‘Revamped’ Batibot spaces to open next academic year

College of Mass Communication (CMC) Dean Fernando Paragas assured the college’s student organizations that they will be allotted a shed at the Batibot after its expected renovation in August.

In an interview with Tinig ng Plaridel (TNP), Paragas said the college administration had long been planning to utilize Batibot spaces for CMC formations.

“‘Yung mga Batibot naka-design naman talaga iyang tambayan [ng orgs] from the get-go pero hindi nagamit dahil inabutan na ng pandemic. Now, we are going to optimize it for our students,” Paragas said.

The dean explained that the renovation was supposed to start last May but was stalled due to “delays in government procurement” of metal drawers for the sheds.

Under the government’s rules on procurement, public offices such as CMC have to open up bidding for potential suppliers of materials not classified as “common-use items.” File cabinets are not included in this classification. 

However, Paragas assured CMC organizations that they expect the renovation to commence as soon as the metal cabinets arrive and will be completed before the next academic year starts.

In addition to installing drawers, the college will also repaint the sheds in the Batibot, rehabilitate its roofing and electric wires, and install electric fans.

Once the renovation is complete, organizations will reportedly occupy the Batibot spaces, while other CMC formations, such as the student council, will remain in the Student Activity Center in the basement of the Plaridel Hall annex building.

This setup ensures that the number of Batibot huts is “more than enough” for the currently recognized Maskom organizations, Paragas said. 

But if more CMC organizations obtain recognition, the dean said the allotment of Batibot spaces would be determined by drawing lots. Other students, meanwhile, can still stay in the CMC Skywalk, the library and the lobby. 

While the CMC Student Council welcomes the admin’s Batibot renovation project, Chairperson Kiara Gorrospe said the college must ensure that these spaces suit the students’ needs. 

“Hindi lang sapat na bigyan ng sulok [ang mga estudyante]. Dapat ang mga espasyong ito ay dignified din,” Gorrospe said. 

Struggles in space

Since the resumption of in-person classes last year, some local organizations have said the lack of conducive spaces for their activities has hindered their operations.

UP Radio Circle, for instance, said they had to reschedule some of their shoots this year because they were unable to secure a venue on time. While Paragas said they had already streamlined the venue reservation process in the college, the organization recalled waiting three to five days to reserve a classroom.

“Dahil ‘di available ‘yung certain facilities, need namin i-move ‘yung calendars for recording ng programs,” Tayag said. “Fino-foresee na lang namin iyon everytime. Kami na lang ang naga-adjust.”

But beyond the lack of conducive facilities for production work, UP Radio Circle also had difficulties in organizing face-to-face meetings. Since the Batibot huts are not dedicated to specific organizations yet, they have to meet in outdoor spaces.

“[T]uwing need namin mag-hold ng general assembly (GA) tapos urgent yung pag-uusapan, nahihirapan pa kami magkaroon ng venue,” Tayag said. “Kaya nagre-resort kami kung saan may mga open spaces kahit hindi naman applicable iyon para sa mga magiging serious conversations na iikutan sa general assemblies.”

While org meetings can be held online, UP Communication Research Society Vice President Bianca Co said it is harder for their members to deepen their relationship with their organization if they only hold virtual GAs. 

“‘Pag face-to-face, makikita mo kasi kung ano ‘yung personality, masasabi agad kung ano ‘yung kailangan nilang gawin. Pero kapag virtual lang, naka-off ‘yung camera. Hindi mo nararamdamang may mga tao kang kasama,” Co said.

Besides renovating the Batibot, Gorrospe said the CMC admin should also ensure that Maskom students do not have to reserve venues in other sites just to proceed with their events. She adds that the admin must speed up the process for reserving classrooms and waive fees for organizations wishing to hold events in these facilities. 

Future plans

Paragas added they are currently working on renovating other facilities and classrooms in the CMC buildings to offer additional learning and meeting spaces, as he admits merely fixing the Batibot is insufficient to meet the needs of Maskom students.

The planned redevelopment of the CMC complex, slated for completion in 2027, includes the construction of a new, larger activity area and outdoor “tambayan” spots at the Media Center. The college will also build additional “multi-purpose” classrooms to accommodate organization reservation requests.

The schematic design of the college’s renovation plans shows the installation of new outdoor gardens and benches in the Media Center. Photo from CMC Dean Paragas

The design also shows a larger Media Center atrium to maximize untapped spaces in the CMC complex, Paragas said. Photo from CMC Dean Paragas

Ultimately, Paragas said they aim to construct a new building that will house the library and co-working spaces for Maskom students. While the project may take more than five to six years, Paragas noted that the college was already alloted the P5 million budget needed to develop the building’s Detailed Architectural and Engineering Design. CMC alumna and Senator Loren Legarda also pledged support for the project. 

The senator, who campaigned as part of the Marcos-Duterte UniTeam slate in the 2022 elections, promised that she would help the college accomplish its renovation plans, during her visit to the college a day before Maskom’s 59th anniversary. 

The event, however, was not announced publicly to all constituents of the college. 

Meanwhile, Gorrospe said UP officials should demonstrate the same assertiveness as their constituents in protesting against budget cuts.

The University of the Philippines (UP) System received a P24.8 billion budget this year, which falls significantly short of its proposed P40.8 billion budget. Only P3.1 billion, or 15% of the budget, is dedicated to capital outlays, which UP uses to construct buildings or acquire lands and equipment. 

Read: An increase with setbacks: A look into the UP System’s 2024 budget

“Dapat ‘yung administrasyon ang nangunguna na i-assert na hindi natin pahihintulutan ang mga budget cuts sa university,” Gorrospe said. “Dapat din masigurado na ‘yung pondo ay napupunta para sa paglalaan ng spaces sa students.”