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Written in Red: Revisiting the Horrors of The Maguindanao Massacre

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Artwork by Jessica Lopez

Minutes after being flagged down by unidentified men, the fate of fifty-eight people; eleven members of the Mangudadatu Clan, thirty-four journalists and media men, six civilians, and two unborn children, were sealed under three shallow mass graves; the reason: political rivalry.

Politics and Journalism are two equally powerful fields which often clash with each other; often violently.

The powers of each lies with their capability to influence–and they are locked in an unending loop on whose voice shall be heard more by the masses. As government watchdogs, journalists take on potentially life-threatening tasks to deliver significant information to the public and this is evident in the plethora of journalist killings in present and past administrations for going against the will of those in power.

Dirty politics would eventually lead fifty-eight people to their tragic demise on November 23, 2009. A convoy of six vehicles with thirty-eight journalists left Buluan to support the then Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to file his Certificate of Candidacy against the Ampatuans, a powerful Muslim political clan in Maguindanao, despite receiving threats. Mangudadatu sought protection from these journalists in an attempt to prevent these attack but, the amount of media personnels did little to stop the cruel plans of his bloodthirsty rivals. About ten kilometers from their destination, the Municipality of Shariff Aguak, the convoy was seized and those in it were kidnapped and eventually slaughtered in an empty, desolate stretch of land in Ampatuan Town. The unfortunate event, known today as Maguindanao Massacre, was later dubbed as “one of the worst acts of political violence in modern Philippine history” and described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest event for journalists in history .

After the massacre, the province of Maguindanao was forever changed. All eyes were focused on the small town of Ampatuan in the southern isle of the country. The whole Filipino nation expressed their anger, and a surge of public outcry filled the streets. Yet, it took three days for the Ampatuan Clan to surrender Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Andal Ampatuan Sr., two of the primary suspects for the massacre.

Nine years after the massacre, those who perished still long for justice, no matter how loud they wail, three feet under those shallow mass graves. As we remember this deplorable event, the haunting image of those shallow pits with bullet-ridden bodies and the yellow backhoe in the middle of an empty lot is a constant reminder of the continuing prevalence of political violence in the country and how journalists, however unfortunately, must sometimes sacrifice everything in order to shed light on the darkest corners of our world.

 

S.N.M.

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For the love of their craft: UST Galvanize dominates Asian Hip-hop Philippines Dance Competition

For UST Galvanize, all the late night training, energy, and efforts became memories not of pain, but of success when their dreams of heading to the top have become a reality.

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Photo courtesy to Gab Estrada

Going after one’s dreams is no easy task; it demands strong determination, passion, commitment, and, sometimes, a little bit of luck. Success in something that you are truly passionate about is what you all strive for because in the end, all the hardships that you went through will be all worth it. For UST Galvanize, UST SHS Dance Troupe, all the late night training, energy, and efforts became memories not of pain, but of success when their dreams of heading to the top have become a reality.

Last November 11, they bagged the trophy in the Asian Hip-hop Philippines Dance Competition held at Tanghalang Pasigueno in Pasig, Metro Manila. The team for the competition was composed of Keith Anderson, Matthan Henri Ang, Mico Bacani, Jonas Belgica, Julia Del Rosario, Lia Escudero, Gab Estrada, Kurt Garbo, Andi Lopez, Kaela Madrunio, Yuri Miranda, Niña Reyes, Dylan Ruiz, Regina Sacdalan, and Kio Talactac. Their captain, Gab Estrada, has shared with TomasinoWeb the highs and lows of their journey in the competition as both individuals and as a team.

Overwhelming was a word that Estrada used to describe their experience, “the whole AHP competition experience was one for the books and also was sort of a roller coaster ride for the team.”

“We had to go through lots of challenges especially sa acads and sa pag manage namin ng time for ourselves and our family. Our training sessions were everyday including Sundays ‘pag 2 weeks before the compet na. It starts from 6pm to 9pm since marami kaming grade 12 na compet team.” Estrada also mentioned that their training sessions focused mainly on conditioning their bodies to improve so that they can dance to different styles easily.

But despite the jitters they feel before they dare to step onto the spotlight, they always do one thing as a team: pray.

They have been through a lot–and the team captain cannot hide his elation behind his words,“it was very overwhelming to know na kami yung naging champions kasi first time namin sumali sa competition this year tapos binless kami ni Lord na champions kami agad, na makalilipad kami sa Hong Kong to represent the country and of course, UST!”

When asked what their inspiration for their performance was, Estrada simply said that their coach pitched the idea of doing a choreography out of viral trends in social media. “Our coach thought of making the dance crazes [na sinasayaw ng mga tao sa social media] into a performance na yung mga songs na yun, gagawan ng real choreo,” and this creative idea, landed them a place of competing in the finals.

Having motivation makes you work harder and keeps you focused. Estrada revealed that there is one thing that keeps Galvanized motivated–not trophies, bragging rights, nor prizes––but rather, each other.

“The only thing that only motivates Galvanize is the company of each member. Without them, hindi naman mabubuo ‘yung piyesa namin sa AHP.”

Teamwork is quintessential especially when you are competing and it is, without a doubt, what Galvanize is made of. Their members always strive for growth and perfection in dancing. For them, their next goal is “to do better in our succeeding competitions and to be better in our craft”, Estrada said.

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The valedictorian molded by pressure

The path to the top of the CPA licensure examinations was surely exhausting, but Lahaira Reyes believes that all of that was part of her journey and without it, her goal would have never turned into an achievement.

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lahaira reyes valedictorian
Photo by DMD Photography.

The path to the top of the CPA licensure examinations was surely exhausting, but Lahaira Reyes believes that all of that was part of her journey and without it, her goal would have never turned into an achievement.

For others, finding out that she topped the licensure exams was no surprise at all. As the valedictorian of the UST-AMV College of Accountancy Batch 2018, her family and friends were rooting for, if not expecting her, to arrive at the top. Reyes shared with TomasinoWeb the ups and downs of her journey.

Like every prospective CPA, she did everything in her power to prepare for the licensure exams.

“I think yung last sem po namin sa AMV, which is the Integrated Accounting Course (IAC), yung naging start ng preparation ko,“ she added, “kasi it is already a review of what we have studied since basic accounting, then naituloy nalang po sa review school.” As difficult as reviewing proved to be, adding to the pressure on her was the fact that she was about to take an exam that could change her life.

Time management was the hardest part for Reyes; considering the amount of topics that needed to be studied were far too many for the amount of time they had prior to the exam. Adding to that was the exhaustion from all the events following IAC: graduation, baccalaureate mass, birthdays, and other events. She couldn’t devote all her time to studying, and that was one of the many challenges that she had to face.Of course, she couldn’t just sit still and let this problem get in the way of achieving her goal, “What I did was to prioritize [sic] yung subjects na feel ko, maganda yung foundation ko ng basic knowledge then nagstart na ako sa mga bagong topics na di ko pa alam.”

Reyes was anxious over the fact that she would not be able to study all of the topics covered, especially ones that were only recently incorporated into the exam such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, but she was reassured by her review school facilitators that it was normal for them not to finish everything. “[…] namili nalang ako ng reviewers na feel ko complete na siya ng basics and may konting twists din,” she stated.

Reviewing may have been hard, but staying motivated to pursue her goals proved harder. But Reyes couldn’t lose herself, not at a time like this. She needed a reason to continue, a motivation to keep herself together—her family. “To give back to them finally kapag may work na, then yung mga taong sumusuporta sa akin, kasi sobrang nakakataba po talaga ng puso knowing [that] many people are praying for you,” she explained, “kahit nakakapressure, nakakamotivate din po.”

Despite feeling unprepared and inadequate, Reyes knew she had to pull herself together, and found strength in those closest to her.

“Everytime na I open up to someone, lagi nilang sinasabi na sana wag ako madown kasi sila nga naniniwala sa akin na kaya ko so sana daw I also learn to believe in myself.”

Not only did she have her family to cheer her on, but her batchmates believed in what she could do and achieve. Why would she let herself be pulled down by her stress, if the people around her kept pulling her up? “Yung moral support talaga from the people yung nakakapagpush na magcontinue.”

And there it was, she was ready, even though in the back of her mind she had her fears and worries, she knew her family had her back. “After nung first exam, kinabahan talaga ako. Kasi ang daming erroneous questions so yung confidence naming examinees parang bumaba kasi hindi namin alam if hindi ba talaga namin makuha yung answers or mali lang talaga yung questions.” The anxiousness was there, and only intensified with each passing day getting closer to the examination results.

“First time ko super kabahan sa kung ano mang result kasi siguro this will really make a big difference in my life.” She couldn’t focus on other things, her mind kept thinking back to how well or how badly she did on the licensure exams. “I was studying for an international certification exam that I will take the next day while waiting for the results,” she explained, “But honestly, hindi din naman ako makafocus dun sa inaaral ko.” Her mind went from the best-case scenarios, to the worst ones, going from each one of them as she let the hours and days pass by, waiting for the results.

Reyes shared that she had waited from 7 PM to 12 AM waiting for the call from parents to hear about the results, hearing the clock tick from time to time. It seemed endless—the waiting and the overthinking. Then suddenly, the phone call that would change her life finally came. “I just can’t believe it, I screamed sa dorm out of happiness and excitement,” she exclaimed, “then after minutes, nagcall na yung mama ko then yung ibang members of my family, my friends to congratulate me.” At long last, all the anxiousness and fears in the back of her head vanished, as though her heart was released from being squeezed tightly.

The destination is usually the only thing seen by others, rather than the whole journey. Behind Reyes and her success, there were people who helped her achieve her goal and made her who she is today. “First, I want to thank my parents and my whole family for their endless support,” she listed, “then my professors sa AMV kasi kahit pinahirapan nila kami nung undergrad, it is all worth it naman.”

She also wanted to thank her facilitators in Review School of Accountancy (ReSA), “kasi they really helped me na mabawasan yung pressure, madagdagan yung confidence, and sa review talaga academically.” And finally, to her batchmates, for believing and cheering her on. She never saw them doubt her even once

“And of course, to put Lord for blessing me with all that I have today and for guiding me na makarating ako dito.” Thanks to them, all of them, Lahaira turned her dreams and goals, into an achievement—a reality.

But this doesn’t mean that Lahaira’s journey is coming to an end. Reaching her destination just serves as another starting line, the start of another journey. “I think the most important lesson I learned is to keep on going on, na failure will really be inevitable in our lives and we will have our own ups and downs,” she expressed, “Rejoice and pray when we receive something good. Cry, pray, then get up again when we fall down.” This is a lesson worth sharing, a lesson that she thinks everyone deserves to know, “Wag sana nating hayaan na ibaba pa tayo lalo ng failures and mistakes natin.”

After everything else, Reyes remains humble and keeps her faith in God, strong and undisturbed. Ups and downs are unavoidable—in fact, this is what makes up a journey. Being at the top doesn’t make her invincible, it just makes her a normal student, one who fights to reach her goal, who doesn’t let anything get in her way, but instead, motivates herself to continue and get up every time she falls down.

“Let us pray for the courage and strength to face each day, try again everyday hanggang sa marating na natin yung goals natin.”

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Akin Ako: How Teatro Tomasino offered new narratives for queer people through Singhap

For their 41st season, Teatro Tomasino showed Singhap: a three-play production that narrates the journey of finding one’s identity, of coming out in the open, and of being brave amidst terrible mishaps.

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love - teatro tomasino scene
Photo by Karch Te

Love is love, no matter what.

In times of destitution, we find ourselves gasping for air. It’s as if after a long period of isolation, after being silenced by an angry crowd with a thousand mean voices, do we find the need to sigh and finally say enough is enough.

Love is love, no matter what.

For their 41st season, Teatro Tomasino showed Singhap: a three-play production that narrates the journey of finding one’s identity, of coming out in the open, and of being brave amidst terrible mishaps.
This year they focused on self-realization and individuality as they plead for equality in a world that lacked acceptance, dedicating the production to the ones who are “quiet, remained quiet, silenced, and erased.”

Esprit de Corps (written by Auraeus Solito and directed by Ingrid Villamarin) tells the story of Sergeant Sarmiento, an aspirant to a position currently held by S3 Favila in his school’s CAT. It showed how abuse can happen anywhere and how it can become systematic and a norm. It is a sharp narrative encouraging victims to come out and cast their doubts, and fight back.

A.Y.L.I. (written by Cheska Marfori and directed by Iris Montesclaros), on the other hand, narrates the story of old friends who decided to meet-up one day to check on each other. As they began to dig up the past, revelations were unsealed by shouldn’t-have-beens. It is a subtle take on friendships and uncertainty–of sentences held back, of wars going on at the back of the throat, on banging heartbeats.

Lastly, Kublihan (written by Jerome Ignacio and directed by Eudes Garcia) is a story of childhood friends who met again after a long time. It is a narrative of coming-of-age and self-realization, teenage angst and the burden of unreachable expectations. It conveys something that only action could decipher because words are awkward and the message can never be articulated.

Singhap is not just a mere production or an introduction to a new season; it is an advocacy. It is offering new narratives for people who lived their lives in the shade, for those who are kept silent, in order to bring about a voice for the voiceless.

“[Ang produksyon na ito] ay para sa tahimik, pinatahimik, binura, nananahimik.. [at] gustong kumawala,” said Eudes Garcia, director. He then went further to acknowledge the strength in deciding to love despite the hate and the importance of knowing oneself.

Singhap is a bicker of hope–a rainbow after a storm; it is a light that gets you out of a cave, a fire that keeps your passion burning, and a shoulder to cry on. It is through these narratives that fear is cut loose in order to give way for wider acceptance. It is through these stories that people can finally feel included.

So that, eventually, people can say: Love is love, no matter what.

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