Oct 9, 2011


UP Naming Mahal
Excluded Middles
October 5, 2011, 3:40am
MANILA, Philippines

— I entered UP at a curious juncture: my batch was the first to be hit with the full brunt of a massive tuition fee increase, which brought the former P300-per-unit tuition to P1,000. Instead of paying P6,000 per semester, starting with my batchmates and myself, UP students would have to pay P20,000.

My parents were just happy they didn’t have to pay thrice that amount, which they would have if I had gone to a private (and perhaps less exciting) university instead.

We knew that UP wasn’t a rich university right from the start. We knew this from the unpainted road humps, from the bareness of the dorm rooms, from the lack of wifi in the classrooms, or the sorry state of restrooms.

I once met a European exchange student who told me that he had chosen to study in UP not because he was particularly curious about the Philippines, but because he thought UP was unique: he said he had never before come across a university so reputed for excellence, and also so awfully underfunded. Was it as excellent as he was made to believe, I asked.

Oh yes, he said. My classes in UP challenge me on a daily basis, I feel my mind grow. It is excellent. It’s just a pity that it is also very poor.

Recently, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was quoted as saying that more money does not translate to better quality of education. This in its barest form, of course, is true. It’s no secret that there are many overpriced schools in the world.

But many of us, including myself, took great offense at Secretary Abad’s remark, primarily because it was—at least as reported—framed as a response to the barrage of protests surrounding the budget cuts for the already flailing state universities and colleges.

Abad was saying that the issue of quality education is not an issue of funding—and so by not providing the funding that we need, the government is not responsible—that the burden of upholding the quality of education in this country does not fall upon the shoulders of the government that leads it.

To be sure, quality education is not entirely an issue of money; it is also an issue of ability, of worldview, of persistence; but it in no wise gives the national government an excuse to neglect the single most precious thing that we have going for this country—the young people who love it enough to stay.

I speak as a UP student because this is where I was educated. UP is a university that sears this in your mind: This is your country. It is your responsibility.

We remember this message and carry it with us when we leave because we see it lived by the hundreds of professors who go day in and day out and teach—so that we would become better, even if it means they become poorer, even when they could have had more money and more comfort had they peddled their minds and their abilities elsewhere. Because they love it enough to stay.

UP is excellent, yes, but it is not excellent because it lacks funding; it is excellent despite it. The best and the brightest teach here not because of the fact that they never make any money, but because they judge that there are other things that are more important.

The lack of funding in UP says less about the primacy of money and more about the kind of people who have kept it running it for the past several decades. They are patriots. They are heroes. And the least that this government can do is give them their due.

University of the Philippines.