By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
The “great” day, recognition of “Outstanding Alumni of the 21st Century” of the Iloilo National High School (INHS, formerly Iloilo High School) ” was a little bit hilarious.
I did not finish the rituals last February 4, of staring at the spectacle that turned out to be an ingenious fund raising campaign. The INHS Alumni Association and the INHS Alumni Foundation are creative and concerned in keeping the alumni body afloat, tapping funds from all legal sources possible.
Each “outstanding alumni” paid P1,000 in registration while guests shelled out for enrollment half that amount. Most also procured the souvenir program for P500 apiece.
Simple arithmetic gives us an idea how much the event generated from the 288 persons tagged as “outstanding alumni in the 21st century”, which is substantial even if only two-thirds of them showed up and registered.
The alumni held a whole-day reunion at the school ground at the main building. Yours truly arrived at 2 pm and was able to have a glimpse of the gathering that was more spontaneous than formal. Participants, in red t-shirts, sang, dance and enjoyed games. They still had chances to grab the microphone.
The rituals for the thing called “outsanding alumni of the 21st century”, in contrast, was stiff and formal replete with military regalia done by student cadets who escorted the procession of Filiniana-clad participants and led the “entrance of colors” preceding the invocation and the singing of the “Lupang Hinirang.”
Former INHS principal Riza Amaguin, a convenor, indeed touched the conscience. Not so few of the awardees left their stations abroad just to attend the gathering, purportedly done in their honor.
The school, Riza said, grew, thanks to contributions from generous alumni. She made special mention of Iloilo Gov. Arthur D. Defensor, Sr., batch ’57, which was the “most active”.
Anyway, to cut the long story short, the ever dynamic Riza sounds off that INHS alumni are indispensable partners in the history of the school, their financial contributions are needed to make up for the short budget. Pass the hat.
Guest speaker Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor calls the public school system the “greatest equalizer” that enables children of poor families stand up against the wealthy ones.
He heaped tribute to his alma mater for the quality education that enabled him wound his way through college at the University of the Philippines and to the college of law in the same state university.
Defensor was lucky. During his time, public education was really free. The “Iskolar ng Bayan” then enjoyed free tuition and allowances to boot.
That’s different today. State schools are beyond the reach of poor families. They have become enclaves of the rich and famous.
Defensor reveals that in his time, public schools were indeed for the poor “that you can’t see flashy cars transporting students”.
Today, luxury vehicles are now parking in public schools, owned and driven by students.
May the two organizations have the courage to tag the culprit for the penury of public schools — government mispriority.
Government since Marcos’ time accords mere crumbs for public education.
I thought the fascist dictator Marcos was the worst. His successors –to include Cory — did worse than him. Cory’s successor, Ramos, continued the legacy trimming down budget for education.
I thought GMA was bad, too, for outdoing her predecessors combined. Now, the current president, Cory’s son, PNoy, turned out worst of all in turning public education into commodity for sale, not a right the government must deliver.
Next reunions, INHS alumni will come again to renew their ties with classmates and fellow alumni. They will again be asked to donate and they will again willingly oblige to chip in to improve the INHS’s capacity to mold their young.
But that will continue like a vicious cycle. Student and teacher activists nationwide have one option to share with INHS alumni: get to the root cause of the problem — squeeze the neck of a certain PNoy to compel him to do his duty that the Constitution mandates, make education for the youth of the land, truly free and quality.
Or at the minimum, compel him to stop slashing the budget for education and other basic social services like health.