I am a product of both Ateneo and UP. I received my elementary education at the Ateneo and then spent my high school and college years in UP. It has been the great privilege of my professional life that when both institutions celebrated important milestones (UP’s centennial in 2008 and Ateneo’s sesquicentennial in 2009 ), I was called on to stage the big anniversary shows. I continue to serve both institutions whenever I am asked and in every way I can.
The much vaunted “Battle of Katipunan” has launched a thousand memes and posts, all pitting the school mascots, symbols, hymns and mottos. I cannot swipe on my FB account without seeing the declarations of undying love and fealty to either two universities. The posts have different tones: Gleeful wit, unabashed nostalgia, delightful malice, good old camaraderie. I read, smile or laugh out loud, and then confront the truth: I am divided on whose side I am on.
This indecision seems a fashionable, not-so-subtle way of announcing to the world that, ehem, my world view, my values and work ethic were formed by two respected institutions. I mean, what do I have to lose, having invested in (and having been invested on by) the wisdom of both institutions? Easy it is to fence-sit and see how the game turns out. But fence sitting is frowned upon by both institutions.
But no. As I write this, I must come to a decision. And I have. I want UP to win on Saturday. I want a clear, decisive, unquestionable victory, and for a very simple reason. UP needs that victory now. Desperately.
My own reason for wanting this win has little to do with the fact that UAAP victory has eluded UP for decades. Sure, it would be good to trace the story of how this valiant team surmounted the odds to attain a sweet victory. But that is cliché. I want to go for a bigger goal (again, a desire inculcated in products of both institutions).
UP needs to unite. We need to get our old spirit back. We need a cause to remind us of what we need to do in the world, and who we need to be at this very moment of our national history. Now, that is a lot to ask for from a basketball game. A heck of a lot to ask for from a team of young men who just want to play a good game.
But looking back at the recent history of controversies that have rocked UP, it seems like a lot is demanded from everyone who carries the Isko/Iska name. Not a few months back, UP president Danilo Concepcion was widely criticized for allowing and gracing a Kabataang Barangay reunion at the Alumni Center. Then just recently, a frat battle took place inside the campus, only narrowly averted when the UP police stepped in. Just a week ago, as one the most prestigious UP fraternities reached a centennial, the celebrations were marred by a leaked conversation among frat brods that revealed blatant misogyny and tendencies towards violence.
In all three cases, sensibilities have been insulted, apologies have been made, investigations launched. But good old UP cynicism remains: Pe Yups ain’t what it used to be, say the old timers. The cracks are appearing. The characters of both the leaders and the students are changing. The house is dividing.
“Oh get off your moral high horse”, I tell myself as I write. Cracks will appear. Student sentiments will change. Dark tendencies will reveal themselves. It is the way of the world.
But (and this I learned from both institutions also), that is precisely what universities must stand for. A firm and irrefutable set of ideals. A character and spirit that remains steadfast. An idealism that will be tested against current realities only to emerge, even firmer in its foolhardy resolve to Inspire.
I want UP to win this Saturday because that victory can remind us so many things that we may have forgotten along the way. I want UP to win because the school spirit needs to rev up. I want UP to win because, in these most uninspiring of times, we need to be inspired once again.
And God only knows that inspiration from our nation’s leaders is the one thing we have not gotten much off lately. Here suddenly is that chance and it comes in the form of a team of young men who carry the tremendous responsibility of showing us what hard work can do, what fair play and commitment and single-mindedness can achieve.
See, it isn’t just a basketball game for me. It is a chance for all of UP to get back to what we set out to do. Hopefully, we win. And when the initial flush of victory has worn off, we may just become united, inspired, determined to do bigger, better things, Make the right decisions. Take the difficult stands. How? Who knows? But it can happen.
So forgive me, dear San Ignacio de Loyola, for my sentiments. From where you stand, all this is just a game, but your distant son on the opposite end of Katipunan invokes your deep understanding of human nature. We need to win this one. It is not so much a matter of school pride (what vanitas!) as it is a matter of regaining our sense of what is honorable.
Ad majorem de Gloria.