I never really thought that the UPCAT articles I wrote for Rappler and GMA News Online would generate such a buzz. I just felt it was a story that needed to be told. I underestimated the power that social media now enjoys. The articles, which talk about the travails of UPCAT regional examiners, have been shared at least 3,000 times already on different social media sites and the comments that go with these are just heartwarming.
Some of the messages on these news sites expressed support and gratitude. Former students also sent words of encouragement and appreciation. I was on a high spirit as I read these even when the thought of missing our flight back to Manila was just too stressful to bear (considering that I really didn’t want to break my schedules and my co-regional examiner had a very important meeting to attend).
I remember a former colleague who would often say, “Simple lang naman ang kaligayahan nating mga guro.” And that is true. Words of appreciation do make us happy. It is something that we value.
The best messages came from students I didn’t know and who are from Cuyo. Their words of gratitude are something that I will remember for a long time. One of them wrote: “My mother is Cuyonon and she didn’t have the chance to take the UPCAT back then because her family can’t afford to send her to Puerto Princesa. I hope the Cuyonon examinees will pass and will not be discouraged to study in UP. Kaloyan kamo y ateng Ginoo 🙂 Continue serving the people!”
When our original trip to Cuyo was aborted, I had a talk with co-regional examiners who were assigned in Iloilo City. We talked about the risks that Cuyo regional examiners have to take given that the UPCAT season happens at a month when the weather is not highly cooperative.
At some point, the thought of UP closing down the Cuyo test center was brought up. I understand where the proposal came from. The university, of course, has to ensure the safety of its examiners. I maintained though that if UP does that, then these high school students will have to endure the risk of traveling 14 to 18 hours just to get to the two nearest testing centers: Iloilo and Puerto Princesa.
It will also mean students will have to spend more, and that could discourage deserving but financially-challenged students from giving their best shot at the best kind of education that the country can offer. I later learned that UP cannot actually abort its Cuyo test center because it has a high percentage of passers. 🙂
The number of those passers who continue to study in UP is a different story though.
Some of the regional examiners who have read the piece also expressed their appreciation for telling their stories of commitment for everyone to read. It is a story that I have written with all the regional examiners in mind, whose dedication to the University cannot be faulted. Just like Kuya Ariel of UP Diliman’s HRDO, my co-regional examiner who, at 49, braved the nauseating trip to Cuyo. He says he will continue serving the UPCAT as long as he can.
But to be really honest about it, more than just glorify the kind of service we extend to the university and to our country, I had thought of so many UP students when I wrote the story.
When I went back to teaching this semester, I had a not-so impressive encounter with some of my students. In one of my journalism classes composed of mostly graduating students, I asked about the different types of journalistic attribution. It’s a basic knowledge that every journalism student should know. Suffice it to say that their answers were disappointing and depressing.
Through that article, I wanted every UP student, and those who will pass the UPCAT, to realize that they need to value their UP education and they ought to live up to the university’s tradition of honor and excellence. They have to understand that a lot of people work hard to safeguard the integrity of this admission exam just so they could rightfully belong in the country’s cream of the crop.They have to bear in mind that UP searched the entire archipelago for them.
To use the words of my dear friend D, who graduated on top of her journalism class in UP in 2004, “I really think the decision to attend the best university in the country isn’t completely yours (UPCAT takers) to make. In many ways, I do believe it’s UP that calls and chooses you.”
In return, the greatest thing that they can do is to become the best UP students that they can be.
- All photographs taken with a Canon 550d.
- From Digos to Cuyo, a regional examiner’s UPCAT journey (ameramor.com)
- Cuyo, Palawan (ameramor.com)
- Oh My, Peppy Thai! (ameramor.com)