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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.



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.

Getting it Write

4 Apr

Photo by Gian Suyat

The past few days marked a milestone for the UP Journalism Club and for its members. A year’s worth of brainstorming, troubleshooting and preps concluded in the organization’s first Campus Journalism Workshop Summer Camp.

For five days we subsisted on C2 Green Tea Pandan, cup noodles, fast food takeouts, caffeine kicks, the participants’ enthusiasm, and the contagious dedication of fellow JCers.

Each lecture, workshop and team-building activity — be it planned or spontaneous — was pegged to be instructive, interactive and insightful. We hope that these were instrumental in enhancing the students’ and campus paper advisers’ proficiency in and appreciation for the different facets of campus journalism.

Now that the event has come to a close, we say collapsar hoping that all those involved in the project took home more than just the camp shirt, kit and pictures.

We also look forward to a time when one (or more!) of our former participants will join our ranks as a CJWSC organizer.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who helped out in ways big and small!

Cheers to a summer that’s off to a super achib start!

The Gem Plan

28 Feb

Photo from the GEM Garcia for USC Chairperson Facebook page.

Two days shy of the university and college student council elections in UP Diliman, get to know the woman who steered the USC through school year 2011-2012.


It is 6 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Jemimah Grace “Gem” Garcia sits at the foot of a staircase in Vinzons Hall, her long dark hair coiled in a loose bun. A plate of pancit canton and barbecue lay balanced on her lap.

“Dinner?” I ask.

She smiles and says, “Lunch.”

Delayed meals and hourly meetings have become part and parcel of Gem’s school days since the start of her term as UP Diliman’s University Student Council (USC) Chairperson.

At 23 years old, this junior at the UP College of Law has been feted for her academic performance, while simultaneously taking on leadership roles in mass organizations like Anakbayan and the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP).

In this exclusive interview, Gem eases from English to Filipino and zeroes in on her leadership style, the incumbent council’s working relationship and her aspirations in life.

What got you started in student politics?

 I was entering third year when I was offered to run for Journalism Representative. There were a lot of controversial issues at the time, like the slashing of the Philippine Collegian’s funds and the 300-percent tuition fee increase. If only to propagate the issues, I decided to run.

After that stint, I became chairperson of Anakbayan UP Diliman for almost two years. I often speak during rallies, conduct room-to-room campaigns and interact with other organizations. They must have seen that strength of mine: having dialogues with and explaining things to people comes easily for me.

Why pursue law?

It’s my father’s dream for me. He never got the chance to, because he came from a poor family. But more than that, I saw the benefit of having lawyers with the perspective of service for the people. One of [my] main motivations was the fact that when I was deciding whether or not to take the LAE, Atty. Saladero of Kilusang Mayo Uno was implicated in the bombing of a cell site.

I took my undergraduate internship in Pinoy Weekly, where my beat assignment was labor unions inPasig. That was how labor issues became very close to my heart. It was when Atty. Saladero was implicated that I realized how there was a shortage of nationalist lawyers today, especially in labor.

Their ranks are few to begin with, yet some of them are abducted, imprisoned, killed – that challenged me. So when I passed the Law Aptitude Exam, I was also excited to pursue law because I had that kind of advocacy.

What role do you believe your ideology plays in your leadership?

The main thrust of Anakbayan and the organizations I belong to is that real strength lies with the masses. From the masses, for the masses. This is the concept of collective leadership that I brought with me to the USC. Even our USC constitution calls for student empowerment – it’s not just about one person leading the council to do what she wants.

This is the council being a means through which the students achieve greater victories. This we achieve with the USC at the forefront of the unities of students, whenever their rights or those of the nation’s are trampled upon. The USC should be the first to rally the students together to stand united against such.

How is your academic standing?

 I’m in good academic standing. In my first year of UP law, I was in the top 10 of my batch. I was a member of the Order of the Purple Feather, the honors society of our college. I was one of the 10 students of UP law who were invited to intern at CVC Law, one of the biggest law firms in the country. But I turned it down. I didn’t apply because I found out that CVC was the defense firm of [Daniel] Smith in the Subic rape case, so it was against my principles.

What are your top five priorities?

 In no particular order: Family. The movement. Council. Brods and sisses. Acads.

How do you keep organized ?

I use my cellphone calendar. More than that, though, it’s all about trust and delegation among councilmates. More often than not, I only ask for a break when it’s already finals week. But if I can still do something to help out, I would. And of course, after that one-week reprieve, it’s back to work.

How would you describe your dynamics as a council?

 This is a very opinionated council. As in. We have clashes in opinion, as with any other USC. But what I’m proud of is that we clash on ideology. This means that principled debates usually transpire.

For example, our debates on issues like land reform and the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program really takes hours. And our principle has always been let the sharpest argument win. We exhaust all arguments of both sides, but at the end of the day, we try to reach a concensus. We rarely divide the house.

How do you unwind?

 I go out with my friends or hang out at their tambayan. Videoke too. I also like to have DVD marathons and watch movies…yes, even by myself.

What’s next for you in the political arena?

 In so far as a political position is concerned, I feel that I’ve come full circle. Some people attribute power or influence with my position. Not really. For me, being a USC chair is more of a big responsibility than anything else.

Quite frankly, I don’t like being in the limelight. And I really miss my mass organizations. I miss integrating with students and discussing issues with them on a daily basis. So I might go back to my orgs, or involve myself in other organizations with the same advocacy.

Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?

 By that time, I will already be a lawyer. I’d like to think I’d have a husband and children then. By that time, I would have already fulfilled my dream of studying in a cosmetics school. I would most likely be part of National Union of People’s Lawyers. I’d be doing a lot of lawyering for human rights cases, land reform, labor.

I don’t have any political ambition. I don’t want to run for any local or national position. If there is one thing I would consider, that would be sectoral representation in Congress. We’ll see. Because with my law background and experience as USC chairperson, I think that’s feasible. But I’m not trapo to go soliciting for a position. Perhaps if there’s an opportunity, I’d go. But if not, the advocacy carries on. What’s important is that your principles are intact, and everything you do would be for that goal.


Love and Loss in Rendition — Dulaang UP’s Noli Me Tangere: The Opera in review

4 Jan

Photo from the Dulaang UP's Noli Facebook page.

Since its publication in 1887, the novel Noli Me Tangere by national hero Jose Rizal continues to reinforce itself as a tour de force in the local literary tradition. Its story revolves around the lives of townsfolk from San Diego, a fictional Philippine municipality at the turn of the 19th century. Rizal’s central characters, who have made their mark in the national consciousness, are Crisostomo Ibarra – a gentleman who leaves for Europe in his youth to study and returns toSan Diego an orphan – and his childhood sweetheart Maria Clara, the illegitimate daughter of the abusive clergyman Padre Damaso.

The novel and its sequel El Filibusterismo are credited for inspiring Filipino revolutionaries to take up arms against the Spanish colonization. Due to its artistic and historical significance, both texts lend themselves well to adaptation in other art forms, particularly the performing arts. In reworking Rizal’s novels for the stage or for the screen, directors and screenwriters have followed one of three traditions: faithful adaptation, vignette and contemporaneity.

Renditions like Gantimpala theater troupe’s Noli and Fili, which most high school students in Metro Manila are required to watch, are more literal in their adaptation. The same can also be said of the 1992 TV series Noli Me Tangere, a project of the CulturalCenter of the Philippines (CCP) which aired for a total of 13 episodes. The scripts of all three productions fed extensively on passages from the novels, and neither the chronology nor the characters were tailored or modified to suit the director’s vision.

A number of directors, artists and writers saw potential in the “untold stories” of Rizal’s dynamic, multi-layered characters and went on to employ their artistic license in the plots and presentations of their own productions. In his 1951 film Sisa, starring Anita Linda in the titular role, director Gerardo de Leon played around with the Noli’s plot and male characters to create a past for and explore the psyche of the iconic madwoman ofSan Diego, whose family misfortunes ultimately drove her to insanity.

This vignette tradition is especially strong for the novels’ female characters – particularly Maria Clara; Salome, the lover of Elias; and Sisa. All three women were the subjects of Kutsilyo, Pamaypay at Yantok, a play in three acts which alternately parodied, magnified and dramatized their relationships with the men in their lives.

Meanwhile, recent productions like Philippine Educational Theater Association’s Noli at Fili Dekada Dos Mil – written by Nicanor Tiongson and directed by Soxie Topacio – allow audiences to review and appreciate the national hero’s classic masterpieces in the light of current socio-political realities. This was achieved by adding contemporary tweaks to the plot and “relocating” the novels’ characters to present-day, poverty-strickenManila.

The latest Noli adaptation to have graced the thespic scene is Dulaang UP’s Noli Me Tangere: The Opera. Composed by National Artist for Music Felipe de Leon alongside librettist Guillermo Tolentino, the production debuted in 1957. The DUP restaging ran from November 16 to December 4, 2011 to coincide with the yearlong celebration of Rizal’s sesquicentennial birth anniversary and to prelude the centennial of de Leon’s birth. The premiere staging of de Leon’s masterpiece was well-received, garnering the distinction of being “the first truly Filipino opera.”

In order to effectively evaluate the success of DUP’s adaptation, it is important to note the components and traits of a good opera performance. The art of the opera harks back to 16th centuryItaly, where it was initially performed for the nobility. For centuries, opera has been regarded a “high” or even “elitist” art form.

An opera is essentially a story set to music, rendering both the vocal and accompaniment elements of music are of paramount importance. The score of Noli Me Tangere: The Opera is laudable for employing rich, local musical traditions such as the kundiman (Maria Clara’s “Kay Tamis ng Buhay”) alongside the standard aria of Western operas (Sisa’s “Awit ng Gabi”).

The score was bolstered by excellent showings from the ensemble – composed of both veteran and burgeoning opera singers – with the guidance of musical director Camille Lopez Molina. Standouts include soprano Myramae Meneses and contralto Jean Judith Javier, who played Maria Clara and Sisa, respectively. Even the child actors Gerald Kristof Diola and Jhiz Deocareza, who essayed the roles of Basilio and Crispin, delivered strong theatrical and musical performances.

The ingenious and indigenous set design heightened the impact of local color in DUP’s production. Production designer Gino Gonzales used bamboo for partitions, risers and walkways onstage; inabel cloth from Ilocos was also incorporated in the period costumes.

One thing that didn’t strike a chord with me, however, was the use of stark-white face make-up to identify and highlight the Spanish characters. The over-application of make-up was characteristic of Doña Victorina in the original text, as in the more literal adaptations. Having the friars, Don Tiburcio and even Maria Clara’s suitor Ynares don the same look was an unnecessary distraction from the pretentious donya, whose largely unsuccessful attempts at speaking and looking Spanish was meant to bring comic relief to the narrative.

It is interesting to note that Rizal himself received flak for writing his novels in Spanish, the language of the educated and the elite. This move, said his critics, rendered the texts far removed from the masses who he was supposedly writing for. However, this appears to have been a case of misguided audience attribution.

His choice of language had an intended cause and effect: writing in the language of the colonizers was his own way of disproving the ignorance and indolence that offensive Spaniards were only too willing to attribute to Filipinos. Rizal, then, wasn’t directly writing for the masses; his deliberate use of Spanish could well be construed as the epitome of the phrase “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

Operas are characterized by their high propensity for tragedy and melodrama; most plots revolve around central characters’ personal crises and how they manage (but more often, fail to) overcome them. The internal and external conflicts of characters in Noli and Fili reflected the hardships and struggles that Filipinos of yesteryears were subjected to. Their stories brought to fore the socio-political situation of Rizal’s time – not the other way around.

In the opera, important scenes and characters in the novel were reduced – if not completely scrapped – because the plot’s historical context played second fiddle to the romance of Maria Clara and Crisostomo. Scenes involving the star-crossed lovers – among them their reunion at Kapitan Tiyago’s dinner feast and their forlorn farewell in Maria Clara’s room – were expanded, and even fitted with corresponding musical numbers.

By contrast, only two minor scenes involving Elias, the demoralized revolutionary who sacrificed his life for Crisostomo, were included in the opera: the first when he kills the crocodile along the Pasig river, and the second when he helps Crisostomo escape from Spanish authorities.

The iconic confrontation between Elias and Crisostomo on the merits of staging a revolution versus investing in the youth’s education is markedly absent from the score. Also among the bypassed scenes was the maltreatment of the deranged Sisa by Doña Consolacion – the foul-mouthed, whip-wielding Filipina wife of the Spanish lieutenant.

While the DUP restaging of de Leon’s Noli remained faithful to its operatic medium, I felt that it did so at the expense of the source texts’ treatise. Elements and themes central to the narrative of Noli were lost in its transposition from the page to the stage.

The tone of desolation on both the individual and social levels was not lost, but the focus on the tragic love story betrayed the opera’s inclination to melodrama and clearly delineated from the more historical milieu of the novel. This is not to say, however, that the production is faulty for yielding to the performance medium. Rather, DUP’s Noli Me Tangere: The Opera is a testament to the breadth of the Filipino artists’ aesthetic wingspan, establishing itself as an adaptation both inspired and instructive.

Cheer factor: UP Pep leads national delegation to worldwide cheerleading tilt

25 Nov

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The UP Pep Squad is no stranger to pushing limits, be it as individuals or as a team. After clinching the UAAP Cheerdance championship four times in the last five years, they now set their sights on a greater challenge: representing our country as delegates to the 6th Cheerleading World Championships (CWC).

Dubbed the “Olympics of cheerleading”, the biennial competition will be held from November 26-27 at the Hong Kong Coliseum and will pit around 70 teams from 20 countries. The 2011 CWC marks the Philippines’ debut in the international cheerleading arena.

The 55-member national delegation is comprised of students from three cheerleading teams – the UP Pep Squad, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Stars and the Centro Escolar University (CEU) Lady Scorpions. They will be competing in the group stunt, partner stunt, cheer mixed and cheer dance categories.

“This didn’t come from out of the blue – these guys paid their dues going there. They had to go through literally the eye of the needle,” said Evan Alvia, president of the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines Cheerleading Federation.

Assistant coach and professor Pio Niño Opinaldo is optimistic about UP Pep’s performance. He recounted how a month after winning the UAAP Cheerdance, the team members continued training for six hours daily to get in shape for the CWC.

Squad captain Kathleen Madrigal, a graduating elementary education student, said: “(We feel) honored but pressured. There are lots of people to handle, but I still have the captains of PUP and CEU to help me out.”

Funds and government aid

Plans of sending the UP Pep Squad to the 2009 CWC in Bremen, Germany fell through due to financial constraints and visa conflicts. Two years after that botched attempt, the national contingent had to raise P5-million – with expenses pegged at $850 per person – to cover the costs for this year’s competition.

Alvia explained that since cheerleading was not an Olympic sport, it was unreasonable to expect monetary support from the national government: “Government right now is sending 55 sports to the SEA Games. We don’t want to be a problem, we want to be part of the solution.”

Government’s contribution to the national contingent’s bid came in the form of tax exemptions, particularly on airport tax for the 55 players and their coaches. According to Alvia, making the teams raise their own funds for the competition instill in the players a stronger sense of discipline and community involvement.

“All through adversity, after 2009, they stuck around. They trained regularly. They trained just as hard as the boxers and the Olympic athletes. Some of them are magna cum laude and cum laude candidates. They’re not just gonna graduate as athletes doing nothing. We’re assured and we’re confident that they will progress in life. We stand up for them because they are role models,” he added.


The Philippine contingent showcased their final routines in a send-off at the UP College of Human Kinetics last November 20. The event also served as a turnover ceremony for the Mat Project, spearheaded by former Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Grace Gregorio and art studies professor Eloisa Hernandez.

Launched at 9 a.m. on September 20, the project aimed to gather solicitations for new rubber training mats for the UP Pep Squad. Thanks to social networking and word-of-mouth, 300 pledges were gathered within thirty six hours of the campaign’s launch. Gregorio shared that once, when some pep squad members were gathered at the AS parking lot, an elderly man approached and handed them P1000 as his donation to the Mat Project.

Interestingly, it was not only UP alumni who were willing to extend financial support to the squad. Other notable donors include Patch Adejar of the University of Santo Tomas, Edward Yu of rubber manufacturing firm Bantex and columnist Tessa Prieto-Valdez.

Prieto-Valdez represented her contemporaries in Assumption High School Batch 1981, who pitched in P100,000 for the Mat Project. “It’s something else that we’re able to compete abroad even if it’s not for a sport. Even if it’s for the first time, win or lose, they’re already winners,” she said.

Even as he anticipated a strong showing from the national delegation, Alvia stressed the significance of their giving back to the community that made their CWC bid possible. He said, “It’s not about the winning. If they do win, and they feel better about what they are after the competition, then that’s paying it forward. If we train you to fund your own way, you can do that for other causes…If you get there, you know it’s because you deserved it.”

Overheard on the first week of class

12 Nov

Ma’am P to male MRR student: How do you know Joey Ayala? Because you’re old?

Student: No, because I like him.

Ma’am P: You like him? You mean his songs.


Sir M asks class: So besides the need for another elective, why did you take this class?

D: Because some people said the prof is aesthetically pleasing.

L: Shhh, secret lang dapat iyan, D. Journalists never reveal their sources!


Ma’am P to Classmate S, a female graduate student: How old are you? Are you in your 20’s?

S: Oh! No, I’m 40.

Class: O.O


Sir A to male student: You shed tears?

Student: Opo, pag gabi.

Sir A: Interesting.


Sir A: Napaka-hiwaga ng buhay.


S receives chocolate from a suitor for her birthday.

Everyone: Awwww.

S hides chocolate in bag.

R: Ay. Kala ko she-share mo.


Sir D: Sa klase ko, bawal maging biktima. Pero pwede maging salarin.


Sir D on former student, who sat in during class: Iyang si ____, pinag-aagawan ‘yan ng mga babae. Akala ko nga dati, paminta yan. Hindi pala. Pumapatol pala sa tao.

Rude awakenings

14 Oct

The week so far has been a heady mix of close calls, hits and misses.

A good friend and I worked aklsjdklasf hard on a project but got sidetracked by a frustratingly basic oversight: something that should have happened, didn’t happen. But because something that could have happened didn’t happen, we pulled through even if we were thisclose  to falling off the tightrope. We had a post-mortem over bites of mamon (which I sneakily consumed since we were in the library), and surmised that while we could have fared better, we’re at least thankful that the problem didn’t take a 360-degree turn for the worst (superlative intended).

Haggard Fresh from a semi-allnighter with Communication Research 101 group mates (also my org mates, so yay to clingy productivity), I set out to finalize my take-home exam for Film 176.  The latter class under former CMC dean Nicanor Tiongson was easily one of my two most enjoyable classes this sem, because it engaged my passion for film and broadened my appreciation of performing and visual arts.

I keyed in Ctrl+S for the last time at around 4 p.m. and embarked on a mad dash for school right after, fearful of the first wave of post-workday urban traffic. But as it turns out, what I should have been more fearful of was the column next to my parking space, and my as-of-then-undiscovered propensity to have a blind spot for columns when driven by fear of missing a deadline. Ditto for the tendency to inch way too close to one side when descending from spiral parking ramps. Goodbye, untarnished car doors! And goodbye, possession of a Jason Mraz concert ticket — it was nice thinking I was actually on my way to you, instead of a nearby auto repair shop.

Thankfully, I made it to the deadline — but that minor collision with the column was only a foreshadowing. On the way home from a clinginner at Lutong Bahay, a friend and I braved the Quezon Avenue traffic. The COT was a road accident involving a sedan and a bus full of passengers. We tsk-tsked at the sight and sloughed it out through the U-turn leading to southbound Edsa.

No less than one tambling away from the Quezon Avenue MRT station — where my friend was set to alight — a taxi beside me made a sharp left turn and in so doing, commenced the third traffic jam within that same hour in Q Ave. The taxi got scratched at the rear and there’s now a gaping dimple where my fender’s smooth surface used to be.

So this wasn’t a great day. But while I’m grateful that the only harm done so far was to my pocket, property and pride (I overheard a jeepney passenger remark, “Ay, babae kasi nag-dadrive” when he saw me negotiating with the taxi driver), I hope it’s not too much of a stretch to wish for nothing else untoward to happen from here on.



Things I know but don’t always remember (hell week edition)

8 Oct

1. Productivity is always inversely proportional to the number of tabs currently open on any given window.

2. Thinking of resting your eyes for a wee while? Don’t even think of folding your arms and resting your head in front of the computer. Unless you want to wake up after five hours with aching neck and back muscles, groggy with lack of progress.

3. If you must work with iTunes in the background, at least pick out songs that won’t compel you to grab the nearest hairbrush/remote/your-makeshift-microphone-of-choice  and channel your inner Adele at daybreak.

4. Increased caffeine intake can make you more immune to the energizing effects and more susceptible to its undesirable ones.

5. Playing blink and seek with your word document cursor will do nothing to lessen the white space.

5. Just because you’ve minimized the problem, doesn’t mean you’ve solved it.

7. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and all networking sites still have fully functioning logout options.

8. NO, you don’t need to go to the restroom for the third time in half an hour.

9. And NO, you don’t need that second glass of water either.

10. CTRL isn’t just a button — it’s high time you exerted more of it IRL.

No see

25 Aug

The one day Sid Lucero becomes a speaker at a forum in the College of Mass Comm auditorium (along with Amaya screenwriter Mac Alejandre and other cast members) is the one day I spend a whole afternoon in the library being “studious.”




15 Jul

Because sometimes, one letter makes all the difference.

In other newsss, congratch Fighting Maroons! UPKERIGOFIGHT o/*