Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Thursday, 2 June 2011

College years, the hardships and sad realities

As various issues students and parents had to face this school year are brought to the fore, I can’t help but reminisce the hardhips my parents had to endure to send my siblings and I to college.

Like many other aspiring college students, the University of the Philippines (UP) was my first choice of school. It was a real feat vying for a spot in the very limited slots UP has to offer for incoming freshmen. I was one of those who didn’t make it to UP.

Not wanting to stop schooling, I enrolled in Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa. I wouldn’t have made it to college if there was no university like PUP, which charges the lowest tuition rate to date (P12 per unit). PUP was such a relief for parents who are just minimum wage earners.

When I entered college, there were already the three of us that my parents send to school. I was aware of the hardships my parents had to endure in order to send all three of us to college.

I also realized halfway through college that it was not only the cost of tuition that my parents had to shoulder; there were the weekly or monthly allowance for food, transportation, books, and rental fee for my boarding house. (My older brother then had to live with my cousins in Marikina).

Back then, boarding houses charge around P700-P1,500 per boarder per month. Add to that the cost of books that every student is compelled to buy per subject. Books are a big source of racket for some professors in PUP. If your teacher happens to be the author of a particular book for your subject, he/she wouldn’t allow you to photocopy his/her books.

Realizing the hardships my parents had to endure, I was forced to work part-time. I worked during daytime and attended school at night time.

It was like that until my siblings and I finished college.

I used to think that this was a just normal case – that every aspiring college student had to look for ways to finish school or that it is normal not to finish college if parents cannot afford to send their children to school mainly due to financial difficulties.

But my case is not an isolated one. A few days back, news about an incoming college freshman who passed the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) facing the dilemma of not being able enroll as her parents, both jobless, cannot pay for the cost of tuition.

Every year, thousands of students flock to state funded schools in the hope of getting cheap but quality education. As in the case of UP, of the 60,000 students who took the exams, only 4,000 will be admitted this school year. In PUP, of the 70,000 who took the entrance test, only 6,000 to 7,000 will be admitted.

What fate await those who did not make it to the said schools? In the case of the thousands who didn't make it to UP nor PUP, will they ever get to continue their studies? Probably, their parents, left with no choice, will send their children to a private school despite the high cost of tuition and other fees.

Access to education is deeply rooted to government neglect.* Government neglect is evident in the low percentage share the education sector gets from the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Philippines gets a measly 2.7% compared to Hong Kong's 3.7%, Japan's 3.4% and Korea's 4.2%. (The United Nation recommends that at least 6% of the country's GDP be allotted to education to ensure access and quality).

What can the government do to address major issues of our education sector?

The sorry state of Philippine education can be addressed if the government starts doing a major overhaul of the education system. Key issues such as quality, shortages, access, rising cost of education should be addressed. At the onset, the government should start reviewing its education policies such as the Higher Education Modernization Act (HEMA) and Education Act of 1982. All current government programs and actions that seek to address problems besetting our education sector would serve as simple palliatives if no serious and meaningful measures are achieved.

Laws that put our education sector further down to a very tragic state should be reviewed. Education should be given the highest budgetary allocation over debt-servicing and military spending.

Together, let us call on the national government to start doing its mandated responsibility of sending all children to school.

The State shall assign the highest budgetary allocation to education. (Article XIV, Sec. 5, Par 5, Philippine Constitution)

*2.3 million college students drop out every year according to the Commission on Higher Education

Saturday, 8 January 2011

My Top 5 Posts in 2010

I started blogging in 2007. It was fellow blogger and colleague Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino who introduced and prodded me to start blogging. Before, my posts were personal experiences and recollection of daily endeavors. This year, my blog posts leveled up to political issues and more serious concerns, though I did not really stop posting personal thoughts.

As we finally bid goodbye to 2010 and welcome the year 2011 with greater might and inspiration from the masses, this writer vows to write more relevant issues and concerns (still with some light and not-so-serious posts).;p

Below are some of the top posts that got the most number of views from readers and followers.

1) My Recollection of My Best Days at NUSP

This was written after speaking at a students' congress organized by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), my first affiliation from way back. I have always been inspired by the vigor and dynamism of these young student leaders.

2) Death Eaters in Congress

Written after Rep. Palatino delivered a speech titled, "She-Who-Cannot-be-Named-in-the-Plenary". This post used terms and other moniker from the book Harry Potter. Guess who the Death Eater is?

3) Let the Sunshine In.

This measure, House Bill 2592 or the BPO Workers and Welfare Act of 2010, elicited much support from BPO workers, parents and concerned groups and individuals. I have actually written several articles on the BPO bill. Read here and here.

4) Ka Roda:Ang iyong pagyao at libong pagpupugay

This year, we lost a number of dear friends and colleagues; one of them is the country's much-loved transport leader Ka Roda.

5) Captured moments, Reps in action during budget deliberations

Here is a collection of some pictures taken during the action-packed budget. deliberations.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tamang timpla

Cucumber and minced onions with apple cider vinegar.

Picturesque Bay

Strolling around Harbor Square.

Monday, 18 October 2010

House Bill 2592 and upcoming events

On the second week of November, the 3rd round-table discussion on House Bill 2592 will be held in Quezon City. We'll post the final venue as soon as all details are finalized.

Also, coming out soon is the website on House Bill 2592. The website will serve as an online forum where BPO employees may exchange important concerns and matters about House Bill 2592 or anything that employees would like Rep. Mong Palatino or Kabataan Party-list to take up.

Watch out for other upcoming events.#

Friday, 15 October 2010

Let the sunshine in: House bill promoting call center employees rights

Updates on the recently held round-table discussion on BPO workers rights and welfare.

The second round-table discussion on call center rights and welfare finally happened on October 13, 2010 at Gelatissimo, Greenblet 5, Makati City. It was attended by call center agents from as far as the Manila area, QC area, and expectedly, with a large contingent from the Makati area. We were able to gather 5 call center locations/areas. A total of 24 participants attended the event.

The program started with introductions from participants followed by a short orientation on the discussion flow. It formally started with the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) sharing its research on the plight of BPO employees.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino presented salient points of House Bill 2592 or the BPO Workers and Welfare Act of 2010.

Below are some of the points raised during the discussion:

1)Right to Freedom of Association. All participants attest to the sad fact that they are not given a venue in which they could discuss their issues or concerns as employees. As pointed out in the paper “Offshored Work in Philippine BPOs” by Prof. Maragtas ‘Noy’ Amante, former professor at the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) and currently professor at Hanyang University in South Korea, “despite the high level of communications technology in the industry, most BPO firms are short on the concept of employee involvement.” This was further validated in a recently published book by the International Labor Organization, “Offshoring and Working Conditions in Remote Work,” which asserts that the BPO industry should "redesign" its work processes, especially in call centers, to allow BPO workers a democratized participation in policy-making through the formation unions or associations, among other things. The book further stresses that BPO firms have restrictive rules and procedures which hamper the democratic rights of the employees be it on decision-making or bargaining.

2)Work-related health problems. The nature of the work of most BPO centers is stressful given various factors: heavy workload, intermittent changes in work shift, irate customers, performance demands, and so on. Given these, BPO employees are vulnerable and exposed to work-related health problems.

3)Regularization. This is one of the highlights of the bill filed by Rep. Palatino. The Labor Code of the Philippines gives no exception to the standard rule that regularization should be on the 6th month of employment.

4)Lack of Due Process. An innumerable number of cases that range from illegal termination to salary disputes are being handled by the National Labor Relations Commission. In a recent dialogue of Rep. Palatino with DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldos, the latter confirmed that indeed, labor disputes are a common problem being addressed by the department. Rep. Palatino stressed the need to set-up a desk that specifically caters to concerns of BPO employees.

5)Salary disputes, hazard pay, forced over-time, no extra-pay for agents who are multi-skilled or overloading or work and so on.

From the discussion, several campaign plans were set including the formation of a BPO employees association or alliance. The participants also pledged to actively lobby for the immediate passage of the bill. Activities and initiatives such as t-shirt wearing, rotating decentralized and clustered discussions were immediately set.

The next decentralized discussion will be held in Cubao, with participants from Quezon City area pledging to host the event.#

See related posts:

House Bill 2592: A bill for the protection of the rights and welfare of BPO workers

Call Center Bill: Understanding Its Salient Provisions