This is a lived experience account of the Philippine Pundit author, Regel Javines, in his journey as iskolar ng bayan in PUP from 2003 to 2007. Regel Javines graduated valedictorian both in elementary and high school in Cahagnaan, Matalom, Leyte. He graduated from high school in 2000, found himself as a jack-of-all-trades, then managed to enroll himself in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Taguig Campus in 2003.
This is his memoir of being an iskolar ng bayan in PUP and of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (MLM) ideology of a socialist revolution that broadly influenced, in one way or another, campus activism.
As an iskolar ng bayan in PUP, I feel interested to scribble my lived experience account concerning my journey of survival inside the largest state university in the Philippines—Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)—in terms of the student population with over 70,000 students all over its 22 campuses in the country.
PUP has long, long been standing proud and dignified for having the lowest tuition among higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country.
The comprehensive and collective actions among the iskolar ng bayan in PUP against tuition hikes in the university have been proven time and again to continue fixing the 12 pesos (Php12.00) tuition per unit. It is a fact that the rest of us do not even bother how significant the iskolar ng bayan’s unified movements are. How critically important student activism is. And how of great intensity the heroics of student activists—as what they are commonly called.
Brief Account About PUP
PUP went through three names revision: from its original name Manila Business School (MBC) in 1904 as founded; to Philippine School of Commerce (PSC) in 1908; then became Philippine College of Commerce (PCC) in 1952, and finally named Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in 1978.
As the University changes from one name to another, its original mandate to train students for government service and entrepreneurship lives on.
PUP calls its students as iskolar ng bayan (scholars of the nation) because the Philippine government and other nongovernment institutions subsidize its students’ tuition and other fees. A majority of iskolar ng bayan in PUP are economically challenged and marginalized.
PUP is considered the “Poor Man’s University” living by its commitment to providing access to quality and responsive education to qualified and talented students all over the country.
Passing PUPCET: First Hurdle to Become an Iskolar ng Bayan in PUP
I had no idea at all. I was naïve and had no information beforehand about what the PUP admission and entrance examinations were all about. Nor did I even know about being an iskolar ng bayan in PUP back then, or the PUP itself.
(If you wish to join the league of PUP isko’t iska, you may visit this PUP Apply link for you to know more information about the admission in the University.)
In May 2000, a few days left before the deadline, I went straight to Manila from Leyte hastily with one purpose in mind—to take the entrance scholarship for chemical engineering at the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP)-Manila.
On the way to Manila, a certain situation left me stranded for 1 night and 2 days in Allen, Samar. Eventually, I stayed in Cavite for a night, and then traveled to Tondo, Manila, where I stayed for almost a week waiting for my folks to pick me up.
The deadline for filing has gone past. It’s over; so was my chance to avail of such scholarship. Certainly, I was not able to take the exams.
After a few days, out of nothing at all, I went straight to the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of Admission in Diliman to submit my high school credentials only to be denied. The lady said I have to take first the UPCAT. I even asked her what was that. The lady just smiled at me and then went back with her chores. “That was odd,” I mumbled.
I was completely baffled while leaving the UP Admission window. While on my way home, I started making sense of how naïve I was that I did not even know about UPCAT and what was it for.
Now, I realized that sometimes you can not find fault with yourself about why you hold high school life responsible—for being too destitute of knowledge on preparing or even informing its graduating students about admissions in their prospective universities. At least, that was during my time; circa 2000 at that but what happened?
I hope, nowadays, barrio high schools will have at least a working knowledge about college admissions. That is, to provide students with any possible avenue to get them oriented about the beginnings of getting a higher education after high school. So that there would be no more like me in the future.
Consequently, I did not experience taking UPCAT. And I did never mind it. I did not just bother about UPCAT as I did not have all the means to support my study after all. What was important to me at that time was a goal to get a job despite being only a high school grad after not being able to take the scholarship exams in TIP-Manila.
Being a financially challenged or what folks called it broke as shit, I worked as a dishwasher in a five-star rated restaurant inside the Century Park Hotel in Malate. After finishing my contract, I moved on to work as a janitor in the domestic airport in Pasay City. Afterward, I worked as a waiter in a Korean bar and restaurant, and then as a service crew in Jollibee, and later on in Wendy’s.
Since 2000 right after I graduated from high school, I have been working a lot and hard. Then in the late quarter of 2002, while working as a service crew in Wendy’s at SM Bicutan, I decided to take the PUP College Entrance Test (PUPCET) in PUP-Taguig Campus.
While working as a part-time service crew, I only have to work at least four hours a day. Since SM Bicutan and PUP-Taguig Campus were just nearby, it wasn’t as cumbersome as I thought at first to apply for PUPCET. I have no routine or any sort of preparation for the incoming PUPCET. I just had this confidence to either top the entrance exams or pass the tests fairly well.
PUPCET Core Competencies
I could still remember taking PUPCET for the school year 2003–2004. My assigned room was in the engineering building, where the official student publication of PUP Taguig was also formerly located and in which, eventually, I became the editor-in-chief.
The test proctor was Prof. Usona, who headed the Campus scholarships program and later on whom I looked up as a Math whiz professor along with my College Algebra Prof. Pelayo.
Each core subject competency of PUPCET is under time pressure. The tests were divided into set A and set B. So, you know that you are totally on your own.
To the best of my recollection, I scored higher in numerical and quantitative reasoning than in verbal and general information or current events. But it was different in my Civil Service Eligibility Examinations-Professional (CSEE-Professional) examination result in 2009. My CSEE concluded that my analytical IQ was higher than the rest followed by verbal, then my numerical IQ was average.
I assumed that I did fairly scored in Science. Perhaps, because I never did a great guessing job. Instead, I solved painstakingly a problem equation to determine the number of atomic coefficients in a series of chemical reactions. Or I rather calculated religiously the resultant force of the multiple vectors in a projectile motion while maintaining grounded in mind the acceleration due to the gravity constant 9.8 meters per second squared until my time ran out.
Yes, to the best of my recollection, I was not able to finish the test. I also wasn’t able to get back for those skipped items for it was not allowed to do so. Once you moved to the next page, considered it done. For you also had no time at all.
PUPCET is somehow challenging. And in thousands of applicants all over the country are competing against each other for a spot—for the limited number of spots to be admitted in the University we, iskolar ng bayan in PUP, called it “sintang paaralan” and be officially called ourselves as iskolar ng bayan you like it or not.
Passing the PUPCET
I made it. But there were two things I was not so certain about: the course I would be taking and how long I would be staying when I got there. Or how long I could sustain being an iskolar ng bayan in PUP.
I was not even so sure or at least get persuaded why I need to go to college. Questions were already inside my head brewing, like why do I have to achieve something that I, perhaps, don’t need? Why do I have to get the same path others are taking? What is education when it doesn’t serve the meaning of education itself? Why do I have to follow the norms of society when the same norms are creating divisions instead?
All these questions considerably shaped my state of mind and perspectives. While thinking about having no options at all by that far, I heedlessly went on complying some things I thought were reasonably needed for survival.
Passing the PUPCET is not that all, at least for me. I needed to take a leave of absence from my work so I could have the whole day allotted for the interview process for the course I wanted to get enrolled in. Then, there was also a medical screening to go through before proceeding to the registration process.
Meanwhile, I have to continue working as a service crew in Wendy’s while studying. I also did not declare at first that I had work to attend besides doing school stuff. I just did not find it important or even such a compelling reason why should I declare it when I felt that there would be no problem at all.
I also did not declare that I graduated valedictorian in a class of over 50 students because I just felt it was nonsense after all. And I was too excited, rather, at taking the university entrance exams. Besides, I considered thinking about an equal footing among the rest having all the right to education competing under a limited opportunity—the paradox of the “sorry state” of a state university education.
PUP: Epitome of Budget Cuts and Student Activism
With less than 500 pesos (Php500.00), I was enrolled in full for the first semester. I could not believe it at first. Here’s my registration for the first semester of the school year 2003–2004.
That’s all-in: tuition, other fees, and miscellaneous. That is, I only paid four hundred thirteen pesos (Php413.00) for the first-semester full load. So, for my entire course (1st year–4th year) I would only be paying not more than four thousand pesos (Php4,000.00). Yes, that’s true!
Today, although there are negligible revisions so to speak in some other PUP fees, yet its tuition is still at twelve pesos (Php12.00) per unit for undergraduate courses.
Now, students are no longer paying tuition and miscellaneous fees in all state universities and colleges in the country. In August 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Republic Act 10931, known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act institutionalizing the opportunity of underprivileged Filipino students to pursue a college education through free tuition and exemption of other school fees.
Every iskolar ng bayan in PUP knew and believed that student activism has played such an important role in why every isko’t iska nowadays still enjoyed the 12 pesos per unit or nowadays enjoyed it free.
Student activism is practically founded on defending the right to education, and thus, the State shall allocate the highest budget to it (Art. XIV, Sec. 5 (5), 1987 Constitution).
Adjacent and relevant to upholding the right to education, student activism becomes more and more comprehensive and extensive. That is, in making the unconscious conscious by educating them of the obvious disparity and abuses in various real-life aspects.
Furthermore, student activism has become deeply grounded and dynamically motivated by Marxist-Leninist-Maoist socialist revolution ideology—the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This ideology has continued to influence the core academic and economic consciousness of the students to absorb and understand employing that ideology’s perspective the impact of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal state of Philippine society. How it has continuously been deteriorating through the leadership of the ruling class. But, not everyone could understand it the way others did. Also, many did not buy it.
PUP, as far as my consciousness could perceive, is a dynamic state of itself operating under its policies and resolutions and annual budget crisis while allowing the burgeoning student activism to flourish and expand. And this student activism pivotally served as the checks and balances needed to maintain the equilibrium inside the four-walled corners of the University—as a state of itself.
PUP is not your typical university. It could either be your everyday nightmare or your real-life encounter of life survival in the middle of a wild, uncertain forest—where cubs that you met along the way yesterday were devouring lions today. You have to maintain endurance when you blaze a trail.
Inside this University, everybody is unpredictable. Everybody has business. Every iskolar ng bayan in PUP is an opportunity you meet that is worth learning. Every struggle inside is a shot that will be worth the effort. ▲ (continue reading in Part 2)
Regel Javines, at present, is working on his M.A. in Philosophy at the University of San Carlos attempting to understand life and existence through the lens of gnostic spirituality and ontological mathematics. He has been writing since 2011 publishing news, commentary, and opinion about politics, law, and various pressing social issues of interest. More >>