By Sara Jamel Bangayan
“Iskolar ng bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban!”
It was the chant that students from different state universities yelled as they marched towards Mendiola. Various schools, including the University of the Philippines Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Bulacan State University, Philippine Normal University and the University of the Philippines Diliman, joined Friday’s walkout to fight against the budget cut that the Aquino government is imposing on basic social services.
“Iskolar ng bayan” (“Nation’s scholar”, a moniker given to those enrolled in state universities) Beata Carolino, a journalism freshman from UPD, was one of the students who joined the march after asking for and receiving permission from her parents.
All UP students are assigned to certain STFAP (Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program) brackets. Carolino, who was placed in bracket B (the default upon entering UP), said, “Kuntento ako sa bracket ko, pero sa value ng binabayaran namin, hindi. (I am content with my place in the bracket system, I don’t think we get our money’s value.)”
She said the STFAP helps the university sustain itself, given that the subsidy coming from the government has lessened as time passed. However, she added that this decrease in state support also decreased the essence of UP being a state university.
At first, Carolino thought that protesting and rallying in the streets would not result to anything. But when she learned about mass demonstrations in her English 1 class, her view of activism changed.
“Mass demonstrations are a symbol of power,” she said. “Dito nakikita na may mga taong nagmamalasakit sa mga mahihirap, kahit na alam nilang maaring maging futile ang effort nila (Through these demonstrations, we can see that there are those who care for the poor, despite the possibility of their efforts’ futility).”
Carolino said she joined the rally because she believes the education problem can be resolved by the students themselves. She added that students must be well-informed of the country’s plight, not just as inspiration to study, but as inspiration to come up with solutions in the future.
She said she also felt anger towards the government, which did not seem to care for education.
However, even though her view of rallies and protests has changed, Carolino felt that last Friday’s rally still did not have a big impact.
“Iyon ang sakit ng rally (This is what plagues rallies),” she said. “Hanggang rally lang ang tingin ng mga tao dito. Hindi nila tinitingnan ang puno’t dulo kung bakit may mga taong nag-effort na mag-organize ng ganitong event at mag-cut ng klase. (It starts and ends with demostrations, but people fail to see where the root of the issues lie. Others don’t understand why rallies are organized in the first place, and why some even cut classes to attend).”
Quoting English writer John Berger, Carolino said, “Mass demonstrations are rehearsals of a revolution.”
She hoped that students would not stop at just joining rallies and protests, but focus on bringing about genuine, revolutionary change.