Tag Archives: up diliman

The Sunny Professor

18 May

Our first assignment for Journalism 102 (News Reporting) class under Professor Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan was to write a lead on the walkouts staged against the budget cut for SUCs. She returned our works the following week and did so with a disclaimer: “I have here your papers. Please don’t be discouraged.”

Naturally, we were.

As terror slowly crept into our faces, she added with a smile: “You still have a long way to go, but you’ll improve.” That was something we held on to throughout the semester.

Ma’am put a premium on working with what was given — no more, no less — while gleaning the relevance and repercussions of each news event. “There are no small beats — only small reporters,” she once said.

She liked to challenge students to become better versions of themselves, both inside and outside the classroom. Mid-January this year, I contemplated on running as an independent candidate in the college student council. The idea of running without a party seemed daunting, and I decided to wait it out instead and try my luck next voting season instead.

On January 18, the point of discussion turned to the upcoming council elections and Ma’am asked if any of us were participating. No one raised their hand. She told our class then, “Oh, you should run. It’s a memorable experience.”

I would later find out that the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy was moved to the following day, January 19. After much deliberation and somewhat scurried preparation, I trooped to the admin office that afternoon and submitted my COC.

It was in J102 that I delivered my first room-to-room speech. I hadn’t gotten the hang of my spiel yet, and I struggled with some parts of it. Ma’am and I were seated at opposite ends of the conference table, so whenever I looked ahead, I would see her looking right back, listening, eyes darting only when she glanced at the pamphlet I had distributed.

She was as much a storyteller as she was a journalist. Our sessions were filled with her lively anecdotes, observations and indispensable instructions. Despite her propensity for sharing, Ma’am valued tuning in to the stories of others’ as much as her own. One of her pieces of advice for us was to talk to people who are usually ignored, because beneath their unassuming silence lay a trove of valuable first-hand information.

Ma’am Simbulan was among the most patient professors I have ever had. On days when we had an article due, it was almost inevitable for some of us students to be tardy or absent. She never chided anyone in front of the class, even those who crept in a good 30 or more minutes after the start of the session.

Once, my classmate Eunille Santos and I rushed to finish an article for 102 in the journalism department. Ma’am arrived past 10 a.m. and upon seeing us huddled over laptop and computer, asked in her usual calm voice: “Anong ginagawa niyo rito? Let’s go.” In the brief seconds before she closed the department door behind her, we replied with a smile and uneasy laughter: “Sige lang po, Ma’am.”

Did Eunille and I try to enter the room only to find the door locked? No. Did we learn and submit the rest of our articles on time after that? Yes.

She was also quick to laugh at herself. Many times, she blamed her lack of spatial awareness for her inability to maneuver the live-view projector we used in class.

Much has been said and written about Ma’am Simbulan’s strong sense of conviction. She was as steadfast in her principles as she was with the littlest things. During the campaign trail, she invited me and candidates from the opposing political parties for a press conference. My classmates and I were to cover the event and submit a news article about it the following week.

At the end of the conference, she said expressed her gratitude to each candidate. “Thank you, Alisa,” she told the ISA secretary hopeful. To the STAND-UP chairperson bet, she said, “Thank you, Norman.” Then she turned to me. Ma’am addressed everyone by their last name inside the classroom, with no exceptions. “Thank you (pause), Miss Britanico. You’re still my student, so you’re still Miss Britanico to me,” she said with a grin.

Ma’am once said that journalism was a Promethean endeavor. Facts are not flowers reporters can pick at their own leisure — they are more like game animals, always on the move, always demanding a chase. But of the 5Ws and H of journalism, I find that the “why” is especially difficult to come by. Some questions just don’t have immediate answers, and even when they do, the answers are not always gratifying.

I have been monitoring the news all week, and there has been great attention to the conduct of traffic in Commonwealth Avenue since the accident. Last Monday, radio announcers broadcasted that the MMDA will install motorcycle patrol units along the “killer highway” to immediately respond to, if not thwart, any more road accidents in the area.

Sometimes when the answer to “why” seems too out of reach, “what now” is the next best question to pin down. Then the “what,” no matter how undesirable or tragic, will be given context, at the very least. At the risk of having Ma’am Simbulan tsk-tsk at me for lack of attribution, I shall quote something she said as relayed to the worldwide web by one of her students: “I hope you will use your skills to turn this country upside down.”

When we recall Ma’am Simbulan’s teachings and how they have touched us in professional and personal ways, we will do so the way our mind’s eyes see her — with a smile. Just as the brightest sun is made to set, her life has come to an end, but not without streaming rays of hope and warmth to the ones she has left behind.

She once told our class of young journalists, “You still have a long way to go, but you’ll improve.” That is something we will continue to hold on to, for ourselves and for the country she so loved and served. Because in death as in life, Ma’am Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan not only taught by example, but even bettered the instruction.

Of saxophones and rice toppings

14 Apr

CWTS orye at the AIT this morning. Turns out our next meeting will be on the 26th already. Yay for a sliver of summer before actual summer class! Final destination (!) is TBA, but the options so far are Batangas or Manila City.

A few lines from today’s frolics that are made of WIN:

1) Sir M: Tapos na ba magsulat [sa attendance]? Naubusan na ko ng kwento.

2) Ei to Eu: Bakit ka nag-sasmile? Natutunaw ako!

3) M to Ei: Gusto mo ba talaga ng milk tea, or R____ “t”?

4) I to A: A, clingy ako! (sabay silong sa payong ni A)

5) A: Plus points sakin kapag marunong tumugtog ng instrument ang isang guy.

I: Oo! Gusto ko talaga yung magaling mag-sax.

Ei: Ha?

I: Sax, saxophone.

Ei: Ahhh, akala ko mag-socks.

I: @-)

6) Ei on Combi waiter: Nasasayangan ako kay Kuya.

7) M: Ang magbigay sakin ng tulips, i-kikiss ko with my two lips!

Ang Pinaka-Masayang Finals sa Balat ng Lupa: Art Studies 177 in a nutshell

24 Mar

When I grabbed the last slot for Art Studies 177: Cinema in Philippine Culture through e-Prerog last November, I was certain of only two things: 1) that I love watching films, and 2) I was tired of being a Brocka and Bernal virgin. My exposure to and appreciation for Philippine productions was only at its nascent stage, and I felt I could certainly use a little prodding. And I must admit, it was literally cool attending class at one of the few classrooms in AS with a functioning (bordering on overfunctioning) airconditioner.

Now, I am bound by virtue of academic requirement to reminisce over what in me has changed and what has not in the past four months (this entry is my final examination, after all). But as with anything that has to do with Art Stud, I gladly embark on it because it doesn’t feel like work at all.

As a viewer. In this class, I learned to adapt a sense of surrender when watching films. The best way to not have dashed expectations is to establish none in the first place. Keep an open mind throughout and refrain from judging a film by its commercial returns or critical reviews before even watching it. Film-viewing is a highly personal experience — one chooses and commits to spend x number of hours of his/her life when he/she decides to watch a movie. Kahit sabihin nating class requirement ang pelikula, pwede namang gumawa ng ibang bagay imbes na umupo nang tahimik at mag-focus sa pinapanood (hal. pagpikit, pagtulog, pagkain, pakikipag-usap sa katabi, atbp.).

I came to realize that happy endings are not necessarily good, and good endings are not necessarily happy. Some movies are better off with open-ended or bittersweet endings that viewers can fill the blanks in. Sometimes such endings are more powerful because they act like punches to the gut — they intensify our suspension of disbelief and remind us of how fucked up the world really is (a fact we tried to forget upon entering the cinema/classroom, but oh well papel, such is life and we might as well come to terms with it).

As a critic. There is no such thing as a “realistic” film. Film is, by its very nature, an avenue for its producers’ expression and its viewers’ escape. Notice that I refrain from using the term “entertainment”, because amusement is not what cinema is all about.  Films are not visual playthings that aim to force smiles out of our faces for a fee (not the best ones, anyway). I believe a film can truly say it achieved its purpose if we become its plaything – if we toy around with it in our minds for days, as the film itself grows with and grows on us.

In the world of a film, nothing happens by accident. What the director does not show is just as important as what he does show — and this is not lost in the proactive viewer. I learned to find meaning in such technical things as the interplay of lights and shadows, carefully studying patterns and recurring motifs not just in individual movies but in directors’ entire bodies of work.

As a student. One of the advantages of a non-sectarian education is the wider range of liberal and liberating learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom. I came to appreciate the overlaps and interaction of the different fields of mass comm in any production. In my communication theory class, for example, we discussed Film Language and Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure. In order to better understand the concept, I applied the concept of the “male gaze” in cinema to Scorpio Nights and asked for the professor’s input. She agreed that the voyeurism in the film was indeed patriarchal and recommended Macho Dancer as another noteworthy embodiment of Mulvey’s theory.

As a Filipino. Ma’am Eloi said it best when she said, “Ang hindi nanunuod ng pelikulang Pilipino ay walang ‘k’ magsabi na pangit ito.” I enjoyed watching all the films in class (yes, even Tunay na Ina and Bagets, haha) because they showed our nation at its different stages of development. Films are like visual history books — echoing and unraveling the behaviors, perceptions, sentiments, socio-political realities and fashions of different generations. Watching all the films and hearing about pioneers and achievers through my classmates reports, I grew even prouder of the glorious past, resilient present and unparalleled potential of our local film industry.

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This is the part where I choose my favorite/s among the eleven films we watched in class. Over the Christmas break, Ma’am Eloi posted this message on our facebook group, “Survey: what Filipino film do you want to watch on our first day of class?” The overwhelming choice was Scorpio Nights, and the rationale was to start the New Year with a bang.

Pop, crack, sizzle.

And quite a bang it was.

At first I felt discomfort as we watched the film. It was something that would have surely scandalized the nuns at the all-girls Catholic high school I graduated from and make their veils stand on end. But I chose this as my favorite because of the insights on life and love that I gleaned from it. Scorpio Nights opened with shots of poverty-stricken Manila and its squatters. It’s set in the summer – it’s hot, it’s humid and it sets the stage for wayward thoughts and hands.

The film’s protagonist is Danny, a college student who looks through a hole on the floor of his rented apartment space ever night and watches the couple living in the unit below as they perfunctorily make love.  One night, he succeeds in seducing the wife (or perhaps it’s the other way around) and sparks a dangerous affair. This film challenged my notions of love and the necessity of physical intimacy. It made me question the existence of a loveless lust, like what the Wife felt for Danny and a lustless love like that of the Husband’s for his wife. Danny and the Wife shared the same astrological sign — scorpio, where the title of the film is derived. But though they may have been a match made in kama sutra heaven, the conclusion of the film and their affair epitomizes a person’s propensity to love to the point of death, as well as the many-pronged dangers of playing with fire and razing out of control.

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My wishlist for Philippine cinema

  • Well-maintained national film archives. Lino Brocka found a copy of the pre-war film Zamboanga in Europe, outside our own shores. How many more masterpieces must we lose to other countries or to oblivion before we learn to preserve them for future generations?
  • Less squabbles within the industry. Yes, there are factions even in our own film industry. And while their arguments have not reached the level of chaos seen in Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network, let’s not hope for such chaos to transpire. Cinema is both a discipline and an art form, and everyone has varying degrees of skill or development in both. It would do the movie scene much good if filmmakers let go of condescending, hoity-toity tendencies and give fellow filmmakers the kind of respect they want and deserve for their own works.
  • More exposure in international film festivals.
  • More frequent and accessible screenings, especially of independent films.
  • Legislation to prevent the abuse and undercompensation of film workers both in front of and behind the camera.
  • Material to continually challenge the Filipino audience and develop open-mindedness. Films that should go on to make a difference in the lives of viewers are not the feel-good, mainstream flicks made of cheese and fluff, banking only on star power, a been-there-done-that plot and marketing backed by a studio. Rather, I hope audiences come to understand that the best films are those that make people squirm in their seats. Films like Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay and Lino Brocka’s Insiang made waves abroad because it gorged the viewers’ minds and senses with inconvenient truths reflective of Philippine society, and compelled audiences to cull a sense of glaring discomfort for their own level of comfort in life.
  • More writings about local films. Through this class, I realized that I could engage my love for films with my other defining passion – writing. Writing about films  is not merely an exercise in ranting and raving. Rather, it is an outlet for analysis, and a way to draw public attention to good and bad movies — of both the past and present — that most people may have never seen or heard of. It is also beneficial for filmmakers because they receive feedback on their works, and constructive criticism goes a long way in helping them improve themselves and their craft.
  • Integration of film classes or film viewings of high-caliber works for elementary and high school students. If we want to get Filipinos to start patronizing our local film industry, then we better develop their  cinematic know-how at an early age. Guide them on how to approach, analyze and appreciate films from both the past and present. In so doing, we inculcate in them a sense of pride for Filipino achievers and culture, and hopefully plant the seeds for the last item in this wishlist.
  • More passionate film students. The industry is wanting of young blood for more eye candy eye-opening and stimulating insights on life and ways of expressing it onscreen. Each film is after all a collaborative rendition of reality, so it does not just become light projected on a lifeless screen, but rather a projection of life to be screened from commercialism and decay.

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If I had to relive college life, my Art Stud experience is something I would never splice out. Though I would not go so far as to say that this is a subject I would take again and again (I do intend to graduate on time, after all), I can honestly say that this course was a seminal experience in many facets. The Philippines is a diamond in the rough, both in real and reel terms. The plot to restore the glory of our nation and cinema may not be clear-cut and the journey may be a long take. There will be outtakes and delays along the way, but the resolution to render oneself to the country and the cause stays on long after the credits roll and the background music fades away.

Candidates for UPD Chancellor defend public-private partnerships

27 Jan

Public-private partnerships and the large-class system were among the issues discussed by the five nominees for University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman chancellor in a forum at the National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (NISMED) Auditorium last Sunday.

Center for Women’s Studies Director Sylvia Claudio said that UP land could be maximized as an autonomous source of income, provided there was efficiency and equity between the administration and private companies.

Former College of Engineering (COE) Dean Rowena Guevara observed that private money was “much easier and faster to utilize,” citing the recent successful merger of the UP administration and COE alumni in constructing the P43-million UP Centennial Dormitory.

Asian Development Bank consultant Patrick Azanza, also a nominee for UP president last year, believed that interaction with the private sector would help academic units improve their curricula to reflect industry expectations and to produce more competent graduates.

College of Mass Communication (CMC) Dean Roland Tolentino said, “There should be no mad dash to bring in private institutions.” He stressed the need for environment-friendly development of the Academic Oval and preservation of green spaces on campus.

In addition to “necessary” public-private partnership, College of Science (CS) Dean Caesar Saloma called on the government to increase budget allocations for state universities and colleges (SUCs). He added that subsidies for SUCs should be embedded in the national expenditure program, and should not come in the form of oft-delayed congressional insertions.

Large classes, downsized learning

The candidates viewed the large-class system as a response to the lack of facilities and teachers in the university. Tolentino said that in colleges like CMC, where the maximum number of students for production classes is 15 to 20, larger class sizes comes at the expense of student learning. This contrasts with CS classes such as Science, Technology and Society (STS), which accommodates at least 100 students per section.

Guevara emphasized the importance of designing a productive overall learning environment for students of different disciplines. She said that in the COE, her Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) students benefitted from a combination of large-class discussion and smaller lecture classes conducted by senior and junior faculty members, respectively.

Incoming UP president Alfredo Pascual attended the open forum and took down notes as candidates fielded questions from students in the audience. “They have to be candid with what they’re saying, so we will know exactly their capability and their plans for UP,” said Pascual.

Selection process

The term of incumbent UPD Chancellor Sergio Cao will end on February 28. In a memorandum dated December 6 last year, outgoing UP President Emerlinda Roman outlined the search process for Cao’s successor.

A Search Committee composed of two senior faculty members, one junior faculty member, a representative of Roman and one representative each for the Research, Extension and Professional Staff (REPS), administrative personnel and students was formed to facilitate nominations and evaluate each candidate.

A series of candidate forums was organized to involve the different sectors of the university in the selection process. Each forum will begin with the nominees’ presentation of their vision papers, and will proceed to an open forum. The next forums will be held on January 31 at the UP School of Economics Auditorium and at the Faculty Center’s Claro M. Recto Hall on February 7.

The committee is set to submit their final report to Roman on or before February 18. She will then select the incoming UP Diliman chancellor from this list and present her choice to the Board of Regents, the highest policy-making body in UP, on February 24.