MARIA (Makiling Academy and Research Institute for the Arts) Scholarship given to Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) graduates who have exhibited outstanding academic and artistic excellence in their years in high school has been awarded to recipients in the graduation last March 22 as MARIA-IRM Scholarship Award, with the initials of Imelda Romualdez-Marcos added to it.
PHSA, atop Mt. Makiling was established in 1977, a year after Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos established National Arts Center (NAC) on April 16, 1976 as a tribute to Filipino artists. To date, PHSA serves as a training ground for students inclined in the arts with its secondary program integrated with a special curriculum in the arts. Currently, there are five (5) majors PHSA students could focus on namely, Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts.
Recipient of the MARIA Scholarship Award will be receiving monthly subsidy from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Board for his/her tertiary education. It has been two years since the PHSA held a graduation ceremony due to the implementation of the K-12 Curriculum and in the graduation held on March 22, PHSA students were surprised that what for the longest time was called MARIA Scholarship, was now dubbed as MARIA-IRM with the initials of the wife of the former President turned Dictator added to it.
PHSA students denounced the renaming of the MARIA Scholarship as attaching the initials of Imelda Marcos would seem like the subsidy will be coming from her while in fact the subsidy is from the CCP board and the Marcos family have no direct influence on the scholarship. In a statement released by Variations, PHSA’s student publication, they wrote, “adding the initials of the wife of the president, turned dictator, would imply that it is them who are responsible for helping the students through their tertiary education, when in fact, it is the taxes of the Filipino people.”
Variations also emphasized in their statement that the MARIA Scholarship was initially called MARIA-IRM however it was changed into MARIA Scholarship after Executive Order No. 420 “Converting the Philippine High School for the Arts into a Regular Government Agency,” thus unlinking the school from the Marcos family.
Students also pointed out that in the 2003 PHSA Student Handbook, the scholarship was referred to as MARIA Scholarship whereas in the recently distributed 2015 PHSA Student Handbook, the scholarship is recognized as MARIA-IRM.
Variations strongly denounced the move of the administration to rename the scholarship and the administration’s lack of transparency regarding the matter, Variations wrote, “to name the scholarship after the founders is simply ignorance, and the choice to unlearn what the mountains have taught.”
They also called out the administration’s reasoning that referring to the MARIA Scholarship as MARIA-IRM Scholarship during the graduation was a mistake from the script. Variations wrote, “to dub the incident as a ‘mistake from the script’ during the graduation is spineless.”
The statement released by Variations was first posted in their Facebook page but the post was taken down so the students reposted the statement in their personal accounts with Maura Aurel Yap, Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of Variations and Bianca Ysabel Rabe, President of the Supreme Student Government as signatories.
In an online interview with UPLB Perspective, Yap explained that the post was taken down by one of their staff after their adviser asked them to remove the post. The students were able to repost the statement with the provision in Section 6 of the Campus Journalism Act saying that “the function of the adviser is limited to one of technical guidance,” as basis for posting it despite the adviser’s prohibition.
With regard the administration’s silence on the matter, Variations wrote in their statement, “the media blackout from our school administration is simply proof that something happened without any of the students’ knowledge or consent. As journalists it is our duty to tell the truth, and to tell it well.”
Variations together with the PHSA students are waiting for answers from their administration who has remained silent all throughout. Yap, EIC of Variations who recently graduated, said in an interview with UPLB Perspective “What is the school admin afraid of? Why are they trying to hide the issue? Our school has been silent long enough. It’s time to speak up.”[P]