Francisca Custodio: Conquering the storm on the airwaves

By Arianne Christian Tapao

 

In the last months of 2013, the nation had been crying, almost endlessly.

As the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) continued that November, tombstones replaced the soil on which the natives of Visayas would have lived. Families failed to recognize dead bodies. Survivors came from everywhere, ransacking abandoned buildings in search of something to eat.

Nov. 8, 2013 remains in history as the day the strongest typhoon hit Philippine territory.

Amidst all the rubble, however,  is a media worker who has seen everything as she was, after all, a victim herself.

Radio journalist Francisca Custodio lost an announcer and technician during the storm. Tacloban, Leyte, where she has lived and worked as radio station manager all her life, was not an exception to the casualties.

“Do we have a future? May trabaho pa ba kami?” a distressed Custodio then found herself asking.

And yet, two days later, due to an unabating duty to reconnect distraught survivors with their loved ones, her station somehow managed to get on air. When she asked if her employees would be willing to work without pay, all of them said yes.

As recipient of this year’s annual Gawad Plaridel, UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) bestows the award to the station manager who would be best known for preserving cultural heritage by keeping Siday, a traditional Waray poetry and an important expression of regional identity, on air through the years.

Two and a half years since the calamity, Custodio is happy to be chosen for something she enjoys doing as what would be a lifetime work.

Heartily, Custodio jested: “I hope I won’t disappoint UP.”

Born on June 6, 1946, 70-year-old Francisca Custodio, “Ate Babes” to her friends, has by no means foreseen a career in media.

Indeed, the early years of her professional track offered no signs. Seven years before finishing a business management degree from the Divine Word University in Tacloban, Custodio had already juggled work as a clerk-typist while studying a one-year vocational program.

“Actually by accident lang ang pagkapasok ko as a broadcaster,” she quipped. “I wasn’t even allowed to say the time check!”

Like all serendipitous stories, a radio announcer once could not make it at the time so Custodio stood by. It was only until much later that she was given an actual opportunity to be on air.

“Siguro they found my Waray-Waray flawless, kinuha na nila ako,” she said.

From being a clerk, Custodio gradually rose through the ranks as a radio announcer and eventually became Manila Broadcasting Company AM Station DYVL’s manager for around 22 years now, giving her ample time to innovate the medium for listeners.

DYVL-Tacloban reaches the airwaves of the whole of Eastern Visayas and hears sentiments from a good number of audiences. Although tackling national issues as well, the station mainly confronts the daily local grind.

Like national dailies, too, she said criticisms do not evade the community radio. Sometimes, she said audiences do not entirely agree with the station’s opinions on issues.

For this, her mantra remains undeterred. “Sabi nila, ‘Media should not take sides,’ pero dito, we should take sides—the right side,” she said.

Her station also listened to constructive criticism, like how people commented on announcers’ voices or how they handle banter over the radio. All these anchored on the notion that giving power to listeners is always priority.

The same stance fueled what would come to be her legacy: Bringing back the dying local literature, Siday, on DYVL.

“Through the use of a form that is close to the people, she has turned the medium of radio into a two-way communication, where listeners are given opportunities to be heard as well,” UP CMC said in its press release.

Interestingly, Custodio said the Siday that brought voice to several Visayans had originally been planned as just a quirk to engage listeners more.

“We encouraged the audience to participate by sending their own publonganon (quotable quotes),” she said. Apparently, through time, Custodio was surprised when contributors started submitting not just short lines, but actual poems.

More, the sentiments of these pieces hinged on social issues that affect the contributor’s community.

The station managed to get sponsors for chosen pieces albeit small, but she said, “Contributors didn’t mind if there was a prize. They want to hear their work and their names.”

True enough, the practice which eventually went on for 29 years has been participated by all walks of life: be it “a janitor, a farmer, or a fisher,” she said.

This contest of sorts became so successful that the best ones were picked by the station to be included in a book, titled, “Siday Han DYVL,” an effort in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

“Naging parang voice box kami ng sentiments ng mga tao,” Custodio said, satisfied.

Alas, even the best things come to an end.

When typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines that day, the wealth of Siday entries just resting in their office were all lost, along with their equipment and facilities.

For more than two years now, Siday has not returned on the airwaves yet. The art of listening to the people’s grievances, however, remains.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, DYVL set up a station in Palo, Leyte where luckily, their transmitters were spared. Although time was limited from 18 to 12 hours due to lack of electricity, people got to communicate with separated family members, she said, helping them unite on the airwaves.

More, Custodio said as false stories of raiding and a possibility of tsunamis quickly escalated panic among people, it became the reporter’s duty “to look for the truth and confirm whether these stories are false.”

This was especially hard since even the reporters suffered great losses themselves.

“For quite some time, a month, I did not go on the air kasi bumabalik sa akin ‘yung nangyari,” lamented Custodio, who then worked while grieving the death of her two co-workers.

Like Siday, DYVL’s Tacloban station has never fully recovered yet, two and a half years at present.

But though it seems difficult to find a silver lining in the impediment, Custodio said the station is hopeful and gradually recovering.

True enough, Custodio said by September, the station is holding a workshop for all Siday contributors as way of thanking them, adding that they are still collating enough contributions from audiences before the radio segment could resume.

There are grand plans for the station, too. Custodio’s long-term vision is to acquire state-of-the-art equipment and hopefully expand the radio’s reach beyond Region 8.

All these, she said, against the stark reality that much like Siday, radio now seemed like an “endangered species” as social media has already become a necessity.

Despite these, the station manager is more than elated. To her, there is a sense of “fulfillment,” in getting to know people through the radio.

“It makes me whole,” she said. “Knowing na okay sila, ‘yan ang nakakapagbigay sa akin ng happiness.”

Tomorrow, the woman who stands on the podium will be nervous. She is bringing the name of Visayas after all, she said, before an intimidating audience of professors and professionals. Custodio follows along the line of Ricky Lee, Pete Lacaba and Nora Aunor, to new a few, and all media personalities with a good deal to back them up.

While she may be known for preserving cultural heritage through the broadcast medium, less known is that tomorrow, Custodio not only stands on a podium as a trailblazer, but even more: a Visayan woman who, through radio journalism, let the voice of humanity’s resilience be heard—even against the strongest odds.

“Kapag nakita ka ng tao na down, pati sila nada-down,” she said. “I have to show my people, maski ako babae, I have to stand up.”#

(Photo grabbed from the UP College of Mass Communication Facebook page.)

V-League: UP suffers first loss against undefeated FEU

By Keith Magcaling and Denver Del Rosario

 

In a battle between undefeated teams, the University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons bowed down to the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws in five grueling sets, 27-25, 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 15-8, in the 2016 Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City, Saturday.

Despite rallying from two sets down, the Lady Maroons eventually lost steam as the steady Morayta-based squad took the deciding set in easy fashion.

With the loss, the Lady Maroons end the preliminary round with a 3-1 win-loss card, failing to secure a 2-0 carryover record into the quarterfinals.

Isa Molde and Diana Carlos led the fight for the Lady Maroons with 20 points each, while Justine Dorog added 14.

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On the other hand, Chin Basas spearheaded the onslaught for FEU with 24 points, while Remy Palma contributed 15.

The Diliman-based squad struggled to maintain their 10-point lead in the first set, 21-11, with Basas leading the charge for FEU as the team snatched the set, 27-25.

Down five points in the second set, 14-19, the Lady Maroons climbed back as Dorog served back-to-back aces to tie the game, 22 all. However, a Palma attack and an attack error from Dorog gave the set to FEU, 25-22.

The Lady Tamaraws rallied from a five-point deficit in the third set to inch closer,17-18, but the Lady Maroons took seven of the last eight points to close the set, 25-18.

FEU staged a late comeback in the fourth set, rallying from five points down, 11-16, to trim the lead down to one, 18-19.

FEU saved three set points, 23-24, but a power tip from Carlos sealed the set for UP.

The Lady Tamaraws started hot in the fifth set, winning the first five points, but the Lady Maroons went on a 6-2 run to move within one, 6-7.

However, UP eventually collapsed, hitting back-to-back attack errors to send FEU to match point, which the Lady Tamaraws took, 15-8.

Team captain Katherine Bersola wants her team to be more consistent with their game.

“We just have to work on trusting ourselves more and each other and ‘yung confidence sa isa’t isa,” she said.

Bersola was used sparingly throughout the game after suffering an apparent left ankle sprain.

 

The quarterfinals will begin next week.

Tuos: Breaking Free from Gilded Cages, Golden Chains

by Anna Biala

 

Perhaps for many, the promise of royalty is a privilege too good to be missed.

That is not the case for Dowokan (Barbie Forteza).

Heiress to the binukot title, Dowokan is expected to continue her grandmother Pina-ilog’s (Nora Aunor) legacy of living a secluded life and keeping their group’s traditions to appease the spirits in their homeland.

In their seclusion, binukots, the community’s culture-bearers, are taught how to weave, dance and learn their oral history. They are required to wear veils on the rare occasions that they have to go outside, assisted by servants all the time, and prohibited from dating until the “right time” comes.

Indeed, traditions play a crucial role in shaping one’s identity. However, as soon as the movie theater lights go out, “Tuos” attempts to opens a discussion on how and what happens when old-age practices meet the present.

Based on a pre-hispanic cultural practice, Director Derick Cabrido’s “Tuos” (Pact) weaves the story of the otherwise unpopular binukot princesses whose kingdoms lie deep within the hinterlands of Panay through a layer of visually compelling scenes.

Sandwiched between live action shots are animations and shadow play of their community’s history, made more hauntingly beautiful by the epic chant that plays in the background. When the music stops, reality fades in again; the binukot starts to sing once more, and the visual storybook comes at play.

Given the distinct music choice and breathtaking shots, there is no doubt the film deserves the Best Sound, Best Original Music Score, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and Audience Choice Awards.

More than the laudable use of sound and imagery, the film, set in the modern times, presents a rather familiar narrative of women and their struggle to break free from the shackles of societal customs rooted on ancient beliefs.

Pina-ilog, despite her old-age, dances gracefully in weddings as part of her duty, the river of silver strands whipping around her as she moves.

She watches the days go by from her side of the window, conditioned to be content with passively staying indoors with her granddaughter and maids, and she does so without any complaints. After all, her life has always been the same until her granddaughter expresses her dissent.

Like a bird in a gilded cage, strong-willed Dowokan cries foul. For her, being the “chosen one” means losing the freedom to choose how to live her life, which is her biggest fear.  Throughout the film, headstrong Dowokan asserts her non-belief in her community’s tradition. Despite her young age, she is firm in forsaking her role as the community’s next binukot princess.

Panning to reality, the world’s younger generations are both lauded and criticized for being unhesitant in defying tradition and breaking out of molds bestowed upon them by society and the older generations.

With the flipping of the calendar pages naturally comes the similar change in people’s views, beliefs, and traditions initiated by those tired of norms they perceive as oppressive–out of this collective discontent came the fight for causes such as feminism.

In this day and age, the struggle for women’s rights expanded to include the diverse backgrounds cultures, traditions, boundaries, and identities of women especially those of color.

Dowokan and Pina-ilog’s struggles against a culture that views women more as objects subject to religious and cultural customs than humans allowed to have a say about their conditions are struggles reminiscent of this kind of feminism.

They are not alone.

While the right to a woman’s ownership of her own body is crucial to the fight against the patriarchal paradigm of society, recognizing the link between feminism and class struggle gears the shift towards genuine change.

In “Tuos,”  binukots are leaders and empowered personas but like many women, high status does not necessarily mean getting exempted from double-standards.

“Tuos,” despite its very slow pacing, offers a fresh perspective on women and the cultural barriers that affect their lives.

The last few minutes of the film gives birth to more questions but one thing is for sure: “Tuos” wants the viewers to see that the world can be a better place for women–if only we act now.

(Photo grabbed from the Cinemalaya website.)

 

CMC FST Council candidates bare platforms, discuss national issues

By Franchesca Persia

 

Candidates for the College of Mass Communication (CMC) Freshies, Shiftees, Transferees (FST) Council presented platforms focusing on educational discussions, information dissemination, media literacy, and efficient grievance systems during the FST Council Miting De Avance, Thursday.

While their platforms would cater to the FST student body, the candidates also sought to widen the reach of the council by zooming in on the concerns of the university, as well as national issues.

“Ang educational forums ang magmumulat sa’tin sa kawalan ng hustisya,” said chairperson candidate and Journalism freshman Carlos Dimailig. “Naniniwala ako na maraming injustices na hindi naiiresolba ng ating administrasyon katulad ng Taysan 3,” he added.

The Taysan 3 refers to three political prisoners seized by the military in Taysan, Batangas on June 3, 2010. Among them is CMC film major Maricon Montajes.

Other than the Taysan 3’s imprisonment, issues such as discrimination towards the LGBTQ community were also raised during the Miting De Avance.

Chairperson candidate and Broadcast Communication transferee Kathreen Aliwate acknowledged the presence of discrimination towards the LGBTQ community and pointed out that they should not be treated as a minority group.

“Naniniwala ako na kapag tayo’y nagsama-sama, mas lalakas ang ating boses, mas marami tayong magagawa,” said Aliwate, whose objective is to unite the FSTs.

Besides this, she also envisions that the FST community foster a nationalistic and socio-civic approach to issues–“Isang komunidad na may alam at may [pakialam].”

On the other hand, the respective candidates for Film and Journalism Representatives and CMC Representative to the University Freshie Council (UFC) believe effective grievance systems will contribute to a productive FST student body.

According to the candidates, the grievance systems will tackle Socialized Tuition System (STS) appeals, curriculum concerns, as well as personal problems. If the FST Council cannot resolve these grievances, they will be forwarded either to the CMCSC or the college administration.

Aside from presenting their plans of action, the candidates also answered questions ranging from the situation of Philippine media to the power of student movements.

CMC Representative to the UFC hopeful Rocky DG Morilla said the media lets readers and social media users label the output of the industry’s practitioners as biased information while sole Journalism Representative candidate Jerome Ignacio pointed out the mainstream media’s failure to tackle societal issues.

On student movement, College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) Chairperson Almira Abril asked the chairperson candidates about its importance, following up with a query on the direction they want the FST to go.

“Ang kahalagahan ng student movement ay iisang direksyon. Para sa FST, ito ay magkaroon ng dahilan para lumaban,” Dimailig answered.

Meanwhile, Aliwate responded that the student movement provides a voice to those who are unheard by society, adding that inciting discourse is necessary to inform the FSTs on issues both in and out of the university.

Only the positions of the chairperson and vice chairperson have more than one candidate, with two and three hopefuls, respectively. Running for the latter post are Film transferee Andie Geronimo, Broadcast Communication freshman Nacho Domingo, and Journalism transferee Frances Dianne Bael.

Gunning for department representatives posts are shiftees John Jimenez, Anna Pagdangan and Jerome Ignacio for Broadcast Communication, Communication Research and Journalism respectively, and transferee John Sherwin Colasito for Film.

Meanwhile, eyeing the treasurer position and CMC representative to the UFC post are Journalism freshman Moira Natividad, and Film freshman Rocky DG Morilla, respectively.

A special election will be held for the position of secretary as it had no candidate.

The FST Council is part of the month-long welcoming celebration of the UP College of Mass Communication for its FSTs. Spearheaded by the CMCSC, FSTs were encouraged to run for posts in the local council.

Voting for the CMC FST Council will be held online from Aug. 19 to 22 while the results will be announced on the culmination night of the FST Month, Aug. 26. #

The Open Side to Dead Ends  

By Danica Lacson

 

There was no road to pass, no way to escape.

It makes you grit your teeth, utter curses and close your eyes, hoping this day will pass to try again tomorrow. Hopeless.

You choose to live another day.

The victory of life over hopelessness was the message Isabel Maria Luz Quesada wanted to convey in her award-winning short film.

Proclaimed Best Screenplay and Best Short film during this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival, Pektus film revolves around a day in the life of Yong (Nonie Buencamino) and Chino (Jojit Lorenzo), both miserable and confined in the apparent hopelessness of their situations.

“I think what sets my film apart from the other short films was its storytelling and how it presented its message clearly and effectively,” said Quesada, although admitting that winning two awards for her film was an unexpected feat.

Bound by expectations from social structures and norms, and molded by the city life, Yong and China were ultimately pushed to a dead end until their chance encounter in a one-way alley changed their lives.

Pektus,  through its main characters,  explored the themes of determinism, free will and the man’s capability to alter his situation. By way of its thematic contradiction from the fast-paced interwoven images of the city to silent and still scenes in the cemetery, it dwelled on contracting themes of death and life, circumstance and choice.

“I’ve always been interested with stories that explore the human condition, more so the inner struggles of man with himself and his environment.” the director said.

“The world is a mess. The city is dying. It seems pretty hopeless. But at the end of it all, life prevails. Life is chosen over death, no matter how hopeless it seemed,” she added.

The optimistic take of Pektus, however, fell short in painting a picture of utter hopelessness of its characters to evoke a more sympathetic connection with the audience.

The victory over life’s cul-de-sacs in the film was not triumphant enough to bring in satisfaction in its conclusion.

In its attempt for optimism, Pektus fell in the trap of striking the viewer as a tad too ideal.

Poverty in the country remains a challenge with more than a quarter of Filipinos living below the poverty line. With the tendency of society’s structure to bless those born with privilege in more ways than one, poor Filipinos turn to prostitution, theft and drug trafficking for a living.

In the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president, his campaign promise of bringing down the crime rate in the country through confronting the nation’s drug trade has escalated to heinous summary killings.

Victims of vigilante groups and police in drug-related cases have reached 612 in number as of Aug 18, including pedicab driver Michael Siaron and 22-year-old Rowena Tiamson.

Meanwhile, this present war on drugs declared by the president does not reach the luxurious subdivisions or the flashy clubs where more privileged people reside in and flock to.

Accused of selling drugs in Bonifacio Global City, Radio DJ Karen Bordador and her boyfriend were subjected to due process of the law, a right not given the victims of drug-related killings.

In Pektus, Yong and Chino were given second chances to make better their lives. Reflective of reality, being members of the middle class gives them this privilege, but for those who remain in society’s hem there is no way out except through the road of chance  and the choice to escape.

With gritted teeth, a few chants and curses and eyes wide open, the only exit for those who have long been oppressed and for those who have known nothing but poverty throughout their lives remain going against the system which permits power to reside in a small percentage of society.

The only way to overcome hopelessness is to topple the capitalist system where second chances will remain a privilege to a chosen few, and this can only be achieved if people choose to escape, if people choose to break their chains. #

(Photo grabbed from IMDB website.)

The Tides of Paradise: Exploring the Depths of “Fish Out Of Water”

By Kate Tayamora

They are everywhere.

It doesn’t matter whether he lived there all his life, or that he looks very much like the rest of them. All it matters is that they still see him differently- still shorter, darker, less purer than the others.

In a society which does not do away with half-breeds, Min-Jae’s failing attempt to go with the flow gets washed away by the tide.

“Fish Out Of Water” revolves around the story of Min-Jae (Alec Kevin Rigonan), a Filipino-Korean teenager who suffers from discrimination because of his mixed heritage.

Living in Korea with his mother (Yayo Aguila), Min-Jae’s slow journey to acceptance in the homogeneous and hierarchical Korean society was halted when she decides to send him back to the Philippines to continue his studies.

Director Ramon Alberto Garilao begins the film with a visually captivating underwater shot of Min-Jae, submerged, possibly drowning. Through a series of voice overs, the film has successfully reached out to the audience into sympathizing with its protagonist, all the while revealing a deeper message than Garilao’s advocacy to stop the discrimination directed to all multicultural youths.

“Pinoys view Korea as the paradise. Filipinos eventually got fascinated with Koreans,” he said.

Garilao added, “But behind these fancy dramas and Korean pop music lies the untold stories of our countrymen abroad.”

First introduced to the issue during his yearlong exchange program in South Korea last November 2013, “Fish Out Of Water” is dedicated to the plight of the Kopinos- a term used to identify a child with Korean and Filipino descent.

This term, however, becomes problematic since it usually refers to a child born out of wedlock between a Korean father and a Filipina mother.

Not only does it force Kopinos to seek their legitimacy as Korean citizens, it also degrades the importance of the Filipino parent, as both are viewed as second class citizens.

“We must understand that Koreans have this mindset that their race is pure and they are very proud of it,” Garilao said, explaining further that this culture is embedded with the practice of Confucianism in the country.

This film presents the narrative of most, if not all, half-Filipinos living in our country.

Similar to the premise of Cinemalaya Feature film “I, America”, whose story centers on a half- Pinay, half Caucasian lady in search for her father, “Fish Out Of Water” also tackles the story of estrangement, and the identity struggles faced by the children who are left behind to cope.

Although it does not further expound on it, “Fish Out Of Water” touches upon the delicate issues of prostitution, child abandonment, and the consequences thereof to the family structure.

Many children nowadays are growing up fatherless and nationless due to the influx of the sex trade and mail-order bride system used in both countries.

At worst, their situations are celebrated, especially with Filipino-foreign descent translating to becoming a feat to laud- a colonial culture embedded in the FIlipino psyche- without taking into fact the ramifications it poses.

The mentality that supports the superiority of foreign races traces back to the era of Spanish colonization in the country. For a good 350 years, we lived under the authority of the West. Despite the legality of our claim to our country, our self-perception as a country has problems which are rooted in history .

Through the years, there has been an evident preference for foreign materials, largely owing to the fact that we have been bombarded over and over again with false concepts which adhere largely to people’s sensitivity to the capitalist structure of society.

With the implementation of the K to 12 program by the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III, a scheme which adds two additional years to the 10-year educational program, the government prioritizes producing cheap labor over improving the present state of the Philippines’ education system, which remains inaccessible for a majority of the population.

More than that, K to 12 sells the cheap labor they produce to the international market. Instead of striving for a nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented education, the government wishes to allot its skilled labor force to countries abroad.

Couple it with the rise of Filipinos leaving to work abroad, the economic conditions in the country have instilled in its people that their labor will be met with better rewards abroad, only to find themselves in situations worse than what they left.

The cases of Mary Jane Veloso and Flor Contemplacion, as primary examples, are those which would not have existed in the first place had the Philippines paid better attention to industrialization and eradication of the bad effects of Western colonialism in culture.

With the limited running time and budget of the production, however, “Fish Out Of Water” structurally layers these issues on top of one another, enveloping them in a coming of age drama film on a young man’s journey to acceptance.

Such a film so carefully woven is rare, and rarer is it that films like this go unawarded.

Bagging two of the most prestigious merits in the Cinemalaya Short Film Feature category, “Fish Out of Water” has been awarded the film festival’s Special Jury Prize. Garilao has also received the award for Best Direction for this movie.

More than that, “Fish Out of Water” has also been hailed by the University of the Philippines Film Institute as Batch 2016’s Best Thesis, remarkably setting high the standards of student filmmaking.

With passion and pride, Garilao’s dedication to his craft brought forth an outstanding piece of literature to the film community.

As the new wave of Philippine Cinema takes place, films such as “Fish Out Of Water” would definitely be one of the inspirations for the next generation of filmmakers in upholding the honor and excellence in the discipline.

UP Journ grad on eUP Project Team statement: ‘Let the story speak for itself’

By Frances Josephine Espeso

 

“My job as a journalist is to tell the story, not to involve myself personally with the issue,” University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman journalism graduate Krixia Subingsubing said in response to the eUP Project Team’s statement on their investigative thesis about the information technology (IT) project.

Together with fellow journalism fresh graduate Ronn Bautista, Subingsubing chose the eUP Project as the subject for their undergraduate thesis accomplished June 2016 under the guidance of award-winning investigative journalist Yvonne Chua.

The eUP Project, an IT initiative of current UP President Alfredo E. Pascual, is a system-wide information integration project.

In light of system-wide student protests and backlash towards eUP and the numerous glitches of the Student Academic Information System (SAIS), one of its five core information systems, during the UP Los Baños registration period, Bautista had released their investigative report on the eUP Project on Facebook, Aug. 6.

The report, hailed as Best Thesis by the UP Department of Journalism, had prompted a statement from the eUP Project Team, calling it “poorly conducted research work” and “a witch hunt disguised as an academic endeavor.”

“I expected the backlash from the eUP Team,” Subingsubing said, having been forewarned by their adviser.

While the thesis itself would be enough to rebutt several points of the eUP Project Team’s statement, Subingsubing wanted to reiterate, however, that “brand references in the bidding documents are not allowed, no exceptions,” citing Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) authorities and the law.

In their statement, the eUP Project Team had said “reference to brand names is a common practice in government procurement, particularly for technical items including ICT hardware and software.”

They also claimed that it was done due to the “difficulty in specifying quality and functionality in generic terms,” adding that there are numerous examples of purchase documents on the GPPB website that include brand names for clarity of the specified requirement.

However, Subingsubing said institutions are not aware of the 2009 revision of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, which overrides the manual initially allowing brand references.

Bautista and Subingsubing mentioned this in their thesis where GPPB lawyer Diane Borja said the mistake and the root cause of the problem is borne out of ignorance of the new IRR.

“UP is the vanguard of good governance, remember, so it should stand above the policy, not fall behind it,” Subingsubing said.

On the other hand, the eUP team had also criticized the timing of the Bautista and Subingsubing’s study, saying the proper time to evaluate the project would have been after completion of implementation, when the system has stabilized and its good and bad impacts are already apparent.

Studying the project during its implementation is just as valid as studying it postmortem,” Subingsubing stated.

“Paano mo madidiagnose yung mga problema if you don’t want to look at the issues midway through the project?” she added.

Besides rebutting the above mentioned points, however, Subingsubing said that they had decided to stick with what Chua had advised: “let the story speak for itself.”

The Journalism professor and VERA Files trustee had been very supportive during the undertaking, Subingsubing added. “[Si Ma’am Chua] yung nag-push samin na i-pursue yung procurement side nung thesis actually, at binigyan niya kami ng independent sources to corroborate the story.”

The endeavour had not been without its difficulties, especially with a then-lack of a Freedom of Information act or even an executive order, which would have compelled UP offices to release pertinent documents.

She also said that initially, President Pascual did not want to provide them with financial breakdowns.

Before obtaining the documents, it took them multiple meetings with the UP President to convince him that it was needed in the report, adding that they would remind Pascual that the thesis’ prerogative is to assess eUP’s current efficiency and effectivity.

“Sure, the modernization of the ICT infra of the university is a laudable concept, but to get there, you have to know what it is exactly that’s happening on the ground so that you can address it, so you can achieve your goals for the project,” Subingsubing said.

Meanwhile, UP Department of Journalism chair Dr. Rachel E. Khan released a statement to Tinig ng Plaridel in response to that of the eUP Project Team’s.

“The Journalism department has a high regard for academic freedom and therefore, students are given the freedom to choose their thesis topics for as long as it is viable and newsworthy. Being a National University and a public entity, events and issues that involve the University of the Philippines are deemed newsworthy. Therefore, students are not prevented from covering issues about their alma mater.

“The Journalism faculty makes sure that students undergo the rigors of the profession in undertaking investigative reporting by guiding their efforts in making sure that the report is based on fact and can be backed up by evidence. This is the case for the thesis on e-UP written by Ronn Bautista and Krixia Subingsubing, which was recognized for its rigor in research and chosen as best thesis. It was also awarded by judges from outside the UP community during the recent Philippine Journalism Research Conference.

“At the same time, we recognize that the thesis may be taken out of context if only excerpts are read. One needs to read the ‘entire’ investigative piece to see that the report is based on gathered data and not just on opinion. However, when excerpts are placed in FB posts, the information provided in that chosen excerpt may be biased or taken out of context.”

The release of the study on social media has made it available for public consumption, and Subingsubing encouraged everyone to take part in the discourse.

“I’d like to encourage everyone to read the thesis–challenge it, if they must–but we must do it within the bounds of genuine academic discourse,” Subingsubing said.

“As Ronn would say it, to dismiss it as poor scholarship is to be ignorant of the quality and nature of the voices involved in the study,” she added.

(Photo by Mr. Israel Buenafe of the UP College of Mass Communication, grabbed from the UP CMC Facebook page.)

Film and the Fallacy of Forgetting

by Krysten Mariann Boado

 

Uncertainty escapes the screen each time he loads the gun with a single bullet and puts it to his head.

Silence ensues, and the camera pans to his exasperated eyes, looking for an exit from the world before it closes in on his pointer finger as he pulls the trigger without a trace of hesitation.

Nothing happens, and Justino (Tommy Abuel, Benjamin Alves), a Death March survivor and a judge during the Martial Law Era, lives for another day in paradise.

“Dagsin” (Gravity) is a film centered on jaded, aging Justino who was once an idealistic young man brimming with hope and passionately in love with his wife, Corazon (Marita Zobel, Janine Gutierrez).

When Justino loses Corazon from leukemia, he also loses his will to live as his wife remains his sole anchor to the world where he has witnessed and experienced a lifetime’s worth of historical tragedies.

Upon sorting his deceased wife’s belongings with their adopted daughter, Mercy (Lotlot de Leon), Justino finds his wife’s diaries and relives their joyous years together all the while discovering a secret Corazon has kept from him in the later part of their marriage.

Presenting itself as equal parts heavy drama and period romance, “Dagsin” is a wonderfully crafted film that takes a trip down memory lane, except the walk of fondness not only encompasses the nostalgic, heartwarming moments of a couple very much absorbed in each other.

Director Atom Magadia pulls out significant events in Philippine history from the Japanese occupation and the Martial Law years, pitching the lovers in the troughs of the eras’ turning points.

While the idea in itself is brilliant and commendable, especially with the need for Filipinos’ awareness and exposure to their own history, Magadia’s execution fails to reach its full potential with the film’s primary takeaway impression still being a story of love.

Although the film introduces the elements of brutality during the Japanese invasion, its take on the Martial Law era heavily relies on long dialogues, failing to show more powerful images that are at par with the ones it has set for the war with the Japanese.

Magadia’s take on the Martial Law chunk of the movie is dependent on diary entries and Justino’s present state of paralysis, which was caused by an ambush during the Marcos dictatorship.

It drops occasional references of insurgency, activism, political prisoners and fascist military men; however, the historical background stops there and returns to the relationship of Corazon and Justino.

Seldom do the audience hear the name of Marcos as the mastermind behind the human rights violations that occurred in during the dark era, a fact which is currently shrouded by the idea that the deceased dictator is a soldier and a war hero that ought to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

In the film, the only exhibitions of human rights violations inflicted on the 70,000 arrested individuals during the Martial Law era come off in optimistic sentences uttered by Corazon in her diary as well as Justino’s quick flashbacks towards the end of the movie.

Although it makes an attempt, it does not ring loudly enough for the 34,000 Filipinos who were victims of torture during the Marcos regime. Oddly enough, despite being labelled a period film, “Dagsin” has limited historical shots as it often relies on conversations between characters to narrate the transpired stories and vintage references to turn back the time.

While it is understandable that Cinemalaya-run films do not possess the highest budget in the industry, the movie still fails to transform into a platform for higher discourse or even historical education. Instead, it returns to the premise of romance, a capitalist notion clouding the public from social realities that art ought to express and expose.  

Albeit its remarkable effort to diverge from the mainstream cheesy romance Filipinos are very much familiar with, the film becomes a waste of an avenue to discuss historical events that are critical not only to the story but also to the present times where historical revisionism stands as a real threat.

Rather than being a film which reminds us to never forget, it becomes a character-driven film too absorbed with the people involved in the plot or the setting, which is often neglected.

Despite Justino reflecting the typical Filipino who has seen enough grit, endured enough pain and has given up on the idea of change with the turning of the clock’s hands, the film does not dare go beyond that.

It banks on his idea of being an “exceptional survivor” throughout the years, failing to shed light on those who have not survived, most of whom with names we could not remember.

With President Rodrigo Duterte having little regard for Marcos’ war record and war merits, the need for filmmakers to produce art that serves as historical reminders becomes more urgent and prominent.

Filipinos need to be reminded that the fight to restore democracy was not bloodless at all and that in the recent elections, Filipinos almost placed a Marcos back in the Malacanang.

Filipinos need to be reminded that an American soldier was responsible for the death of Jennifer Laude, and that the president and his government has declared the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Constitutional despite the rape cases and territorial exploitation stemming from US military bases.

Filipinos need to be reminded that gender inequality stemmed from the arrival of the Spaniards who took away the Philippines’ idea of communal property and non-stereotypical roles in the community.

Together with the people, it must target a stronger, impeding force than the gravity brought about by the act of remembering.

Films must learn to defeat the art of forgetting. #

Pamilya Ordinaryo: Painting the Picture of Poverty Porn

by Ratziel San Juan

It is the grittiness of the actors seen through voyeuristic lenses, the edginess of characters’ exchanges and the thriftiness of the production design that invites us to stay.

Captive on our seats, we anticipate the film to reach its satisfying conclusion.

Touching one of the most exploited topics in the Filipino indie film scene, “Pamilya Ordinaryo” is a clear stand-out and competitive risk among this year’s roster of Cinemalaya films. With the bar set so high, the film is in great danger of being labeled “poverty porn.”

With its tolerance of the ongoing trend of romanticizing poverty in indie films, “Pamilya Ordinaryo” begs from its audiences the answer to the question of whether or not it offers solutions to the persistence of poverty in Philippine society.

Aries (Ronwaldo Martin) and Jane (Hasmine Kalip) are teenage parents who make a living by snatching cell phones. Only when their baby, Arjan, is stolen does their economic situation finally hit them. Everywhere they turn for help, people are either apathetic or opportunistic; each lead, a probable scam.

The tragedy is that their happy ending will never come, or at least, not from within themselves. This kind of story requires a deus-ex-machina – that benevolent tip which will finally lead the couple to baby Arjan, and give the audience that breath of relief.

Narrative-wise, however, this is cheating.

All they can do is to maintain their resolve to keep searching. Aries’s resolve waivers at one point–disheartened that baby Arjan might have a better future with his new parents, while Jane stands firm.

Still, no change can come from the protagonists to solve their conflict. All the odds are against them – the imbalanced economic ladder that prevents them from climbing out of poverty, the improbability of finding their baby, and even the narrative structure itself.

While Director Eduardo Roy Jr. deserves credit for helping the audience empathize with destitute members of our population, the root causes of poverty were never given much thought in his film.

It is commendable that the film lampshades poverty porn by showing how the poor are exploited by media for ratings. For nothing more than a free dinner, the couple is interviewed for a television episode, which portrays them as irresponsible, unworthy parents.

Simultaneously, the film is, at times, guilty for being an acting and directing showcase instead of focusing on the delivery of its message.

The audience never receives that feeling of enlightenment. All eyes are glued to the screen for its entire duration, yet nothing really happens. The story is one disjointed, succession of events; neither plot nor character-driven.

We root for doomed protagonists who never really change.

In their increasingly desperate situation, Jane and Aries never degrade themselves any more than they’re already accustomed to. They continue stealing, selling themselves, and doing whatever it takes to survive. They are victims of a chronic societal crisis which they never learn to fight against.

All the evidence leads to a poverty porn verdict, which raises a few important questions: What is poverty porn, and why the stigma? What clear distinction exists between pornography, which sells pleasure, and film, which capitalizes on stories?

To not recognize this is to deny the very political economy of the film industry.

Creativity inevitably dies in the pursuit of profit. Genres gradually devolve until they all resemble one: exploitation.
It is depressing that while the digital revolution has paved the way for digital film festivals such as Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals, the stories we are told are seldom life-changing.

Roy’s recurring CCTV visual motif intelligently serves to detach the audience from the characters, mirroring Aries and Jane’s isolation from the people around them. Particularly, they are neglected by government institutions which are supposed to help them. Everyone that conveniently offers a hand asks for something in return first.

Viewers are disturbed yet the film stirs them to act. They do not merely want to be voyeurs to the plight of the masses which was depicted so ruthlessly in the film.

Despite this, “Pamilya Ordinaryo” chooses to make no stand on the issue of poverty or its root causes.

Consequently, without the important dots connected, this causes the audience to react divisively instead of collectively; each member with a different interpretation and resolution.

Roy and other directors must realize the importance of content in their work.

Films will ultimately belong to the audience, a fact which filmmakers are aware of; thus, the political aspect can never be neglected and should be brainstormed and nitpicked as much as all the other elements of a film.

Once the credits roll, the tension melts, and the popcorn is digested, moviegoers leave the theaters without gaining much. The audience is not any more equipped to analyze societal ills, let alone eradicate them. More likely, they will exit the cinema pondering on the film for a minute before dismissing it as poverty porn.

This proves problematic. The audience are conditioned to ask for better without even knowing what they want as they are tasked with the heaviest responsibility of all: to break the cycle.

The time has lapsed for the audience to remain captive in their seats.

(Photo grabbed from IMDB website.)

KPL Rep. Elago, UP students to Duterte: Stand up for human rights

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Kate Tayamora

 

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, together with students from the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD), challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to stand up for human rights in a candle-lighting protest against summary and extrajudicial killings held Aug. 11 at Palma Hall, UPD.

Elago expressed her disappointment over the president’s little regard for human rights, pointing out that aside from allowing the killings to persist, Duterte has insisted on bringing back the death penalty as part of his war on crime and drugs.

“Ang isyu ng drugs ay reflection lamang noong kalagayan ng ating lipunan na talagang laganap pa rin ang kahirapan, pang aapi, ang pananamantala,” the congresswoman said.

“Hindi natin sinusuportahan [ ang death penalty ] dahil sa tingin pa natin kailangan pa nating palakasin yung sistema ng hustisya sa ating bansa dahil sa kasalukuyang, ang kalagayan, bulok, really flawed, hindi pantay, at anti-poor yung ating justice system,” she added.

In his first press conference on May 15 in Davao, Duterte asked lawmakers to restore capital punishment for certain crimes. These crimes include rape, robbery, and involvement in illegal drugs, among others.

House Bill 01, which was received by the Congress on the same day Duterte took office, gave priority to the president’s push for the reimposition of death penalty on the first legislative session.

The Bill also cited illegal sales and use of drugs as the root cause of “the most perverse and atrocious crimes.”

“Ang problema natin sa droga ay nakita natin, iyan ay nakaugat sa malala na hindi pagkapantay pantay sa ating lipunan, lalong lalo na doon sa pagtamasa sa access ng bawat isa sa atin sa mga basic social services,” Elago said.

“Dapat talaga, wholistic yung approach natin sa war versus drugs na tayo ay magpo-provide ng rehabilitation program para sa ating mga kababayan, at bukod pa doon, palalawakin natin yung access ng ating mga kababayaan sa basic social services,” she added.

Besides calling for an end to these human rights violations, the students also urged Duterte to open an investigation for not only summary killings but also media and Lumad killings.

They also encouraged the public to stand up against these acts of violence.

“Hanggang ngayon iisa pa rin ang sinisigaw natin, na ipaglaban nag karapatang pantao, at sana ay lubusan na lumakas ang boses natin at pakinggan tayo ng administrasyon, dahil kailangan ngayon, kung hindi ngayon, ay kailan pa titigil ang mga pagpatay na ito?” said Adrienne Onday, founder of the Cardboard Justice Movement.  

Likewise, Elago said change must not only come from the president as he himself had declared that he needed all the support he can get from Filipinos.

“Dapat tayo ay kumilos, hindi ng kanya-kanya, kundi dapat organisado at sama sama, para humingi ng hustisya sa lahat ng victims nitong killings na ito,” Elago said. #

Student groups hold first day protest against anti-student policies

by Victoria Uy

Students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman welcomed the first day of classes with calls against neoliberal attacks on education in a protest action at the Palma Hall Lobby, Aug. 9.

Among those raised in the mobilization were problems due to limited class slots, the Socialized Tuition System (STS), and the formerly strict implementation of the No Late Payment policy.

“Pinaglalaban-laban tayo ng UP administration sa kulang-kulang na student services na dapat natatamasa natin,” said Josiah Hiponia, chairperson of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP), regarding the limited slots for General Education (GE) subjects.

During the enlistment period, certain colleges begun limiting the number of students they accepted into their respective departments.

Since Aug. 2, the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) has exclusively offered the remaining slots for SSP GE courses to students graduating in the first semester.

“Nilimitahan ng college administration ang mga GE courses upang ibigay lamang sa mga mag-aaral na graduating this semester,” said CSSP Student Council Councilor Allyson Maraon, explaining that non-graduating students are at a higher risk of not graduating on time due to failure to obtain SSP GE courses.

“Ito ay isang manipestasyon ng isang neoliberal na polisiya na pinakita ng administrasyong Aquino. Dahil dito nagkaroon ng kaunting pagpasok ng mga freshmen, kasabay nito ang paglimita ng administrasyon sa mga kayang ibigay na classes ng CSSP,” he added.

On the No Late Payment policy issued by the UP administration on July 12, Hiponia explained that students are forced to apply for a tuition loan with 6 percent interest every year.

The then No Late Payment policy prohibited late payments beyond Aug. 5 for registration, dropping, leave of absence (LOA), and residency.

However, as a result of the dialogue between Chancellor Michael Tan and the University Student Council (USC) on Aug. 2, late payments were allowed, provided that students file an appeal endorsed by the College Secretary to the Office of the Chancellor.

Student groups also protested the unavailability of education to those with unsettled delinquencies, and Kenneth Quidem from the College of Fine Arts is one of them.

Quidem, a graduating student of industrial design, was forced to file for LOA due to his tuition loans.

Before studying in UP, Quidem graduated with a degree in information technology in Informatics International College in Cainta, Rizal. Although students pursuing second degree are not qualified to apply for STS, he still appealed for a discount and was granted a full scholarship with stipend on his second degree for two years.

“Dumaan ako sa proseso, wala akong [mga] koneksyon sa UP, at lagi akong sumusulat para mapagpatuloy ang pag-aaral ko,” he stated.

However, during Quidem’s last STS appeal, his full scholarship was dismissed as an oversight, and he was asked to reimburse four semesters’ worth of tuition fee with no discount and monthly stipend, which amounted to more than P120 thousand.

Because of this, Quidem will not be able to receive his diploma unless he pays his accountabilities.

“Nag-LOA na ako para lang maiwasan ko yung mga utang na sinasabi nila. Ngayon problemado ako kasi gusto kong tapusin yung bachelor(‘s degree) ko kaso wala na talagang support,” Quidem added.

Mobilizations calling for accountability and action from the administration are not going to stop soon, however.

“It is time to reclaim the university of the people. Sama-sama tayong lumaban. Sama-sama nating ipanawagan ang libre at dekalidad na edukasyon,” Hiponia said.

Another protest action will be staged by student groups during the Board of Regents meeting on Aug. 25. #

 

UP students stage system-wide protests against eUP, condemn anti-student policies

By Teresa Barre

(Published in TNP Editorial Issue 1, Year 38 on Aug. 6, 2016)

The failure of one of the information systems (IS) of the University of the Philippines (UP) during the UP Los Baños (UPLB) registration last week prompted a series of student protests in various campuses, calling for the junking of eUP.

The eUP project, UP President Alfredo E. Pascual’s P750-million initiative, is a systemwide information integration project.

Under eUP is the Student Academic Information System (SAIS), a data management system that seeks to “integrate and harmonize the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and system across all constituents universities (CUs) of the UP System.”

Students from UP units in Diliman, Los Baños and Visayas called for accountability in the “wastage” of eUP funds and the project’s eventual termination after SAIS failed in UPLB due to “malicious” Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

In Diliman, students held a two-day protest against eUP and other “anti-student” policies such as the Socialized Tuition System and the No Late Payment Policy, culminating in the eUP press conference Aug. 4 at the Quezon Hall.

Newly-selected Student Regent Raoul Manuel emphasized the importance of acknowledging student dissent against the project.

Yung sinasabi po nating vocal minority? Ninety-one organizations sa UP Los Baños ang nagsasabi na pangit itong nangyayari and thousands of UP students have been rallying against the eUP project and the SAIS,” Manuel said.

The failure of SAIS and the eUP project is evident even without the DoS attack, he added.

Earlier this week, UPLB students marched to the campus’ main library to demand a dialogue with the administration after the failure of SAIS during registration week.

After much commotion before the students managed to enter the building, the dialogue between student leaders and university registrar Myrna Carandang ended with the promise of forwarding student concerns to the administration.

According to eUP Project Director Dr. Jaime Caro, SAIS servers crashed due to a DoS attack whose perpetrators remain unknown. The project’s service provider, ePLDT, recorded more than 34 million hits overwhelming SAIS servers and preventing students from accessing the site during the first day of online enlistment in UPLB on July 29.

In a statement, the UPLB University Student Council (USC) criticized the eUP project as a manifestation of commercialization and called on students to boycott their classes.

“This project under the leadership of President Alfredo E. Pascual (PAEP) is a clear manifestation of commercialization,” the council said. “We call all the students to boycott their classes and stand for a unified call to junk SAIS.”

However, Caro dispelled “rumors” that UP spent P 750 million for Oracle.

“They are saying that we paid Oracle 750 million. That’s a big lie. How much did we spend on Oracle software? We paid P14.1 million for SAIS license and P43.4 million for all systems’ licenses,” Caro said.

He also mentioned spending P 700 million, though he pointed out that P 500 million is “not only for eUP.”

Caro further broke down the costs of the project, saying that they’ve spent around P 350 million for hardware and fiber optics and more than P 90 million for internet service fees.

Further cost breakdowns can be found in the eUP site, documenting what was spent for “core systems,” which amount to around P 135 million.

“This is a big university and we have to run it. The costs of running it is high. But those are expenses we have regardless whether we have eUP or not,” Caro said.

Meanwhile, UP Diliman USC Chairperson Bryle Leaño questioned whether eUP is indeed needed to improve UP’s IS infrastructures, pointing out that SAIS doesn’t solve the issue of insufficient subject slots.

“Bakit pa natin kailangan ng eUP project to improve our infrastructure? Nightmare po ba talaga i-maintain ang homegrown systems? In 10 years of CRS hindi pa na-experience yung ganito,” Leaño said. “Hindi sagot ang SAIS sa problema sa enrollment. Kulang pa rin ang slots at teachers.”

Leaño also questioned why the press conference isn’t held in Los Baños where students are still struggling with registration under SAIS.

Students from UP Visayas also welcomed the first day of classes with protest against SAIS and eUP in time for the SAIS orientations at the UP Visayas Miagao campus, Aug. 1.

In a statement, the UP Visayas College of Management Student Council pointed out the “misallocation” eUP funds instead of using it to cater the needs of the UP community.

“SAIS failed to accommodate the needs of UP as it only offers a lot more complex and confusing interface. The flaws of SAIS continually allows the UP administration to misallocate funds with an irresponsible lack of transparency despite the consistent clamour of the students, instead of allocating it to other projects that would cater to the needs and welfare of the UP stakeholders,” the council said.

SAIS has already been rolled out in UP Manila, Baguio, and Cebu.

Its pilot run in UP Diliman is still pending according to Caro but consultations are currently ongoing. #