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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, January 11, 2017
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Twinkling
with Ninfa Leonardia
OPINIONS

Want to go to UP?

Ninfa Leonardia Those who jeered at the stubbornness of Black Nazarene devotees, who refused to back out despite reports of bombs and other threats before the more than day-long procession on Monday in Manila, are now probably shaking their heads in disbelief. Because the faith of those who braved the activity seemed even greater than that of the ones who attended last year. Who can equal such faith and trust in the protection of their Lord?

***

Of course we credit the police and other law enforcement units for their scrutiny of the crowds and the participants individually. The disclosure of police measures being taken also helped, as it may have discouraged anyone with evil intent. Those were very beautiful and telling photos published in the national dailies showing how closely packed were the participants. I'm sure nobody could see his own feet as they trudged along. By the way, most of the devotees were said to be barefoot, as part of the mortification.

***

It was quite accurate to call the crowd a “sea of humanity”. Or maybe it should be “Christianity, instead? Meanwhile, several of the participants – who, I noted consisted of more males and females – wore shirts with the words “Thou shalt not kill” printed on them. Was President Digong watching? And was it not at about the same time that he was also threatening to kill mayors who are protecting drug lords or traders? He even said he does not mind going down in history as “The Butcher”. And in his talk to the mayors, he also said, as quoted by the Inquirer: “Since I have nothing to show, I just use extra judicial killing. (That's because) I have no credentials to boast about”. But the article prefaced that with the words “in jest”.

***

I hope it does not bother the president that, whenever he is not seen for some time, his people have to explain that he was not sick, or that he was only resting. Maybe he should let his doctors be the ones to declare that, because those who do it often do not sound very credible. We know that he has admitted to what ailments he suffers from, but, obviously, if you are a president, your people get concerned when they don't see you all the time. I guess that is part of the “territory” as punsters would say.

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A columnist in the Manila Bulletin, Tonyo Cruz, wrote about banning rich people from the University of the Philippines. I am sure he will get a lot of feedback, both from UP students and graduates, and people who had hoped to study there and were not able to. It is sad to think of the latter, because, isn't it true that the UP was supposedly established to give the poor and underprivileged students an opportunity to acquire the best education? At the time it was established, there were already several private colleges and universities with very high standards, but also with fees unreachable to the poor.

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I have taken some journalism subjects in UP and, indeed, learned a lot from such noted practitioners as the late Rodolfo Reyes and Armando Malay, and Amando Doronila who continues to write a column up to this day. It was a beautiful experience that I wish a lot more would-be writers could undergo. But then I heard that many were turned off because the fees, especially nowadays, are too high – imagine P1,500 per unit! So where is the concern for the poor there?

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When you go to the UP campus nowadays, you will see the parking areas almost always full of cars driven by students themselves. I can recall a family experience that seemed to prove the “exclusivity” of the school. One of my nephews took up Pharmacy as preparation for medicine, and passed the board at second place. But when he tried to enroll for Medicines, he was told the enrolment for that year was already full. I called up a Negrense friend, who used to be an official there and he sadly told me that most of those allowed to Medicine or Law were relatives of officials or professors.

***

Fortunately I was introduced to Senator Sonny Osmeña at a session of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters by Nene (Enrique) Rojas, and I quickly poured out my problem to him. What a turn of luck that was, because Osmeña turned out to be head of the committee on finance for the UP then! To make a long story short, my nephew graduated from Medicine there, passed the board exam, and was offered a grant in the University of Heidelberg, Germany, where he delivered the valedictory address and now represents that country's projects in Asia. And that's my postscript to the column of Tonyo Cruz.*

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