Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Fig Leaf

I’m a bit down; I got one item wrong in our Comm3 quiz yesterday. Of course, I still ended up with a perfect score, what with all the bonus points our professor so generously gave out. Still, isn’t it a tad bit disconcerting that I was this close to getting everything right? That tiny mistake kept me up all night, not exactly an irritant, more of a point to ponder…

The question was: What kind of leaf covers the privates of Guillermo Tolentino’s Oblation? I was confident with my answer; I had heard from one of my friends that the thing was a makahiya, no matter how much it didn’t look like one. Come checking time, I was reveling in the succession of correct answers I had, when all of a sudden, I got question 14 wrong. The Fig Leaf, Sir said, was the correct answer.

Fig? Do we even have fig trees in the Philippines? What on Earth is a fig leaf anyway? How is it supposed to look like? What the hell is it supposed to symbolize?

Given that I do not have 24/7 access to the Internet, and therefore, am unable to surrender myself to the often snubbed authority otherwise known as Wikipedia, I have to trust the words of my Comm3 professor. According to him, Oble originally didn’t have ‘underwear’, until time came when Tolentino had to censor it. He supposedly chose the fig leaf to occupy this very sensitive position because it had a mechanism of growing roots wherever it fell. Basically, it’s supposed to grow if it lands on soil.

Students, I think Tolentino thought, are supposed to be like that. Especially iskolar ng bayan.

Once you think about it, the analogy is perfect. Here we are, students from far flung places all over the Philippines, gathered together under one umbrella formally known as the UP. We are the best of the best (whatever that means), and we are expected to continue giving 110% in our academic endeavors, assisted by the naturally competitive, driven, intense nature of the UP environment. We are expected to serve the nation, lead the nation, be the nation in a few decades or so. But I ask: How can we do this when we aren’t given our most basic right as students? We’re supposed to worry about solving the latest Chem problem set or whatever, not losing sleep over our tuition fee problems, housing problems, lab fee problems, etc.

Consider this:

Roseanne Dy is the only other person from Kong Hua who goes to UP aside from me. We come from the same hometown, speak the same language, pay almost the same amount of tuition fees come enrollment time. I've known her for most of my life, and over the past year, I've gotten to know her more. We both applied for admission in Ilang Ilang Residence Hall, only Roshy's parents' ITR arrived at the Office of Student Housing at a later date. Due to this unfortunate event, her name wasn't listed in the first batch of accepted applicants for Ilang. She tried again.

Imagine our surprise when, after waiting for almost an entire week, the OSH management failed to produce the result of the second batch run on June 13, 2008. Frustrated students and their respective parents had to wait until Monday, June 16, to get the results of the final batch run. Oh, and guess what? Roseanne didn't make it. After several days of desperately searching a place to stay for the entire semester, she found a house in Area 2. She stays there now, together with Ana Abrillo, who's from our city, too, and Nic Nicdao. All of them live far from Manila, yet none of them were able to find a spot in any UP dorm.


Indeed, we are like leaves. We just fell off our trees and landed butt-first into the intricate web of college life. Whether we will be like the makahiya, shying away from opportunities that the wind blows our way, or fig leaves, able to take root whatever the situation, is up to us. If I were the same girl who left CDO after sixteen years of living everyday under the same routine, I would say there’s no doubt I’ll be the former option. But because my first few weeks as a sophomore in the Philippines’ National University have been harrowing, mind-boggling and inexplicably exhilarating at the same time, I’m open to the possibility of becoming a fig tree: resilient, steadfast, strong in spirit and ready to journey wherever the wind blows.