It’s a MMM World!

In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals. From the most primitive cultures to the most advanced civilizations, man has had to manufacture things; his well-being depends on his success at production. The lowest human tribe cannot survive without that alleged source of pollution: fire.— Ayn Rand

Students from the University of the Philippines Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering (UP-DMMME) were in Mindanao on 17-25 October, on a roadshow to introduce their respective courses to junior and senior high school students. They visited a number of public and private high schools in Davao, General Santos and Koronadal to encourage every high school student they meet to invest in a career either as a Mining Engineer, Metallurgical Engineer or Materials Engineer – by taking the next UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) which is set every year in August, and ticking any of the three mentioned courses as the preferred academic program.

A few members of the Soccsksargen Bloggers fortunately had the chance to meet with them over dinner as they made their pitch to us bloggers.  Listening to them would make one realize that indeed, we owe many of the comforts of modern lifestyle to MMM (triple M as they are called in UP). Every little thing we have – from kitchen utensils to electronic gadgets, toilet fixtures to transportation, food processing to medicine to green energy- are all products of, or influenced by an engineering that unfortunately not everyone is familiar with. The MMM roadshow did well in introducing their courses and at the same time, in conveying that what cannot be grown must have been mined (Lesson #1).

In a nutshell, mining engineers plan and design the safe and efficient extraction and processing of minerals, and process it for additional value. Metallurgical engineers would be involved in the processing of ores and refining or fabrication of metals. Materials engineers on the other hand, develops new materials by combining metals with other materials.

It is timely that college students reach out to their high school peers to quell some negative image of mining as often portrayed in and quite lopsidedly by mass media. Lesson #2: not everything you see, read or hear is entirely true.

By talking to high school students, they have presented an interesting perspective on one of the hottest topics today- mining. What better way to understand the industry and the profession than hearing it firsthand from these young apprentices. Lesson #3: in searching for the truth, it wouldn’t hurt to ask first the opinion of specialists.

It was important that the roadshow was held in Mindanao. As a US Intelligence Report was quoted in this news item, Mindanao’s mineral endowment can be as much as one trillion USD. By inviting young people from Mindanao to take up MMM engineering courses, it suggests that locals would not only benefit from a mining boom, but more importantly, it is an invitation for them to become responsible for the future of mining activities in their own land. Mining is as much about unlocking a potential and unleashing opportunities as building partnerships and committing to shared responsibilities. We often hear the saying ‘it takes a community to raise a child’. Similarly, it takes a community to build, operate and close a mine (Lesson #4).

The roadshow ends with a challenge to the high school audience. Mineral wealth is like a person’s talent. It should be developed and utilized; otherwise it will remain as unused potential and it would then become a total waste. As they say, we have to cash in on what we have and use the money to improve our lot, and that of the generation after us.

Whatever career path those high school students will eventually choose, or course that they take up in college, it is important that they start investing in themselves. Not only by studying hard or passing college admission exams but also by involving themselves in discussions that will affect and shape their future.  Lesson #5: the real gold mine is in each of us.

Cast of characters: John Carlo Dela Cruz (Mining), Patricia Aina Louise Tan (Mining), Ariane Barranco (Metallurgical) and Kiboy Tabada (Materials). Students from UP National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS) Jolly Joyce Sulapas and Nichole Pada also formed part of the team to provide context of the Philippines’ geological landscape and natural wealth. The team was accompanied by Mining Engineer and faculty adviser Juan Fidel Calaywan.


UP Releases List of UPCAT 2010 Qualifiers

The University of the Philippines released today the results of the UP College Admission Test for incoming freshmen of AY 2011- 2012.

Check the link for the complete list of qualifiers.  Mirror sites are also available here or here.

Congratulations to all the UPCAT passers.  May you make the right choice in embracing UP as your source of knowledge, wisdom, power, passion and compassion.  A UP student is both a scholar and an activist, a student and a change maker, a learner and creator of knowledge.  He builds yet he also destroys.  May you find your place in the University and in the world and may that place allow you to reap benefits for the people whom you will be sworn to serve.

Hopefully, a good number of students from Mindanao have made it to the UP.

What was UP like a decade ago?  Check out my reflections on UP 13 Years After.  Click the link here for Part 2.

13 Years After (Part 2)

Here’s to continue with my Top 13 things that made UP different from what it was 13 years before:

5.      Chainsaw Massacre

Narra is our national tree, known for its sturdy wood that can survive the elements.  But there’s one Narra that didn’t quite make it.  Two or three years ago, smart people in the UP administration closed down Narra, the dorm under the pretense of its weak structure and asbestos ceiling.  To emphasize further that it is no longer safe as a living quarter, a fire gutted out one of its wings.

Narra’s closure is similar to wiping out an entire community.  It is genocidal.  Narra is both witness and participant in the making of hictoric events in campus.  It has not only provided shelter to many student leaders and scholars, it has provided the cheapest decent shelter.  Without Narra, poor students would find it a lot more difficult to survive in campus.

4.      SAMASA Wala Na

Of my four years in UP, the student political alliance SAMASA dominated the University Student Council for three years with chairpersons Ibarra Gutierrez (1996), Percival Cendaña (1997) and Cielo Magno (1999) at the helm.  SAMASA’s candidate for chair during the 1998 elections was disqualified due to some unmet academic requirements but nonetheless, the council then, as far as I can remember, was dominantly SAMASA.  In a somewhat unfortunate twist of fate, the alliance disbanded in the early 2000s, halting a tradition of enlightened activism that created a great contrast then with the other student alliances of either red (true left) or yellow (as in shallow).  SAMASA was carrying the orange banner, fierce but reasonable; creative and open-minded; scholar and activist.

3.      Ayala Technohub


In 1996, I joined a protest march from UP to Malacañang to condemn the mixed-used development of one of UP’s idle properties:  the Commonwealth Property Development Project.  Today, the Ayala Technopark stands there hosting business process outsourcing firms, laboratories for start-ups and commercial establishments.  Whether this is a form of commercialization of education or a manifestation of the government’s tacit withrawal of responsibility in providing free higher education or UP’s enterprising solution to be financially independent from state budget and state politicians, I do not have the answer.  Let history be the judge.

2.      Ikot

Ikot are jeepneys that shuttle UP populace around the campus.  In my freshman year, fare was at P1.25.  Today, one has to shell out P6.00 to get around the campus.  That’s another reason why walking should be embraced as a preferred mode for getting around.  Unabated oil price hikes and subsequent fare increases of public transport are symptomatic of a failed policy of deregulating the downstream oil industry, enacted into law in 1998.

Eheads on top of UP Ikot

Eheads on top of UP Ikot


1.      RGEP

The most dramatic change in UP education system  is the adoption of the Revitalized General Education Program IN 2002.  Its precursor, the then General Education Program (GEP) laid down the meaning of a UP Education:  “to cultivate a capacity for independent, critical and creative thinking, and to infuse a passion for learning with a high sense of moral and intellectual integrity. This is the liberal arts education that makes the U.P. student a well-rounded person and ready for lifelong learning skills.”  All UP students therefore, in their first two years in UP, share a common core of multidisciplinary courses- Arts and Humanities,  Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Social Sciences- that serves as the building blocks for eventually choosing one’s own specialization.

Today, the noble objectives remain the same.  But the process has been dramatically modified.  In the spirit of liberalized education, students are given free choice to pick the subjects of their own choosing from three prescribed domains:  Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and Mathematics, Sciences and Technology.  The RGEP is summarized thus as “the entire R.G.E.P.’s freedom of choice concept aims at infusing a passion for learning among students as they are expected to respond more eagerly to courses they choose instead of courses they have no interest and required to take.”

Interestingly, students have become motivated not to expand their passion for learning but to only choose courses that are either sexy or easy.  The free market of ideas is distorted by inept faculty handling some courses,  and the students’ insatiable thirst not for real knowledge but for high grades.

To end this trip down memory lane, I must say that UP has indeed changed during the last decade- some changes were unfortunate and quite restrictive of the freedom once felt by the people in the university:  gates and tight security, UP ID, billboards, closure of Narra, tuition fee increase, etc.  The other changes are quite progressive:  carless oval,  bike lane, expanded ROTC, and oh, I forgot to mention this but the Maninindas  are now prohibited to sell cigarettes inside the campus.

The remaining changes that I’ve mentioned particularly RGEP and UP-Ayala Technohub can only be judged by history as to whether these are steps forward or backward.

UP in the last 13 years shares the lot of the last lost decade of this sad republic:  one step forward…and downward.

Part 1 here

13 Years After

96-43101.  That was the student number issued to me when I was admitted to the University of the Philippines in 1996, as the first two digits of my student ID number declares.  To most UP students, the student number means so many things.  It could define one’s existence in the university, where a student will be reduced to a hyphenated 7-digit number and lose  one’s self in the process.   Quite literally.  The student number can also be a clue of one’s age in the campus, as if it matters, when you are seated in between 86-72142 and 97-58464 in an auditorium listening to the same instructor who have handled and will handle the same class in the last/next 20 years.  Let me just say that the point is, whether you are an aging dinosaur or a blossoming embryo, age does not matter in the realm of ideas.

Three years and one decade later, crossing both a millenia and a centenary celebration, I’d like to share with you my thoughts and observations of the many changes that has happened to UP since that innocent day of June 1996, when I first set foot to the welcoming embrace of the University of the Philippines.

13.  Waiting Sheds

Gone are the wooden waiting sheds of yesteryears that served not only as queuing area for campus jeepney passengers but also, and I guess most importantly, as a mouthpiece to the various and varying voices of the people in the university.  I refer to the bulletin boards in all of the sheds before where enterprising (Wanted Bedspacer), agitating (Ibagsak US-Ramos Rehimen) and inviting (Join UP Student Coop) messages are posted on top of each other creating a visual collage of voices that shouts the dominant political, social, educational and cultural activities of the day.  The bulletin board connects the people of the university on those days.  People were scrambling for its every free but limited space.  To me, the bulletin boards were a visual feast; it was such a delight to see them change its face everyday as it tells the people of the university of the happenings in and out of the campus.  Now these sheds with boards are replaced with steel and iron structures but without the boards.  These are sheds without a mouth.  Waiting in the shed would never be noisy again.

12.  Carless Oval and Bike Lane

The erstwhile 2-way Academic Oval is now a single lane running counter clockwise.  Its innermost lane is the designated Bike Lane.  On weekends, motorized vehicles are prohibited in the oval.  In its lieu, families and wellness enthusiasts abound in the oval.

Some sectors of the universty, notably the jeepney drivers and students, are complaining about this scheme, as it has taken them a longer time to complete a single trip.  But to me, this is one big bold step in not only promoting walking and maintaining open spaces in the campus, but also in eliminating noise inside the campus.

For whatever it is worth, I’m sure they will soon find the most efficient route for the jeepneys.  Meanwhile, let every one walk his way around the campus.

11.   Blackhawks Down 

This generation of male students must be thankful that the compulsory military training under the ROTC is now a thing of the past.  UP ROTC was the only tolerated fascist organization in the university then.  It is a good thing that it has already evolved into something more relevant to the times.

10.   Enemy at the Gates

UP is the university of the people, that is why the campus should be open and accessible to all.  But in my recent visit, I’ve noticed that some amount of taxpayers money was used to enclose the campus with security gates, making access impossible to passing motorists and visitors.  Even the once welcoming University Avenue now looks like a crime scene with all the secuirty signs and police lines that they’ve put up in the checkpoint.

9.      Instant Noodles

In the past, the Manininda in campus, the small cart-type ones at least, only sell fishballs, kikiam and squidballs.  Before I left the university, quail eggs was added to their menu.  A few years later, cheese sticks.  Today, the fishball carts near Vinzons Hall sell all kinds of instant noodles.  Like the rest of the impoverished people who thrive in instant noodles as complete meal, it seems that students of UP are also in to it.  With the closure of Narra, my guess is that students are having a hard time finding inexpensive meals inside the campus.  Where is Mang Bogs and his Aristo-cart?

8.      New Buildings

College of Social Works and Community Development transferred to its new building while the School of Statistics now occupied the old CSWCD building.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the Office of the Registrar has a new building too.  Although I haven’t been to its new home, the College of Architecture reportedly have a state-of-the-art edifice erected near College of Arts and Letters Building.

That’s three new buildings in thirteen years.  Who’s complaining?  As of last count, DepEd needs 10,000 new classrooms.  In the rest of the country, grade school pupils are either cramped inside a small classroom or sundried under an acacia tree.

7.      ID

When I was in UP last year, I noticed that students have begun wearing IDs around their neck.  I thought of visiting my college but unfortunately, I was not able to pass through the guard bacause I was not carrying a valid UP student ID.  What’s next, a school uniform?

6.      TFI

In my whole four years in UP, tuition fee was fixed at P300 per unit.  That was the cost of tuition since UP witnessed a tuition fee increase (TFI) in 1989, the year when the  bastardized Socialized Tuition Fee and Assistance  Program (STFAP) was introduced.    Before STFAP, tuition was I think (am not sure about this) P80 per unit.

On December 2006, TFI showed its ugly face again by raising tuition to P1,000 per unit.

(To be continued)

Part 2 here