I’m sure all of you here have seen, heard or read all the hullabaloo about Krisel Mallari’s abrasive and rather unprofessional speech during her graduation. No doubt it will probably remain a simmering topic even near the end of this year but I think that, once again, we Filipinos are missing something here. I think, we are again focusing on the wrong part of the argument and letting what really matters fly way over our heads. While yes, the young woman’s uncalled for speech was quite shocking to say the least, I don’t think that’s what we should really be talking about right now. Instead, we should consider how things got to where they did and consider the young woman’s situation and sentiment before judging her.
For a comparison, in the United States, where firearms are all too accessible to youths who are more than willing to use them on hapless victims, we get occasional news about school shootings. While the youths who resort to this kind of thing are often disturbed individuals who require professional psychiatric help, I will also note that many school authorities are also looking into the situation and have discovered that bullying is all too often the reason for these outbursts of violence among students. I believe in giving the victims of these young gunmen justice and teaching the perpetrators the error of their ways, but there is an ever-growing movement among parents in the U.S. to put a stop to bullying once and for all to sever the problem at its root, preventing violence in schools in the first place.
The perpetrators of school shootings in the U.S. are often compared by psychiatrists to cornered rats. Because of bullying and loneliness, they snap, attacking anyone in the vicinity regardless whether they are friend or foe. I do not condone the actions of these violent youths but, considering the kind of environment I grew up in, I can almost understand them. Anyway, now that I have time to think about it, I think there is some similarity between Ms. Mallari and some of these gun-toting youths. All of them feel oppressed by their respective school environments and lashed out in the only way I could. While Ms. Mallari wasn’t exactly being tactful, I would still say that it was a whole lot better than picking up a gun and shooting people. Of course, if the latter happened, I think the Commission of Human Rights would just pardon her. What do you think?
Anyway, what I’d like to point out is based on Ms. Mallari’s outburst, there is certainly something wrong with our education system and I can probably tell you that everything she said is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The thing is, corruption is so prevalent in the Philippines that it infiltrates every aspect of our society with our academia just being one corruption-ridden institution.
As I’ve state in so many of my previous articles, our culture is probably one of the chief reasons we never really get anywhere. Higher-ups in our society continue to appoint people who are related to them or are of some personal interest to them rather than those who may actually be competent for the job. The same can be said of our schools where students who are favored by teachers are often given more attention and special awards than those who might actually be smarter but are largely unpopular.
For a much more in-depth look at what I’m talking about, perhaps I can reveal a little about my past as a young student:
People today (those who know my real identity anyway) like to comment on how intelligent I am. However, had you known me during my school years, you would probably think of me as anything but. I was always the apathetic type. I rarely cared about what was going on in the school like sports fests and prayer meetings and my only real goal was to graduate. I was very lazy at the time and there were those who insisted that I was either dumb or crazy and, considering my behavior at the time, I couldn’t really blame them. But while I didn’t seem to care too much about academic politics between both the faculty and the students, I was aware of them but preferred to keep an air of ignorance because I often got on the wrong side of people when I took sides.
Then during high school, I ran into this teacher. She was very different from the norm as she was quite the histrionic type and she often didn’t like me because of my pesky attitude at the time. However, one thing that really set her apart was her often impartial attitude towards grading students. See, in the high school I studied in, the “palakasan system” seemed to be all the rage and, if a certain teacher didn’t know you much or if he or she didn’t like you, you can’t expect great grades from them. This teacher, on the other hand, was very different. While she made it clear she didn’t like me very much, she would give me considerably high marks for works she knew I put some effort into and even once praised a short story I once wrote and called it impressive. Before my high school graduation, she even went on to call me out on my lazy ways and, with a scowl that could freeze a river, told me that I was wasting my talents and compared it to letting a “good sword rot in the mud”.
Of course, I noticed similar things when I was in college. Now, I was still somewhat apathetic during my college years but I began to take a liking for literature and arts and occasionally wrote articles for our school paper. I could also add that as a kind of joke, I sometimes wrote a series of adult-themed stories to troll my editor and the rest of our school. Anyway, I had this classmate back then who would go on to become my best friend. She was a young Fil-Am girl with a passion for what she did and has proven to be and will always be a better nurse than yours truly, if indeed I can be called a “nurse” for graduating in that particular course. To be honest, while she was both passionate, driven and smart (she could also easily keep up with my pop culture quips about Fullmetal Alchemist, G.I. Joe or Transformers; she would deftly catch the references I made and throw it back at me while they would easily fly over the head of any other student at the time), she wasn’t very popular with the faculty and most of the student body. While I would say that she had her own kind of beauty to her, she was not very tall (just shy of 5 feet actually) and there were those (especially those who were higher in our alleged “academic ladder”) who were probably prettier. In the end, despite her passion and talent, she was just another average student during our graduation who was just a few notches above me in terms of our academic grading system and this was all because academic institutions prefer people they know rather than those with any real talent.
So okay, after all I’ve said, for those of you who still don’t get it, the “palakasan system” is probably one of the biggest obstacles we have to making significant progress in our country. As long as we keep favoring people we know or have some personal interest to instead of those who are right for the job, then we will probably never get anywhere. You see, as long as our officials keep appointing their incompetent children, siblings, parents, aunts or uncles, mistresses, mistresses’ maids, cats, dogs and hamsters for vaunted positions and as long as our voters keep voting for candidates who are cute, can sing or can dance, have a role as a sword-wielding Marty Stu then we can kiss any form of progress goodbye.
Real, permanent and positive change is only possible for those who are willing to take the risks and choose to discard outdated and flawed systems in favor of something new and possibly better. Considering just how the “palakasan system” has been inherent in Philippine society, is it any surprise that incompetent or retarded officials all too often succeed in becoming elected officials?
Please people, we are too far in the game now. It’s been decades since we earned our “freedom”. I think it’s time we used that freedom properly and with a sense of responsibility. For the sake of Ms. Mallari and many other students like her, especially those who are having financial problems or are having trouble with their studies, let us ditch the “palakasan system” in favor of more progressive and just society. If the youth are indeed the future of our nation, then let us give them the education they deserve so that they may eventually break the cycle of corruption, squalor and pettiness inherent in the Philippines.
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