A Multitude Of Bicolano Student Organizations In UP Diliman: The Present Problem And The Lessons Of The Past

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From one unified regional organization or varsitarian before, the UP Ibalon, the UP Diliman Bicolano studentry is now divided into a multitude of organizations, all competing for the allegiance and loyalty of the Bicol sector it claims to represent. Most of the organizations are province-based, with one being region-based and another is district-based.

The sole regional organization (in name) but currently whose membership overwhelmingly comes from Sorsogon and Albay is the UP Ibalon. The Camarines Norte students have their UP Saro, Camarines Sur students have their UP Harong, Albay students have their UP Mayon, Sorsogon students have their UP Sorsoguenos, Catanduanes students have their UP Catandungan, Masbate students have their UP Lawod and Rinconada students have their UP Tan-aw.

Not all of these Bicol varsitarians gets recognized by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) all the time because some at different points in their existence lack the mandatory minimum number of members to be recognized by the OSA. And that is one result of this fractiousness. From the grapevine, it seems it is UP Mayon’s and UP Sorsoguenos turn to have this trouble though it seems UP Tan-aw have not yet managed to have themselves recognized. UP Mayon’s and UP Sorsoguenos’ chance to recruit might be impacted by the preponderance of UP Ibalon members that comes from Albay and Sorsogon.

I heard that UP Ibalon is even affected by an OSA rule that the number of members must exceed the number of elective posts. Formerly all the members of the Applications, Membership and Elections Committees of UP Ibalon are elective, aside from the Board of Directors which has 10 officers (the UP Ibalon has now an Internal and an External Vice-President).

Healthy Bicol varsitarians’ membership normally ranges only between 30 to 40 or thereabout. Surprisingly, it is the UP Catandungan which boasts of the highest number of members. It is an indication of the strength of their recruitment facilitated perhaps by the fact that nearly all of the UP Diliman students that came from Catanduanes were products of the Catanduanes State College Laboratory School.

Many of these varsitarians have their own talent contests involving local high schools which mimics the UP Ibalon’s Padunungan. The contests range from the arts to science. These contests provide a good exposure to the varsitarians to their local high schools and it harvests a lot of goodwill for them aside from positive publicity. This has proved effective in recruiting the talented high school students that get to UP Diliman. So the varsitarians put a lot of stress in this and they usually hold these contests during the semestral break.

These affairs are no longer the low-cost projects of the early years. Much effort and expense is put on maximizing the exposure and in having a good-looking presentation. Gone are the shoddy venues like the old BU Theater.

However, I would say that all of these Bicol organizations do not have the critical mass needed to launch big projects the way UP Ibalon was able to mount the likes of “Kami Minagalang” in the early days. And this is a story worth telling for its lessons.

When I relinquished the presidency of UP Ibalon it has only 44 members. Right in the first semester of the organization several members already graduated because UP Ibalon has an “old” membership since the development of a Bicol organization was impacted by the restrictions of martial law and the demise of UP Paglaom. Moreover, in the first year, it was the tacit policy that no big recruitments will be made in order for the desired nature and orientation of UP Ibalon to be developed and consolidated.

Before even taking over the reins of the organization Min Paje has already posed the question what is needed to mount a big project that earns a tidy amount of money for the organization, for it be spared from the semestral fund-raising. Having been exposed to Vinzons and with me and Nes having studied this future question we were able to lay down the necessary conditions, to wit:

One, it must have a large membership. The strongest non-fraternity organizations that can mount big projects then were UP Panaghi-usa, UP JPIA, UP AIESEC and the Sigma Delta Phi. All boasted memberships of over 100 active members. And what struck me was that the four boasted of members’ parents that are well-heeled. This point was stressed to me by my old Vinzons boss, Ollie Jumao-as, who was then the CONCOMSA (the predecessor of the revived Student Council) chair.

Second, most of the fraternities may have memberships less than 100 but the strong ones have powerful alumni that are loyal. Enough said of this.

The lessons in this need not be told in very graphic terms. But one important footnote for us then, for the sheer lack of alumni, the members’ families assumed critical importance.

The “Kami Minagalang” concerts was set for the summer of 1977. From a meeting of minds of senior leaders, including me who was in Bicol during that time, a massive recruitment took place in the second semester of 1976-77 and the tacit policy was “mayong ilalaglag” (no rejections). That’s where the big batch of 32 came into Ibalon which significantly boosted the membership. Some of the finest members of Ibalon came from this batch and being young they became the future of Ibalon producing three of our presidents.

A lot of members’ families opened their homes to UP Ibalon and this started a trend that never really stopped. From this, members’ parents came to know members of UP Ibalon and vice-versa. I know this also contributed to the latter recruitment of the younger siblings and cousins of the members.

Even Ibalon friends that were once members of UP Paglaom helped.

Suddenly, cars were even available for the project. The opening of doors became easier. And if funds came a little short, some better-off members will open their wallets and I can correlate that they are the same members who are opening their wallets now for our group. Maybe generous people never really change.

Of course the “Kami Minagalang” concert was a big success, even able to ride out the unfortunate death of Bebeth Espeso.

Until the “War of the Roses” came, UP Ibalon enjoyed a high level of membership. A bonus of this is for the second time (the first came in the early days) UP Ibalon had lots of presidents of other organizations within its fold. This has its own advantages. And we know that having many members is one way of forestalling the rise of another Bicol organization, aside from other factors.

I doubt that with the current fractiousness of the Bicolano studentry in UP Diliman if new heights are again possible. This is no disrespect to the Bicol varsitarians who are doing their best to strengthen their organization. But ultimately, numbers and the situation speak.

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