BROWSING through the pages of an Inquirer issue dated June 20 to monitor stories on inflation, the NBA finals as well as Ces Drilon’s post-Abu Sayyaf ordeal, I chanced upon an opinion letter written by Noli N. Reyes, a professor at the Institute of Mathematics of the University of the Philippines-Diliman which led me to rethink the options I have initially listed above as prospective fillers for this rhetoric bun on paper.

Frankly, I could have easily aced this monthly writing exercise by simply bombarding these “newsy” templates with both eclectic and eccentric musings ‘til reality scoops me out of my thinking chair. This, after all, is a world lost in reflection, to economize old Plato’s “Republican” (the book, not Dubya’s party) lamentations.

As such was the case of the dirgic undertone engulfing Reyes’ letter which began with the gripping lines: “on the third day of classes in the hundredth year of the University of the Philippines, a Diliman freshman from Cotabato, a Chemistry major, had to drop out. Together with his father, the brokenhearted young man went to see each of his instructors to have his subjects invalidated.”

The reason obviously has something to do with money and the father’s inability to raise the amount needed to finance the schooling of his son at Diliman.

Adding insult to injury was the fact that the hard-luck kid’s father expected his son to land in Bracket D of the State U’s socialized tuition fee scheme whose beneficiaries coming from a family with an annual gross income of P 80, 001 to P 135,000 pay only P 300 per unit.

But no thanks to some mysterious, nay reckless taxonomical gaffe committed by some UP officials in assessing the financial stamina of the young man’s provincial family, the father was aghast to learn that his son was classified in Bracket C where students belonging to such demographic shell out more, given their parents’ pooled annual net of P 135, 001 to P 500, 000.

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Erotica bared

Pouncing on the frustrated Iskolar ng Bayan’s misfortune automatically led me to hypothesize and ask: what if that poor man’s son happened to have a “luckier” alter ego among Thomasians – who could have been well-off in the past but is right now on the verge of munching his last cracker before the teller’s dockets, just to finish a degree for as long as he could duck the everyday onslaughts of economic pick-pockets saliviating by the wayside, waiting to snatch his near-empty purse?

Determined to continue schooling despite a girdled pouch, our Thomasian prototype, to some extent, may have been fortunate enough to know outrightly from Day 1 that he is not entitled to a “subsidized” future because in a way he won’t be sucked into the labyrinth of complacency and expectation where the Minotaur of disappointment and dejection could just be too powerful a spoiler for his emotions to handle.

Well, our Thomasian “iskolar” could apply in several scholarship programs being offered by the University where (depending on the faculties lend by heaven) he can be an academic, athletic, equity or working scholar for as long as he can satisfy one condition: maintain an outstanding, or at least a satisfactory academic standing. (Gauging the academic soundness of a scholar to deserve such grant however is another story).

Yet what if our incidental scholar suddenly losses the heart to rebel against insecurity, pressure, and hopelessness amid, say, a crowd of foot-mouthed blockmates feeding the egos of their dung-head companions while the rest of the world haplessly scramble for tatters at their feet. Can he survive this classroom-type Hobbessian state of nature, so to speak, where vanity is the cup of tea that greases all cutthroat discussions? He could or he could not. Willpower after all is civilized endurance.

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Spiritual makeover

How then do we regard this everyday plot? Cryptic? Tragic? Scandalous? Obnoxious? Damnable? Unbearable? You decide, then describe – no – feel the scenic ramifications. Familiar? Let me unload an example.

Two years ago, I read an article in one of this paper’s graduation issues which blared with the disturbing lead “Pinag-aaral lang kita.” The context of this arrogant statement gravitated on the bitter-sweet experience of a working scholar while rendering parochial service to the Central Library.

For all intents and purposes, allow me to wield the cudgels for this poor lady by saying that whoever owns that Lilliputian brain with a mammoth bragadoccio deserves some verbal spanking for finding the gall to spew such indecent remark. The world isn’t a cash scale designed to tilt invariably in favor of the brat pack.

This misbehaving bastard’s action is just one of the few manifestations of an overzealous consumerist society governed by a freewheelingly out-of-hand market mentality which deems everyone on its path as vanity tools ready for purchase.

As in the case of the library bastard, perhaps he may have thought that the tuition he is paying the University is the same money which is being utilized to fund the scholarship of his fellow students. Wrong premise for there isn’t any such animal of that sort in the breakdown of expenses.

It is simply sanguine revenues flowing from the charitable veins of the University and its stewards that fund these scholarships, and in effect, positively “subsidizes” the future of its beneficiaries. As in the case of working scholars, the University absolves (read: tuition-fee exemption) them from pulling out bonds from their pockets during enrollment.

At this point I could just imagine what keeps that jilted UP lad – who, as Reyes narrates, was able to qualify as a freshman in the State U’s College of Science through “intelligence, pure hardwork and perseverance amid poverty,” – busy these days. Perhaps he could be helping his father till a piece of land which they don’t even own in the first place.

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The Copernicus connection

I hope that despair won’t devour him as much as it did to his fellow young Mindanaoans in the Sulu trenches, which an Inquirer editorial (from the same issue I’m browsing) describing Drilon’s abductors, quoted Sen. Loren Legarda, while recounting her negotiation with the kidnappers, as saying: “they were very young – 15 to 17 years old. They cannot talk at length, they are not communicative and they have not been schooled.”

Unlike these so-called Abu Sayyaf children, who have already taken the mantle from their fathers, the UP “reject” wants himself schooled further. Others just simply don’t – or stupidly pretending not to – get his point.

***

SLAP ON THE NAPE. As of this writing, a Standard Today article reported that the Sulpicio Lines management has slapped the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Service Administration (Pagasa) a P3.45-million suit for cascading wrong information to them regarding the whereabouts of typhoon “Frank” who, unbeknownst to them, was already a few spins away from battering head-on the now-sunken M/V Princess of the Stars while traversing the Sibuyan coastline.

To writ matters in blasphemous proportions, the Sulpicio owners even blamed God for the “misfortune” that betide the victims of the tragedy.

Since I am yet to get over discussing, even hypothesizing, about scholars and scholarships at this juncture, methinks that the ever charitable Almighty is just and reasonable enough to look at the moral plight and ignorance afflicting the Sulpicio owners.

He may perhaps grant the Sulpicio owners a scholarship package fit for their kind, complete with unlimited board and lodging benefits plus a fork-bearing creature as mentor in a sprawling campus of brimstone and fire…

…Graduations not included.

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