SO indefatigable was the woman’s storytelling, she roped me in with her companion and perhaps the rest of the Toki jeepney passengers.
“Ikot” is the more popular version of the iconic jeepney that goes counterclockwise around the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP).
The jeepney that goes around the campus clockwise is called “Toki,” which is “Ikot” spelled backwards. Had my curiosity won, I might have asked the Toki storyteller if she knew the legends behind the creation of these names.
However, when I disembarked, she was still in full stream, enumerating the members of her clan that graduated from, or taught or worked at, or was going to take the coming Upcat to enter the college associated with the different academic buildings in the Ikot/Toki route.
Passing the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (Upcat) is a ritual my sister and I went through, with varying degrees of uncertainty. UP was not my first choice for college, but I ended up finishing my undergraduate studies in Communication Arts at its Cebu campus.
My sister was unsure about her course so I suggested. She also finished Business Management at UP Cebu, quite happily as it turned out. Like many alumni, we can say our student identification numbers in our sleep.
My Toki companion’s discourse underlines again that the decision to choose UP is not just a personal or family decision but also a communal one.
Vivid oral historians are the Ikot and Toki drivers who have these past weeks been orienting senior high school students, parents and even grandparents seeking the Office of Admissions or Rodik’s for the iconic tapsilog break—part of the formal and informal rites initiating one to Diliman, the flagship campus.
What is most moving, though, are the students who must pass through the eye of the Upcat to enroll next year in their “dream university,” as one lass emphatically declared inside the Ikot, filled to bursting by her seemingly equally overwhelmed classmates.
For many takers, UP will remain just that, a dream.
Of the 87,000 who took Upcat in 2014, only 1,588 passed and were qualified to enroll in UP’s eight constituent universities across the nation. That’s a passing rate of 1.8 percent.
This year’s Upcat is historic, involving the first batch of senior high school students. How many takers will pass, enroll and graduate from UP? How many will enjoy greater subsidy or even the sustainability of free college education?
How many graduates will serve the people?
I would not mind sharing a Toki or Ikot with passengers brimming with stories of their UP-educated clans.
(mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org/ 09173226131)
* First published in SunStar Cebu’s August 27, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”