Open by Marion Bais Guerrero

8 Apr

Note: In the recently concluded Campus Journalism Workshop Summer Camp in UP Diliman, 28 teachers from all over the country participated in a series of fora and learning activities designed to maximize their potentials as campus paper advisers.

One such activity was a feature writing exercise. For this, the participants were divided into three peer review groups. They were given 1 1/2 hours to write a three- to five-paragraph essay on any of the following topics: a) an environmental issue in their locality, b) a personality profile of someone in their group, c) their most memorable UP experience (some of them were first timers in the university and in NCR, after all), and d) their most memorable experience as a campus paper adviser.

When writing time ended, the teachers convened in their respective groups and critiqued one another’s papers. What you will read below (posted with the author’s permission) was a favorite in the peer group I facilitated, and with good reason. Penned by Sir Marion Guerrero of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the piece relates his musings as he and his students entered the State U for the first time.

***

Open

By Marion Bais Guerrero

Thursday morning begins in a taxi ride. A shared taxi ride for both our first visit to UP.

In acid-washed denims, suede sneakers and a plaid top bought by overseas payslips, the student beside me hums to the tune of the Magnificat. Even Catholic schools have their own playlist.

The same student nonchalantly asks, “Why are there slums inside UP?” This should be a moment to introduce him to the premises of socio-politics and the economics of population, but the response came in a jest, “That’s the lab for sociology and urban planning.”

Either borne out of sarcasm or naïveté, the question reflects how students reared in selective education see the world beyond the wrought-iron fences and RFID counters. When he comes face-to-face with the harrowing concreteness of abstract terms, they remain abstract.

UP and its swathes and swathes of greens is an island in the murky expanse of an uncontrolled, sprawling metropolis. Yet, while others prefer perfumed perimeter walls, it embraces the good and the bad of urbanization. Yet, while others encourage an entitlement to exclusivity, it is never ashamed of being inclusive. Education, after all, is the great equalizer. The same student should have realized this when he saw Nike-clad runners greet the ice cream vendor by the sidewalk; but he opts to hum the Magnificat.

As we snake our way through the main university avenue, the same student asks, “Why are there no walls around UP?”

For which I reply, “Because UP is an open university.”

He gives a neutral nod, then mouths the word “open”, and continues to hum the Magnificat.

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