I spent five years of my life in Miagao, Iloilo. Four years as a student and a year as an instructor. These years may not be enough for me to make an in-depth, scientific, qualitative research on the character of the majority of UP students, but five years are more than sufficient to be impressed on me how the world outside UP thinks about the student body that composes it. In general they think that UP students are so full of themselves, a group of over confident bunch who gets really rowdy inside a jeepney especially if they think they outnumber the rest, who brag their maroon shirt with a logo of the Oblation when they go to the mall for window shopping, or speak the longest speech not to mention the forced, all-too conscious twang if asked to talk on youth participation during the Labor Day rally.
And I could never agree more. Gone were the days when the first thing that enters the mind of an ordinary Filipino man who is not given the opportunity to enter the University was that a UP student is the Filipino student at its finest–the product of the best education that the Filipino nation can offer. It is, however, not anymore the case. Instead, a UP student is now known for his most dominant characteristic: his cockiness. As with the whole system, we tend to forget an essential ingredient for an institution of higher learning to work, that is, constant self-evaluation.
If it is too much to say, UP students of my generation have been sitting on the laurels of those who have gone before them.
Now what is a UP student known for aside, of course, from being cocky?
When my former Humanities professor Leoncio Deriada, now a professor emeritus, criticized the way UP works and the University in general in our class, because of my too strong an idealism then, I always made sure to give a rebuttal after. He said that if an earthquake would strike UP Visayas and the cracks in the soil will swallow all the dumb UP student (idiot was the word he used), only a third shall be spared and the remaining two-thirds will all be eaten up by the monstrous cracks, and nothing will be heard from them. It was laughable, at first, I thought, but upon deeper self-evaluation, I realized that there is some truth to it. Although I know he was exaggerating, of course, but a voice inside me is telling me that the man is saying the truth.
Surely I have encountered exceptional students and can still remember classmates of mine who impressed me in class. But they are exceptions. Majority are made up of complacent, over-confident students who come to class thinking that a lesson on macro-economics, quantum physics, relevance of the African-American class struggle, or the hypodermic theory of communication are subjects that can be understood using nothing but pure guts, proper bearing, or a good imitation of the American English accent.
I maybe too harsh. I may have set the bar too high–but for the best institution of higher learning in the country, nothing is expected of a UP student but to be the best. From our rank the scientists, artists, professors, doctors, mathematicians, politicians, and the next president of the republic will come. And we simply cannot lower our standard.
Now if our only defining charcteristic is our cockiness, that’s going to be too sad–really sad.