Sunday, June 15, 2008

What is the best thing that the Philippine state can give a citizen? Thoughts on the Centennial week of the University of the Philippines

Would you believe that question cropped up during my family's Pop's day lunch? In the past table talk of a very serious nature only happened when the country was in crisis. The last time that happened if I am not mistaken, was when Erap was being impeached.

With the economic difficulties every Pinoy citizen faces, the owner of the fancy resto where we had lunch ( my sister's best friend) complained that the trendy set with the cash have stopped at worst, or reduced at best, their patronage of her dishes. The trendies have started moving their business to a popular family oriented chicken joint (once promoted by the late "contrbida" actor Mr Alvarado) worse to a popular noodle serving fastfood joint with a siopaw mascot!

No worries, I told her. While we are indeed trendy, we fantasize that we have the cash. Thus we eat at her resto best, once a year! And that if a discount is offered.

Chances are the trendy ones with the money will find themselves trendy still but with no cash!

From that we talked about Gloria's lifeline 500 bukols "katas ng VAT" . The verdict "well it can stretch Gloria's lifeline" my uncle said. It is really Gloria that needs a lifeline not the poor.

Righto! I agree, Christ said that there will always be poor people and somehow they manage to survive.

The rich are eliminated at times, my uncle retorts. And a Marxist cousins agrees wholeheartedly.

But only to be replaced by the noveau riche, who may have been "nationalists" and Marxists before. I retorted back.

Well Christ is not that stupid not to realize that if the poor are with us always, then the rich should always be with us says my sister.

The problem is the cast of poor characters hardly changes, but the rich have a casting turnover though they may come from the same family of actors.

My other sister and her husband both UPLB grads were quite peeved when their daughter chose The School on Taft Avenue that prides itself on Green Archers shooting down Blue Eagles, over the Kalabaw of Los Banos.

The reason? Her barkada all went to Taft! Well that's teen peer pressure on you!

That was when talk of the coming UP centennial week came about. A whopping 80% of my family are alumni of the national university. This coming week is the highlight of the centennial year celebrations. UP celebrates centennial day on June 18 with a festivities in all campuses. The Diliman campus has scheduled activities along the academic oval.

The centennial comes at an unexpected time when the economic crunch has become a bit unbearable and not even Queen Gloria can do anything. This should make UP alums,profs,staff and students to reflect more on their good or bad fortune.

All on the luncheon table agree that at this time, a UP education is the best thing the State can give the citizen. No wonder people would do anything to pass the UPCAT exams. But it remains that admission to the national university is a privilege not a right.

The word privilege is from the Latin roots for "private" and "law". While everyone has a right to take the university entrance exams, not all have the privilege to be admitted.

The university has the special task of ensuring that all have a fair chance of being admitted and has taken steps to do so. But the chances of many are dashed because of our deteriorating educational system.

So UP students are privileged. But what good can this give the nation? This is the 5 billion peso question of the University of the Philippines.

That privilege is aptly symbolized by the Sablay academic dress of the university. The sablay was inspired by the malong thus can be likened to the Upavitas I described in the previous post. The wearer of the sablay on his/her graduation day becomes the brahmin, the elite of our class stratified society,not because of birthright but because of state granted privilege .

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