Sunday, 22 March 2009

I'm proud I didn't graduate from college

Although it ain't really a requirement, I have made it a point to express my ideologies and/or stands in my artworks—films, literary pieces, stage plays, and songs. Not all of them, of course, but a great deal of them.

One issue I have tackled more than once in my works is my attitude towards formal education. While I see its function as an organized way of determining status in society (viability to occupy certain jobs), the system of formal education has one big flaw—its failure to recognize the few students who excel in non-curricular activities.

If it wasn't done in the classroom, then it can't be recognized in school. So if one makes an award-winning short film for an international contest, but fails to submit certain requirements in his filmmaking class in the university, then, he will flunk the subject. But technically, the filmmaker has proven he can make films. He has learned the skills and techniques well and practiced them fruitfully—but since he did it outside the walls of a classroom, it's not academically admitted.

A lot of successful businessmen in this country—do they have degrees in Business Management or Business Administration? Are some of them even college graduates? Can't this country have state-issued diplomas, or something that would academically acknowledge a person's intellect/capabilities even though he isn't a graduate?

My very first formal job interview in the Marketing Department of ABS-CBN (Manila) reeked of this case. After accomplishing a couple of time-pressured creativity tests, submitting sample script works, and being interviewed by the HR manager, I was told in the end: "You have the exact skills for the job, but I'm afraid to tell you we don't admit non-college graduates."

In my first full-length play (a musical), staged last 2006 at the Aldaba Hall, UP Diliman, one of my main characters, Dennis, echoed my sentiments regarding formal schooling:


Mamahaling sapatos Long sleeves, itim na medyas Isang college diploma pang Matagal pa bago makuha Minsan iniisip ko Pag-aaral ay inimbento Para kumita'ng mga Nagbebenta lang ng diploma Mataas na tuition fee Mamamahalin din ang ID. Ano itong miscellaneous fees Ipaliwanag niyo ito, please! Ayoko na! Huwag na ngang mag-aral Hanggang High School na lang Hindi ibig sabihing walang diploma Ang tao ay di siya mahusay Tiyak ko kaya kong kumita Sa pamamagitan ng sining at kulay Magsasayang lang ako ng oras Sa loob ng unibersidad, hay!
Then, in one of my "modern Kapampangan riddles," I included this one:
Papil a saguling mapirat (A fragile sheet of paper) Alulan ing kekang utak (That can contain your brain)

Which makes my fanaticism towards Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou much bigger. For all you guys out there who don't know Jay Chou (ehem, for all you guys out there whose exposure to pop music is poorly limited to Manila-produced music and USA-produced music), here's a short description of him care of our favorite Internet encyclopedia:
Jay Chou, born 18 January 1979, is a World Music Award-winning Taiwanese musician, singer, and producer. In 1998, he was discovered in a talent contest where he showcased his piano and song-writing skills. Over the next two years, he was hired to compose for popular Chinese singers. Trained in classical music, he combines Chinese and Western music styles to produce songs that fuse R&B, rock, and pop genres, covering issues such as domestic violence, war, and urbanization.

Jay Chou grew up in the small town of Linkou, Taiwan. Both his parents were secondary school teachers: his mother Ye Hui Mei (葉惠美) taught fine arts while his father Zhou Yao Zhong (周耀中) was a biology instructor. His mother noticed his sensitivity to music and took him to piano lessons at the age of 4. During his childhood, he was fascinated with capturing sounds and songs with his tape recorder, something he carried everywhere with him.

In the third grade, he became interested in music theory and also started cello lessons. As an only child, he enjoyed being the family's center of attention; he loved to play piano, impersonate TV actors, and perform magic tricks. His parents divorced when he was 14; as a result, he became reclusive and introverted. Although he had friends, he often preferred to be alone listening to music, contemplating and daydreaming. At Dan Jiang Senior High School, he majored in piano and minored in cello. He showed talent for improvisation, became fond of pop music and began to write songs.

(Now here's the best part)

Chou graduated from high school with inadequate grades for university, so he prepared for military service, which was compulsory for all Taiwanese men at the age of 18. However, a sports injury triggered by an unexplainable and severe back pain eventually led to the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a hereditary spine inflammation disease; as a result, he was exempted from conscription... (end of profile excerpt)

Now Jay Chou expressed the same sentiments toward academic failure despite showing promise in his chosen field in one of his songs called 分裂 (Fen Lie | Split Apart). Hearing the song (and knowing its meaning, because I don't understand Mandarin) touches a familiar part in my heart. It inspires me to destroy the unfair system of formal education. Someday, I will be big—without my college diploma.

Read the lyrics below, while listening to the song. Then listen to it again while watching the video, because the video is very sentimental (for me).

坐着我的摩托车 载你缓缓的离开
zuo zhao wo de mo tuo che zai ni huan huan de li kai
Gradually leaving with you on my motorcycle

考不上好的学校 可以不微笑就走
kao bu shang hao de xue xiao ke yi bu wei xiao jiu zou
Without a smile I departed my dream school

把手慢慢交给我 放下心中的困惑
ba shou man man jiao gei wo fang xia xin zhong de kun huo
Calm your heart and rest your hands in mine

雨点从两旁划过 割开两种精神的我
yu dian cong liang pang hua guo ge kai liang zhong jing shen de wo
Raindrops slid down and split apart my mind

经过老伯的家 篮框变得好高
jing guo lao bo de jia lan kuang bian de hao gao
The hoop seemed so high as we passed the old man's house

爬过的那棵树 又何时变得渺小
pa guo de na ke shu you he shi bian de miao xiao
And when did the tree I once climbed on become so small

这样也好 开始没人注意到(你)我
zhe yang ye hao kai shi mei ren zhu yi dao( ni) wo
Maybe it’s still well because no one saw you and me

等雨变强之前 我们将会分化软弱
deng yu bian qiang zhi qian wo men jiang hui fen hua ruan ruo
Before this rain strengthens we will show our vulnerabilities

趁时间没发觉 让我带着你离开
chen shi jian mei fa jue rang wo dai zhao ni li kai
Let me take you away before time notices us

没有了证明 没有了空虚
mei you le zheng ming mei you le kong xu
Without a proof and without acting pretentious

ji yu liang zhong li chang wo hui zhao zhao ni
I will back you up regardless of the circumstances

趁时间没发觉 让我带着你离开
chen shi jian mei fa jue rang wo dai zhao ni li kai
Let me take you away before time notices us

这不是顽固 这不是逃避
zhe bu shi wan gu zhe bu shi tao bi
This is not stubbornness and its not running away

mei ren bang zhao ni zou cai kuai le
When no one helps you walk you will feel true joy

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