Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Old article published in manila bulletin last Dec 23, 2006

The lanterns that almost never were

It was a fine Friday morning last week when students and faculty of the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA) gathered at the school auditorium to hear from college secretary Prof. Totet De Jesus. They were told about the possible fate of this year's Lantern Parade, a tradition since 1922 that is more of UP's way to celebrate the holiday season.

Though the students were still spent and exhausted from staying up late the night before to work on the floats for the annual celebration, they waited anxiously for the news. Soon, De Jesus confirmed their worst fears.
"The UP parade has been canceled because of 'security concerns,'" he announced.
De Jesus explained that the CFA would still be able to have a smaller parade on its own secluded college grounds, but not across the university as usual. He added that they could no longer re-schedule it since it was already the last day of classes.
So that the floats that the students worked so hard on for weeks and all their efforts would not go to waste, the CFA administration thought it best to the college's own program and for the floats to parade on the college grounds.
Not much questions were raised. Perhaps the students were too stunned by the news. A University Student Council representative, Pog Bartolome stood up and urged the audience to push through with the Lantern Parade.
"Students will not harm fellow students," he explained. The meeting was adjourned.
Yet somehow an option was left with the young artists of CFA. Confused, they nevertheless went back to finishing their floats.
There were conversations among some faculty members and students. Some opted to stay for fear of being used in the rally against the tuition fee increase. Other teachers allowed their students to go. The students were divided as well. Yet, all of them just wanted their art seen.


New CFA Dean Florentina Colayco went around the college and explained to the busy students that whatever the students decide on, she will respect it. Until the last minute, the students struggled and deliberated. At a quarter to four o'clock, majority finally decided to march on.
The huge crowd hailed and beheld the majesty of the CFA floats and a few other colleges that pushed through, including the colleges of Architecture and Engineering.
Among the CFA floats attuned to this year's theme "Philippine Children's Games" were the crowd favorite Pukpok Palayok, the Palabunutan, and the Batang Lata. Nobody could trace the struggle that had earlier beset the students who by that time were already parading valiantly through the University grounds. By sunset, the floats glowed on cue, reminiscent of the old tradition centuries back when Pinoys carried lanterns to mark the start of the simbang gabi.
Tired but satisfied, the Fine Arts students were welcomed back home into their college grounds and as part of the CFA program, the admin and faculty hailed and presented the prodigal floats and as well as the ones that decided to stay.
Colayco thanked the students for pushing through and the students thanked her as well for respecting their decision. Students also shouted out their apprecitation for the teachers who escorted them – Prof. Mel Silvestre who lead the freshment together with their amazing individual floats; Mang Dong who marshalled the students; and their former dean Virginia Dandan for marching together with the students all the way through.
In the end it was not about politics, not about protests; it was all about the artists and the creations they needed to show the crowd that awaited the festive lantern parade tradition. A student was asked what he thought and he said he remembered one professor saying last year "it is in the Lantern Parade where you will see people appreciate the beauty of your art." That was what they wanted, and that was exactly what happened.