PNoy meets UP

Bag inspections at the UP 2011 graduation. Shot by Ronin Bautista

Long lines, bag checks, and selective admittance. Dozens of sentries in white polo barongs. The occasional chopper overhead. And at conspicuous areas, broadcast vans and a media platform.

It’s a rare prelude to any commencement rite. I hadn’t seen this much fuss when I went through this ceremony.

But this was no ordinary college graduation, in no ordinary college, and with no ordinary visitor.

President Benigno Aquino III was speaking to the University of the Philippines Diliman’s class of 2011.

It would be the first in 12 years. He would also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from UP–the 13th after Fidel Ramos.

ABS-CBN cameraman looking over the seating for UP graduates (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our cameraman shooting from a reverse angle of the seats. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The potential conflict also made it worth checking out.

After all, a number of the university’s students and professors have not hidden their impatience at the Aquino administration’s delivery of campaign promises.

And wasn’t UP’s budget for 2011 one of the worst cut?

Protests would surely mark the ceremonies.

If you’re a President beginning to feel the heat of criticism and opposition, how do you approach a university known as a hotbed of dissent against sitting leaders?

Aquino raised his predicament in his Filipino speech.

“I admit: it is not easy facing you,” he said. “Sometimes we have to come from different perspectives. But, please, I hope we all want to reach the same end.”

President Aquino speaking at 2011 UPD graduation. Shot by Ronin Bautista

The President still had to begin by buttering up his audience and appealing to the characteristic UP pride. Starting with the nearest connection–his father Benigno Jr., a proud alumnus:

“Even (he) himself once said: There is really just one university in the Philippines–only UP, no other.”

Cheers met him as he continued identifying with persons and issues close to the isko and iska’s heart, like his UPian appointees and UP’s stand against the previous administration.

And then he had to toot his own horn. It became a mini-State of the Nation Address, as some had observed.

“I sometimes get frustrated that the good news does not reach you. Please do not misread if I use this opportunity to reduce the negativism.”

UP graduates raise slogans during Aquino speech. Shot by Ronin Bautista

Heads and cameras turned soon after Aquino began to tell how fighting corruption in car emission testing centers had helped clean up the air.

Some graduates had stood up, raising slogans written on Manila paper: Jobs not demolition. Stop contractualization.

Presidential Security Group (PSG) guards quickly grabbed the posters as another group of students at the right of the stage unfurled a red banner: No progress under Aquino.

UP students raise slogans during Aquino speech. Shot by Ronin Bautista

After a struggle, 8 men in uniform seized the cloth from the protesters which included the incoming UP student council chair. Unfazed, PNoy kept on.

“Let us be part of the solution,” he appealed. “Join us so that we can reach our goals faster.”

With reference to the protests, Aquino entreated the graduates to give back while staying idealistic.

“If you are already in high positions, would you still remember the slogans you were shouting as you boycotted classes? If you could let off a brod, sis, or org-mate even if they were really guilty, would you?” he asked.

Whether this Atenean’s pleas reached the graduates remains to be seen.

UP student regent Jaque Eroles chants a slogan in front of President Aquino. Shot by Ronin Bautista.

Note the varying expressions at the surprise chant. (Shot by Ronin Bautista)

Student regent Jacqueline Eroles presented the President with a “Letter from the Students” after the speech, and then chanted “Edukasyon, karapatan ng mamamayan! (Education is every citizen’s right)” onstage.

Without the President’s presence, the media would still be all over the graduation for another newsworthy element. Of course without the live coverage given his speech.

Summa cum laude John Gabriel Pelias delivered the valedictory address after PNoy. With a 1.016 general average, he set UP’s highest since World War 2. The feat had granted him the rounds of TV interviews the past 2 weeks.

UP Summa Cum Laude John Gabriel Pelias speaking at UP graduation (Shot by Ronin Bautista)

Pelias remained the focus of our correspondent Pia Gutierrez's report. (Click shot to watch)

Meanwhile, PNoy’s declaration of his resolve to see a law on responsible parenthood passed even at the ire of the Church found its way to Reuters and on Monday’s primetime news.

More chants met Aquino as his convoy left the campus after Pelias’s speech:

“Noynoy at Gloria, walang pinag-iba, parehong tuta, diktador, pasista!” (Noynoy and Gloria Arroyo are no different–both puppets, dictators, fascists)
“Noynoy Aquino, pahirap sa masa!” (Noynoy, burden to the people)
“Si Noynoy mismo, babagsak!” (Noynoy himself will fall)

The commotion stalled the cavalcade as UP security shoved the protesters away. No one relented, and in the chase, one hurled his crumpled poster to a speeding PSG vehicle.

Their chanting continued even after the convoy had left.

UP protests at PNoy April 17 Jimmy Encarnacion

(Shot by Jimmy Encarnacion, ABS-CBN News)

The protesters called the President a “summa cum laude” in budget cuts, and the student regent said PNoy’s attendance was an “insult” to the students.

The university board apparently did not think so, as they glowingly cited PNoy’s anti-corruption election campaign, his “rallying” leadership, and his “serious desire to serve the public interest” and inspire hope.

The degree, however, was akin to US President Obama receiving the 2009 Nobel peace prize–too early and for largely immaterial moves.

But, as is said for Aquino’s currently high ratings, might as well make bold moves now than never get to later.

UP’s 100th graduating batch had a burden to hold the President accountable to the country’s social ills, says one journalism graduate who was there. At the least, the ceremony was not seriously disrupted.

Yet a management course grad who saw the protest thinks Aquino has only been President for less than a year, and change does not come that quick. The rallies always come whoever is in power.

As an alumnus reminds, protests welcome us to UP, and protests see us out.

Call it a uniquely-UP welcome. Yet it also remains to be seen if the students’ welcome message reached the President.

UP protests at PNoy April 17 Jimmy Encarnacion 2

(Shot by Jimmy Encarnacion)

*Many thanks to college bud Roehl Niño Bautista, who lent his shots for this blog and for our online portal He also wrote a photo essay on the grad for his site


6 comments on “PNoy meets UP

  1. you are right.. you are not in a UP grad rites without a protest… i’ve been in 2 UP Cebu grad and once in UP iloilo… haay.. normal na talga yung rally. good or bad? well, the once staging the rally should show that on their dedication to the nation.

  2. yes, what you said was right, whoever is the President/leader of the country, UP will always be on the opposite side of the spectrum. UP students seems to not like anyone , very extreme, since my student days it has been like that I do not remember anyone (leader) that they agree with.

  3. Yes I agree, None what so ever..You want to know the truth?Bato-bato sa langit ang tamaan ay pwede ring magalit;Karamihan sa mga Student there are Hungry of PAPEL”, They are SICK to the BONES..You Know why I think, Mali or na impluwensyanhan lang ng surroundings..Walang MUDO,, Lack Of Respect…Abussive of what we called Freedom of expressions..Mga Matatalinong Walang Mudo..Guys Think it even a Minute..How Can You Fix a certain Damage created for almost Ten Years..In not even a Year???Wake Up!!!Para kayong mga langaw na Dumapo lang sa Kalabaw(UP)Akala nyo ay Mas Malaki at Marunong Na Kayo Kay sa Kahit Kanino…Sinisira nyo ang Pamantasan ng Pilipinas…Dapat ay Doon Kayo sa China Mag-Aral..PWE!!! SANA Hindi Naman Lahat na Mga Students ng Kagalang galang na Pamantasan..ay Mga Walang Mudo..
    Ang Pumutak…Kayo ang Hindi Nakaka tulong Bagkos ay Nakaka Perwisyo…PWE!! Ulit..Give Pnoy a CHANce..I Believe We have a GOOd Chance to have a better Gov. In the times ahead…He Needs Help.or a Good Suggestions will do…Instead of putting the Good Guy Down…God Bless Us All…

  4. naturingan na matatalino,panay wilga naman kaya walang asinso ang bansa natin. walang respito sa pangulo kung ako bawasan ko ng budget ang UP deliman nayan tingnan natin kung san kau pupulutin dun kau sa mamundok kau magkaisa kau ng adhikain ng komunista. ang iba naman ang babata pa welga ng welga ano ba ang alam nila sa buhay wala. computer,shopping mall,gala ng gala.

  5. Pingback: PinoyJourn’s 2011: The top posts | PinoyJourn: Stories behind the Stories

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