Part of the problem

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CERTAIN events have the capacity to capture the complexities and contradictions of a situation that should not have been allowed to happen in the first place, but which, having occurred nevertheless, was not even being addressed, and had been allowed to fester beyond human endurance.

The suicide of a 16-year old freshman student of the University of the Philippines Manila is one such event, jolting the otherwise complacent into the realization that not only has someone who could have contributed much to this country and its people if given the chance been lost. Many more like her are also, at this very moment, experiencing the same despair and helplessness in a society that claims to value knowledge but skimps in investing in it.

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Fanaticism…

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“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless societies.”
-Karl Marx

EVERY year after the end of the six- kilometer long trek that commemorates the transfer in 1787 of the Black Nazarene from the Recollect seminary in Intramuros (the old walled city ) to Quiapo Church, the country’s religious inevitably lament the “fanaticism” devotees display as the procession wends its way through Manila’s mean streets.

This year was no different — although, from the usual two million, estimates of the number of devotees who joined the 22-hour, longest-running procession ever who displayed a level of alleged fanaticism that might well be the envy and despair of other religions here and abroad, were this time between three to four million.

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Ups and downs

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Only a few weeks are left of the University of the Philippines (UP) centennial year celebrations. UP was founded by the US colonial government in 1908, and after a century of wars, crises and political upheavals, one would have expected the 2008 celebrations to lead to an evaluation of where UP has been and has done, and where it’s going in a country where poverty and crises have been as perennial as grass.

A fundamental question suggests itself a hundred years after its founding: established as a colonial instrument and as part of the US arsenal of conquest, has UP become a Filipino university, or even a people’s university? Unfortunately, say critics, the question hasn’t been widely raised. The commemoration has been anything but an occasion for self criticism and examination and has mostly been a relentless saturnalia of self-praise — as reflected in the awful, self-congratulatory, uncritical centennial motto, “UP, ang galing mo!” (UP, you’re great!)

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A Philippine university

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Despite funding constraints, the University of the Philippines (UP), which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, has grown from a small institution on Manila’s Padre Faura street into a national university system of 12 campuses (including the cyber or virtual campus of its Open University) and seven constituent universities.

UP has the most extensive undergraduate and graduate degree programs of any university in the country, and the largest, most competent corps of faculty from creative writing to law, communication to nuclear physics.

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