WHEN my paper was rejected by a journal, what took the edge of the rebuff was the rebuff itself.
The rejection motivated because it ignited a new way of approaching the problem. All because the editor “engaged” with my writing.
In the age of virtual connections, doesn’t the verb “engage” have an antediluvian ring? Yet, even a dyad, facing each other, has to work with, not against, each other. Talking at the same time means no one is listening.
Each could pretend the other doesn’t exist. That only means the parties are not “engaging,” a Middle English word combining “in” and “gage,” the latter meaning, in French, “pledge” or “contract”.
A social contract honors the principles of engagement: dialogue, argumentation, even dissent. What makes a drawn-out, messy process valuable at the end is the participation of all parties, not just the privileging of a few dictating and imposing the terms of “engagement”.
Despite a century of student activism, some at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu conflate dissent with subversion. When students marched in October 2016 to demand a dialogue with then acting chancellor, lawyer Liza D. Corro, she and some members of the faculty locked the doors of the Performing Arts Hall (PAH) to prevent the activists from “storming in”.
The barricade made a parody of consultation: UP Cebu constituents were at the PAH to participate in the livestreaming of the search forum for the next UP president, yet our acting chancellor refused to face students protesting over facility rental fees imposed without consultation.
In the confusion of people appointing themselves the guardians of the PAH doors, an open backdoor allowed the students to slip in. They marched to the front; made their ear-splitting chants; jabbed with their fists; and walked out.
The acting chancellor might have appreciated that the protest was over in less than ten minutes. But she had slipped out after ordering me to message another teacher to face the protesters, many of whom were Mass Communication students.
On Nov. 29, after the UP Board of Regents’ votes are tallied, UP Cebu’s next chancellor shouldn’t even just focus on the activists, noisy though we may be.
Swathes of silence simmer in the university. To interpret these constituents’ silence as contentment with their lot is to close one’s mind to “endo,” “JO (job order),” and “agency-hiring,” variations of the same iniquity denying fellow workers the rights and benefits of regular employees.
Only in nominee Rolando B. Tolentino—teacher, activist, public intellectual— do I put my faith in leadership that will listen to the voices, clamorous, discordant, silenced. Listen and engage.
*First published in SunStar Cebu’s November 18, 2018 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”