The Flame Vol. 57 Issue No. 1

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THE

FLAME Vol. 57, Issue no. 1

THE OFFICIAL STUDENT PUBLICATION OF THE UST FACULTY OF ARTS AND LETTERS

EMPOWERMENT in the pandemic era


THE

FLAME

FOUNDED OCTOBER 16, 1964 EDITORIAL STAFF 2021 - 2022 Peach Arianna P. Manos Editor-in-chief Isabell Andrea M. Pine Associate Editor

Maria Cecilia O. Pagdanganan Managing Editor Kristine Erika L. Agustin Scenes Editor Siegfred Aldous D. Lacerna Issues Editor Patrick V. Miguel Faces Editor Theriz Lizel R. Silvano Culture Editor Maria Pamela S. Reyes Letters Editor Tcheky Nicole D. Cabrera Art Director Frances Marie G. Ignalaga Photography Editor Janis Joplin G. Moises, Karen Renee Nogoy, Arthur Florence Jean N. Apostol, Matthew Dave A. Jucom Scenes Writers Hannah Beatrisse L. Oledan, Eduardo G. Fajermo Jr., Bless Aubrey Ogerio Issues Writers Mary Nicole P. Miranda Faces Writers Christine Janine T. Cortez, John Patrick A. Magno Ranara, Thea Andrea C. Magueriano, Samantha Argonza Culture Writers Abigail M. Adriatico, Fatima Baduria, Dawn Danielle Solano Letters Writers Andrei Joseph Duran, Rainiel Angelyn Figueroa, Elijah John M. Encinas Photographers Jeanne Pauline G. Tecson, Leanne Marion T. Vilog, Hanz Felix T. Lontoc Artists Alexis B. Romero, M.A. Publication Adviser The Flame, the official student publication of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters, aims to promote a scholarly attitude among Artlets and Thomasians in the analysis of the implications of current relevant issues to their lives and society at large, to serve as a forum not only between Artlets and the administration but most importantly, among Artlets themselves, and to provide a vehicle for the publication of in-depth articles on the concerns and interests of the Faculty. Nothing appearing in the Flame may be reprinted either in whole or in part without written permission addressed to the Editor in Chief of the Flame, G/F St. Raymund’s Bldg., University of Santo Tomas, Manila or to editorialboard@abtheflame.net.

Visit our official website: abtheflame.net

© 2021 by the Flame. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Cover photo by

RAINIEL ANGELYN FIGUEROA

Spread photo by

MARLOU JOSEPH B. BON-AO


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Editor’s Note

he calm after the storm—a period of unusual tranquility, the peaceful silence that lasts for a short while—is what everyone is expecting to feel after a time of distress. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of changes in the world as it took millions of lives. It changed the way we communicate daily, how we celebrate holidays, our sanitation, and how we empower ourselves and the people around us. During the ongoing health crisis where one is forced to stay indoors because of the threat of the virus, there have been a lot of internal struggles most of us are not addressing. How we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally in the middle of a pandemic says a lot. As human beings, not being able to socialize or even go outdoors can have a huge toll on our mental health. Being away from our loved ones and friends while going through the different pressures of life can drain us mentally. Everyone is just waiting for the storm to be over. For us to finally feel the serene period as we anticipate the end of despair. But are we really ready for the person we have become to finally go out and live in the ‘new normal’? How do we know how much we have changed—whether it is for the better or worse— in almost two years of isolation? During those times we are stuck in the four corners of our home scrolling through different news about the government’s insufficient COVID-19 response, how did we empower ourselves? How did we survive being alone with no clear answers on when we would go back to normal? How did we empower others amid the pandemic with only the use of monitor screens, video calls and chat boxes? These are the questions The Flame hopes to answer through this issue.

Peach Manos Editor-in-chief ’21 - ‘22


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WHAT'S INSIDE?


SCENES

The Faculty of Arts and Letters team plays against the College of Nursing at the Goodwill games photo by MARLOU JOSEPH BON-AO


COMMUNICATION ARTS, JOURNALISM TO BE PRIORITIZED IN FACE-TO-FACE CLASSES, SAYS ARTLETS DEAN by MATTHEW DAVE A. JUCOM & NILLICENT B. BAUTISTA

photo by KARL ANGELO N. VIDAL

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OMMUNICATION AND Journalism programs would be prioritized once the government allows the resumption of face-to-face classes in the University, Faculty of Arts and Letters Dean Marilu Madrunio said. “If the government approves the resumption of face-to-face classes, our priority would be the Communication and Journalism programs since there are courses in higher years in those programs that require face-to-face interactions,” Madrunio told The Flame. “Please note that our priority would be the higher years for Communication and Journalism only,” she added. The Commission on Higher Education has allowed the resumption of limited in-person classes in areas under Alert Level 2, including Metro Manila, as the COVID-19 situation in the country improves. A school can conduct in-person classes if it secures the approval of the local government unit and if its faculty members and students are fully vaccinated. ‘Safe return should be prioritized,’ Organizations representing communication and journalism students welcomed the development but called for sufficient safeguards against the pandemic.

“We happily accept AB prioritizing our program for the resumption of face-to-face classes, but we still emphasize the prioritization of our students’ safety and welfare for a safe resumption of classes,” Communication Arts Students’ Association president Martin Alcantara told The Flame. “Despite this, we still have some concerns that need addressing: Will students outside of NCR (National Capital Region) be required to go back to Manila for class? Do all students need to be fully vaccinated before entering campus? How many students will be allowed inside each room?” he added. UST Journalism Society (JournSoc) president Marymon Frances Reyes said she is worried about a possible surge in COVID-19 infections, noting that mobility restrictions in Metro Manila do not guarantee safety from the virus. “We also need to check the safety of our students, [whether] all students are fully vaccinated or there are still some who have [not availed of their second dose]. Do some opt not to be inoculated because they have a comorbidity or other reasons that would hinder them from being vaccinated? Those are among the few concerns that are very crucial for this one,” she added. Reyes said the JournSoc is ready to coordinate with university administrators in creating guidelines for the possible resumption of in-person classes. F


UST may apply for F2F classes before December by KRISTINE ERIKA L. AGUSTIN & MATTHEW DAVE A. JUCOM photo by FRANCES G. IGNALAGA

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HE UNIVERSITY may apply for limited face-to-face classes for the rest of the degree programs before December once the proposals of the academic units are approved by the University Crisis Management Committee (UCMC), top administrators said. “As soon as the proposals of academic units are approved by the UCMC, the retrofitted facilities are ready for visit, and the documentary requirements have been completed by the academic units, we can submit their applications even before December as was relayed during the town hall meeting with CHED,” Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Cheryl Peralta and Secretary General Fr. Louie Coronel, O.P. said in a joint statement sent to The Flame. The government’s COVID-19 inter-agency task force has allowed the resumption of limited in-person classes to all degree programs in areas under Alert Levels 1,2, and 3, adopting the proposal of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Under Resolution 148-G released last Nov. 16, all higher education institutions under Alert Level 2 may apply in December during the first phase of the implementation period, while those under Alert Level 3 may apply during the second phase, starting January next year.

Once approved, the limited face-to-face classes in UST would be expanded to other programs in which intended learning outcomes cannot be fully achieved through online classes, they said. “These will mainly be skills-based courses that require inperson instruction. We will likewise determine which year levels and courses will be prioritized per program to progressively increase the number of students and academic staff who will enter the campus at any given time,” the officials said. Policies for students’ safe return The academic units are currently consulting with the stakeholders to prepare appropriate plans that would fit their programs, they said. The health and safety protocols already established include the protocol for contact tracing and reporting of cases; screening and detection, containment and lockdown protocols; protocol for referral and transfer; and the protocol for isolation, quarantine, and COVID-19 testing. The university has also implemented a protocol on IDtapping, where the student’s health declaration form


in Thomasian Online Medical Services and Support (ThoMedSS) will be verified after tapping one’s ID, the statement read. The process automatically records the students’ temperature after using the thermal scanner and confirms their schedule if they are allowed to enter the campus. The officials also said they are planning to improve the IDtapping system by including the vaccination status of the students in accordance with the ThoMedSS data. “Approval of the proposals of the academic units will have to be rendered by the University Crisis Management Committee before submitting the same to government regulatory bodies,” they said. The university started its limited face-to-face classes in medical and allied health programs last June. F

Editor’s note: The Flame edited this article after the Office of the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs (OVRAA) and the Office of the Secretary-General (OSG) clarified that this is not the first time the university is applying for limited face-to-face classes. The OVRAA and OSG added that the University’s application depends on the UCMC’s approval of the academic units’ proposals. The original article stated that the University started its limited in-person classes in medical and allied health programs last June.


How a normal school day for Artlets looked like when there wasn't a need for face masks photo by FRANCES MARIE IGNALAGA W


ISSUES

“No SILENCE”. A Portrait of a journalism student standing against the ABS-CBN shutdown last June 2020. Photo by RANIEL ANGELYN FIGUEROA

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@abtheflame | abtheflame.net


The waiting game: Thomasians outside Metro Manila still seeking access to COVID-19 jabs art by TCHEKY NICOLE D. CABRERA

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HE UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas (UST) has become one of Manila’s vaccination sites, giving Thomasians and their families—Manileño or not—access to what everyone hopes will end the pandemic. However, for students residing in the province, the means to travel and the quarantine protocols in the capital city poses a problem. This leaves Thomasians far from school with no choice but to play the waiting game. Maxine Rae Joaquin is a third-year communication arts student from Ilocos Norte who remains unvaccinated since her local government is still administering jabs to the priority groups. Due to the limited vaccine supply, the government prioritized health workers, senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, essential workers, and the indigent population— sectors that are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Joaquin said the number of people who want to be inoculated in her province does not match the numbers of existing vaccination sites. “There are limited resources, and there’s a small number of healthcare workers that can serve at the vaccination sites,” Joaquin told The Flame.

Disorganized? More than 4,500 vaccination sites are already operating nationwide, but several provinces in Visayas and Mindanao are reportedly experiencing vaccine shortages last July. While her province is located in northern Luzon, Joaquin said there were complaints about the disruptions in the jab distribution as the vaccination drive in her town was organized until there was an uptick in COVID-19 infections. “During the recent roll out, ang dami raw tao sa site. Kahit yung mga wala raw sa listahan, nandun na. So gumulo yung system nila (During the recent roll out, there were many people on-site including those who are not listed, so the system was interrupted.),” the communication arts student said. A creative writing student from Ilocos Norte who requested anonymity claimed there were irregularities that contributed to the slow vaccine roll-out in the province, including the giving of special treatment to those not on the priority list. “Not enough transparency has been given to the people here in our province,” the student said.

“Iisa lang rin [ang] site sa municipality namin and naghihintay talaga sila ng vaccines from the provincial government (Our municipality only has one vaccination site and is waiting for vaccines from the provincial government),” she added.

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NCR and others? The government is prioritizing “economic hubs” in the vaccination program to reopen the economy and to allow more people to work safely. It has identified Metro Manila, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Rizal, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao – collectively known as National Capital Region plus eight – as priority vaccination areas. Because of the rising number of cases in other areas, 10 cities have been added to the priority list namely Baguio, Tuguegarao, Naga, Legazpi, Bacolod, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, and General Santos. However, local authorities have repeatedly appealed to send more jabs to the provinces because of the rapid rise in infections in places outside the capital region. Due to Albay representative Joey Salceda’s concerns and Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara’s appeal to supply the province more COVID-19 vaccines last June 23, deliveries for a total of 26,920 Sinovac doses and 16,380 Pfizer doses are now ongoing since October 11. The province is also set to receive 28,000 Moderna vaccines for first and second doses. Asst. Prof. Frederick Rey of the UST sociology and political science departments said the “superiority” of Manila over other areas was manifested in the vaccine distribution. He pointed out that Metro Manila was already experiencing a certain degree of normalcy until the Delta variant came. However, the administering of jabs in some provinces has yet to start then. Conversely, Anthony Leachon, former special adviser to the government’s pandemic task force, said distributing the limited supply to several areas could weaken the herd immunity in the National Capital Region (NCR) plus, a collective term for Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite. He added that there are no cold chain infrastructures in the countryside, a loophole that could result in vaccine wastage. Christine Joyce Paras, a fourth-year journalism student from Iligan City, said concentrating vaccine supplies in the NCR plus has advantages. “[I] think it’s practical that most of the supplies are in NCR due to its massive population,” she said. Czar Gabriel Dela Cruz, a third-year political science major from Angeles City, Pampanga said he used to back the idea of prioritizing the attainment of herd immunity in the NCR plus.

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@abtheflame | abtheflame.net

He now views it as a band-aid solution because of the significant increase in the number of infections in the provinces. “[I]t’s too late for [the NCR plus herd immunity], [because] borders are opened, the virus is now basically everywhere, people aren’t scared anymore, provinces are the new epicenter of the virus,” dela Cruz said.

‘Provinces are neglected’ Until the country’s vaccine supply stabilizes, students outside Metro Manila will have to wait and make do with available health facilities in their respective areas. The creative writing student complained about supposed delays in the giving of second doses and the alleged favorable treatment given to people who have close ties with local officials. Dela Cruz, who had contracted COVID-19 twice, said he was dismayed by what he described as the faulty contact tracing and logistics in his province. Contact quarantine facilities are also hard to contact, forcing his family to get tested and recuperate in Quezon City. “I know for a fact that the provinces are somehow neglected because my family is forced to stay in Quezon City for a while to be accommodated,” Dela Cruz said. As of October 16, the Philippines has administered 52,157,598 COVID-19 vaccine jabs. A total of 24,236,524 Filipinos have already completed their vaccines while 27,921,074 are yet to get their second doses. About 19.59 percent of its total population have been inoculated for COVID-19 from March to September. The government aims to vaccinate at least 50 million people this year. Despite complaints about how some local governments administer vaccines, officials are optimistic that half of Metro Manila’s eligible population will be vaccinated by Aug. 31. F— Eduardo Fajermo and Hannah Beatrisse Oledan


SENT FROM ABOVE? How faith matters in poll decisions art by TCHEKY NICOLE D. CABRERA

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HE GROWING influence of secularization poses a threat to the authority of churches worldwide as some groups question traditional values inspired by religious ideals while calling for freedom of choice. However, in a deeply religious country like the Philippines – which has a constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state – faith is seen to play a crucial role in practically every aspect of the lives of its citizens, including choosing their next leaders. In the case of Filipinos, religion and politics are not separated, according to Asst. Prof. Ma. Zenia Rodriguez of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) political science department. “It is safe to say yes it may. Religion continues to play a role in influencing the faithful, and this may extend as to whom they will vote for,” Rodriguez told The Flame.

She added that the faith of Filipinos affects their voting behavior since they are very dedicated and steadfast in practicing their religion. Fr. Dexter Austria of UST’s Faculty of Sacred Theology echoed the view, noting that some people genuinely believe in the Bible and that“unity in the church is God’s teaching.” Austria added that no free will is suppressed when a voter follows his church’s endorsement since his freedom to choose a leader lies in his decision to be with that group.

Influential More than 80 percent of Filipinos identify as Roman Catholic. The country is also home to Protestant groups and other Christian sects like the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), and Islam.

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While most of them do not participate directly in political activities, religious leaders greatly influence them. Some of them even endorse candidates that they think will push for policies that affirm their teachings. Some leaders use moral suasion in convincing theirmembers to support a candidate while others go as far as organizing a block voting system, a mechanism that politicians hope would work in their favor. Therefore, it is not unusual to see candidates meeting with religious leaders during the campaign period as social engagements are widely seen as venues for political concessions.

Austria linked the politicians’ desire to associate themselves with religious leaders to the Filipinos’ tendency to vote for people they can relate to. “This is why politicians try to appeal to the poor even if they are wealthy because they are aware that most of the voters in the country are underprivileged,” said Austria.

Playing God

For instance, in 2016, all presidential candidates met with INC leaders, whose members are known to practice block voting.

While he thinks that faith will still be a factor in the upcoming election, Austria said voters should look at the “innermost core of their conscience” of the candidates.

For Chloe (not her real name), an INC member, the participation in bloc voting has a biblical basis as it has been practiced for a long time.

“[Politicians] are under God, [but] sometimes they want to play God,” Austria said. Future leaders should be God-fearing, respectful of human life, goal-driven, honest, and ready to walk the talk.

She noticed some people indirectly criticizing their religious practices, noting that the public often misinterprets several of their teachers.

“Sometimes, our politicians are flaunting all their successes and achievements but after which, nganga na (nothing happens),” Austria added.

“I respect that everyone has the right to express their opinions and give criticisms as long as they are not destructive,” Chloe told The Flame. On the other hand, the Catholic Church does not endorse candidates but some of its bishops and priests do so in their individual capacities. Politicians, however, still exert efforts to be in the good graces of local parishes and lay groups, many of whom are actively involved in voter education programs. A notable exception would be President Rodrigo Duterte who openly attacked Catholic bishops for their critical stance on his bloody war on drugs, a campaign that has left more than 6,000 suspects dead. Duterte, who claims to believe in God but not in organized religion, had described the Catholic Church as “full of s***” and labeled it as the “most hypocritical institution.” Politicians are also seen participating in religious activities. In 2019, Samira Gutoc, a Muslim woman who ran for senator under the opposition coalition, walked into church aisles for interfaith dialogues. “Politicians of course know that such campaign strategy will probably make them endearing to voters,” Rodriguez said, implying that some people vote not only based on their beliefs but also on their religious leaders’ preferences.

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Rodriguez said voters should not be swayed with “shallow gimmicks” such as publicity stunts and motherhood statements.

“ A person with a good

heart may be a good choice, but more than that, we need a leader who has concrete and feasible plans, ”

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she said. F — M.L. Beech


SHOOTING THE SHOT Addressing the COVID-19Vaccine Hesitancy

by MATTHEW DAVE JUCOM & BLESS AUBREY OGERIO

art by JEANNE PAULINE G. TECSON

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HE GOVERNMENT has sought to vaccinate at least 70 percent of its total population to achieve herd immunity—the perceived solution against the untamed pandemic—when mass COVID-19 vaccination started last March. From March to September, a total of 21.3 million Filipinos or 19.59 percent of the whole Philippine population were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, 24.2 million Filipinos or 22.23 percent of the whole Philippine population received their first dose of vaccine. However, widespread misinformation and controversies regarding vaccines still lurk on the internet, prompting several Filipinos to refuse to get inoculated. This is a roadblock in the government’s goal in achieving herd immunity. Among them is Carlito Manalo*, a sales agent, who believes vaccine efficacy is not ensured due to its urgent development. “Kasi nga diba yung vaccine hindi natin sigurado kung safe… kung okay nga po talaga siya kasi hindi siya kumbaga na-testing nang matagal (It’s because we are not certain whether it is safe or not as it has not underwent exhaustive testing),” Manalo said.

Manalo’s negative beliefs about vaccines were primarily based on his speculations influenced by hearsays being posted on social media. “Marami nang kumakalat sa Facebook [at] Telegram na hindi siya nakakagaling (Several posts were circulating on Facebook and Telegram that vaccines are ineffective),” he stated. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed that experts have been studying the coronavirus for years, thus explaining the COVID-19 vaccines’ quick development. “Scientists have been working for many years to develop vaccines against coronaviruses. The knowledge that was gained through past research on coronavirus vaccines helped speed up the initial development of the current COVID-19 vaccines,” CDC explained on their official website. Although these vaccines were rapidly developed, CDC ensured that they still underwent the usual three-phase clinical before granting the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Scientists conducted clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines which involved tens of thousands of volunteers of different ages, races and ethnicities. @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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CDC added that clinical trials for vaccines compare outcomes between people who are vaccinated and people who are not, such as how many people get sick. They assured, however, that it showed no serious safety concerns within 8 weeks following vaccination. Several experts from CDC have also said that the vaccines aim to decrease the chances of people getting a severe COVID-19 infection. They also acknowledged that people who have already been vaccinated can still get infected, albeit with less severe symptoms. Similar to Manalo, Linda Beltran*, a barangay police officer, is also hesitant about getting the vaccine after her neighbor—a senior citizen—experienced itchiness and rashes after having the second dose. “Dito kasi sa barangay, mayroong [senior citizen] na nabakunahan [at] nagkaroon ng rashes after nun [...] kinati-kati hanggang sa [natuyo ang balat] sa pagkakati tapos nagsugat-sugat (Here in our Barangay, there was a senior who was vaccinated and had rashes afterwards. It itched until the skin dried and woundedup),” Beltran said. She added that her neighbor sought help from a doctor, but the doctor clarified that the skin condition was not caused by the vaccine. Beltran, however, remains adamant that the vaccine was still the cause of the senior citizen’s itchiness and rashes. “Bakit nung hindi pa siya nababakunahan, hindi pa lumalabas [yung galis], pero nung nabakunahan siya, doon na lumabas yung galis niya? (Why is it that when he wasn’t vaccinated, he did not have these rashes. But when he was vaccinated, that’s when his rashes appeared?),” she questioned.

What do medical experts say? Nicole Cua, a resident physician in training in Quezon City public hospital, said that the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include pain at the injection site. This is similar to the side effects of the flu and anti-tetanus vaccines. “Each vaccine has its own side effects that are particular to that vaccine, but based on what I experienced, it’s just the same old side-effects,” she said. Accordingly, CDC said that the common COVID-19 vaccine side-effects include arm pain and swelling at the inoculation site. Tiredness, headache, fever, and muscle pains can also be experienced days after the vaccination. But when asked if COVID-19 vaccines could cause severe rashes, Cua said she was not aware of this. The physician suspected that the patient “might have just eaten something.” “You cannot pinpoint the allergic reaction of the patient to the vaccine. There’s no way of linking that unless you do skin testing on the patient,” she explained.

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Findings from the CDC suggested that allergic reactions due to COVID-19 vaccines are rare and have occurred in approximately 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the United States. CDC added that those who experienced either a severe or non-severe allergic reaction should not receive a second dose. For those who are experiencing rashes around the injection site after the first dose, CDC recommended that they receive a second dose. However, they must inform the vaccine provider beforehand. “[We continue] to closely monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. If scientists find a connection between a safety issue and a vaccine, FDA and the vaccine manufacturer will work toward an appropriate solution to address the specific safety concern,” the CDC added. Similarly, a July 2021 study published by The Lancet, a general medical journal based in the United Kingdom, found that the vaccine can cause several mild effects such as headache and fatigue, either after the first or second doses. The study also revealed that among those inoculated with Pfizer BioNTech, less than 25 percent of the participants had experienced fatigue and headache after the first dose while less than 15 percent after the second dose. This is a much lower rate than those recorded during the third phase with 34-47 percent of the participants who experienced fatigue while 25-42 percent experienced headaches, it added. Meanwhile, the phase 2 and 3 clinical trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine showed a decrease in the experienced side effects. Out of the 345,280 individuals aged 18-55 who received the first injection, 33.7 percent of them had experienced any systemic side-effects such as fatigue and headache and nausea. The study also observed that there was a “risk reduction” after 21 to 44 days of inoculation.

‘I will only get vaccinated if…’ Manalo and Beltran said that they witnessed how the COVID-19 pandemic affected and threatened their daily living. These have not influenced them to get vaccinated anytime soon. However, they might consider getting inoculated if the vaccine is effective for others. “Basta makita muna natin kung talagang maganda ang epekto [ng bakuna] sa katawan, walang side effects (Let’s see first if the vaccine has a really good effect on the body, no side effects),” Manalo said. “Magpapabakuna na ako kapag yung mga nabakunahan is hindi namatay after a year (I will be vaccinated when those who have got the jab did not die after a year),” Beltran said. Cua, however, advised the people to get vaccinated, even if it will only last for a certain time, as this would be “better than to have nothing at all.”


“Parang sayang yung opportunity na sana mild na lang yung symptoms mo dahil vaccinated ka, pero naging severe pa tuloy kasi you opted na wag na lang kasi bababa rin naman yung antibodies (It seems like a wasted opportunity that your symptoms could have been mild if you were already vaccinated, but it became severe since you opted not to because you assumed that your antibodies will be weakened),” she said. She also advised the public to not wait for herd immunity as it is impossible to achieve by just looking at how the virus is “fast replicating.” “Kailangan magpa-vaccine ‘yung mga tao para at least we have some sort of immunity (People need to be vaccinated so that at least we have some sort of immunity),” she added.

Educating vaccine-hesitant people University of Santo Tomas (UST) post-graduate intern Robert Dominic Gonzales said that ‘personal-level and communitylevel factors have influenced vaccine hesitancy among people. “There are several causes of vaccine hesitancy which may be person-specific (previous experiences with vaccines, relationship with the healthcare system) or community-level factors (social norms, external factors, fake news, vaccine policy),” Gonzales told The Flame. Gonzales explained how education is the best weapon to tackle vaccine hesitancy, boost vaccine confidence and combat the spread of fake news. He added that apart from educating the people, a communitybased approach must also be applied to determine other factors. “As responsible citizens of this country, we need to be able to reach out to many and be proactive when seeing fake news. This can start even within our families, relatives, friends, and own barangays,” he said.

Filipinos optimistic about the COVID-19 vaccine Gonzales, who also volunteers at the University’s vaccination site, added that despite the hesitancy, Filipinos are still optimistic about getting vaccinated as some line up a day before the vaccination centers open. But the country’s limitation supply may impede this,

on he

vaccine added.

“The leadership of our national government and mismanagement in the Department of Health have been very evident right from the start of the pandemic,” Gonzales said, adding that the on-andoff lockdowns are also signs of poor control of disease spread.

“If only we have a government that supports the needs and cares for our healthcare force and the science and technology field, I am confident that we will get through this pandemic as [early] as possible,” Gonzales said. “As we say, Solusyong Medikal, Hindi Militar (medical solution, not military force),” he added.

‘Probe and put the statement to context’ In a series of tweets last September 18, DZBB Super Radyo of GMA Network has featured a group called Gising Maharlika which protested against vaccination and wearing of face masks since they believe that COVID-19 does not exist. Many Twitter users have noticed that DZBB failed to fact-check the claims of the group. For UST journalism instructor Ferdinand Maglalang, people who are against the COVID-19 vaccine have the right to be heard, yet he also said the media has the responsibility “to probe and put the statement in the proper context.” “Meaning to say, anong evidence mo? Bakit ayaw mo magpa vaccine? Bakit ayaw mo ng lockdown? (What is your evidence? Why don’t you want to be inoculated? Why are you opposing the lockdown?),” Maglalang said. But for this matter, Maglalang emphasized that these vaccines and health protocols are based on medical research and refusing them can put at risk the public’s health and safety. “It’s your right to protest against [these] lockdowns pero merong science, merong basehan, merong scientific evidence why lockdowns are being imposed,” he said. Maglalang added that the role of the media during a health crisis becomes more significant as they need to critically challenge the government-imposed policies. “The media needs to challenge government policies. Pinag-aralan niyo po ba yan? (Have you studied it?) Is it based on science? Is it based on medicine?” Maglalang said. “[That’s why the] media should be able to be critical [and] should be probing government policies especially during the pandemic,” he added. Other countries have started inoculating their citizens of booster shots but the Philippines is still holding on to its goal of herd immunity. F *Names were changed as requested by the subjects for protection

He said that the people need a government that knows how to prioritize solving the pandemic, has a sense of urgency, and aims for scientific medical solutions. @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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PERSPECTIVES

A boat rests calmly under the yellow sky photo by MARLOU JOSEPH BON-AO

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THINK BEFORE YOU VOTE Preparing for the Elections art by JULIA DOMINIQUE T. YANCHA

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here is an apparent change regarding the youth’s interests in participating in the upcoming elections. As people continue to grow weary due to the negative impact caused by the pandemic in the economy, education, and environment, the desire for a solution grew stronger for every Filipino in the country. With various youth organizations, influencers, and educators actively encouraging the youth to exercise their right to vote by registering for the 2022 elections, hopes that the younger generation’s fresh point of view will change the usual trend in this country’s election results emerged. In September, this shared effort to empower the youth has garnered fruit. In an online briefing with CNN Philippines, Comelec Director James Jimenez announced that the Filipino youth comprises 52 percent of total registered voters for the 2022 polls. That is about 31 million Filipinos aged 18 to 40 years old out of over 60 million registered voters.

But how prepared are youth voters when it comes to choosing the right candidate? According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021, Filipinos’ reliance on social media as a news source rose to 72 percent. In addition, a Plos One study on Filipinos’ dependency on Facebook for news and its influence on political engagements showed that those who rely on social media, specifically Facebook, for their source of news perceive themselves to have low political knowledge. These doubts are warranted as social media is a place where disinformation is commonly found and easier to disseminate.

With the pandemic, political analysts have already speculated that this election would be mainly fought online, making it harder to unmask a politician’s facade. Although the youth are more equipped with the know-how when it comes to using technology and digital media compared to their predecessors, the sea of information available on the internet and the experience of employed veteran campaign strategists to manipulate public opinion can be overwhelming to those who do not actively seek the truth. With the present digital environment and the youth’s doubts about their political knowledge, registering to vote may not be enough. The youth must also make an active effort to educate themselves and to factcheck the contents they consume. Granted, not all of the youth have access to the same kind of resources, but the effort of reaching out to the right people for consultation can still make a difference. There are many voter education advocates, online and offline, who are willing to help the youth make an informed decision. The internet, despite its flaws, can also help for making a more informed vote. Now more than ever, responsible young voters can quickly reference credible online news sources and journals. At the end of the day, the responsibility lies within young voters to e d u c a t e themselves in order to not be easily swayed by the persuasive tactics of politicians. To create change, the youth must make their vote count. F @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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Dangerous Narratives

We, the Others

Siegfried Aldous D. Lacerna

Patrick V. Miguel

Illegally Blonde

What would Socrates Do?

T

he 2022 elections are just around the corner, and the heightened online discourse about politics and politicians has been ignited once again. While several users have said that they would not let politics affect their relationships with their families and friends, some are keen to simply cut ties with people who support “the wrong candidate." These acts of cutting ties or retaining the relationship with those who have different political opinions are prevalent in the current discourse of people with partisan inclinations. Even if different camps are willing to converse with those who are either undecided or already have another candidate in mind, others do not want to discuss with people who have opposing views. This often causes division and affects one's relationship with other people. Thus, the bigger question is, how should Filipinos approach people of different political beliefs? I do not think that either just letting your loved ones vote for their preferred candidate or severing ties with them altogether are the right things to do because these approaches are very lax and passive from any angle. Both methods lack the necessary critical dialogue. Perhaps, we can derive an approach from people who have lived way before us—like Socrates. Socrates, along with Plato and Aristotle, makes up the Greek philosophical triumvirate. These guys, especially Socrates, are three of the greatest thinkers that this world has ever known. If we are to engage in political discourse today, perhaps, we should situate ourselves to how our early philosophers would approach the dialogue. Thus, we should ask: What would Socrates do? One of my favorite concepts in Ethics and Philosophy classes is the Socratic Method. Basically, a person can ask as many questions as they want until they reach a satisfactory answer. As Filipinos, we should adopt the Socratic method of learning when talking about politics, even if we have cultural barriers that prevent us from speaking with our families about governance in general. If we are just to accept who a person will vote for, how sure are we that they will choose the right candidates? This can also apply to ourselves because what if we're the ones with the poor voting decisions? Instead of cutting ties or letting people be, may we all learn to adapt the Socratic method as there is wisdom in asking questions and initiating discourses without name-calling or mudslinging. At a time when several high officials are good at igniting demoralizing rhetoric, ordinary citizens should have the initiative to raise the bar high with critical dialogues. This way, we can prevent ourselves from drowning in empty, divisive, and dangerous narratives. F

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@abtheflame | abtheflame.net

A

year into the pandemic, I found myself standing in the bathroom, cursing as the bleach stings my scalp. Maybe watching Brad Mondo’s videos on Youtube reassured me that I would not ruin my "perfectly healthy locks"—but that was the dilemma. I always painted my appearance based on what my family, the people I dated, and my school wanted me to be. Clean-cut and "ordinary" like a shampoo commercial's view on "perfectly straight and manageable hair." I asked myself, how do I want to present myself to the world? The last time I was on campus, I looked like a conventional student from a Catholic school. The kind that says "Estudyante po" while handing out my fare inside the jeep. With just a glimpse, the driver would already know that I would avail of the student discount. I wore the same uniform as every guy who roamed the school hallways, sporting short black hair with no dangles hanging on my earlobes. Despite expressing my style by wearing bracelets, sweaters, and colorful printed socks, I still felt like a sheep in a flock. My hands were shackled, after all, as I was bound by the strict dress code. No ear piercings. No heavy make-up. No hair color. Overall, no freedom to express my "individuality." However, after more than a year of never-ending modules and unbearable Zoom calls, I realized that the online set-up gave the students the liberty to express their style. Many of us colored our hair, got more piercings, and experimented on new clothes. Even guys grew their tresses longer. Most of us no longer looked like the same students who left school in March 2020. As much as our school administration would refuse to admit, these changes are completely harmless. I guess it takes a few backward narratives to convict our styles as transgressions. It has been an ever-present academic and professional dispute, but as the famous TikTok song says, "Having colored hair doesn't make you unprofessional." That being said, I hope we all get to speak that louder for the people sitting at the back, refusing to move forward with time. If our ways to express our style are considered transgressions, would Elle Woods be there to defend me for having the same hair color as hers? Court adjourned. In the end, it is not dyeing your hair blonde that matters because that would be an erroneous discourse on eurocentric standards. The point of this is to dare yourself to go beyond limits, outside your comfort zone, without seeking validation. You can change your hair, wear new and daring clothes, or perhaps get a tattoo and some piercings. It is time to give yourself the chance to get out of the prison that "normy" standards forced you to conform to. As cliche as it sounds, life is short, and reflecting on current affairs in the Philippines, dyeing your hair (for example) is not the worst thing you could do. However, the worst thing you could do is illegally detain yourself within the borders of other people's narratives. F


Envisage

Candidly Speaking

Theriz Lizel R. Silvano

Maria Cecilia O. Pagdanganan

My bestfriend is an Anti-Vaxxer; What should I do?

W

hen the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines first arrived in our borders last February, I remember releasing a long sigh of relief. I consider vaccines a great achievement, a beacon of hope in a time of uncertainty. I had only read little information about the vaccines during that time, but I had already firmly and confidently decided to get vaccinated. Little did I know, my best friend had the opposite view. She and I have the same political and social beliefs and morals. Our sense of humor is alike, and we accept each other’s emotional capacity. We also have the same perspectives in almost everything, except for one crucial thing: getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Her refusal to get vaccinated shocked me. Needless to say, I want her to have extra protection against the deadly virus as I treat her as part of my family, and I am concerned about her health and safety. I asked her the reason for her sharp disapproval of the vaccines, and she said that she had doubts about their efficacy. After I had expressed silent dismay, what followed was a long discourse about vaccines. I expressed my relief for the development of COVID-19 vaccines and even sent her information on how it can prevent severe symptoms and death. We never fought about it, but I felt the agonizing tension between us as we talked. Sooner or later, I acknowledged her views, and she thanked me for showing concern and sharing information. After the conversation, I felt nothing but regret. A persistent voice in my mind whispered, ‘you should have changed her mind,’ and ‘maybe your persuasion skills aren’t that great.’ Luckily the voice grew silent. I looked back on our different environmental conditions. She lives in the Bicol region while I’m staying in Rizal. In her area, she heard stories from left to right; her fellow neighbors had contracted COVID-19 and were cured through herbal medicines. Nearby residents in her area also expressed their disappointment in the lack of vaccine supply, and health news sites released statements that vaccines do not cure and eliminate the disease. The vaccines simply lower the risks of having extreme aftereffects. But vaccines work, regardless of the brand. Last July, Anne GabrielChan, an infectious diseases specialist, compared her fully vaccinated and unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. In her Facebook post, the chest x-ray photo of the unvaccinated patient showed lung inflammation and blockage. As expected, fully-vaccinated patients are protected from having severe symptoms than those who are unvaccinated. To conclude, I am confident that my best friend and I had a calm yet passionate conversation; we shared views and facts and listened to each other. But since she is well aware that I am a bit stubborn, she expects me to reach out to her again to talk about it. Because as part of the ‘Gen Z’ group, I know how to raise my views that may concern others’ well-being. Perhaps it is alright to say that the youth have learned to uplift one another. Pieces of advice were given and virtual hugs and comfort were, well, virtually felt. As to what I have observed, today’s youth have shown unity and expression to the matters that concern their lives. The youth is unstoppable. As for me, you can predict that I will continue to talk to and persuade my best friend to get vaccinated because her health and well-being are at stake. F

Cancel culture: Has justice truly been served?

A

s a self-professed Twitter addict, I have grown accustomed to seeing #____isoverparty trend. Here, you would see users bring up a celebrity’s past bigoted comments and hurl insults at said celebrity. You can get plus points if you spot the occasional K-pop fancams (videos of Korean pop idols dancing), accompanied with the word “DELETE” in all-caps. Alas, the public court of Twitter strikes again. The rise of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has made it easier for people to express themselves freely. However, this might embolden them to post offensive content. In retaliation, the bereaved party would “cancel” this person. Cancellation varies in gravity, from snarky replies to death threats. As toxic as this seems, cancel culture advocates may mean well. This is because the cancelled personalities are usually celebrities with massive platforms. Consequently, their offensive posts might encourage their followers to mimic their behavior. Since these celebrities would usually receive a slap on the wrist as punishment, the bereaved party would turn to social media to call them out. However, cancel culture can also be counterproductive. Since many of the “cancelled” personalities are usually celebrities with large fanbases, their fans might blindly defend them. This can cause them to dismiss the testimonies of the bereaved party. This is especially prevalent among fans of celebrities who have been accused of sexual misconduct and violence. To them, their idols can do no wrong, and thus their victims must suffer in silence. Not only that, but celebrities also have easy access to legal defense and institutional support. So yes, while they have earned netizens’ ire, in the end, the big guys still support them. This now begs the question, have they really been cancelled? Cancel culture can be especially harmful if the guilty party is an ordinary person. These people do not have protective fanbases or easy access to legal defense. This means that if they were to get called out online, they would essentially be marked for life. For instance, Paula Jamie Salvosa, who went viral after arguing with an LRT guard, said that she endured intense cyberbullying and even received rape and death threats. The ‘Amalayer incident’ also caused her not to be able to go to school for two months. Others may also not get employed due to their tainted reputations. Cancel culture might have good intentions, but in the end, it does not consider that people are inherently imperfect. It severely punishes ordinary people for their mistakes and perspectives that diverge from the commonly accepted public opinion. Not only that, it is still relatively ineffective in actually holding powerful people accountable for their grave offenses. It is only a vicious cycle that dismisses the notion that people can change for the better. Hence, we must resort to more productive means to help an individual realize the error of their ways. For example, if you know the cancelled party personally, you can ask them directly about their side and offer them advice when prompted. More importantly, people must distinguish the gravity of a person’s offenses and must respond accordingly. After all, a trial by the public court of Twitter is not the only solution. F

@abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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FACES

A portrait of a man carrying chairs in the busy streets of Divisoria. Photo by FRANCES IGNALAGA

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Artlet works as a COVID-19 swabber by RY PHILIP JACO T. GALVAN

photo courtesy of Niño Jay Jusay

Artlet works as a COVID-19 swabber

I

n the peak of community quarantines and mass hysteria, news broke out that Niño Jay Jusay’s parents tested positive for COVID-19. The world has not yet fully adjusted to the pandemic, and for Jay and his family, the future was not looking bright. Jay and his siblings immediately isolated themselves in their condominium in Manila. Meanwhile, a nurse tended to their parents at their house in Quezon City. Nevertheless, they still found ways to continue their family traditions. With the parents on the other end of the video call, the Jusay family prayed earnestly as ever—hoping for a miracle. In between prayers, Jay shared in an online interview that he begged God for grace.

“Buhayin mo lang ‘yung mom and dad ko... i-extend mo pa ang life nila para makita pa nila yung successes naming magkakapatid. (Please heal my mom and dad, extend their lives so that they can see our successes.)” “Mag-se-serve ako during this time of pandemic, kahit nagaaral ako (I will serve during this time of pandemic, even though I am still a student),” he vowed. Thirty days had passed, and both his parents had recovered from COVID-19. A year later, Jay is now scrubbing up for another day as a COVID-19 swabber.

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BES I can be

A day in a swabber’s life

While Jay was a medical technology student at the University, he dreamt of studying psychology. That was why after graduating from medical technology, he decided to take a second degree in behavioral science before entering med school.

Before the sun shines on the city, Jay would wake up at around three in the morning. His shift starts at 5:30 am, and he listens to whatever jam fits his mood as he prepares for a long day.

Despite his pursuits in the medical field, Jay found a home in AB. “Marami akong na miss out kasi sabi nila ‘yung AB culture raw is ‘yung isa sa pinakamasaya na culture sa UST… Sa [AB], parang mas nae-enjoy ko ‘yung pagiging student ko (There are many things I’ve missed out on since they said that the culture at AB is one of the happiest in UST. I was able to enjoy being a student more in AB),” he recounts. In balancing school and work, Jay would work continuously from day until night—as a student and as a medical frontliner. He notes that it is possible because of his good time-management skills and maturity. In the end, Jay encourages his fellow Artlets to seize every opportunity because nobody knows what the future holds. He reminds his fellow Artlets in mix English and Filipino, “Kapag nagknock na ang opportunities sa’yo and kaya mong i-grab, grab it. Kasi ‘di mo alam kung kailan ulit kakatok iyan sa pinto mo. Go kung kaya mo, ‘pag ‘di mo pa kaya, makakaya mo iyon… ‘di iyan kakatok sa’yo kapag ‘di mo kaya.” (When opportunities are knocking at your door, and you’re able to grab it, grab it. You don’t know when the opportunity will knock at your door again. Do it if you can, [and] if you think you can’t, know that you do. An opportunity won’t present itself to you if you can’t handle it.)

As a COVID-19 swabber at “Swab Wheels on the Go Medical Services,” Jay said he swabs around 50 to 80 people a day. In the morning, Jay heads over to Parañaque before proceeding to Manila or Makati. “Depende kung saan ka ibabato ng dispatcher for that day… pwede ko siyang tawagin na Amazing Race (It depends where the dispatcher will assign you for that day… I guess I can call it an Amazing Race),” Jay told The Flame. Some days, Jay would be sent to ABS-CBN to test Showtime contestants and hosts. “Andami ko nang artistang swinab and ‘di niyo alam gaano [ako] kakabado bago sila i-swab (I swabbed so many celebrities, you have not idea how nervous I’d get when I swab them),” he recounts. After a tiring day tending the patients, Jay’s shift ends at 5 in the afternoon. He would then take off his PPE and face mask, allowing himself to breathe better. Until then, Jay would come home where he fulfills his academic responsibilities.

‘SWABe’ lang Healthcare workers around the Philippines have been risking their lives since the start of the pandemic. Overworked and understaffed, they have the arduous task of facing the virus head-on. “Sila ‘yung 80 to 90 percent na nag-sa-sacrifice ng buhay...‘Yung dalawang paa nila [ay] nakalubog na sa hukay kasi siyempre [ang] hirap [na] nung trabaho tapos ‘di pa sila well-compensated (They are the 80 to 90 percent of people who sacrifice their lives. Their feet are submerged in their grave since their job is already extremely difficult, add the fact that they are not well-compensated),” Jay says. Jay, like everyone, lives in constant fear of being exposed to the virus. However, he remains undeterred. “Kapag tinanong ka ng Nescafe [kung] para kanino ka bumabangon, [for me] para sa mga pasyente kasi sila yung mga nangangailangan ng care ngayong mga panahon na ito (If you ask me the Nescafe question of for whom do you wake up for, for me, it is for my patients since they need the most care during these times),” Jay shares. Jay remains strong as he continues to serve. He would endure the uncomfortable scrub suits, PPE, and hot weather if these brought Filipinos a step closer to the end of the pandemic. Even in the darkest of days, Jay reminds everyone, “Laban lang tayo ng laban.” F

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BEAUTIFUL IN WHITE An Artlet's Journey to Medical School by MARY NICOLE MIRANDA

photo courtesy of Regina Ramos

@abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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T

hings happened way too fast for Regina Ramos as soon as she graduated Cum Laude from the Faculty of Arts and Letters last 2019. Before finishing her undergraduate degree, she already managed to take the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) and inquired in multiple medical schools. Despite several failed attempts and the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, Regina still has her eyes on the prize — to become a doctor. Seeing herself in a white uniform now, battling her way to read her reviewers every night, she realized that failing the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) thrice never stopped her. From an Artlet to a medical student, Regina is more determined than ever to don the precious white coat.

The Artlet Spirit Throughout college, Regina was able to adapt to the “Artlet identity” as a behavioral science student. She is grateful for how much AB has helped build her confidence and fighting spirit even after graduating. With so much enthusiasm, she shares, “One of the things I’ve learned in AB is the ‘laban’ mantra or culture. You will always see Artlets on every counter. That is why even on the days I feel defeated, I need to fight.” Needless to say, Regina’s college days would not be complete without her tropa who have left a huge impact on her life. Reminiscing about her college years, she cannot help but look back on those days when she survived difficult episodes. For her, all was possible through her friends’ unrelenting support.

#ParaSaPangarap Road to MD Before marching in the Quadricentennial Pavilion for her graduation, Regina had already begun applying to several medical schools including UST. She followed the same steps as the rest of the aspiring medical students –– she took the NMAT, submitted applications, and waited on bated breath for the life-changing news to come. Regina tried her luck on taking the NMAT exam before graduation. However, her road to MD did not go as smoothly as planned. She failed on her first try but viewed the experience as a first trial and moved on. With self-study, she tried again for the second time but still did not make it. She then tried for the third time, but the odds were not in her favor. This did not cause Regina to doubt her calling, though. She continued to hold on to make her dream a reality. “It was already the start of the pandemic when I applied to another medical school. I wondered if they would allow me to accept my delayed NMAT results since I have not taken the exam yet for another batch. So I did, I passed all the requirements and negotiated with the accountant in-charge to consider my situation.” Regina shared. Through negotiating with the accountant, Regina was able to secure a medical school slot. She was finally one step closer to becoming a doctor.

“My block section made me realize that I can do so much as long as we are together. We are like a family and up until now, we still communicate with one another,” she says.

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Regina is currently a 2nd-year medical student at De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute in Dasmariñas, Cavite. Because of the pandemic, she started medical school online in hopes of a face-to-face class this year. To her, entering and finishing medical school is a tough challenge. Even so, whenever Regina faces a heavy academic load, she keeps reminding herself the “#ParaSaPangarap” scribbled all over her notes. “Magme-med ka in order to serve people, ‘yun naman talaga eh (You took up medicine to serve the people. That’s how it is). Like any other careers that we wanted to pursue, [our goal] is to serve,” she says. Aside from public service, Regina is also driven by her passion. “However, on my part, it’s more of a passion. It’s like doing it for others but also doing more for myself. [I]t keeps me going, like what if hindi ko ito gawin? (What if I didn’t do it?) Something in me would [feel] dull,” she adds. Already living the dream, Regina is beyond thankful for everything despite the rough road she had to traverse to get to medical school. Even if her dream meant sacrificing sleep and leisure hours, she would not want it in any other way. Until the end, the Artlet spirit remains alive as she works towards earning that precious white coat. To every Artlet who is feeling uncertain and afraid, Regina encourages them by saying, “There is always [an] AB in ‘laban.’ Laging lalaban.”F


En-route at the mountain trail. Photo by MARLOU JOSEPH B. BON-AO

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CULTURE

Monument of Children of the Sun Returning at Subic bay Photo by ARWIN NATHANIEL ROMANO

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Artlet in business:

A Home Town Cafe in Isabela words by MHERYLL GIFFEN L. ALFORTE

photo courtesy of Clarise Bernardo

N

EARLY all businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing health crisis forced mass layoffs and closures, putting nations in economic shock. However, this did not stop small business owners from finding ways to survive and thrive. Artlet alumna Clarice Bernardo, the founder and co-owner of Karruba Cafe, is an exemplar of this. Karruba Cafe is a booming home and coffee shop located in Isabela province. Bernardo bravely took the risk of starting her own business despite the odds stacked against her.

Aside from working on a full-time job as an audit associate, it never occurred to Bernardo that she could start a home cafe business. In fact, she admitted that she was not very fond of coffee due to her possible lactose intolerance. Being the ‘stubborn’ and ‘experimental’ person that she is, this did not prevent her from taking on this challenge.

Karruba is the Ilocano word for neighbor or neighborhood. It serves as the foundation of what Karruba Cafe aims to offer: extending their home cafe within an arm’s reach in their community, despite the strict health protocols. After its launch last June, Bernardo was pleasantly surprised to learn that most of their orders came from outside their province. “Given the pandemic situation, we initially expected that our market would only be our literal karrubas. We’re so grateful that we’re getting orders from outside towns. Even with the absence of a physical cafe where people can conveniently wait, our customers are very willing to walk in to grab our beverages,” Bernardo told The Flame.

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Liberal arts as a foundation in business As a 2016 political science graduate, Bernardo said that her stay in the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters equipped her with the skills and qualities that bolstered her in her brand new venture.

“Whatever they put their mind [to] is possible. Doing the hard work is what makes it attainable. Considering this pandemic, do things bravely but with calculated risks,” Bernardo advised.

“Life in AB really prepared me for this venture. Aside from it has taught me to be well-versed both in English and Filipino languages, it also taught me to communicate intelligently – always be guided by facts, experiences, and rigorous study. This [helped] me build relationships with our customers; because aside from serving them beverages, we aim to foster a community rooted in our shared interest in coffee,” she shared. Despite common misconceptions linked to liberal arts, Bernardo insisted that her degree has helped her start her business. “I don’t think having a liberal arts degree is a limitation to starting a business. It’s even an advantage. So many skills and qualities were honed during my stay in AB – communication, time and people management, and fortitude, among others,” she explained.

Influenced by community Hailing from the province of Isabela, Bernardo grew up in a close-knit neighborhood where she can always hang around whether for food, leisure activities, or engaging in conversations. “With this loving community that I was accustomed to, I was inspired to start a home cafe [that] will make people feel that anything good they need, they can find in the neighborhood,” she said. Aside from taking inspiration from her neighborhood, Bernardo watched many lifestyle videos online and developed a desire to support local coffee farmers. These spurred her to start Karruba Cafe. “My family’s business is farming, so I want to produce a rice drink which we can take pride [as] uniquely ours – from planting to harvesting. I can’t wait to share it very soon,” said Bernardo. Bernardo believes that having a liberal arts degree is not an obstacle in the field of business. Although the two fields may seem completely different, it is still possible for a liberal arts graduate to thrive as a business owner.

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Karruba Cafe Karruba Cafe prides itself in its delicious beverages because it is sourced directly from the highlands (Benguet and Sagada) by another coffee business named MS Mountain Coffee. True to Karruba Cafe’s aim to extend delicious coffees from the highlands, they also offer coffee care packages such as boxes full of coffee grounds and coffee bags. People living in areas as far as Pangasinan and Metro Manila can have a taste of these caffeinated delights. As of writing, Karruba Cafe’s menu includes Iced Coffee Classic, Cold Brew Series, Matcha Series, Caramel Series, and Travel Series. “At the moment, we only have Spanish Latte in our Travel Series but we’re currently developing a new flavor which will be inspired by our province Isabela being ‘The Land of Golden Grains’,” Bernardo said. Above all else, Karruba Cafe unexpectedly made a dent in the lives of their customers, may it be their Karruba or not. F

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TRAVELLING THE WORLD ONE BURGER AT A TIME words and photos by THEA ANDREA C. MAGEURIANO

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A productive youth

C

abasal is a young entrepreneur who started doing business at the age of 15 by selling siomai, producing shoe boxes, and buying and selling manufactured products.

At 23, Cabasal manages Thigh Joint, a burger shop in Quezon City that prides itself on its innovative and international flavors. Cabasal acknowledged that there is a common perspective on working and studying; that after graduation, people will either wrestle for jobs in the corporate world or build their own businesses. “The [think what you’re

common misconception of people is they that] after graduating, [we] should stick with the Philippine education system tells us: while studying, you can’t work,” he told The Flame.

This is a themselves

testament that the youth can involve in diverse activities and ventures.

Cabasal currently juggles three jobs. He has a full-time job, manages a business, and takes part in his family’s enterprise. When it comes to building a business, Cabasal said, “[I]t’s like raising a baby, it’s super hard. If you want to be commended, you want to get appreciation, or you want good news from a company, don’t expect it [to happen] in your own business right away.” He added that building a business entails piecing together a signature brand that can eventually prosper.

Food as culture The business started in 2019 and gained capital by doing bazaars. The following year, Thigh Joint launched a cloud kitchen that is still operating. Cabasal and his friends entered the burger market as he believes that despite increasing numbers in burger shops and promotions, ‘there’s nothing new under the sun.’ With this, Thigh Joint’s concept of spreading cultural awareness through plates of burgers was introduced. “Not all people [have] various sources to travel to go around the world. People [also] say that it’s always books that will make you travel even if you don’t have money -- but it’s also food. Food will teach you the culture of another country,” said Cabasal. Cabasal also shared that Thigh Joint’s flavors are inspired by personal travels, research, and social media comments. Thigh Joint offers various flavors like Tokyo Tebasaki, Texas Bacon Barbecue, New York Buffalo, and California Double Cheese. The Tebasaki Fried Chicken Sandwich is a trip to Japan in a bite. The crispy outer corners offer an addictive sweet and salty taste. After taking a second bite, its umami flavor will definitely gratify your taste buds. The meat unabashedly sits between crisp vegetables, which add freshness to the sandwich. Buffalo flavors are usually known for their overwhelming spice but don’t let the name nor the meal’s intimidating red hue fool you. The New York Buffalo Fried Chicken Sandwich is served with just a hint of spice for you to continue indulging. The saltiness and spice give different vibes that will bring you contrasting flavors. Cabasal firmly believes that food reflects not only the ingredients of the meal but also mirrors society.

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With a smile, he said, “There’s always a saying that food is discriminatory, [and that] you can see the food for masses, food for the upper class, food depending on what the system dictates. But at the end of the day, food will always tell about the culture, its origins, and how it develops.” F @abtheflame | abtheflame.net


LETTERS

A Thomasian sits on one of the benches along Benevides’ lane, also known as lover’s lane. Photo by FRANCES IGNALAGA @abtheflame | abtheflame.net

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THE LUMBERJACK words by ABIGAIL M. ADRIATICO art by JULIA DOMINIQUE T. YANCHA

In the middle of a moonless night, the sound of cicadas did little to deafen the clamor of awakened birds fleeing from the mighty tree that crashed onto the forest floor. The lumberjack has struck again, casting his judgment on an unsuspecting Narra. All that remained from its stead was an unevenly chopped stump, the last reminder of the majestic life it led, whose end was met by the blade he held. Humming a whimsical tune to himself, the lumberjack raised his axe again. In a few swings, the Narra’s branches fell to the ground. He hacked away until each piece of wood fit his wagon. The work was tedious, but it paid him very well. After all, no one dared to desecrate this hallowed woodland. No one but him. It meant that on such a cold and moonless night, no witnesses saw this proud conquest of his. No one but a little child, hidden deep within the bushes, with hands clamped over his mouth, his young, startled eyes fixated on the axe’s sharp tip. Out of fear, the child stepped backward only for his foot to meet a stray leaf. The sound of its crunch would be satisfying on a different day when he would wander the ancient forest, walking in delight as he beheld all sorts of flora and fauna. Not here, when he was far from home, the only thing standing between him and the man was a measly bush. The lumberjack dropped his ax by the stump, waiting for the frightened child’s next move. The poor boy stood as still as the night. His legs froze. His heart raced. His eyes gazing longingly at the fallen tree that had often sheltered him from the rain.

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THE LUMBERJACK The lumberjack stepped forward. The boy felt his stomach churn. He wanted to leave, but he could not. He knew the Narra was not the first and it would not be the last. Something must be done. Before the lumberjack could move any further, the child broke into a run, heading straight for the axe. Clutching its wooden handle, he turned deeper into the woods, running for dear life, the enraged lumberjack right on his trail. The terrified boy rushed past the trees, over the log that fell two summers ago, dodging the shrub where thorns once pricked his skin, following the path he knew by heart. Then came a clearing he knew very well. A cliff overlooking the gentle sea. A meadow of wildflowers growing before it. He did not stop to gaze at the flowers. As he reached the edge, the lumberjack caught up to him. Reaching out his hands, he leaned to grab the child’s shirt. To the man’s surprise, the boy rolled away. The lumberjack realized too late. He was going to fall. The sound of a splash reached the child’s ear. What followed was a realization from every being in the forest. There would be no falling trees tomorrow. F

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Ang Gabing Walang Lagim words by FATIMA M. BADURIA

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akasilip si Remi sa bintana, may kinang sa mata at ngiti sa labi.

Sa katahimikan ng gabi, tila pumunit ang biglaang sitsit, kahit mahina. Nanlamig ang kaniyang katawan. Nais niyang ipinid ang bintana ng kaniyang silid at tumakbo sa kama, ngunit hindi niya mautusan ang mga naninigas na kamay at paa. Nilibot ng kaniyang mata ang tanawin mula sa durungawan. Isang payapang kalsada ang tanging masasaksihan. Pagpatak ng hatinggabi, malimit nang makarinig ng ingay sa kapitbahayan. Wala na ring lumalabas ng bahay.

art by JEANNE PAULINE G. TECSON

kaniyang braso. Masasabing naging kaibigan niya si Inggo, lalo na kagawad siya sa barangay. Kasama niya dati ang kaharap niyang patay ngayon at wala namang kasindak-sindak sa itsura nito. Naalala lang niya ang pagiging pilyo ng dating kapitan. Mahilig itong manggulat noon. Mabilis siyang nag-antanda ng krus at dali-daling naghanap ng mauupuan. Bago pa siya makakuha ng silya, may binatang nag-alok ng mga pagkain mula sa bandeha. Kumuha siya ng biskwit. Biglang may tumapik sa balikat niya. Napatalon si Remi.

Isasantabi na sana niya, ngunit tumambad sa kaniyang isip ang mga pangyayari.

Noong una, hindi niya makilala ang lalake; may katangkaran, payat, at abot-leeg ang buhok. Nginitian siya nito.

Paalam at salamat, Kapitan Ignacio “Inggo” Alpas!

Saka lang niya nakilala ang dating kapwa-kagawad. Ilang taon na ang nakalipas nang huli niya itong makita— noong maskulado pa ang katawan nito.

Isang tarpaulin na nakapaskil sa gate ang bumungad kay Remi. Naroon ang nakangiting letrato ng dating Punong Barangay, napalilibutan ng makakapal na ulap.

Tumambad sa isip niya ang mga sabi-sabi; kung bakit hindi na ito tumakbong kagawad. Isinantabi niya ang pag-iisip.

Maaga niyang tinapos ang kaniyang trabaho at pagsapit ng tanghali, dumiretso siya rito.

Masayang sinuklian ni Remi ang ngiti ng kaibigan, “Pare!”

Sa loob, tahimik ang lahat liban sa mga matandang nagdarasal ng rosaryo at ang pabugso-bugsong bulungan ng ilan.

Sa paligid, biglang natigilan ang matatanda sa kalagitnaan ng Aba Ginoong Maria. Naudlot pati ang mahihinang usapan.

Ang pamilyang halos kasabay niyang dumating, agad na sumilip sa patay. Ilang sandali siyang nanatili sa kinatatayuan, malalim ang paghinga. Hindi nagtagal ay sumunod si Remi.

Nilinaw ni Remi ang kaniyang lalamunan. “Ikaw pala iyan,” bulong niya.

Pagkadungaw sa kabaong, nagsitayuan ang mga balahibo sa

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May bakas ng panghihinayang sa mukha ng lalake. “Sayang, ano,” sabay nguso nito sa kabaong. “Mabuti na lang ikaw ang susunod.”


Humagikgik si Remi. “Kung papalarin,” sagot niya. “Hindi ko akalain, malakas din pala ang kalaban. Partida,” lalong humina ang boses niya, “babae.” Napalakas ang tawa ng lalaki at, matapos lumingon sa paligid, naging ubo. Subalit, may sumisilip na kaseryosohan sa kaniyang mga mata. “Diskarte lang, Kagawad,” sambit niya. Tinignan siya ni Remi, pinagmamasdan ang nanlalalim na mga mata at pisngi nito. Ilang sandali pa, dahan-dahan siyang dumukot sa bulsa ng kaniyang jacket. Nilabas niya ang isang puting sobre at inabot sa kaibigan. “Tama ka riyan,” nakangising sagot ni Remi. Kagyat namang may kumalabit sa kanyang likod. Isang babae naman ngayon— ang madaldal na tindera ng isda sa palengke. “Kap,” pabirong tawag nito sa kaniya. Muling nag-ipit ng puting sobre si Remi sa kaniyang daliri. Matapos iyon, hindi na mabilang ni Remi ang mga sumunod na nakipag-kamayan sa kaniya. Habang lumalapit ang paglubog ng araw, paunti nang paunti ang mga panauhin. Kamag-anak na lang ng yumao ang naiwan, pati ang ilang miyembro ng Apostleship of Prayer sa kalapit na parokya. Nagpaalam na rin si Remi.

mga pamangkin ng patay ang nasaksihan niya, mga binatang nagkukuwentuhan. Hindi na niya ininda ang pangyayari, hanggang sa marinig ang sitsit. Hangin lang, isip niya. Tumalikod siya sa bintana, handang mamahinga, nang biglang may tapik sa likod niya. Banayad ito at marahan, halos hindi maramdaman. Hangin lang. Maingat siyang tumungo sa higaan, naghuhubad ng jacket na kanina pa suot. Pagtanggal nito, may nalaglag mula sa bulsa nito. Pinulot niya ito at napahindik. Hawak niya ang pakete ng biskwit, hindi pa bukas. May nagkukumahog sa loob ng kaniyang tadyang, kumakabog. Kasabay ng paghantong ng kaunawaan ay isa na namang sitsit, mas malakas at mas mahaba ang tunog. Kasunod nito ang mahina ngunit tiyak na bulong, “Remi...” Bumigay ang mga paa niya, nanginginig. Pumilas ang matinis at nakatutulig na sigaw. Sa lakas nito, hindi narinig ni Remi ang sumunod na ingay: mga bungisngis na pilit pinipigil ng grupo ng mga binata. F

Habang palabas ng pinto, matulin siyang napalingon sa likuran. Kakaiba ang pakiramdam niya; tila ba may nakatingin sa kaniya. Dama niya ang bigat ng mga mata ngunit kung mayroon man, hindi na naabutan ng kaniyang tingin. Tanging

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BEYOND THE EDGES words by CZERIZHA KAIZEL S. ADZUARA

art by HANZ FELIX T. LONTOC

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ather instantly increased the volume as the former local mayor who was running for president delivered his speech. Old ears were enthralled to listen to the TV. I was there captivated despite not being a voter. Indeed how he spoke allured his audience. How he could weave his words with profane ones: gago, putangina, and his listeners would grin and say, “Ahh, this man is very much like us.” There he was in his red polo shirt, and his fist raised high. The red and blue-tinted crowd cheered with hidden hopes within their chests. I knew my family felt the same. Someone among the candidates sounded and acted like a leader; someone who can finally turn the tides of generational poor governance with a clenched iron fist. I thought so too. I was only fourteen when the Philippine political spectrum unfolded before my eyes. With my old relatives’ keen regard for this subject, I found myself heeding to their discussions, which were mostly applause for a man with a massive shadow behind him. They cackled at his jokes and watched them on Facebook and Youtube. Their heads nodded at every mention of his Anti-Drug Campaign and gritted their teeth upon hearing how the substance abuse ruined the lives of others. Young and oblivious that I was, I learned by listening to aged lips and their political dialogues during supper. Father would initiate the subject, sometimes sharing what he learned from his merchant and military academy, or what he read from the deep pits of Facebook. Mother would simply agree and my grandparents would add something about the topic as well.

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Sometimes I would ask questions since there is nothing more comforting than learning while filling your stomach. I found solace in the clashing sound of cutlery and porcelain amid a discourse. I avidly believed everything that I heard. Until I did not. When Duterte finally won the election, his presidency dispersed on the internet through his devotees. Wave after wave of Best President in the Philippines, my family and I were caught in the stream. Many partisan pages conveyed him as


another Marcos, whose strongman politics draped the country in gold once more. It was only a matter of time for me to realize that the gold that was promised had always been crimson red, and it bled deep. There was blood in a poor man’s pavement, in news headlines, and behind impoverished doors. Photographs of bodies limp and cold were posted online, and devotees would comment: “adik kasi, huwag tularan.” The death sentence did and still does not choose the age or gender of its subjects. They were anything but rich. There, the ignorance in my eyes was revoked upon seeing the bloody world lived by the oppressed— and the lives they once lived. It was a mistake to only take to heart my life and my family’s perspective of the world— a mistake committed by others as well. Of course, I tried to educate them at the same table, but the serene clashing of cutlery and porcelain turned into a warzone of ideas and values. Sometimes a threat would even seep between the words: Leftist, Communist, Idealistic, Brainwashed. I would be lying if I say these insults did not scare me.

It is difficult to look at the world through their eyes. Senatorial elections came by the time I reached seventeen. As an ineligible voter, I watched debates and miting de avance, and used the realms of Twitter and Facebook in amplifying campaigns of senatorial candidates who are fighting for human rights and against authoritarian rule. Unfortunately, none of the leaders that I rooted for won. One time I came across a woman, whose shirt was mint green and it had one of the candidates of Otso Diretso’s face. It was past four in the afternoon and I was waiting for a jeep to transport me home. She approached me with a grin and gave me fliers. She told me to look into this candidate, and I quickly replied, “Oh I follow him on Twitter!” As if that was enough. It was surprising to see campaign volunteers for the Left here in the province. This place had always been Right and Red and Blue, which long yielded minds like my old relatives. My views of the world that was once confined by a mere household table broke free from its four wooden corners and digital screens. I started to live past the table’s edges. The awakened eyes that I now have must use my feet, my voice, and my hands. After I gently pressed both of my thumbs on the ink pad, I looked at its poorly blended print and thought about the power it bears and how I would wield it. I can finally do more. F

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