Just recently, we had a 2-part JEEP orientation. JEEP is the Junior Engagement Program wherein students are given 12 hours to experience the life of our brethren who have jobs that usually require much effort but pay much less than what we ourselves forsee to earn when we graduate. We can choose to sign up for a job as a barker (those who shout “Cubao! Cubao!” and collect money in jeep terminals), a city hall clerk, a Robinson’s Supermarket bagger, or a public market vendor among others. One time before the first orientation, a question randomly popped into my mind. I asked myself why this stereotype of Ateneans still exists up to now. Is the actualization of this image what others deem to be the reason why we are able to say “Ang Sarap Maging Atenista”? Finally, a few days after our orientation, I had the chance to try and figure out what is wrong.
My mind first prompted me to blame the institution. After all, it is the school that gives us the title of being “Ateneans”. I tried to think of things that could probably be encouraging this notion of students in the Ateneo. Is it because of the airconditioned classrooms? I don’t think so. We have more electric-fan-equipped classrooms, based on my experience. Is it because of the location? I don’t think so. Katipunan is in no way different from other school surroundings (except maybe for less pollution) with all the establishments around. Is it the relatively good-looking basketball guys that we have? I don’t think so. They live normal lives inside the campus, as I have witnessed yesterday after being inside the same hall as them to attend the Married Couples Seminar c/o Fr. Dacanay. After further pondering, I then realized that it is not the school’s fault. Ateneo offers a lot of opportunities for us to be men and women for others and take the leap in changing the stereotype from being just people with pera to being people with puso. We have obligatory exposure trips for IntACT during our freshie year. We have the obligatory National Service Training Program (NSTP) during our sophomore year. We have the obligatory Junior Engagement Program (JEEP) during our junior year. We have the obligatory Immersion during our senior year. Those four courses are included in our curriculum, thus proving that we have Ateneo making sure that we experience and get to interact with lives of other people who may not be as financially-blessed as we are. If you don’t get anything from these already obligatory things, there are all these socially-oriented organizations which we can join. There are chances to have direct contact with our fellowmen through ACIL areas perhaps or teaching in ANI during summer. Thus, thinking about it, it’s not really Ateneo’s fault. Decision: Not guilty
My mind wanted to find something else to blame. I had nothing specific in my head until I remembered those people who raised their hands when the JEEP orientation host asked us who has not been on a jeepney yet (not including those “required” NSTP rides and such). I found it funny at first that there are people out there who haven’t experienced waiting for something to ride on late at night and finally ending up squishing your butt into a tiny space just to be able to get home. I first thought: “Perfect. These people are the reason why we’re still stereotyped.” But then, I realized that it’s not their fault that they’re like that. Some of those who raised their hands are my friends and I can attest that they are nowhere near the “stereotypical Atenean”. Being sheltered isn’t something that they had a direct choice in. I understand that being a parent entails to having much concern and care about our children and it’s not really anybody’s fault if their parents want them to arrive home safely, eat good food, and hang out with amazing people. I was probably just in a concentrated crowd, I realized. I was with the JTA crowd, after all. These were people who were able to afford spending money for a four to five month-stay abroad. They had the money, and honestly, if I had my own car or my own driver, I wouldn’t opt to commute too. Another thing that dawned on me was that not riding a jeepney isn’t an indication that someone is less of a man or woman for others. Some of the JTAers are part of socially-oriented orgs and even do areas in places that most non-JTAers don’t even dare to visit. It’s not their fault, then. Decision: Not guilty
While continuing to ponder on this matter, I passed by a car and saw my reflection on the shiny window. That’s when it hit me that I need to stop looking at others and instead focus on my own fault. I tried to count the number of times I just passed by the streetkids in Katipunan without even sharing with them some food, a few coins, or even just a small prayer. I remembered the summer that I wasted last year for not pursuing my ANI stint just because I presumed that I’ll be busy with my JTA sem. I recalled how I often told myself every RecWeek that I would join at least one socially-oriented org to keep me growing holistically. I realized that I haven’t brought a baunan even once in Ateneo to support the BYOB campaign. I thought of those countless times when I’d get lazy and “forget” to segregate my trash. I summoned up those tiny things that I told myself I would do for my exposure trip partner and my NSTP kids but always didn’t give much attention to after the program was done. I realized my indifference. Decision: Guilty
The good thing about this, however, is that it’s not too late to act on our shortcomings. Masarap maging Atenista because despite our “better” economic position in life, we still have opportunities to help everywhere we turn our heads to. It’s just a matter of making the most of what is offered to us. Instead of saying “Ewwww!” and laughing at how we would smell like after a JEEP Insertion at the Marikina Market, why don’t we see the other side of it and talk about what we would like to learn from the experience? It’s never too late to get involved in an organization that caters to the needs of our brethren, too.
I remember this “campaign” that Ateneo had before towards proper trash segregation. I was amused by the statement that goes something like: “Atenista ka. Mataas ang IQ mo. Saan mo itatapon ito?” You’ll then see a picture of something that you had to decide to throw in the green or the black bin. I guess the statement could also be appropriate in this issue. We are Ateneans. We are gifted with wit and intelligence. I do hope that the current notion on being Atenean isn’t what makes us happy to be coming from the sea of blue and white. I pray that each and everyone would be able to realize that what should make it “masarap” (not to be konyo, but only for a lack of a translation that’s of equal degree) to be Ateneans is every opportunity that we have to exemplify being men and women for others.