Battle of Katipunan
Back in high school, I prayed to every possible higher power that I would get to live in Katipunan for college—but not for the university I’m currently in.
For as long as I can remember, my high school self wanted nothing more than to go to University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD). Although I took the college entrance tests of the “Big Four”—University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines, and Ateneo de Manila University—so much of my heart was set to become an iskolar ng bayan. It didn’t hurt that UPD had my dream course: BA Journalism.
Needless to say, I didn’t make the cut for Diliman. Despite passing three out of the four, there was no other choice in my parents’ head: I was going to go to Ateneo. It was only ever supposed to be either Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) or UPD, anyway.
However, I would be lying if I said I had no apprehensions about AdMU; if anything, I was ready to beg my parents to let me file for reconsideration in University of the Philippines Los Baños—my mother’s alma mater—for as long as I got to be in the University of the Philippines (UP) system.
I didn’t want to go to AdMU. I subscribed to the misconception that AdMU was for spoiled snobs who were more often than not disconnected from society; to my high school self, AdMU was nothing but a breeding ground for nepotism and corruption. These were the people that my friends and I had laughingly dubbed ‘burgis’ (bourgeoisie). I was convinced that I didn’t belong among them.
UPD was a different story. I felt that I could be a little more of myself if I were to go to a UP school; jologs, if it had to be anything in particular. In UPD, it wouldn’t matter as much if I came from the province. And I could only imagine how much more affordable the canteen food might be in UPD, compared to AdMU’s pricey lunch options.
Amid these judgemental misconceptions and preconceived notions, however, is one big reason that had me yearning for UP and hesitant about AdMU: politics.
I had grown up in a household that did its best to stay unconcerned with Philippine politics. A little later into high school, I ended up educating myself about the state of our society—the corruption, the injustices, the history that has been revised and neglected. I was appalled that all these things were happening, but there’s a sense that little can be done if you’re from a small city in the outskirts of God-knows-where.
Katipunan was not that city. Katipunan, in my eyes, was where things could afford to happen. From my social media accounts, I followed the rallies and the movements, swearing that I would one day extend my help beyond online activism.
Most of the championing I remember seeing was from UPD. The act of protesting had long since been attached to UP schools and, despite my parents’ silent distaste, I had always itched to be part of that scene. As Lin-Manuel Miranda so poignantly put it, I have always been “young, scrappy, and hungry.” I wanted to be part of the revolution! I wanted to put this passion to use!
AdMU didn’t seem like the place for that. People would snidely say there was nothing to be found on the other side of Katipunan but an apathetic Ateneo; students who could not be bothered to take a stand, who didn’t see the point in rallying. Why would they? These were people of privilege, a population of the Philippines who could probably live their whole lives in ignorant bliss. It was such a terrible thing to think of anyone, but it was the truth that I was fed. It was the genuine fear that I had as I enrolled in AdMU, readying myself to put on hold my fight for the good fight lest I offend some government official’s child with my opinions.
In my two years insofar of being in AdMU, I have learned two very important things.
The first would be that I was wrong. I have never been more glad to admit that I was wrong.
Indifference is not the norm in AdMU. Although there are minor instances—the constant, infamous low voter turn-out during Sanggunian elections—it would be a mistake to judge AdMU by its select few who choose to remain uninvolved. I have met so many people like me, so many students who support causes that matter and answer every call to arms.
A well-known quote slams Ateneo for servicing only the elite, but I like to think that times have changed. The AdMU I know of today took to the streets after the results of the senatorial elections. The AdMU I know of today organized a rally against sexual harassment within the very University. The AdMU I know of may not still be as aware and outspoken as I’ve hoped it to be, but it’s getting there. It’s getting there.
Which leads me to the second thing that I learned: AdMU does not matter. Neither does UPD. Neither does the two other schools on the other side of this capital.
When I found out I failed the UPCAT—UP’s college entrance test—I ended up crying on the ride home. In the middle of traffic, I opened up to the tricycle driver who was concerned about my breakdown. I told him I wanted to make a difference, and I felt like not passing UP was a sign that I wasn’t cut out for it.
As I was fumbling with my wallet to pay him, I distinctly remember him shaking his head vehemently; he would not accept the fifty peso bill I was handing him no matter how much I insisted. “Ang bayad mo nalang ay yung pagbabago na gusto mo (Let your payment be the change you want to see,)” he’d told me. “’Di mo kailangan ang UP para simulan yan. Sana lang maalala mo ang mga tulad ko.”
(You don’t need UP to start that. I just hope you don’t forget people like me.)
I remember him in every tricycle ride, every immersion, every discussion about equality, every rally that I try my best to show up to. What Katipunan university I go to no longer matters to me as much as what I can do with the cards I’ve been dealt with; what I can do for the people and the country I want to serve.
I’ve been granted by my higher power to be in Katipunan, and I’m not wasting the chance I have to fight the good fight.