And this is the story on how a lanky man wearing sort of fitted, sort of swanky, bright pink polo shirt and skinny jeans was mistaken as a frat man. (wow!)

As the local Chair of a national alliance of tertiary publications, I constantly make visit (pub hop, we call it) to campus publication’ offices mostly in Baguio-Benguet but also in other Cordillera provinces as well if there is urgent purpose and a bit of funds. Earlier today, as I was about to make my pub hop on The Buttress, the official student publication of the students of the Saint Louis University School of Engineering and Architecture, I was met with a surprising stringency from the security guards. As I approached their post and prepared to undergo the usual routine for outsiders who wish to enter the campus, (tell them what is your purpose, who are you meeting, show and leave them your ID, get this sheet of paper where the person you are visiting is supposed to sign and then – Ok na Kuya? Oo, ading.) there was an interrogation that I encountered for the first time in this school:

Saan ang punta mo, ading?

Sa Buttress po, SEA. Otto Hahn.

Anong gagawin mo dun, ading?

Maghahop lang po sa kanila, maga-update ng activities ng organization.

Faculty ba yang pupuntahan mo?

Ah, hindi po, estudyante po. Student publication po.

Ay bawal ading, may permit ka? (ahem, unfriendliness here, which is not common among SLU’s security personnel, at least in my recent visits)

Po? Ah, wala po. Ka-org ko po sila.

Hindi kasi, ah, hindi yan official transaction. Kung sa faculty, yun yung official transaction. Kailangan mo ng permit.

Ah, hindi po, kasi dati pa po ako pumupunta dito, hindi naman po ako hinihingahan ng permit…

Hindi kasi ading, kung wala kang official transaction, kelangan mong humingi ng permit from SAO….

Eh dati naman po, nakakapasok ako, ID lang….

San ka ba galing?

Ah, sa CEGP po, org ng pubs, ka-org ko po yung pupuntahan ko.

Saang school?

Graduate po ako ng UP…

Ano yan, may frat ka ba…. Bawal ang frat dito…. (WHAT?!)

Hindi po ako fratman. Tsaka graduate na po ako ng UP, so pumupunta po ako dito as CEGP, hindi po as UP student….

(discussion nang unti, eventually papayag si Kuya. Ibibigay yung papel, O papirmahan mo na lang yun dun sa pupuntahan mo. Sa susunod kelangan mo na ng permit from SAO.)

Strolling, with tempered annoyance, What the hell, permit? What the hell, fratman?! Ako, fratman, seriously?! I have been doing this thing for months…

Then, arriving at the Buttress’ rather small office, but one that never lacks with life and an atmosphere of joviality (just last Monday when I last went here, the office was almost full with people, mostly laughing, teasing one another) . I saw only two people there, although thankfully including Crystal, Buttress’ Editor-in-Chief who always gave me this impression of seriousness, of steady-headedness, of almost poetically rhythmic composure; who I once saw holding onto her calculator and facing a math notebook with figures a Literature major like me finds sort of eerie, looking flustered when I arrived and greeted them because perhaps she sensed that she had to pause from her work for a time to talk to me or something, who, earlier, was preparing for a “major quiz,” as she put it, making me miss, and miss terribly, my college life which has ended almost a year ago.

As expected, she was playing hospitable to a guest, the local chair of the organization where their publication is a member of (although I am doing my best to downplay this title and sort of deny that air of respect publication members accord me – i.e. telling them to be not too formal or something since I want a more personal, more attached relationship with the publication members), eagerly putting off her math notebook lying atop a thick book.

I asked her what she is up to, yes, that major quiz. What time? 4pm po. I checked my phone; it said 15 minutes before 4pm. Oh no, you are a tad off-timing, Ivan.

So I decided to put off the organizational and chummy talks, tomorrow, I asked her, when will be your vacant time tomorrow? Ahm… 11:30-2pm po, mas mahaba po vacant ko ‘pag TTH, 1-4pm, I know that in mind. This is what regular hopping has served me: memorizing the vacant time of some of the members of the publication, particularly the ones I usually talk to, and then tacitly reminding me of the best time and day to drop by their offices. She responded, even amidst snatching glances at her notebook, perhaps reviewing, or finalizing answers to a given activity. I was ending the conversation, Sige, Crystal, bukas na lang. Mga 12-1pm, punta na lang ako. Something like that. And then say, thank you, and said something encouraging for her quiz, Go sa exam, something like that. Not for the sake of it, but for something else. Certainly not for the sake of saying it, like a custom.

So I went back to the gate where I entered, show them the sheet of paper where Crystal signed as proof that I really went to their office. Manong guard is still sort of in bad mood, reiterating, as if automatically, next time, sir, kelangan na ng permit ah. I opted to keep silent. He called me “Sir” and I wonder how he would treat me if I happened to ride out of a car and told him I’m going to meet the Dean of this college, and not a student publication whose office allotted to is visibly not conducive for press works.

I left, proceeded to my next stop. Managing the irritation the security encounter caused me, keeping it from naming itself “rage,” or “anger.”

So what happened?

That was annoying, not because Kuya Guard was “unfriendly” but because of that administration policy or something he just have to execute lest he wants to lose his job. If you are a visitor, you must show a permit or something signed by the Students’ Affairs Office which must be accomplished by the office you are going to visit. What a process! Mangungumusta lang naman po sa member pubs namin…

And it is even more annoying when what I usually encounter in powerpoint presentations, in educational discussions, i.e. the repressive nature of the education system, haunt me right in the face, not manifested by Kuya guard, but by the policies “from above” which he had to enforce as a subordinate. Of course one can easily argue for policies like this: it is for security purposes – ideally, supposedly. But in practice, those policies are being executed primarily to limit the freedom of movement of students and visitors alike in the campus premises. Notably, it is also in SLU where laptops used to be not allowed to be entered in the campus unless one secures a permit (AGAIN). Closer to the campus press, student publications here need to undergo recognition every year with a long list of paper works required to be submitted. Standing as student institutions, the campus publication and the student council need not undergo this rigorous process just to be “recognized” (by the Admin) in the university and execute their plan of action.

While I usually talk about this issue with the publication members in SLU, they would often show a tacit resignation, as if: Ganun talaga dito Kuya eh, mahigpit talaga. Doing certain actions to oppose this set-up is hardly considered as perhaps it is deemed too strenuous but without high degree of assurance of success. And I think it is precisely in the face of these issues that the campus publication members, together with their publisher, the students, must unite for a concerted action. Imagine: if a school publication (what is called “College” in most universities is called a “School” in SLU) is not recognized, it won’t get funds and hence, would hardly be able to operate for a school term. For the students, this only means a thing: a drought in information and critical insights that can be provided by the school publications for the benefit of the students.

And I’ll end with this: my somewhat temperamental response to Kuya Guard was only fleeting. The problem is not his “unfriendliness” or lack of consideration. They are just obeying orders. And we ought not to ask where the orders are coming from; we know this very well. The more critical question I believe is this: why such orders? Why such stringency? Is that merely for security blah blah? I think not; no, I believe not. In the usual set-up of schools in the country, where the administration often dictates and controls, mostly subtly, rather than just administer, and the students are rarely given the chance to speak up unless they tap alternative avenues for such right, i.e. to express opinions (in other words, asserting their rights despite the present set-up), the power play should be obvious. And in the face of such monster, the students, the ones usually disadvantaged, shall not be meek and timid. In the face of such monster, the best reaction is unity, boldness – defiance. Unless we all want to be under the command of a few people who do not even know what exactly we are going through.