Lagindab Review: An entertaining comedic and romantic take on Philippine Society

Despite the lack of support from the administration and local government units for student-initiated art projects, the UPLB Communication Arts program continues to deliver provocative and engaging artistic and cultural acts. Theater arts students continue to call for accessible spaces for practice and performance – they have yet to receive a decent response from the administration.

Lagindab touches important aspects of human nature and Philippine society in the subtlest and most unexpected ways.

The comedic yet realistic acting, a precise yet symbol-laden script, and a basic yet accurate costume and props contribute the an overall experience that leaves the audience wondering how subtlety can be a weapon to lessen intimidation when discussing the heaviest social issues. Lagindab is a perfect inexpensive introduction to an engaging and accessible theater arts.

Orlando Nadres’ Paraisong Parisukat explores the sentiments and life of Isha – a provincial girl who works in a shoe store for seven years, whose life changes after meeting a new male colleague. Lagindab’s adaptation of the play was ambiguous at the start – a risky move as audiences would have a different impression. However, the impressive characterization gave depth and breadth to the issues that plague the characters of the play. While not explicit – the play highlights important class struggles faced by migrants in a city, and the neglected and silenced existential dilemmas faced by blue-collar workers. The beauty of this adaptation is that it does not bore nor does it stress the spectators whilst discussing and immersing them to the lives of minimum-wage earners (and possibly contractual) like Isha. Isha’s struggle is masked by the lively music, chaotic and colorful lives of her colleagues, a wandering boyfriend, and heartless boss. Despite the lack of administrative financial support, a rollercoaster of energy surges and plunges of actors, lapses in script memorization, and inconsistent and often overlapping music – the play brought to life a play that had many questions that will haunt many students upon their graduation. The conclusion was brief but it gave a glimpse of how life is bigger than a shoebox and brighter than  golden medal, if one was given the chance and if one willed to get out.

A year ago, the Communication Arts students and faculty staged Bienvenido Noriega’s Bayan-Bayanan which breath comedy and joie-de-vivre in the lives of Overseas Filipino Workers – it was surprisingly followed by Lagindab’s staging of Bienvenido Noriega’s Idolong Romantiko. A play that was rich with context and representation – it discussed many sins and defects of a Filipino citizen that contribute to Philippine society’s demise. Lagindab did more than justice to Bienvenido Noriega’s play. Despite problems in impersonation – the profound and complicated personalities of the characters were delivered with flairs of comedy and sexual innuendos which made audiences relate to the characters quickly. Almost realistic with the moans, grunts, kissing sounds and sensual dances – the play resembled popular and engaging Filipino teleseryes yet with socially-relevant engaging scripts and themes. Albeit covering popular Philippine social cancers, Noriega is courageous to discuss sensitive issues such as rebellions and feudalism. Audiences should not miss how a simple production set was highlighted by lights and sounds. Perhaps satirical, the must-awaited conclusion provides the audience the whole point of the play – a Greek tragedy in the Philippine context. Overall, the play’s theme of justice was given what was due for it – justice.

Lagindab will have its last two shows later at NCAS Auditorium at 4pm and 7pm for PHP100.

Words by John Albert Pagunsan

Photos, courtesy of Lagindab’s Rey Perez

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NUSP slams mandatory drug testing in universities

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) condemns the plan of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to require all universities and colleges to conduct drug tests on students.

The student union said in their statement, “Like its boss Duterte, CHED tags drug abuse as the ultimate monster confronting the youth and the country without comprehensively looking at the socio-economic problems that people face.”

Technical-vocational institutions, colleges and universities will be required to subject their students to a mandatory drug test in the following academic year of 2019-2020 as CHED ordered in Memorandum Order no. 18 of 2018.

The student union pointed out that despite the expected budget cuts for state-operated colleges and universities, it seems that CHED’s top priority is the mandatory drug testing.

“Drug testing is the top priority of CHED at this time when we expect budget cuts for public schools that offer free education, and we are suffering due to price, fare and tuition hikes approved by Duterte and CHED,” said NUSP in a statement.

Media outlets including CNN Philippines and Philippine Star reported that the Department of Education (DepEd) is facing a PHP 51 billion budget cut for the next year while ABS-CBN and the Philippine Star reported the CHED’s financial assistance program budget is also facing a cut as big as PHP 3 billion.

The mandatory drug testing comes after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Malacañang listed the University of the Philippines as among the universities ‘plotting’ an alleged rebellion, called the “Red October”, and recruiting ‘rebels’ against the Duterte administration. However, the allegation was quickly withdrawn by the AFP and PNP after they claimed that the rebellion was ‘neutralized’.

War on drugs victims

The Duterte’s War on Drugs has claimed lives of children as young as five years old – among its victims are former UP student Carl Arnaiz, senior high school student Kian delos Santos, and college graduating student Roman Manaois.

The PNP reports that 4,200 ‘alleged’ drug personalities have been killed since Duterte took office.  However, several human rights groups claim the number to be around 12,000 while NUSP reports that 25,000 lives have been claimed since Duterte assumed office.

During his second State of the Nation Address, the president stated that his administration’s war on drugs will not stop rather ‘it will be relentless and chilling as on the day it began’.

Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched a preliminary investigation on Duterte and his war on drugs, which was followed by the filing of a complaint by relatives and families of victims. The ICC is an international court of last resort, it has indicted famous authoritarian leaders for gross human rights violations like Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Joseph Kony of the Lord Resistance Army, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. [P]

WORDS: John Albert Pagunsan.

(LOGO of NUSP lifted from NUSP Facebook Page)

 

Isko’t Iska 2018: A play of finding, using and amplifying voices.

Words by John Albert Pagunsan with contributions from Aaron Tristan De Vera of BA Communication Arts ’15. Picture lifted from Isko’t Iska 2018 Facebook page.

(Isko’t Iska 2018 is staged for free at DL Umali Auditorium, 7PM, on November 13 to 14.)

Continuing the tradition of activism and social awakening through theater, this year’s installment of Isko’t Iska discusses the personal struggle of Iskolars of finding a voice and using a voice and amplifies the voices of the victims of government neglect and oppression.

The play has never failed to deliver as an act of protest and as an alternative platform for discussion of social issues since the Marcos’ Martial Law regime. This year’s writers and production staff are sharp at molding characters and circumstances that hit close to home for many Iskolars and Filipinos; providing an alternative primer to the ideal character of an Iskolar, a public university and a Philippine society vis-à-vis the realities that surround students.

ISKA’S VOICE AFTER GRADUATION

The most remarkable departure Isko’t Iska took for this year’s installment is showering a delayed yet graduating senior with lots of spotlight. Iska’s story reflects the lives of many upperclass students – the dilemma of either using their found voice in helping the country or in building massive fortunes and portfolios. Isko’t Iska provides a persuasive reason and an impactful conclusion to that dilemma. The viewer leaves the auditorium with an answer but also carries with her questions of what to do with her recent enlightenment.

Albeit lapses in delivery and dragging scenes, Iska is a perfect caricature of a UPLB student – chained to familial obligations while aspiring for national obligations. Her story exposes the dynamics among Filipino family members and how their economic and social positions largely determine the nature and the use of their voices. The play is subtle in discussing how the most vocal becomes voiceless inside a home – and how that circumstance becomes a defining point of Iska’s character and story.

Iska’s wit and wisdom are her weapons in times of adversity – two characteristics the play would want audiences to espouse after brief immersions on different struggles of marginalized sectors through the play. While the play suggests options for using the found voice, it gives a lot of liberty to the viewer to choose and create new ways of voicing and being voiced.

ISKO’S SEARCH FOR HIS VOICE

Isko’s story resonates among freshmen – the dilemma of finding his true voice. A rich discussion is produced from the interplay of a Freshman’s internal and external struggles in the present context. It becomes an alternative life guide for many freshmen deprived of senior assistance and guidance (because of an OSA memorandum). Throughout the play, Isko finds his voice; but in the process that voice becomes threatened after it voices the voiceless.

The search for Isko’s voice could have been more impactful if complemented with higher and stronger vocal projection and a concise and precise script. While the play remains loyal to the formula of having main characters involved in social activism, this year’s installment focuses on activism through journalistic documentation and reporting – giving light to the media repression and government-sanctioned misinformation.

The search for his voice leads him to unexpected but liberating circumstances – a potent narrative that the play sustains from the first minute to closing.

AMPLIFYING THE STIFLED VOICES

                The play is honest and unforgiving in depicting social realities that social lenses have been deprived of capturing and refuse to capture since Duterte’s election from extra-judicial killings to paramilitary aggression against farmers. The introduction accurately and creatively captures the current state of the country while the conclusion is a must-watch as it provides a persuasive solution to the play’s dominant premise of an oppressed Philippine society.

The lives of characters from the fringes tour the audiences in the maze of social realities in homes, city slums, and farming communities; but leaves audiences an important question that haunts both the main characters and the audiences – what does one do when one hears their personal voice and the voices of the masses?

Students cannot refuse to see and hear the social realities that plague the res of the country because the play’s bluntness engages them to how these social realities hit many powerless skin deep.

 

 

Why are there delayed students in UP?

In UP, students face stigma from their parents who expect them to graduate on time. For some, that judgment comes from their own classmates and friends who think that being delayed only means you’re “delinquent” or “not good enough for UP.” Extending one’s stay in the university shouldn’t be something to be shamed of (after all, “quality education takes time”); but one cannot deny the struggle of having to wait a little longer to don that sweet Sablay.

To be delayed isn’t usually something UP students would want to happen to them. Some are delayed because they chose to shift courses, or they needed more time for their special project/undergraduate research. For a few, taking part in extracurricular activities such as exchange programs are their reasons for getting delayed. However, for many UP students, circumstance prevents them from graduating on time despite their dedication and hard work.

Here is a list of reasons why UP students get delayed:

1. Financial reasons

Sometimes students get delayed due to financial factors. Even with the Free Tuition Law, some students still struggle to cover their expenses for rent, food, as well as materials they need for school. With skyrocketing prices of goods, it could spell out delay for students who simply cannot afford their needs.

Some students continue their education as a working student—but even this is not an option for some given the academic workload in UP. For the same reason, many students have to completely stop their education, dedicating themselves to providing for the financial needs of their families. This is the case for Joanna*, a BACA student, who filed for LOA because she couldn’t afford school anymore. “My batch was the first to suffer the TOFI from 225 per unit to 1000 per unit. My family wasn’t ready for that.”

Melissa*, a Philosophy student, chose to work and quit school momentarily to support her family. “Our only source of income is our small shop and it hadn’t been doing well, so I applied to work in the BPO industry as a customer representative agent.”

2. Health problems

Disease can be a huge hindrance to one’s education. In the university, the academic workload can get too heavy. Some individuals may not be able to take the amount of stress building up throughout the semester. This could end up in either physical or mental health problems, or both. A student may have a difficult time submitting requirements, catching up on lessons, and passing exams. For some, this could also mean having to drop subjects and give up the semester.

Chelsea*, a BS Biology student, was diagnosed with depression during her stay in the university. Because of this, she wasn’t able to focus. “I wasn’t able to prioritize my academics when my depression struck during my 2nd and 3rd year. Failing my exams became a trigger…because I didn’t want to be surrounded by people I couldn’t keep up with…I wasn’t able to focus on my academics because of that.”

3. Lack of subjects, SAIS

The university is notorious for its lack of faculty members, staff, and facilities. Hence, it could only provide a limited number of sections for its thousands of students who need it. The worst part is, we have the Student Academic Information System or SAIS where students are pit against each other to vie for slots in subjects. Something that everyone should be able to acquire, regardless of their status.

For Jhonnet Galit, a BS Human Ecology student, he was “a product of the birth pains of SAIS.” He explained, “I think it was 2016 when it was the first year of SAIS. There were problems with the registration and I ended up getting no slots. Since I was not eligible to graduate on time, I was not prioritized. I was delayed for 2 semesters because of that.”

Lack of slots was the problem for Jainno Bongon, a BS Nutrition student: “Midyear nun two years ago at dapat yun na huling chance ko to take Chem 160. Eh ‘di ko nakuha yung Chem 40 na prerequisite to 160. Puwede ko lang siya i-take ulit the following year.

In the end, we should recognize that the problems of our delayed iskos and iskas are usually uncontrollable circumstances. Many of these problems are systemic and economical, and we can only guess the number of students delayed because of these issues that have long been prevalent, not just in UP. We must continue to assert for pro-student policies and our basic rights to ensure accessible and quality education—not just for UP students—but for everyone.

*Some students requested to remain anonymous and their names changed

WORDS: Mark Ernest Famatigan
ILLUSTRATION: Lindsay Anne Penaranda
EDITED BY: Mac Andre R. Arboleda

BS ABT student draws realistic paintings of UPLB campus

UPLB has been the subject of many artworks, mostly traditional paintings and photographs that show the beautiful spaces around campus. Fourth year BS ABT student Kenneth Longasa, on the other hand, takes cues from Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, 5 Centimeters Per Second) to draw realistic digital illustrations of buildings and even peculiar places in the corners of the university.

Nineteen-year-old Longasa said he wanted to show people that “one does not need formal art education to learn art, specifically, digital art.” He stressed the importance of research and taking criticism from art communities in order to improve his craft. Although art and acads can be tough to balance, he believes that one can pursue art even while studying in college.

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Image courtesy: Kenneth Longasa

In fact, college also allows students to find like-minded individuals in the groups they decide to join. For Longasa, joining UPLB comics organization The Graphic Literature Guild helped him learn new skills and find opportunities for collaborations. “Organizations help the community with the events they organize and through promotion of arts and crafts.”

It remains to be seen whether the university is truly able to provide enough art spaces and institutional support for orgs and student artists. For Longasa, it is up to us to organize and encourage artistry among students. Although his works focus on spaces inside the campus, he explained that “[Cultural] events should reach outside the confines of the university and involve [other] creatives in Los Baños, Laguna.” [P]

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Image courtesy: Kenneth Longasa

How far can your art go? UPLB’s official literary and arts folio is accepting contributions until October 15, 2018. Read the full guidelines here.

WORDS: Mac Andre R. Arboleda
ILLUSTRATIONS: Kenneth Longasa

Netizens react to Marcos birthday pub

Based on online reactions, people are dismayed at the recent Facebook post from Upsilon Sigma Phi commemorating the 101st birthday anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. The post describes then President Marcos as a “prolific orator,” an “intelligent statesman,” and likewise “polarizing” for “his administration’s marred corruption” and “rampant human rights abuse (sic).”

 

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Marcos was a member of Upsilon Sigma Phi, a fraternity based in the University of the Philippines. According to its website, it currently has two chapters—a combined chapter in UP Diliman and Manila, and another in UP Los Baños.

Among the fraternity’s notable figures are former Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon, UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez, and UP President Danilo Concepcion.

Recently, UP President Danilo Concepcion was under fire for his appearance last August 25 at the Kabataan Barangay reunion in UP Diliman where Ilocos Norte Governor (and daughter of the late dictator) Imee Marcos was guest of honor.

Below are some of the reactions regarding the post:

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Day of Remembrance

UP President Danilo Concepcion recently declared September 21, 2018 and September 21 of every year hereon as UP Day of Remembrance in honor of UP’s contributions at the forefront of the resistance against dictatorship and martial law. The proclamation was signed on September 17, 2018.

Likewise, the UPLB Department of Social Sciences is set to pay tribute to the victims of Martial Law on the Day of Remembrance, which will take place at the Humanities Steps in UPLB on September 19, Wednesday.

WORDS: Sonya Castillo
EDITED BY: Mac Andre R. Arboleda

UPLB students say ‘no’ to freshman recruitment ban—poll

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Majority of respondents to an online poll posted via Twitter by UPLB Perspective disagree with the freshmen recruitment ban or OSA Memorandum No. 2 of the UPLB administration.

While 76% of the respondents disagree, 14% agree with the freshmen recruitment ban and only 10% said that they are “not sure.” The informal survey collected a total of 670 votes in 24 hours from September 6 to September 7, 2018.

In a recent dialogue with UPLB officials, the UPLB University Student Council (USC) clarified the basis of the memorandum. According to Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Director Atty. Eleno Peralta, the basis for the memo is the Board of Reagents (BOR) approved Student Code of Conduct of 1998. However, USC Chairperson John Joseph Ilagan clarified that the Student Code of Conduct only indicates the prohibition of freshmen recruitment for fraternities and sororities and not academic student organizations.

WATCH: UPLB students react to dialogue with UPLB administration

Atty. Peralta also added that “many students get dismissed” during their freshman years, citing their membership to student organizations as one of the reasons of dismissal. OSA has yet to present sufficient data on this claim.

Although the memorandum is not new, OSA has continually insisted that “freshmen need adjustment to university life” as one of the reasons for prohibition to join organizations. The discussion on the recruitment of freshmen is crucial especially now as student organizations have been deprived of opportunities for new members due to the K-12 shift that took place in the last two years.

In a manifesto of unity released by the UPLB USC, they condemned the administration’s continued enforcement of freshmen recruitment ban and the Org Recognition Policy, which they said “demonizes organizations” and “curtailed students’ rights to organize.” [P]

WORDS: Mac Andre R. Arboleda
EDITED BY: Caren Malaluan