Defend the Weakest

by Bernard Karganilla
Originally published on Malaya, Wednesday, 20 March 2013 23:00
Reposted here with permission from author

‘It’s unforgivable that she was not shown compassion. It’s unforgivable if her death would be for nothing. It’s unforgivable that all she wanted was to be educated, for it is the only way out of their poverty – yet the cost was too much.’

ALLOW us to grieve.

We, among the captives, stirring in the profound abyss of apathy and elitist profanation, attempt to discharge our prophetic office. In our prophecies of sadness, which are despised by the vain, we call to mind the example of Andres Bonifacio, Pangulo ng Republika ng Haringbayang Katagalugan, who was orphaned and poor yet deserving of quality public education.

As we eat our bread in pain and with trembling, we notice a timeline crafted by UP Manila alumnus Juan Alvin Tiamson:

A university student commits suicide for inability to pay tuition.

Everyone is shocked. Media becomes busy.

University officials make excuses and issue statements.

The student is buried.

Time passes. Everyone forgets about it.

No changes on tuition fee rules are made.

Tuition fees are increased, as usual.

A student cannot pay tuition on time again.

The student and the parents make a plea, but are turned down again.

Back to A.

As we drink our water in humility and desolation, we are reminded of Apolinario Mabini, who was a working student and the prime minister of the Malolos Republic, exhorting his countrymen: “Thou shalt cultivate the special gifts which God has granted thee, working and studying according to thy ability, never leaving the path of righteousness and justice, in order to attain thy own perfection, by means whereof thou shalt contribute to the progress of humanity; thus; thou shalt fulfill the mission to which God has appointed thee in this life and by so doing, thou shalt be honored, and being honored, thou shalt glorify thy God.” [Decalogue for Filipinos]

As we suffer through the violence of the mighty and high who dwell in arrogance and greed, we share the poems written by the teachers of Kristel Tejada:

Ngayong wala ka na sa mabangis na mundong ito

Wala ng lungkot, sama ng loob at di puwedeng mag-enrol

Sana’y makamit mo na ang walang hanggang katahimikan

Sana’y hindi na masundan ang sinapit mo

Prof. Mary Jane Bolunia

Sa buhay na inagaw

Nagsilbing pamukaw

Iskolar ng bayan at mamamayan

Ngayon mga mata

Nakatuon sa makabagong reporma

Dr. Jocelyn Del Mundo

Mahirap ikulong sa mga salita ang damdaming nagpupuyos

Sa pagpanaw mo, tulad mo’y rosas, malagas man ay di kukupas,

Alaala mo’y di malilimot, sa puso ay inuukit

Sa iyong paglisan, sambayanan ay lumuha,

Kaya’y tagumpay na nakamit, iaalay sa iyong gunita

Prof. Andrea Martinez

As we observe the season of Lent, we read of the homily that Pope Francis gave during the Mass inaugurating his Petrine ministry, warning that “whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and our hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are ‘Herods’ who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.”

As we conclude the second semester of another academic year in the Philippines, we chance upon the notes posted by UP Manila alumnus Edgardo Vasquez on his Facebook page:

“Unforgivable is the tragedy that befell my schoolmate. I am very passionate about it because like her, I come from a poor family and barely got by everyday.”

“I worked as a student assistant where I could get paid P25/hour, and depending on the job order, it could be 75 hours only or a maximum of 100 hours. Still, this was not enough. What made it harder was it wasn’t paid timely because of red tape.”

“I would eat only at night, because it’s the only time this one place opens, where I could get a meal of daingsilog at P25. The following day, I would get through the day from a pack or 2 of skyflakes. No wonder I was so thin then!”

“My mother was still by my side. Times were so hard that, one time, she met me in one fastfood joint on Faura, handed over the only money she has come up with – 300 pesos. As we both haven’t eaten yet, we just used the money for lunch and whatever’s left, I saved for the following day’s meals. That was only one of the gripping memories I had, when I was still in UPM.”

“The bottom line is, I can relate to the kid’s hardships. I am pretty sure that there are more students in the same situation. It’s unforgivable that she did not have the opportunities I had, or the opportunity of being helped by those willing to, in the right time and not a little too late. It’s unforgivable that the system drove her to take her own life – ironically, as payment for her right to education. It’s unforgivable that she was denied to her right – which was not for her to pay for in the first place. Rights are guaranteed and not bought nor paid for. It’s unforgivable that she was not shown compassion. It’s unforgivable if her death would be for nothing. It’s unforgivable that all she wanted was to be educated, for it is the only way out of their poverty – yet the cost was too much.”

Kristel, nawa’y ang katawang namayapa’y

Magbunga ng makabuluhang pagbabago

Dr. Nymia Simbulan