CLASH of the titans or clash of egos?

More like the clash of show-biz wanna-be’s.

On an ordinary Monday last January, College of Commerce freshman Liberty Cordoviz was rushing to her morning class, but to her dismay, a large crowd of students slowed her down from getting to class on time.

What was causing the ruckus?

Several larger-than-life tarpaulin panels showing the candidates of the Mr. and Ms. Ideal Artlets Personality and the Commerce Idol contests.

“I got irritated after seeing what it was all about—tarpaulins,” Cordoviz said.

She explained that the students were crowding around the 20 giant panels from Artlets and the 10 from Commerce, ogling at the portraits of the candidates styled like show-biz celebrities.

The panels were so large they dwarfed the already tight lobby, often congested by students milling around and rushing in and out of the building that is occupied by two of the University’s biggest colleges.

Winners of the contests get the right to represent Artlets and Commerce in the Mr. and Ms. Ideal Thomasian Personality.

The two exhibits not only raised tempers; they also raised questions about whether the beauty contests, euphemistically called “personality development contests,” have any place in the academe.

“All throughout the year and even during AB Week, AB students cannot feel the presence of their student council,” Journalism senior Estrella Daza said. “But come Mr. and Ms. AB, and you’ll be astonished at how involved they are, how show-bizzy AB’s student leaders are.”

AB Student Council president Milfen Alvarado said that the tarpaulin showcases had the permission of the dean’s offices of Arts and Letters and Commerce.

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“We secured our permits well, and we did not know Commerce Idol would be running simultaneously with (the Artlets contest). They actually had larger tarpaulins and were scheduled to use the lobby right after us,” Alvarado said. “Even though the 20 tarpaulins we set up were big, we made sure the budget we used was only minimal. That’s where our sponsors came in.”

Adelina Alonzo, president of the Commerce Pax Romana, the organizer of Commerce Idol, said that they had also secured the proper permits for the exhibit. She added proceeds of the event would go to charity.

“We actually waited for (Artlets’) tarpaulins to be pulled out before we used the panels reserved for us,” Alonzo said. “Financially, the project was not that costly. Our sponsor shouldered most of the expenses while the proceeds we got from the ticket sales will be used for our outreach.”

‘Stalinist’

Ironically, a few days before the Commerce tarpaulins joined the Artlets panels in the lobby, Daza’s journalism professor was making a wry comment to her classmate, Ericson Penalba, Mr. Journalism, about the Artlets tarpaulins.

“They’re so huge, they’re Stalinist,” the professor told Penalba and the Journalism students. He explained that the portraits of the contest through the years had tended to increase in size, and such a phenomenon had been predicted by the Canadian media guru, Marshall McLuhan, way back in the 1960’s.

“McLuhan said that because of the low resolution of the electronic medium, people would tend to be more involved in the medium but would find themselves inadequately satisfied,” the professor said. “So they would tend to elevate themselves to celebrityhood, making of themselves idols. And what you have downstairs in the lobby is idol worship. It’s people wanting to elevate themselves to show-biz status. It’s another form of pornography.”

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The professor predicted: “Watch out. Sooner or later, the tarpaulins will become bigger—and more pornographic.”

Days later, Commerce displayed its tarpaulins, which were even bigger than Artlets’.

Both Alvarado and Alonzo said it was only fitting to use large tarpaulins so as to drum up interest for their contests, but some of their own contestants thought otherwise.

“We were already told that our photos would be printed in large tarpaulins, but when they were placed on display, we did not expect it to be that big,” Ms. Legal Management Kimverly Ong said. “I have to admit, the tarpaulins were quite extravagant.”

Alonzo defended Commerce Idol and said that it was more than just a talent contest.

“Commerce Idol is not just a talent and beauty contest,” Alonzo said. “Part of the qualifications we look for are (the contestants’) academic merits and good moral character. They are not just ideal because they look good or they sing well; we chose them to serve as idols to fellow students.”

In a dialogue between academic officials and student leaders last Feb. 19 at the Tan Yan Kee Bldg., Artlets Dean Armando De Jesus and Commerce Dean Helena Ma. Cabrera told the Varsitarian that they permitted both organizations to put up the exhibits, but they were not informed about the size of the tarpaulins.

“I myself was shocked on how big the tarpaulins were,” Cabrera said. “It did take too much space in the lobby.”

This year’s Mr. and Ms. Ideal Thomasian Personality concluded with Mr. Pharmacy, Bryan Christian Ilagan, and Ms. Nursing, Maria Beatriz Borlaza, winning the crown. Marc Laurenze C. Celis

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