Friday, October 19, 2007

Summarizing College Chapter 1: Transfer Galore

On the month of April 2002 my world crashed. High School graduation was near and I’ve just received a rejection letter. Well it wasn’t really a rejection letter to begin with. It was a letter in a green envelope from a university in Taft Avenue, Manila saying that my scholarship application had been disapproved. I qualified for their financial assistance program but it turned out that there were other freshmen that needed the financial help more than I did. The UPD rejection letter already arrived two months before. Now that was the real rejection letter to the tune of “We are sorry that your UPG didn’t make it to the cutoff of the Diliman campus, blablabla.”
I had no other choice. Just a month to go and the next school year would begin. I only did apply for admission in two universities. I was and maybe to some extent still am a frustrated Green Archer. I wasn’t really a Fighting Maroon wannabe; just happened that the tuition fee was affordable and so I applied. Never did I aspire to be a Blue Eagle. Not only is their tuition fee obscenely high but there campus is also far from home. It was “Go Green Archers! Animo La Salle!” from the very beginning. That didn’t happen and I’m just glad it didn’t.
It turned out fate had a different plan for me but I would not realize it until a year after. And so you might ask, “Where did I spend my first year of college?” The answer is simple, in the building across my high school building. At first it seemed like déjà vu but when I finally realized that I wasn’t dreaming I found myself in that building wearing a St. Benedict College – CAS uniform. Hello San Beda Alabang. Welcome one of your most loyal students ever!
Of the eleven cousins in the family including myself, 8 of us spent our elementary and high school days in a school in Alabang Hills called St. Benedict College which was formerly known as the Benedictine Abbey School but now known as San Beda College Alabang. If there ever is a school whose hobby is changing names then this would be it. That’s why when you ask the older cousins in the family where they studied they would tell you Benedictine Abbey School (BAS). When you ask our generation we would tell you St. Benedict College (SBC). And when you ask the last cousin to graduate in that school he will tell you San Beda College Alabang (Tama ba, Gino?)
Why did I not like to spend college at SBC – CAS? I could give you a couple of reasons that you would easily understand. In 2003 I have already spent a total of 11 years in Alabang Hills. When I was in PREP it was called the Benedictine Abbey School. My uncle would drive me and another cousin to school using that red pick-up (Yihee reminiscing...). I would cling tight on the iron railings surrounding the gates of the BAS preschool just so my uncle would not leave me. The teachers, with the help of the ever reliable guard, would have to use pliers to get my hands off the railing so I could finally attend class (Okay, the pliers part was a joke) after which I would cry like there is no tomorrow. Surprise, surprise! I hated school. I bet you never thought I did. Well, surprise. And so that is reason number one. Hello, 11 years and 4 more? Ano ito loyalty award? In that one year in SBC-CAS I did not take the school bus because it was so “high school” but it would have been more convenient for me if I did. The “college” feel wasn’t there.  I felt that it was high school all over again, just in another building.
Reason number two is also simple. I did not like the way some of the courses were handled. I specifically have one IT instructor in mind who just did not have the authority figure. Once the students asked him, “Sir i-dismiss niyo na kami, McDonald’s na lang tayo!” and he did. Of course I was happy too, McDonalds e, ALABANG TOWN CENTER na ito! Later I just realized that I didn’t like that. Of course I am not making a generalization about the whole SBC-CAS faculty. A couple of years have already passed and things could be different now. Besides, I only spent a year there so I have no right whatsoever to generalize on the competence of the faculty. Also there were subjects that I took which were handled very well and to some extent even better than the way some UPD subjects are handled. I think it just depends on the professor. It might sound ambitious of me but I wanted to transfer to Diliman, and I did.
I think I would just have to mention though that the one year I’ve spent in SBC-CAS was the best year of my life in terms of SOCIALIZING with the student population. I became part of a large group of friends in the Information Technology block. Yes, my course was IT. We went to Alabang Town Center and Festival Mall on Fridays (Friday is the SBC-CAS equivalent of a UPD Wednesday). We made fun of instructors and professors with me almost always on the lead. My social life that is in a coma right now was very much alive and kicking until I transferred to UPD. So what does this mean? Does your social life die when you enter UPD? Well not necessarily but mine did and it was my choice so no one really is to blame but myself.
When I was in my third year in high school I chose the Medical Science career track. We skeletonized cats and dissected chickens. During those times the smell of Alcogel at lunch time became a scent that eventually saved you your lunch money considering the fact that MED SCI classes were almost always near lunch time. When I ran into one of my MedSci teachers during a school procession in that one year I’ve spent at SBC-CAS she asked me, “O ano na ang course mo ngayon?” I answered Information Technology. She replied, “Di bale SCIENCE pa rin naman yun, Computer SCIENCE” and then we laughed.
I loved writing when I transferred to UPD. I erroneously associated this hobby to Journalism which finally became my course when I entered UPD. I have decided to finally transfer to Diliman. I had an unconscious feeling of rebellion against my parents deep inside me back then. Unconsciously I blamed them for what happened to my college life. Daydreaming of what could have and should have been became a past time. There was that sense of revulsion. Why can’t they enroll me at DLSU? Why should I be stuck at SBC-CAS? I was ambitious and I knew it. I had to prove a point. If they won’t find a way to get me out of SBC-CAS then I will. It was as if I was challenging my parents without them even knowing it. DLSU is no longer a possibility that time. It was UPD, then or never.
I passed all the necessary documents. My GWA at SBC-CAS was around 1.49, just enough to guarantee a passport to UPD. Of the courses open to transferees European Languages was the easiest target just to get in. One only needed a 1.5 GWA and an interview. For Journalism one needed a 1.5 and a written exam. Between an interview and a written exam I think the former is a better shot. I placed EL as my primary choice, a safe choice. Journalism was second. I took the exam. I passed. I forgot all about EL until a year after...
UPD was not the place I expected it to be. UPD had some sort of a geeky reputation. People said that students there resembled calculators. Of course that is not true unless you are in the Math building. I thought all the professors would be oldies who hated the world. I’ve encountered some of them but believe me, they are not the only members of the very large and diverse UPD faculty. The university is so... different. People don’t walk around the oval reading books or doing geeky stuff like I thought. That’s when I realized finally that UPD is UPD, the right mix of the geeky and the social. UPD is a liberated world far from SBC-CAS where students were not allowed to wear white socks, apply hair gel nor have their heads shaved. UPD was a different world of which I became part.
UPD also has its fair share of bitches who hate transferees. Before the feminists react violently let me clear it out why I singled out the female gender. In my almost four years of stay at UPD I have never encountered a male student who maligned transferees but females slandering transferees, yes. Fortunately for us we don’t get branded on the forehead with the word TRANSFEREE, giving us the luxury to blend in with the crowd and freely observe the conceited UPCAT PASSERS (as they proudly call themselves) without them noticing.
There was one of them who rabidly hated transferees. Maybe a transferee bit her or something; hence she became a rabid transferee hater. She was very vocal and even name dropped schools ranging from Assumption to San Beda. “E paano naman kasi ang tataas magbigay ng grades sa Assumption tiyaka sa ibang schools, e di siyempre tatanggapin sila rito paglipat nila.” I don’t even want to recall the litany of bull crap that she mentioned. I am just thankful that my face just had and still has a uniformly catatonic expression that hides the real emotions I feel inside. She never asked me if I was a transferee, maybe she never thought I was because if she knew I bet she wouldn’t be so vocal.
What lesson did I learn from this experience? Some UPD students see the UPCAT as a one-time examination that determines their over-all performance in their 4 or 5 years of stay in the university. They almost forget that it is just a one-time qualifying exam to get them in and that it does not automatically make them oh so supercalifragilisticexpialidociously better than the “Others” that they could just sit their asses down, badmouth transferees, and expect 1.0’s to fall down from heaven. In short these people are so conceited they think they have the license to judge the intellect of other people in relation to their passing of the UPCAT. This is the part where you smile after the slander is committed and slap the bitch with your transcript by virtue of your imagination.
Does anybody ever FAIL the UPCAT? If you fail the UPCAT then you should go back to your high school and hand out leaflets with a picture of your science teacher and a caption maligning his or her intellect. What’s my point? I think nobody ever fails the UPCAT. It is just that not everybody makes the cut to enter the UP campus of their choice. If my figures are correct 70,000+ students take the UPCAT every year and only 4,000+ are accepted. If the 66,000+ actually failed the UPCAT (as in their grades for the exam didn’t even reach 60%) then God help our high school educational system. This is what they call FAILING the UPCAT, which in my opinion is demeaning because it is not true. To cut the long story short YES I am a transferee and my 2.5 UPG didn’t make the cut but here I am doing English class with you and in the end I even got a better grade. Bitch.
Journalism was fun for the first year. The Journalism professors are brilliant specially Prof. Luis Teodoro (Yihee favorite...) I did have one problem though: I did not fare well writing straight news. The type of writing that I loved when I decided to transfer to UPD is the kind of writing that you would see in this blog. It was blog writing all along, opinion writing. In writing straight news you would do better not editorializing unless you want a file of libel cases on your desk first thing in the morning. And because in the first two years of the Journalism curriculum one can only take three Journalism courses (each one is a prerequisite of the next) then it also took me almost two years to finally decide I wanted out. What made me decide to shift out? Well, a lot of things.
On my second semester at UPD I had this classmate who was and I think still is a European Languages major. He was studying German as his major and Portuguese as his minor. When he talked about his course I listened, which is very weird considering that I don’t usually interact with anyone in the classroom unless the conversation is of real interest to me. I asked him about his plans. Back then the EL program seemed more like a joke to me. Okay, you study German and then what? When you graduate you become fluent in German, you go to Germany maybe and then what? Talk to the people there? Is that a job? It seemed like a pretty unstable career path for me. It was more like a leisure course for rich kids rather than a “real” career. For me EL was flawed as a career track but I could never deny that the idea of learning a foreign language and using it as a form of livelihood was and still is very appealing.
Halfway through my second year in UPD the family had to abruptly migrate to Malaysia. I was already thinking of transferring to EL before it happened. In fact I already made a FAILED ATTEMPT to transfer to EL. Journalism suddenly became boring and as I said I already wanted out. EL was the only other logical course. Now I’m the kind of person who depends greatly on snap decisions. One morning in April 2004, after a full year in UPD I woke up and told myself: “I will transfer to the Department of European Languages!” It was too late. The period for shifting already elapsed. I was stuck for one more year in the College of Mass Communications.
I gave it a chance. Maybe I would learn to love Journalism once more. The desire to transfer however could not be denied and like a drug addict hungry for pot I started smuggling European Languages courses in the highly anti-foreign language Journalism curriculum. The Broadcast Communication majors have at least 3 units of foreign language elective. Why don’t we Journalism majors have one? We write articles for heaven’s sake! They just read from Teleprompters. What do they need a foreign language for?
I successfully pre-enlisted French 10, 11, German 10, and 11 thanks to CRS but since the advisers felt “obliged” to be concerned about the interest of the department they did not allow me to take the classes. “You can take courses outside the curriculum on summer term,” the college secretary said. Yeah right, bite me. I smuggled Spanish 10 for the first semester of the second year, slowly but surely, one subject now, two subjects next semester. I was able to smuggle Spanish 12 and 13 when second semester came (I actually skipped Spanish 11, taray!) And then the Malaysia Migration chapter came into being. Everything was on a standstill. Academics, which was the only life I had, went on a coma.


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