(I would like to share with you this essay that I wrote in 2013. This was included in the book “Bakit Masayang Tumambay sa UP?” launched in 2013.)
“I don’t want to be a dry leaf tossed around by a gust of wind–powerless, directionless.” -From my journal entry dated April 1998
This quote probably explains why almost half of my time as an undergrad student in UP Diliman was dedicated to organizations. I became a member of seven: UP Lingua Franca, UP Ibalon, UP Parish Choir, UPD Navigators, The Kalayaan Dorm Student Council, The Sampaguita Dorm Student Council, and Anakbayan. I knew early on that I have a restless soul, so joining all these organizations in a period of four years was the answer to an otherwise unexciting college life.
I took up BA in English Studies: Language which presented me the opportunity to join UP Lingua Franca in 1997. We promoted the use of the English Language and helped in the development of each member through poetry reading, quiz bees, school projects, and outreach programs. Back then, the UPLF tambayan was located at the FC exit near the UP Katag Canteen and most of my cherished times were those when the members would hang around during our free time and share tips about our lessons, our dreams, current events, important issues, or even the mundane events of that day.
If English Language was the focus in UPLF, my other organization, UP Ibalon, a sociopolitical group, has its eyes on Bicol. We regularly had educational discussions on the important matters in the Philippine society, with invited guests as our speakers. When there were calamities in Bicol, we pitched in our resources to send help. We also held the annual Padunungan in a chosen university in Bicol, where representatives from various high schools all over Region V participated in different categories: essay writing, poster-making, cultural presentation, t-shirt printing, etc. I held the post as the theme committee head in one Padunungan. The focus that year was the coconut industry in Bicol and the plight of the Bicolano farmers. It was a great learning experience for me. We also spent nights at the Sunken garden gazing at the stars, singing songs and was active during UP Fairs, as we took turns tending to our booth.
To nourish my spiritual growth, I joined UPD Navigators. We held weekly meetings at the Ipil Dormitory, which is only five minutes away on foot from the Kalayaan dormitory. As a Navigator, we nurtured one another’s spirituality. Every meeting was spent on asking how each member was doing, on discussing a biblical passage, and on sharing experiences related to it. One activity that I wouldn’t forget was when we went around the UP campus on foot one fine afternoon and prayed aloud in front of some buildings. We prayed for the building and its occupants, the students and the employees. It was a heartwarming experience, one that I couldn’t have done alone.
In the meantime, I found the perfect venue to explore my love for music by joining the UP Parish Choir. I was part of the alto group. I was led to this organization because in Pook Hernandez, where my boarding house is located when I was a sophomore, I got to know the members who were mostly teenagers or young professionals. Most of my board mates (who included my older sister Lorilyn) joined. We practiced in the UP chapel twice a week. At times, I was tired and had plenty to do but it was alright; I had a crush on our choir conductor. We sang during the Sunday mass. During special religious events, we sang twice a day. We also held charity concerts. During the times that practice time exceeded the time for the Ikot jeep’s operation, we walked from the UP Chapel to Pook Hernandez (situated across Krus na Ligas) and told funny stories along the way. Then we laughed till our tummies ached, our laughter echoing in the quiet campus. Those moments were priceless.
Three out of my four years as an undergrad was spent in the dormitory. And of course, I wasn’t contented just being an ordinary dormer. I joined the Academic Committee (under the Student Council) of both Kalayaan and Sampaguita Dormitories. As the committee head, I was in charge of implementing activities that would help the dormers in academics. Working on a limited budget, together with my committee members, we made sure that a newspaper was delivered to the dorm. We also helped in organizing talks during dorm events. My involvement in other organizations was helpful since it was easier to find speakers. As the Academic Committee head of Sampaguita, I saw the sad condition of the dorm library. It was located at the basement, it smelled musty, it had a few books and it had an eerie atmosphere (though I still went there several times). I remember my former boardmate, Rutchelle, who donated half of her novel collection because I told her the state of the library, and because she was leaving the boarding house (in Pook Hernandez). I stamped each novel, placed them in neat boxes and posted a note: To the dormers, you may borrow from these but please return so others may be able to read them too. Guess what? Only a few novels were left. But I was glad somehow that dormers visited the library.
With regard to my Anakbayan experience, I was led to the organization because, since the UP Ibalon tambayan was then located at Vinzon’s Hall, I bumped into some Anakbayan members. My first taste of joining the rally was thrilling. Then we had educational discussions of important issues. We had plenty of activities. I had the chance to climb the Payatas mountain and know the meaning of pagpag (though I didn’t try to eat it) during our outreach program there. I had the chance to brush elbows with farmers and workers and talk to them about their concerns. I even exchanged correspondence with the head of the Kagawaran ng Magsasaka (Albay chapter) for sometime, although my subsequent letters were returned to the dorm after the group changed their office address. I learned by heart songs like “Wala nang tao sa Sta. Filomena,” “Kanlungan,” etc.
With the so many organizations I joined, did I still learn? Did my academics suffer? Why didn’t I stick to a few organizations? Why didn’t I strive to be one of the top officers so I could have done more? Was I really not a “powerless and directionless dry leaf” or did my involvement in too many organizations made me just that– “a dry leaf” not really knowing where to belong?
Well, I have pondered on these questions not a few times. At some points, I think I would have excelled more or graduated with honors if I focused on my studies. I would have been more financially stable if I worked while studying. I would have been more academically advanced if I attended seminars and collected as many certificates as I could. But I was on a quest. I entered UP without any school mate from my high school in Albay, so I was practically all by myself. I was on the road to self-discovery. I wanted to find out where I fit, what I could do. I have a potpourri of interests, which one area of learning cannot quench. And I am thankful to the University for offering me the opportunity to join organizations, meet wonderful people and develop myself.
I was again presented with the opportunity to join an organization, Universitas when I attended the seminar as a graduate student in UP in 2006. It was entitled “The Art of Work: Secrets of Highly Effective Professionals,” which was offered to scholars for free. I didn’t however, become active in that organization due to my work schedule.
Now, I am teaching in college, in a speech center, and in an entrance exam review center as an English teacher. I am also currently holding the position as the president of the UP Manila Toastmasters Club, my only organization as a professional, in which I joined in 2010. I have learned my lessons, both in my field as an English teacher and in organizations by having focus, after all. Still, my quest continues.