a volunteer teacher of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, also recounted his experiences of martial law in Mindanao and on how it has affected him and the Lumad communities.

Romero lamented that even before the declaration of martial law, increased military presence in Lumad communities are hindering the right of Lumad children to education.

The military has repeatedly claimed that Lumad schools are being run by the New People’s Army (NPA). However, Romero denied these allegations.

“Ang mga Lumad ay biktima rin ng pangkakamkam ng mga lupa […] even private companies are taking the opportunity na walang edukasyon ang ating mga katutubo,” Romero said, detailing how mining companies are using private armies to drive indigenous peoples away from their ancestral lands.

With Duterte’s open threats to bomb Lumad schools, Romero fears that the attacks on their communities will worsen.

“Kailangan na kailangan ng mga Lumad ngayon ang edukasyon kasi kung wala, vulnerable sila sa attacks ng militar,” Romero said.

However, the volunteer teacher was steadfast, saying that being a teacher is his form of “resistance.”

“Kapag may crisis, sooner or later, may resistance. At ito ang porma ko, ang pagtuturo sa kabataang Lumad.”—with Michellene Joy Camcam

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Fine arts alumnus not late at 48

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Photo grabbed from Jun Impas' Facebook post.

A well-known author once said that “the starting point of all achievement is desire.” This statement is true in every way since the probability of the success of an action increases simultaneously with the desire of the person enacting it. After all, desire, in itself, is a powerful catalyst; it knows no limitations and is purely dependent on the strength of a person’s will and guts.

Graduating college and earning a degree, for others, may seem to be one of the many milestones that they have yet to face in their lives and in doing so, there is a pressure to always finish “on time.” But, for a person named Florentino Impas, or “Jun,” as he is known in the art industry, finishing a degree in Arts is his greatest achievement and dream-come-true, not later in his life but in his own time.

Mr. Impas was one of the recent and proud graduates of the University who turned to Facebook to share his overwhelming happiness on his academic achievement and to extend his gratitude towards the people who has helped him in his journey. Little did he know, his humble post would go viral in a span of one day; inevitably, he became a beacon of inspiration to all after graduating college even at the age of 48.

In an interview with TomasinoWeb, Mr. Impas shared that being in a family of nine siblings made them experience poverty growing up. Unlike other kids in school, he had to fend for his studies as early as his elementary days by selling rice delicacies such as puto every morning, making charcoal or uling, working as a wood chopper as well as a household “boy.” There are also times wherein he would find himself searching through the coastal areas of a bay for loose change that people might have dropped. These were only his sideline jobs, however, because at the tender age of 7, he had his first experience with art while he was helping his older brother.

“My older brother used to work in an Art Sign shop. These shops were famous before the digital tarpaulin and billboards now. They used to be manually painted lettering and banners. That’s how I started learning and practicing art. I helped him out with some of his work for a bit of money.”

After highschool, he took Architecture in Surigao del Norte School of Arts and Trade but due to financial difficulties in his second year, his dream of earning a degree came into a distressing halt. From Surigao, he traveled to Cebu in search of greener pastures. He eventually settled down and started a family of his own; and the once-crystal-clear image of finishing his studies slowly blurred as he focused on new aspects of his life—family, work, especially arts.

Art has always played a huge role in the modest man’s life; it was his family’s bread and butter. As a full-time artist, he was able to give his children proper education but the lack of his own academic recognition made him feel insecure; he felt unfulfilled even though he was successful in his crafts. So when an opportunity came knocking on his door to attend a university again, he did not waste much time, and he grabbed, tightly, the hold of it.

“One day in 2014 I had a client that had a connection with someone from UST Fine Arts program. It was an opportunity to make my dream of finishing college come true […]  I’ve always seen graduating from college as a personal achievement and milestone. I know it is not necessary to succeed in life but it is a personal success for me. I have so much respect for UST. I know it is a wonderful institution from its reputation. I could not decline their offer.  The UST fine arts program is exceptional,” Mr. Impas told us.

Graduating college is a dream, for him and his other siblings, and he was one step closer to it as he entered the University’s Fine Arts program. When asked why go back to his studies in that age, Mr. Impas’ reply was simple yet completely logical and truly inspirational: “Among my 9 siblings, one graduated college and even though I’m already 48, I’m only the second to graduate college from my family. I want to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to take the learning opportunity for art- to learn all the things I may have missed out on my self-learning.”

However, college was not a walk in the park for Mr. Impas, just like any other student. He, too, had his fair share of struggles during his stay in the University. “It was an extreme struggle for me. There were many times I considered just stopping. Juggling work and family and studies was really hard. I had to schedule my time properly, choose priorities and sometimes sacrifice one thing or another. I had difficulty adjusting to new things as well and I had to ask my kids to teach me (for example with technology, I was forced to learn and be fluent in sending emails, using a laptop for reports and etc.),” he said. And even though he was not able to be in a classroom and mingle with his blockmates that much, since he was granted a home study program type of education, he described them as “warm” bunch of people.

Years ago, it would be an inconceivable thought for Mr. Impas that he would finish his studies after reality and its challenges dawned at him. Today, he has successfully pursued his academic desires and passed with flying colors, even bagging the Thesis Award Merit in his graduation rites. His story is an inspiration not only because of the fact that he graduated college at the age of 48, but because of the passion, hard work, and perseverance that he showed despite of the hardships that he had to endure before reaching his goals.

As a fellow Thomasian, he is reminding us that there will always be obstacles, whether in college or in the real world. That is why we will have to learn to hold on and push harder little by little every day.

 

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The one who can rewrite the stars

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Ominous-looking clouds hung low over the sky—threatening more rain despite the already heavy downpour several hours before, yet despite the damp, muddy ground of the UST field and the humid May air one could still feel the celebratory atmosphere of this academic year’s Baccalaureate Mass last Thursday, May 24.

The field was abuzz with energy as the seniors, armed with their permanent markers and their type A uniforms, scrambled throughout the crowd in search of their most cherished people, eager to leave a piece of them in that person’s most treasured memorabilia.

“Maraming salamat,” “mami-miss kita,” “g*go ga-graduate na tayo,” echoed everywhere–each word bares four years (or more) worth of friendship formed by sleepless nights, afternoon breakdowns, and even the silent cheers they shared as they shade the last circle of that scantron exam. Through tears and cheers, emotions flooded the whole University for finally, they proved that everything is indeed worth it.

Having no expectations upon entering the iconic Arch of the Centuries years ago, fourth year journalism student Cristina Baclig shared how her journey changed her for the better.

Pumasok ako na hindi naman ito ang dream school wala akong ine-expect or anything akala ko magiging normal student lang  ako,” Baclig shared to TomasinoWeb. “Hindi ko ine-expect na sa four years ko maraming pala akong interesting na mangyayari sa akin, marami pala akong maiiambag. Marami rin akong na-meet.”

The long journey towards the coveted diploma is a no easy feat, and amidst the tribulations, the budding journalist emphasized the importance of looking out for yourself.

“Hindi importante na lagi nagsa-succeed ka sa lahat ng bagay, lalo kung napapabayaan  mo na yung sarili mo, […] hindi mo ma-feel yung fulfillment at hindi ka rin masa-satisfy sa lahat ng ginawa mo kasi feeling mo ang empty mo.” Baclig said.

There is always the underlying pressure that knocks the air out of people. However, graduating business management student Patricia Concepcion encouraged everyone to make the most out of everything despite one’s fear of failure.

“Kahit na nag-fail ka pwede ka pa rin bumangon tapos mag move-on ka lang,” she said with a smile.

In this sea of motion, the student staffers, maintenance personnel, and even the professors darted from place to place in preparation for the mass. With sweat forming at the brows and with time chasing them at their backs, excitement and adrenaline fuels them to do more.

JR Sanchez who vigilantly guards the gates of the University said that despite the exhaustion, he felt happy for the graduates.

Una ko palang ito.. pagod [pero] happy for the students… [nararamdaman mo] ‘yong saya nila habang naghihiwayan [at­] ‘yong damdamin mo napapahiyaw rin.”

Everyone was growing restless until finally, the sky was ablaze as firecrackers were launched–opening a space between the clouds for the sun to shine. Cheers erupted everywhere for finally, their most awaited ending has finally begun.

Thomasians started to pour out of the buildings that served as their second home, and each faculty and colleges waved their banners high up the air as they paraded their way through the verdant field of the UST Grandstand–a symbol that their journey has finally come in full circle as that is the very same earth that welcomed them as they first passed the Arch of the Centuries.

The resounding cries of the seniors erupted as they were ushered to their designated seats among the neatly lined chairs that the University’s personnel worked hard for a day before the event. People loiter around the field, some taking pictures while others are still writing on each other’s polo. The flurry of activity is a bliss for everywhere is decorated with smiles.

Standing among her graduating friends, Red Ricafort, a third year communication arts student expressed her joy as she sends them off to a brand new journey.

“It was overwhelming. Sobrang saya ko for them kasi they finally reached the end of their journey sa college.” Ricafort added, “mahirap rin kasi I’ve spent most of my time with them kaya it won’t be easy to part ways. Super mami-miss ko sila pero I’m really happy that they’ve reached this point na nakangiti and hopeful pa rin. I wish I’ll stand in the same place at the same time next year with that same hopeful and happy smile that they have.”

And in stark contrast of the current vibe, a blanket of solemnity fell as the Mass has officially begun which was presided by the University Rector Very Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P.

“Your journey in UST ends this evening but the test of you being [a] Thomasian also begins. Be proud of your beginning and make your life a legacy,” said Dagohoy.

And although tomorrow holds no promises, like a gentle embrace, he reminded the seniors to take in their heart the Christian teachings they have learned. Dagohoy said that those teachings will serve as foundation that can make them unshakable as they face this brand new chapter in life.

It is time for us to let you go. Do not lose that space where God could easily touch you when you feel that your life is no longer enough for everything. God suffices,” the Rector added.

Leaving the four corners of the University that witnessed thousands of created moments, learned lessons, and cherished friendships would only now be a recollected memories as they graduate.

Pansamantala nating iiwan ang UST, pero ang mga ala-alang nagawa at mga aral na napulot natin dito ay dadalhin pa rin natin sa ating mga puso at isipan. Marami tayong mga kwento na babalik-balikan, mga kwentong ating iingatan sa ating puso,” said the former Central Student Council president Janela Love Nartates in her message.

Bittersweet as this might be the last, but  as they exit the University, the character of being Thomasian will be imbued forever.

“This is the end of our student life,however, my fellow Thomasians, this is just the beginning of a more challenging professional life ahead for us […] Now, let us show the world how competent, committed, and compassionate we are. Ipakita at ipagmalaki natin na tayo ay mga Tomasino,” Nartates said.

And suddenly, the field was alight with thousands of fires as the students began the candle-lighting ceremony, followed by the students donning their rosaries. The mass finally ended with the singing of the UST hymn, each word sung with more conviction as this may be their last opportunity to do so.

With tears threatening to fall at some of the students’ eyes, a collective gasp echoed all throughout the field as everything went dark. The crowd erupted into excited cheers as the speakers blasted Hayaan Mo Sila by Ex Battalion.

But the all familiar tune just hyped the Thomasians for the countdown has just begun.

The first beat dropped and the stark black sky was illuminated by a thousand sparks. Shouts of exhilaration filled the air as This Is The Greatest Show played. With eyes and phones trained up the sky, Thomasians swayed to the beat of the music, their eyes feast on the magnificence of the fireworks display.

As the last note of This Is Me aired, the crowd fell silent as their emotions overwhelm them. Standing side by side with their friends and arms wrapped around each other, they stare at the trail of lights the display left at the sky.

Yet, everybody’s heads turned towards upwards because nobody was prepared when Bboom Bboom by Korean girl group  MOMOLAND blasted from the speakers. The once sullen crowd turned wild with disbelief and adrenaline surged through their veins.

This is it.

As they stare at the Arch that once welcomed them, their heartbeats thundered loudly.

This is it.

Their hands found each other, seeking comfort as they are about to plunge into a brand new world.

This is it.

And they released their loudest cries as they ran towards the Arch.

It is truly a magical sight to behold–to see how the once confused and terrified freshman free to be the graduates that survived the worst of the storms.

Akala ko talaga hindi ako makakatapos talaga kasi ang dami kong pinagdaan sa college,” said fourth year nursing student Adrielle Anyayahan as she stood alongside her father and sister. “Pero pinakalesson [na] natutunan ko ay in everything you do may mga pagkakataaon na madadapa ka pero kaya mong tumayo until ma-reach mo na yung dream mo,”

And with glassy eyes, Adrielle’s father Pablito, expressed his elation and pride for seeing her daughter’s hard-earned achievement.

“Very proud kasi nandun yung accomplishment na napag-aral namin siya.”

And chiding jokingly, Adrielle’s sister, Alyana said, “Congrats! Pag-aralin mo na ako.

As the people leave and the energy dwindles down, one cannot help but notice the mounds of trash left at the field. Michael Joaquin, a sweeper, expressed his disappointment upon the state of things.

Wala naman pong pinagkaiba [sa mga nakaraang Bacc Mass]. Taon-taon naman po kalat ang [nagiging]  problema. [‘]Yan na nga ang mga basurahan sa gilid ang gagawin nalang nila ay itapon,”

Yet despite the mess, he is still hopeful that the succeeding events will leave little to no waste, imploring everyone to be more disciplined in their trash disposal.

No one is failure-proof; everyone is bound to fall at some point because this is what will take a person farther than what they have imagined. Mistakes are not there to define you but to refine you–because you are the one who can rewrite your own stars.

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Senior High band dominates MUSIKAT’s Soundcheck

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Photo from Terrenz Arroyo's Facebook account

And they proved they have potential.

Representing the senior high school department, five-man band Sinko Sinta bested four other finalists from different colleges in the annual battle of the bands of Musikang Sikat ng mga Tomasino (MUSIKAT) last May 19.

On its eleventh edition, MUSIKAT’s Soundcheck became an avenue for Thomasians to showcase their musical abilities and it proved that UST had its fair share of talent that can contribute to the growing popularity of local independent music scene.

The four other finalists who rocked the stage were Ternate, Urbslumina,  6 o’clock, and MIMOSA.

Hailing from diverse backgrounds, their performances ranged in style from alternative pop-rock comparable to the music of contemporary groups, to performances that sounded closer to mid-2000s OPM and harder styles of rock music.

The competition’s second placer was MIMOSA of the junior high school department and in third place was Urbslumina.

The winning band did not expect to win on their first try in a competition.

“…Winning the contest was not expected, it was our first time to enter a University wide contest, like literally the first time, and it was an amazing experience,” said Luigi Mendiola of Sinko Sinta in an online interview with TomasinoWeb.

However, one of the members of the band said that seeing the crowd enjoying their performance was the best thing happened.

“The most fulfilling thing that night was seeing the audience dance to the beat and scream at the top of their lungs,” said Terrenz Arroyo.

Meanwhile, third placer Urbslumina said that their victory is their first step to for more opportunities.

“I remember talking to our lead guitarist, calling this win ‘a first’, our vocalist later on called it a ‘stepping stone to more opportunities’,” said the band’s rhythm guitarist Thea Samantha Arevalo.

Serving as a platform for all aspiring Thomasian musicians, Soundcheck also featured homegrown talents such as Thomasian Idol Season 6 first runner-up Gianne Hinolan and Soundcheck 2014 champion, Oido, which serenaded the crowd with their original pieces. –M.Benedicto

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