Sunday, 2 December 2007

In Stasis

I should have done this a long time ago.

As frequent visitors (yes, all three of them) and complete strangers would have noticed, I have stopped publishing any new posts on my blog for about three months now. Currently, I have no plans on updating my blog due to certain circumstances (pester me and I just might give the reasons).

Gratitude goes to those who have - by accident or some sheer stroking of the keyboard - stumbled upon A Boy's Life and have spent even just a couple of seconds scanning through its contents. Thanks to everybody who, for all intents and purposes, have cared to read my posts.

I do not know when I'll be able to publish anything new, but hey, it was fun while it lasted.

Until next time.

"I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."
- Samantha Black Crow, American Gods

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Save More, Save Less

Shown to the left is a picture of the unfinished Save More building located at T. Claudio St. Morong, Rizal.

The construction of the building has come under fire from local market dealers for some time now. They fear that the commercial building will force them to shut down their stalls at the local market, as Save More’s products and other goods might be sold at lower prices.

Some local consumers, on the other hand, do not mind if the commercial building poses a threat to the livelihood of Morongueños. They point out that market prices are too high, and that competition from Save More may pressure market vendors to match prices, meaning consumers could get to save on expenses.

For some time, the building’s construction was delayed because the building’s contractors (if I can recall correctly) violated the zoning permit given by the municipal hall. Also, what seemed to be an extension of the building was being built, without a proper permit (refer to second picture).

I’ve also heard that Save More was a sister company of SM – owned by Henry Sy, though I still have to verify that.

Recently, construction workers have begun to increase and a makeshift road was made for construction equipments and trucks to enter, revealing the enormity of the building. With the people of Morong divided over the issue, there seems to be no stopping Save More from constructing a commercial building at the center of town.

Time will tell whether Save More is a blessing or a curse. If it turns out to be the latter, only then will Morongueños act. The townspeople don’t seem to be that progressive anymore, despite playing a big part in the revolt against the Spanish occupation, but that’s another story that’ll have to wait.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Bingo Bonanza

While looking for cellsites (or base stations) in Las Piñas as part of our Communications 5 project (don’t ask why; I’m glad I graduated already), our group decided to rest at a sari-sari store. I chanced upon some residents of the area playing bingo, and decided to take a shot of them. At first they were hesitant - they didn't like the idea of having their picture taken by some stranger. After more prodding, they eventually agreed.

The crowd had to make do with playing on the street – literally – as they had no table to play on, not to mention chairs. Still, that doesn’t seem to stop them from playing bingo and earning a few pesos.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

On Why Voice-Manila Cannot Be A Student-funded Publication

Third and last part

Throughout the years, the publication had endured the campus administration’s methods – be it censorship, withholding of information or unscrupulous power play, among others. All of this the Voice went through while tagged as “the school and student publication of TIP.” As such, the idea of the Voice becoming student-funded has been around for a long time. However, there are factors that prevent the aforementioned from happening, and they all involve the publication staff.
As mentioned in the first part of this series, the staff receives scholarships every semester on the basis of their performance and academic standing. As such, the promise of a scholarship is what drives some students to join the publication. In exchange for his service to the publication, a staff alleviates his/ his parent’s burden of having to pay for tuition every semester.

Upon being admitted in the publication as a trainee, I was told by a senior staff not to be critical in my writings, for it is foolish to “bite the hands that feed you,” referring to the scholarship that I would eventually receive from the administration (oh my, look at what I’m doing right now).
Thus, this is the situation: as long as the staff receives and hankers for the scholarship that TIP gives away, there would always be students who would join the publication yearning for the same thing, and may not even try to be critical writers to ensure that they continue to receive scholarships.

Fear is another factor that restricts the staff from pursuing independence. A campaign pushing for the Voice’ autonomy from the administration – which obviously would have to be lead by the publication (and maybe the student council, though I doubt that) – may be branded by the administration as “activism,” something the school’s higher-ups is not fond of, as evidenced by the recent harassments done to Voice-QC. As far as I know, the editorial board line-up there got shuffled, all thanks to the actions of ranking school officials and the lure of a scholarship. It happened because Voice-QC was publishing critical articles, among others. But that’s another story.

Such is the retaliation of the school administration. I don’t know if such actions have reached the school president. But if it has, I wonder why she even allowed it.

In my three-year stay in the publication, suffice it to say that I have met people who were afraid of being at the receiving end of the administration’s wrath, or at the very least, be placed on hot waters. Instead of wanting to write critical articles (even those bordering on national issues), they would rather choose to focus on “safe” topics.

That circumstance exists within the publication because even the members themselves are not consolidated.

This could be attributed to the fact that there is no clear line concerning the Voice and its members – especially the trainees – with regards to the publication’s nature. It is stuck being a school and student paper. Thus its members are left in a void as to which of the two (school/ administration and student) is more important. Anyone could join: provided that he passes the competitive examination and interview. Unlike truly progressive publications, where everyone is united under a similar set of ideologies, the Voice is a melting pot of conflicting beliefs.

Let me give you an example: a senior staff once asked me to explain myself to him, and convince him in the process, about my beliefs and actions inside and outside the publication office being the “right” thing to do. He told me even before I started talking that he believes the Voice should remain under the administration’s leash. Guess there wasn’t any point in my explanation from the get-go. It is ironic to think that the Voice’ chances at becoming a student-funded publication is held back by its own staff of students.

Because of this setup, the Voice is divided. A staff cannot expect full support from his colleagues when he comes under fire from the administration, as some of them need the scholarship, are afraid of retaliation and who harbor greatly different points of view.

Until the desire for change and progress comes from within the staff and students themselves, then the Voice will still be stuck in the void it made itself for the past two decades.

This is the last of a three-part article regarding Voice-Manila, the official school and student publication of the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila. I stand by the belief that for the Voice to be truly independent from the administration, it should start within itself.

First step: the staff should be under one goal, one solid ideology. You cannot expect the publication to function as it should if its members are of conflicting schools of thought. A clear policy should be made as to what the Voice stands for, and the staff should adhere to it.

Next, it should lead the campaign for its autonomy, educating the student population about their situation and clarifying that paying an additional student publication fee would be best for them. Of course, the collection of fees would have to be made clear and its process done effectively and efficiently during enrollment periods.

They should also stop accepting scholarships from the administration as soon as they get the campaign started, as it is a clear sign of compromise. Perhaps the publication could give honorarium to its staff, taken from the collected student publication fee. It might be much less than a scholarship, but that is one of the trade-offs, one of the prices for freedom.

A student publication is one that is independently managed and published by the studentry. One joins it because he wants to serve the studentry. The rest are just icing on the cake.

Now if only the student council could step up to the challenge, then maybe things could really start rolling.

Monday, 25 June 2007

On Why Voice-Manila Cannot Be A Student-funded Publication

Second part

Another reason as to why the Voice would have a hard time becoming a student-funded publication is the school administration. Ever since I could remember, the school is not receptive to the idea of having a student-funded publication for fear that it might eventually be critical of the school’s policies. Even the past issues included in the archives of the publication showed little sign of being critical to the school administration, much less to national issues.

It seems that the school administration is afraid of activism and critical thinking taking seed in the student population and as the publication has a large reader base within the campus, it has been a target of constant oppression and censorship.

To monitor the publication, the school administration delegates faculties from the Humanities and Social Sciences Department as advisers to edit articles and supervise the Voice staff. Those delegated are often on the side of the school administration. Thus, certain articles in the newspaper are subjected to censorship or worse, excluded from being published whenever the advisers think that it is critical of the school.

Furthermore, the advisers (an English adviser and a Filipino adviser) have a knack for overruling the decisions of the senior staff. There were times that the senior staff was able to hold their ground and stand for the decision, but most of the time they had to succumb to the whims of the advisers.

Such actions go beyond the duty of an adviser as providing only “technical guidance” as stated in the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 (which by the way is flawed).

When a student becomes a trainee of the publication, he undergoes a series of interviews with the advisers, the head of the Student Personnel Services, the head of Security and the Administrative Officer (the senior staff interviews the student prior to being accepted in the publication). During interviews with school officials, a trainee is often asked regarding his affiliations and inclinations. Such questions are meant to determine if the trainee is affiliated with leftist organizations, is a Leftist, or a sympathizer of the Left.

An upcoming issue’s galley also goes through the office of the Vice-President for Administration and Student Services (VPASS) for editing prior to being delivered to the printing press. Thus an issue’s content gets screened twice: first is through the advisers, and then the VPASS.

In a meeting with the VPASS a couple of months ago (I think it was in January or February), she told us to focus our articles on student achievers, moral values and alumni who have contributed something great as opposed to articles regarding national events and those critical of the national government. That was the time when the publication released an article regarding the Registrar’s Office, which was misinterpreted as defamatory by the said office.

Despite all this, there are still employees who are helpful and sympathetic to the publication. Still, as long as there are members of the top brass who do not want the publication to make a great leap forward, then the chances of the Voice becoming a student-funded newspaper is slim. Very slim.

Friday, 15 June 2007

On Why Voice-Manila Cannot Be A Student-funded Publication

First part

Before the main topic, an introduction is in order.

For starters, the Voice-Manila (hereafter referred to as Voice) is the official school and student publication of the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila (TIP-M). Its office is located at the second floor of Building 3 of the Casal campus. Currently, the publication staff numbers to about twenty. The publication’s senior staff is comprised of the editorial board (Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor, Managing Editor) and the editorial staff (News Editor, Features and Literary Editor, Filipino Editor, Photography Editor and Circulations Manager, Chief Layout Artist). The position of Chief Layout Artist is vacant, as there is no eligible staff for promotion as I was writing this article. There are also two advisers, the English Adviser and Filipino Adviser.

The publication provides scholarships for its staff. There are two scholarships given: first is a 100% discount on tuition fees and the second is no fees except for Development Fee, Computer Fee, Industry Software Fee and ID. A staff only has to pass all of his enrolled subjects in order to avail of the scholarship, aside from performing well in the publication. The editorial board and editorial staff also receive monthly allowance.

The publication releases four regular issues, two in each semester, and a special issue which is commonly a literary folio. The Voice-Manila also holds a competitive examination annually in order to recruit new members.

Now for the main topic. This article will tackle why it seems impossible for the Voice to obtain its independence from the administration of TIP-M. This is a result of my three years of stay inside the publication, throughout which I was able to talk with various persons about the status of the publication, observe the students’ concern – or lack thereof – for the Voice, experience the censorship that the paper undergoes and the publication staff’s lack of fervor in pursuing autonomy, among others.

As a reminder, what follows is my opinion about the topic. I do not speak on behalf of the Voice. Also, I am no longer a member of the publication, as I have already graduated last March.

Now that the formalities have been settled, let’s get on with the topic, shall we?

According to past issues of the Voice, the publication was suspended in 1972 due to Martial Law. It was revived in October 1981 after a student referendum. Back then, the Voice was considered the publication of the student body. Come 1991, it suddenly became known as the school and student publication of TIP and continues to be so.

One of the reasons as to why the publication remains far from being independent is the students. They are resigned to the notion that the Voice is “pro-administration” and as such do not expect any hard-hitting or critical articles from it. This has also contributed to their indifference to the publication. They get the latest issue of the Voice, read and discuss a few articles in it, and wait for the next release. The students are content with being reactive for only a few weeks to the issues tackled by the publication.

I call those students “The Beautiful Ones,” mindful of nothing but their grades, happy inside their respective Ivory Tower. It is a shame that apathy has taken deep root within the students.

There are numerous times I had to explain to classmates and friends why the Voice cannot print articles critical of the school administration. As students, I believe it is their right to know the issues affecting them and the school. Sadly, the Voice can only play the part to a certain degree. To paraphrase a colleague and friend, “Malabong maging malaya ang dyaryo (Voice) dahil ayaw ng mga estudyante. Kailangang manggaling sa kanila ang pagkilos.”

Another reason is the Supreme Student Government (SSG). As the student council, it is their duty to represent the students in talks with the administration and serve as advocate of student rights. However, the council is plagued with indifferent student who mostly border on traditional student politics. Instead of being a true student council, the SSG often chooses to succumb to the school administration, fearful of retaliation if they do something that can be labeled as “activism.”

In the recent consultation regarding tuition and other fee increases (ToFI), the council was not able to play its part, questioning only the various fees collected by the school. They did not even ask the administration for any guarantees that the fees be used accordingly (concerning the 70-20-10 incremental fees set by CHED Memorandum Order No. 14, prior to its suspension). They also “agreed” to the increase in tuition and miscellaneous fees, although I was told that they did not sign any certificate of agreement. I have yet to confirm the report.

The SSG has the power to hold a student referendum. As such, they are vital to attaining the publication’s independence. However, as long as the officers elected into the council are cowardly student “leaders” (read: blind-eyed pro-administration dogs) with no concept of progress and change, the arena of student politics in TIP will remain as gibberish as it is.

Friday, 18 May 2007

A Bad Move

Last March, the Electronics and Communications Engineering Department of the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila (TIP) distributed an agreement letter to the graduating ECE students. If signed, a student agrees not to have his Transcript of Records (TOR) – a requirement for the board examinations – released lest he passes the department’s competitive examinations. This only goes to show the lengths the department would go to in order to reach or surpass the licensure examination’s national passing percentage.

Misleading agreement

The first paragraph of the agreement states, “The Electronics and Communications Engineering Department of the Technological Institute of the Philippines – Manila commits itself to produce high caliber graduates… the department also strives to be CHED’s center for excellence… most importantly, the department is committed to prepare its graduates for the profession they are entitled to belong.”

It is evident in the first paragraph that the department is presenting itself as wanting nothing but the best for its graduates, even borrowing a line from TIP’s Vision to ensure that the student signs the agreement.

The second paragraph states that in order to be included in the roster of professionals in his specialized field, a graduate must first pass a licensure examination prepared by the Professional Regulations Commission. The paragraph also stresses that competence is needed in order to pass the examination and that the ECE Department is “doing everything it could to help its students to receive their most deserved license.”

Yet it is a fact that over the past few years, the department had never surpassed the national passing percentage (I’ve yet to confirm if it did surpass the national passing percentage at all) for the ECE licensure examination which is marked at 36%. The November 2006 licensure exam produced a 14% passing rate while the April 2007 exam produced only five passers (reportedly a 10% performance), a dismal decrease from the April 2006 exams in which the department posted a 24% passing rate.

The third paragraph states that a competitive examination would be given by the department on August 18 and 25 and that the graduate would have to average at least 60% in order to pass the test. If not, his TOR will not be released for the mean time.

Furthermore, the fourth paragraph gives the graduate another chance: he will be given another set of exam on September 29. He should at least get a 70% average for his TOR to be released. If he still fails to pass the test, then he will be advised to take the April 2008 licensure exam.

Faulty logic

The agreement borders along the logic that if the graduate cannot pass the department’s competitive exams, what more the PRC licensure exams?

Such a short-term move does not directly answer the problems that are plaguing the department which, aside from poor licensure exam performance, include lack of competitive faculty, inadequate laboratory equipments and apathetic students.

What the department should do is to start screening students worthy of advancing to higher year levels early on. They should coordinate with the Humanities and Social Sciences and Math and Physics Departments regarding it, seeing as the two handles most of the lower year subjects. They could formulate the ways and means to properly screen the first and second-year ECE students.

Come third and fourth year, the task now falls on the department (as well as instructors of other departments teaching ECE students) to instill the necessary skills and knowledge for its students to not only pass the licensure exam, but to land a decent-paying job as well.

All throughout, the ECE Department Student Government and the Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines-TIP Manila Student Chapter should hold seminars on technical and non-technical topics, as well as tutorials and hands-on classes. In addition, they should instill critical thinking to their fellow students through discussions regarding timely and relevant issues. They should also be in the forefront of issues concerning the department, fighting for the interest of the students.

See you again next year!

There are students who have already signed the agreement, seemingly naive to its consequences. As long as the department – and the school – remain unable to answer the real problems concerning students, incidents such as this would continue for years to come. The ECE Department seems hell-bent in attaining a commendable licensure exam performance – through whatever means necessary – as the graduates start gearing up for it.