Thoughts on the Atenews 57 Years Anniversary Issue

My friend and president of Ateneo de Davao’s ARETE Alex Abando was the first to meet me since I returned to Davao for the Christmas break. Over red velvet cupcake from Dumaguete and native chocolate at Chicco Di Cafe Roxas he updated me about student politics in my dear alma mater. True to his role as president of the club for excellence, Alex even presented me a copy of the latest Magazine by Atenews, student publication of AdDU.

The magazine is the Atenews’ 57th Anniversary issue, and it has a strong historical tone. When I read it I was utterly delighted with the content, and as such any negative remarks I might make will merely be for improvement.

The issue begins with a message from Kathleen Veloso, the Editor-in-chief for 2012-2013. Being unacquainted with miss Veloso I have no good opinion of her, but I have no bad opinion either, so this message is really my first glimpse of her work. And it is an excellent first impression, as the message, written in thankfully perfect grammar (a frequent pitfall in past Atenews issues), sets at once the historical and opinionated tone of the issue. Her message starts objectively, but with a brevity that at once draws readers in. The second paragraph practically encapsulates the whole issue’s coverage, and the reader feels prepared for what is coming. My only problem is when she borders in equating Atenews history with Ateneo history. I see a lost opportunity for terminological precision: she should have discussed how crucial Atenews is in Ateneo historiography. Other than that minor detail I can say that miss Veloso is a disciplined writer and a competent editor.

Further evidence of miss Veloso’s competence as editor is shown in how the first article is about the larger than life character that is Mr. Ricardo Enriquez, drawing the reader immediately in. With two writers (miss Veloso and Edward Lactaoen) the article is substantially full of details, from his revolutionary tenure as OSA director to his flamboyant modo de proceder (which has often landed him in controversy) to even the image of authoritarianism many students have of him, ending with not exactly a patronizing but not a vilifying picture either. Miss Veloso and Mr. Lactaoen have succeeded in painting a profile at once (to use their term) “iconic” and human. Perhaps their only shortcoming was not mentioning sir Rikki’s time as student (when, if my sources are accurate, he demonstrated equally “iconic” feats).  Oh and his dancing, sir Rikki is an amazing dancer.

What follows is perhaps the weakest article in the issue, a feature on the Samahan by Almira Jane Villegas. For one thing, the article has not defined the terms (the distinction between “Samahan” and “Samahan Central Board,” which cease to be synecdochic in the context of profile features). For another thing, the author’s own surname is spelled with typographical error. Perhaps its biggest problem is its uncertainty of tone: will it be purely objective and talk history and structure or opinionated and proceed to pontificate? This uncertainty renders the article mediocre: where points ought to be substantiated historical facts are introduced, leading to new topics; where chronology and explanation of structure is needed the author proceeds to talking about how important Samahan is. This even puts some historical points into question, as the reason for Edgie Uyanguren’s conflict with Fr. Martinez was not expounded on clearly enough.  There isn’t even any mention of the officers of the SCB, the GACP and the CCO. To put it bluntly the article feels like it was written to meet the deadline, which is a shame considering how rich the material is.

But another well written article by Maybelle Anne Yutiamco on the buildings of the Ateneo follows. The presentation of buildings is chronological and as such is easy to understand, although more substantiation could help (such as a focus on the old chapel, the development of the library and the historical gymnasium). In typical Atenews fashion the article also includes a part on rooms for improvement. Atenews has truly established an image of constructive complaining! My biggest problem with the article (and generally in this issue) however is its lack of committment to defending historical heritage. Ateneo de Davao is fast destroying its old buildings to replace with new ones, which makes it a historically shallow campus. Now there is little for the first Ateneans to return home to. Atenews ought to make a stand on this.

Next is an article by Marie Florienne Melendrez on what Atenews has discussed most: the tuition and other fee increase. I need not go in detail here, first because I risk betraying my ignorance in accounting, and second because I trust Atenews to be compulsively thorough in their reportage on the matter.

Yet another juicy article is one on the defunct courses by Clemarie Secuya. Because of the wealth of material this article is already very informative, but there are needs for improvement in the writing. The courses first mentioned in the article (Agronomy, Animal Husbandry, etc.) were not discussed further. I am tempted to comment on the demise of AB Literature, but I believe I have articulated my stand on that enough elsewhere. I do like however how it ends with the hope that perhaps some of these defunct courses would be revived, and again I’ve reiterated my stand on Ateneo de Davao’s literature enough.

The first pages of the article on the Atenewsitself by Mr. Lactaoen and Kathleen Joyce Pastrana are incorrectly laid out as the white font could not be read against the light colored background. But this article is also quite well written, revealing to us the colorful history of what might be one of the most vocal student publications in the country. Rooms for improvement perhaps would be more discussion on how the Atenews emerged in the first place, on what the campus journalistic scene was before Atenews, more contemporary writing on what the logo has come to mean (the article only gives excerpt from a 1977 article), and a dicussion on some famous names in the list of moderators and editors (Aida Rivera Ford and Freddie Salanga are just mentioned as names). There is also a general lack of discussion in two key components of Atenews: the literary folio Banaag Diwa and the lampoon issue Kuyanews. I here suggest that Atenews do work with the existing literary organization of Ateneo de Davao, SALEM, to make a detailed historiography of the university’s literary folio.

On this note, I must point out that the article and issue itself seems to be subliminally polarized against PIGLASAPAT. The party is portrayed negatively in every instance it appears. While the paper dismisses any suggestions of bias, the glaring mention of the party is quite noticable. This of course is a perfectly objective observation.

I am sure Jenny Mae Saldaña’s article on the Daily Bread Program has its fascinations for people interested in such things, but I have an aversion for Catholic propaganda.

We get another weak article in Arielle Sta Ana’s feature on teachers. It leaves a lot wanting as a piece of historical reading. Questions like how did the Faculty club emerge and why did the union appear when there was already a club are not addressed. But in spite of its weaknesses it still remains a good read, as it is still quite informative and, in typical Atenews fashion, involved in its truth telling.

Ursula Calipayan’s article on the non-teaching staff is Atenews at its socially-involved best. The opinions of the guards, of the janitors are all presented against a backdrop of need for improvement in smooth writing. Although the article just ends abit to heavy-handedly (almost all the articles do), the piece is an excellent read.

Miss Sta Ana’s article on Vandalism needs to be fleshed out a bit more, particularly with contextualization into the Ateneo scene. I do not see why the Ateneo student would find it relevant to read this article, specially since it advocates vandalism as struggle and self expression while in the context of the campus it remains a purely malicious act of idiocy punishable by expulsion. It also presents the opinion of students as if the students were experts in the field, and corrections on tone can be made to improve this.

I further do not see the relevance of an article dedicated to the commericalization of education. While admittedly relevant, the article sticks out like a sore thumb in an issue that has begun with a historical tone. It is a demonstration of how Atenews has a tendency to excessively pontificate, sometimes at the expense of proper form.

Miss Veloso’s article on the community tower is quite informative, but it would have been better placed right after miss Yutiamco’s article on the buildings.

Finally, I can say that while the issue has touched much about Ateneo de Davao history, there remains much to be written. There is no mention of Kalasag and its unique tradition of Awitenista, only passing (and at times negative) reference to the political parties, no mention of the campus clubs, COMELEC and of the SICO.

Nevertheless the issue is a welcome contribution to Ateneo de Davao’s historiography. Hopefully what miss Veloso’s editorial board has done will begin a movement of historiographic output not only in Atenews but in the whole Ateneo de Davao as well. Ateneo de Davao has a rich history, and it’s about time we begin writing it down.

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