Friday, July 31, 2015

SONA 2015 and the indigenous people of Capas, Tarlac

When we got to the protest zone at Commomwealth Avenue, only the contingents from Southern Tagalog and the indigenous peoples of Capas,Tarlac, and Mabalacat and Porac, Pampanga so far have arrived, patiently sitting on the sidewalks, seeminly unperturbed by the threat of a heavy rain..

We sat down with the Aytas from sitio Pisapungan of barangay Santa Juliana of Capas town in Tarlac. Their sitio leader informed us they came in five jeeps. Pretty soon, we were talking about how life is in their village.

The women were holding a “patalsikin si Noynoy” placard of the ACT Party-list. Other indigenous people carried the Katribu group streamer proclaiming “US-Aquino Kontra Katutubo.”

But from their stories, we got to know that they came to the rally to convey their aspirations to the government, not to agitate for the ouster of the president. 

Barangay Santa Juliana is located on the mountainside, and the Pinasapungan River runs between several sitios.  The river is almost two kilometers wide, which they have to swim during the rainy season to get from one side to the other. They are happy to say though that the river teems with fish for their food.

They earn their living through vegetable farming, and their main crop is the “puso” from a banana variety that has seeds. They raise also other vegetables like kamote and taro. They plant two traditional rice varieties that do not need much water to thrive: the binundok (hard) and binikol (soft). 

They have a school for around 200 children, and the teachers stay at the barangay during schooldays, going home only during the weekend.  The school is only up to Grade 4. For further schooling, the children have to go to the town. Some of them have finished high school.

They also suffered the wrath of Mt Pinatubo. They said they rebuilt their homes with the help of an international organization, a Korean group. Up to now though, electricity has not reached their area.

Their culture, they affirmed, is still very much alive. They have not lost their traditional music and their talipi dance. The women still roll tobacco leaves for their customary way of smoking with the lighted end inside their mouth.

All of us were not able to hear President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, where he highlighted the major achievements of his administration for the last five years, resurrected the ‘sins’ of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, swiped subtly at an unnamed target, obviously Vice-President Binay, and, like a high school valedictorian, praised and thanked almost everyone including his household help and his hairdresser except ex-Cabinet member Binay.

On the other hand, the Aytas or kulots would have wanted Aquino to hear their social services ‘wish list’: better educational opportunities for their children, carabaos for transporting their crop harvests to the town market, better access roads and a bridge across the river, and electrification of their barangay.

Aquino said, “Ang agenda: ayuda, kaalaman, kasanayan, at kalusugan para walang maiiwan. Ang isa sa mga mekanismo: Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Sa Pantawid Pamilya, kapalit ng tulong sa mga benepisyaryo, pangunahin nilang dapat tutukan ang pag-aaral ng mga anak. ... Siyempre, bukod sa Pantawid Pamilya, may kontribusyon din ang Alternative Learning System para masigurong pati ang mga katutubo at street children ay hindi napapag-iwanan.”

Will the Aytas of Santa Juliana be able to benefit from these programs?

“Ayon nga po kay Bro. Armin,” the president said, “ang suma-total ng naipagawa nating mga classroom at na-hire na guro ay higit pa sa pinagsama-samang nagawa mula sa nakalipas na 20 taon bago tayo manungkulan.”

Will the Santa Juliana school initially expand to Grade 6 and eventually to Grade 12 for the katutubo children?  Aquino made this clear: “Nagpatupad tayo ng K to 12 dahil hindi praktikal ang pagsisiksik ng kaalaman sa 10-year basic education cycle.”

The president narrated: “Noong 2011 po, inimbentaryo natin ang mga sitio; tinukoy natin kung sino pa ang nangangailangan ng kuryente. Gawa ng Sitio Electrification Program, nakapaghatid na tayo ng liwanag sa 25,257 sitiong natukoy sa imbentaryong ito. Dagdag pa rito, dahil sa paggamit ng solar at iba pang teknolohiya, kahit malayo o liblib na lugar, nagkakakuryente na rin. Ngayon po, 78 percent na ng target ng SEP ang energized na. At tinitiyak sa atin ng DOE na bago tayo bumaba sa puwesto, lahat ng naitala noong 2011, may kuryente na.”

Is Santa Juliana included in the last 22% of sitios that will benefit from the Sitio Electrification Program during his last year in office?

The president asked: “Di na nakakagulat na nitong nakaraang taon, tumaas ng 27 percent ang car sales sa Pilipinas. ... Sa dami ng nakakapagpundar ng bagong sasakyan, dalawa po sa pinakamalaking kompanyang nagbebenta sa Pilipinas ay inaabot ng dalawa’t kalahati hanggang tatlong buwan bago makapag-deliver ng kotse.”

The Santa Juliana folks do not dream of cars. They only want carabaos to help ease the burden of manually transporting their goods to the marketplace. They also dream of the day that they will no longer plod through muddy roads during the rainy season, or swim across the big river when going to from one sitio to another.  No big-ticket infrastructure needed here like the Cavite-Laguna Expressway that he inaugurated recently.

President Aquino boasted: “Mula 2010 hanggang 2014, nagtala tayo ng average GDP growth na 6.2 percent; ito ang pinakamasiglang yugto ng ating ekonomiya sa loob ng 40 taon. Kung aabot po tayo sa 6.8 percent ngayong 2015, makakamtan natin ang pinakamataas na six-year average growth sa loob ng halos anim na dekada.”

The benefits from this growth, sad to say, have not trickled down to Santa Juliana. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Felix Laureano: First Filipino Photo-Journalist

Note:  A shorter version of this photo-essay appeared in the 24-30 July 2015 edition of FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America.' This author/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent of the paper.

Photographs of Felix Laureano in the front pages of these four issues of La Ilustracion
Artistica: 23 Nov 1896, 07 Dec 1896, 11 Jan 1897, and 02 May 1898. (From Biblioteca
Nacional de Espana)

A selection of his photographs, vintage 1880s-1890s, on exhibit at the Ayala Museum brings to the fore that, indeed, Panay-born Felix Laureano was the first Filipino photographer.  After going through his works, in the La Ilustracion Artistica, a weekly magazine published in Barcelona, Spain, in the 1896 to 1898 issues, we venture to say that he was the first Filipino photo-journalist.

In a television interview, Canada-based historian Francisco G. Villanueva called him the first transnational Filipino photographer (OFW in the current political lingo) because he succeeded in professional photography in studios he set up in Spain and in the Philippines.

Villanueva, who hails from Ilolio, started his research on Laureano in 2010; thus, the exhibit is a showcase of his three-year research on the photographer that he also considers an anthropologist, portraitist and landscapist.  

From Villanueva’s documentation, we learn that Laureano was born in Patnongon, Antique in 1866, the son of a wealthy businesswoman and a Spanish friar. He and his six siblings grew up in Bugasong, where their father was the parish priest.

Left photo was about an announcement to a bullfight in the Iloilo bullring (right photo),
The bullring was a bamboo strucrure. (From Biblioteca Nacional de Espana.)

He was 17 when he attended school at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in 1883. He stayed there for two years.  Not much is known after Ateneo, said Villanueva, until he opened a photo studio in Iloilo in 1886. He could have worked as an apprentice under one of the master photographers in Manila. 

Laureano was 21 when he participated with 40 photographs at the 1887 Exposicion General de Filipinas in Madrid where he received an Honorable Mention. 

In 1892, he returned and visited Iloilo, but he went back to Barcelona that same year. Before then, he had participated in the 1888 Universal Exposicion de Barcelona where his works received Honorable Mention. He travelled in Europe, studied the latest photography developments in Paris, and attended the 1889 Universal Exposicion where the Eiffel Tower was launched.

Back in Barcelona, he received citation at the Exposicion National de Industrias Artisticas, and was singled out by the newspaper La Vanguardia. Between December 1892 and 1901, Laureano opened three photo studios there.  Laureano could have known the ilustrados of the Reform Movement because the La Solidaridad congratulated him for the opening of  his studio in 1893.

The Jaro Cathedral with a bamboo Eiffel Tower in the foreground.
(From Biblioteca Nacional de Espana)
In 1895, Laureano published ‘Recuerdos de Filipinas’ in Barcelona, a folio of 37 photographs, each with an accompanying essay. This is considered to be the first photo book by a Filipino. The book and his other photographs were exhibited in the Exposicion Regional de Filipinas, in Manila that year.

His works began to be published in 1896, and until the end of that century, his photographss appeared in La Ilustracion Artistica, La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana, and Panorama Nacional.  Two of his colored photos were published in an 1899 issue of Album Salon, the first Spanish illustrated magazine in color.

We studied around 90 of his photographs in the La Ilustracion Artistica from November 1896 and May 1898. 

Five issues of the weekly paper featured his works in the front page covers: 23 November 1896 (a mestiza in an elegant and colorful costume of the country); 07 December 1896 (a typical Bisayan fighting game, and the principalia or local consultative body for administrative matters), 11 January 1897 (‘Philippine Views,’ a montage of five photographs taken around Manila), 02 May 1898 (the battleships Pelayo and Infanta Maria Teresa of the Spanish Navy) and 16 May 1898 (the coastguard battleship Numancia of the Spanish Navy).

Cuadrilleros or rural guards. 
(From Biblioteca Nacional de Espana)
His photographs of the Spanish warships anchored in Barcelona during the Spanish-American War in Cuba were commissioned works.  In this sense, he could be the first Filipino press photographer. 

Most of his works in Ilustracion Artistica were in the realm of photo-essays because all the photographs were described in detail, probably in the same manner that he did for the Recuerdos. The essays were not by-lined but there could have been no other Filipinos in Barcelona as knowledgeable of the Philippines, its people and customs, except Laureano. Yes, there were the ilustrados but they were using their pens to agitate for reforms through the La Solidaridad.

The descriptive essays on his eight pictures in the 23 November 1896 were preceded by an explanatory note, probably by the editor, which said that with the attention of Spain focused on the ‘remote archipelago’, it was appropriate to include in the issue ‘some pictures depicting typical scenes and customs, convinced that our subscribers will welcome seeing them.’ These did not have photo credits, but the editor informed that ‘these are taken from photographs provided by Mr. Felix Laureano’.  The whole composition occupies more than one page of the weekly paper.

'Una Boda'- wedding party followed by a music band. 
(From Biblioteca Nacional de Espana)
One of the interesting photographs in this issue is titled ‘Una Boda’ (A Wedding): a couple in a calesa followed by a music band.  The short story on the wedding picture tells about the wedding practices in the villages.  Matchmakers are very much a part of the preliminaries and of the post-wedding practices.  The prospective groom, accompanied by his parents, relatives and a matchmaker, all dressed up, go to the house of his future-in-laws.  The matchmaker begs in the sweetest persuasive tone, through improvised verses, for the hand of the future bride on behalf of the groom. The bride’s parents, also through a matchmaker reciting in verse, disclose the conditions under which they grant the hand of their daughter.  One of these is the usual service for about a year or year and a half, which, of course, can be redeemed for cash to shorten the time.

If the negotiations succeed, a wedding date is set, and the groom’s party commits to pay for the wedding feast. A ritual is also described about the groom walking around for scrutiny, getting accepted by the girl, and turning over a symbolic key to the groom to signify he becomes master of their house after marriage.

Datu Piang, his family and followers. 
(From Biblioteca National de Espana)
Aside from the front page photographs, the 07 December 1896 issue also has photo montages in two full pages: one depicts the views of Iloilo and Panay Island, and the other, views of the city of Manila.

The accompanying long descriptive essay, almost a full page, titled ‘Types, customs and views of the Philippines’ was also preceded by an introductory note from the editor to justify the publication of many pictures which came ‘from the kindness of the well-known photographer of the city, Felix D. Laureano.’  The justification had something to do with the ‘current insurrection’ growing in ‘those islands in the Great Asian Archipelago.’

The accompanying descriptive essay titled ‘Views of the Philippines’ appear on top of the montage of five Laureano photographs in the front page of the 11 January 1897 issue of the Ilustracion Artistica. This one is short compared to the previously cited cover stories.

Towards the end of the century, Laureano and the Spanish photographer Manuel Arias Rodriguez began sharing the pages of the newspapers in Barcelona. “Guerra Filipinas” was the tagged of Arias photographs from the Spanish front in the Philippine Revolution.  Laureano was in Barcelona, and he got commissions to photograph the Spanish Navy warships anchored in the port of the city.  There were scant ‘Islas Filipinas’ views after the Spaniards lost the archipelago.

One of two Laureano photographs taken during the banquet for the Baler survivors.
The other showed them enjoying their dinner. (From Biblioteca Nacional de Espana.)

It seems that Laureano’s last press photography was his coverage in 1899 of the banquet honoring the 32 survivors of the defense of Baler in Tayabas. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Philippines: haven for refugees

Note: This photo-essay appeared in the 10-16 July 2015 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Franciso, CA. This author/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent of the paper.

UNHCR’s Bernard Kerblat spoke highly of our 
“strong humanitarian tradition.”
Sometime in May this year, the Philippine government announced openness to accept thousands of Bangladeshi and Rohingya people on small boats adrift in the Andaman Sea if ever they reach our territory.  This was met, of course, with positive and adverse reactions from the public through the social media.

Bernard Kerblat, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) submitted that, yes, the Philippines would have given them refuge if they landed on Philippine shores, recalling the country’s “strong humanitarian tradition.”

He said that eleven years before the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, we already had Commonwealth Act 613 or the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, which authorized the president to allow aliens to come here “for humanitarian reasons.” But even before its enactment, President Manuel Quezon already gave asylum to some 1,300 European Jews in the country.   

 “We discovered that very few people are aware of what your ancestors did to welcome refugees,’’ Kerblat revealed in his lecture on “The Philippines and asylum – a historical perspective” at the National Museum, which coincided with the celebration of World Refugee Day.

About 6,000 “White Russian Refugees” evacuated from Shanghai
 to Tubabao Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar in 1949. (Photo courtesy
 of the Pres. Elpidio Quirino Foundation)
“Our ancestors” were the Filipino generations from 1923 to 2000 who gave asylum to nine waves of refugees from Asia and Europe: first wave of White Russians (1923), Jews (1934-1940), Spanish Republicans (1939), Chinese (1940), the second wave of White Russians (1949-1953), Vietnamese (1975-1992), Iranians (1979), Indochinese (1980-1989), and East Timorese (2000).

The lectures was part of a series that the President Elpidio Quirino Foundation has scheduled for the year to commemorate Quirino’s 125th birthday.

Kerblat toured us into the nine waves, and focused on the second wave of White Russians who came during the watch of President Quirino. Taking them in was a challenge to the new republic because it was then in the process of recovery and reconstruction from the ravages of World War II.

Refugee children enjoying their snacks and soda. (Photo by 
Nikolai Hidchenko. Courtesy of the Pres. Elpidio Quirino Foundation).
“Tiempo Ruso” was the theme of the parallel commemorative exhibit, which was set up by the Qurino Foundation based on the research of Kinna Gonzalez Kwan for her graduate program at the University of Sto. Tomas. 

Kinna Kwan hails from Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and her mother is the mayor of that town. “Tiempo Ruso” is the term that Guiuan people fondly call the four years when the White Russians stayed in Tubabao Island, which belongs to the town.  The Kwan mother and daughter have started connecting with the former refugees who settled in different countries around the world.

“White Russians” has no racial connotation. It refers to those who opposed the Socialist Revolution of 1917. Those who supported were the “Reds”.

Many White Russians sought refuge in Europe and America. Many also fled to China and settled in Peking (Beijing), Tientsin (Tianjin), Harbin, and Shanghai. They were safely ensconced there until Mao Tse Tung and his liberation army started to rule over China.

Young men and women enjoying their good times at the 
Tubabao camp. (Photo by Val Sushkoff. Courtesy of the 
Pres. Elpidio Quirino Foundation).
The White Russians feared that they may be persecuted and possibly repatriated to the USSR. Thus, in December 1948, in their desire to flee China, the Russian Emigrants’ Association, through the International Refugee Organization (IRO), predecessor of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), sent circular letters to all the free countries seeking help and protection of their governments, relocation of White Russian employees in their firms in China to safer regions, and temporary asylum for 6,000 people.

Many countries expressed sympathies. The only country that was willing to accept them was the Philippines, the young republic under President Elpidio Quirino.

The country opened Tubabao Island for them.  The island was the receiving station for the US Naval Base in Guiuan during the Second World War.

President Quirino visited the refugee camp in October 1949. (Photo by 
Nikolai Hidchenko. Courtesy of the Pres. Elpidio Quirino Foundation)
When the White Russians arrived in the Tubabao aboard rusty ships crewed by Chinese prisoners, the island had turned into a jungle, and what remained were dilapidated Quonset huts of the Americans. They found some fishing families living along the beach.

The White Russians were composed of 12 national groups: Russian, Armenian, Estonian, Germans and Austrians, Turko Tatar, Romanian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Czechs and Yugoslav, Polish, Latvian, and Hungarian.  There were teachers, doctors, engineers, architects, ex-military officers, lawyers, artists, performers, and priests, among others.

With the help of Filipinos, the refugees were able to transform the jungle into a “little Russian city” comprising 14 districts with democratically-elected leaders. They had communal kitchens, power stations, Russian schools, hospital and dental clinic, arbitration court, police force and a little jail, and churches for different faiths.  They transformed the church left by the Americans into a wooden Russian Orthodox church.

As their life improved and acquired normalcy, they improvised an open air movie theater, held dance parties, poetry readings, art exhibitions, lectures and performances by acrobats and dancers; they also formed an amateur theater company and an orchestra.

Pres. Quirino was a hero to the refugees. (Photo by Nikolai 
Hidchenko. Courtesy of the Pres. Elpidio Quirino Foundation)
They also had to earn a living.  Some taught piano and ballet to the children of Guiuan. Thus, they became friends of local families. Through these encounters, they left a legacy in Guiuan: piano playing and dancing like ballerinas.

President Quirino visited the camp on 28 October 1949. There was something that he did that former refugees remember: he ordered the barbed-wire fence around the camp removed. To them, that was an act of acceptance, goodwill and trust.

A religious stayed with them for several months: Vladyka (Bishop) John Maximovitch, who served as their spiritual leader from Shanghai to Tubabao. People of Guiuan recall stories about him as the holy man who blessed the camp from four directions every night to ward off typhoons and other dangers. He was canonized as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in July 1994.

The White Russians were to stay only for four months. The country extended its hospitality until 1953 because of delays in the resettlement.  

A streamer of gratitude to the Philippines. (Photo by Larissa 
Krassovsky. Courtesy of Pres. Elpidio Quirino Foundation)
Living a free and contented life in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Uruguay, Surinam, USA, France and Belgium today, former refugees continue to remember Tubabao Island, and with gratefulness, the benevolent and timely response of our country to the Philippines to their plight.

From former refugee Contantine Koloboff: “Philippines did a fantastic job of being friends with us, accepting us ... to me, it was a very special time of my life. I appreciate that period, it shaped the rest of my life.”

When typhoon Yolanda struck Samar and Leyte in 2013, the White Russians sent help to the devastated town of Guiuan.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sunflowers still bloomed in the first June graduation of UP Diliman

Note: This photo-essay appeared in the 03-09 July 2015 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA, where this writer/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent.

Applause & cheers upon presentation for graduation.

For the first time, the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) held its graduation rites in June, following the shift of the university academic calendar from June to August last year. The University Avenue still blazed with the golden yellow blooms of the iconic sunflower, this time of the species that can tolerate rain.

Class 2015 comprising 4,439 graduates from the 27 degree-granting units in the Diliman campus received their degrees under the burning morning sun during the 104th  General Commencement Exercises on 28 June. 3,499 received undergraduate degrees while 940 received graduate degrees, of which 84 were conferred their doctoral degrees.  They were alerted that if it rains, they would be confirmed graduates by text.

The four summa cum laude graduates of engineering with theirDean Aura Matias, 
Vice Chacellor Benito Pacheco, Chancellor Michael Tan and UP President Alfredo Pascual

Summa cum laudes. Twenty nine undergraduates who earned a weighted average grade (WAG) of 1.20 or better were bestowed with the highest academic distinction: summa cum laude (“with the greatest honors. They were led by Tiffany Grace C. Uy, BS Biology with a WAG of 1.004. She surpassed that of John Gabriel P. Pelias, BS Mathematics, graduated with a WAG of 1.016 in 2011.

Chancellor Tan congratulates Tiffany Uy
and her proud parents.
In the Diliman Files, a Facebook community group, Uy is listed second, and Pelias third, among the top five summa cum laude graduates in UP history. Number one is Exequiel Sevilla, who had a flat 1.0 WAG in 1927. The fourth and fifth are Emerenciana Yuvienco-Arcellana, 1.020 WAG in 1948, and Gertrude Gwendale Baron-Reinoso, 1.030 WAG in 1982. Among the post-war Diliman campus summa graduates though, Uy would be on top.

Mikaela Irene D. Fudolig was barely noticed during graduation rites. She was one of the 84 who received doctoral degrees. If her name rings a bell, she was this physics prodigy, who at 16 in 2007, graduated summa cum laude, with 1.099 WAG.  She was the girl of 11 who entered the university without a high school diploma and without taking the UP College Admission Test or UPCAT.  After her BS and MS in 2007 and 2013, respectively, she is now PhD, all in physics.

High school buddies Junji &
Mike graduate as engineers.
Based on the university records, there were only one or two summa cum laude graduates or none at all, from 1919 to 1959, although there were five in 1929, and three in 1952. In the 1960s, there were only two. During the years of student ferment, from 1964 to 1972, there was none at all. The double-digit number of summas started in 2005 although there were only eight in 2007.

Many alumni wonder why it was so difficult to earn the highest Latin honor in their time although they had magna cum laudes in their classes.

Chancellor Michael Tan attributed the seeming phenomenon to change, citing factors such as easier access to information from various sources, improvement in the teaching methodologies (the ‘terrors’ are disappearing, he quipped), among others. 

Tiffany Uy was more down-to-earth with regard to her grade. To her, it just a number, only a circumstantial evidence of what [she] has learned.  “A true measure of what you’ve learned,” she averred, “is (its) application toward serving the country.”

Muslim Filipinos are integral part of
the academic community & the nation.
Pag-uugat, Pag-uugnay, Pagyabong.  “This theme,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual in his message to Class 2015, “mirrors your transformation from idealistic young freshmen to accomplished graduates.” He reminded that they were nurtured in integrity so they can proudly stand as “the best and the brightest in the country.” 

He emphasized on “pag-uugnay” in the process of growth as true iskolar ng bayan, in the practice of excellence to achieve honorable ends.

 “Many of our graduates like you,” he said, “have seen how each individual is connected to the whole—that the nation’s issues are your issues. You have been witness to how one can, under the banner of truth, improve the world through strength of mind and will. And this is done through building networks, cooperation, and interconnections.”

The iconic clenched fist in UP rites.
Secretary Armin A. Luistro of the Department of Education, the ceremony’s guest speaker, urged the members of Class 2015 to become living heroes, “mga buhay na Oblation.”

In good humor, Luistro said that he was told he would become a rock star if rallyistas appear while he is speaking.  Placards were flashed while he spoke, and the mass action, which was quite expected, came before the formal closing of the program. The protest principally focused on the K-12 program.

Luistro hurled challenges to the graduates focusing on his turf: the state of public schools in the country. He asked for who can help install solar or micro-hydro power in schools that still do not have electricity. There are also more than 6,000 schools that have no access to clean water, and thus, rain catchment facilities are needed to be constructed.

He cited the Brigada Eskwela program, and he challenged the engineering graduates to volunteer in constructing around 40,000 new classrooms in far-flung areas and islands. He assured that the locations are the most beautiful in the country.

The Colleg of Law contingent singing the UP Naming Mahal with passion.

Luistro would also like the graduates to look at the out-of-school youth.  According to him, there were 2.9 million of them in 2008, and this reduced to 1.2 million in 2013.  “If you see a child who is not in school,” he said, “text or email us at DepEd and we will take care.”

He called attention to other challenges that graduates cannot evade: the turmoil at the West Philippine Sea, the issues on the Bangsamoro Law, which is deemed to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, and the election of right government officials in 2016.

Response on behalf of Class '15.
Summa cum laude graduate Ma. Patricia Riego De Dios (BS Psychology, 1.139 WAG) spoke on behalf of the graduating class with “Mga Katanungan ng Payabong na Iskolar ng Bayan” vis-a-vis the graduation theme.

She recalled that their growth as iskolar ng bayan was nurtured in the university by information, friendships, experience, failures and interconnections.

“Mga kasama kong nagsipagtapos, tayo ay magiging ganap lamang na mga iskolar ng bayan sa ating pag-angat sa lupa,” she implored. “Magiging ganap tayo na mga isko at iska kapag yumabong na ang ating mga tangkay, mga sanga, at mga dahon sa kanya-kanyang propesyon at karera sa buhay: paghanap ng trabaho, ng boyfriend, girlfriend, asawa, pagpasok sa med school, law school o graduate school, at pagpapalawak ng ating kaalaman.

“At dahil nga tayo ay naka-ugat sa UP, sisikapin nating maging pinakamataas na sanga, pinakaluntiang dahon, at higit sa lahat, pinakamatibay at pinakamayabong na puno na nakapagbibigay ng silong sa nakararami.”

Strung across the front of the stage for all Class 2015 is a giant streamer, a reminder that they should go and serve the people: 'Paglingkuran ang sambayanan.' 

The lightning protest demonstration toward the end of the graduation rites.