The beginner's guide to DLSU politics

Yes, sure, I've written about student politics in DLSU when I was there. Four elections, three as a student, and one as an observer - and that was over three years ago. So why am I pretending to be an expert, and why am I writing this now?

My brother has been a frosh for around a month now, and, it seems, he's joined Tapat.

No, I'm not against it. No, I'm not for Santugon. People have always said I'm for the yellows, although the fact is, I just have more friends from their side - a by-product of having active members as blockmates and coursemates. In fact, the only person I know who's probably saddened by this fact is my cousin, Gem, who's on the upper echelons of the yellow party.

"Nasaan ba si Gerin?" he asked me last week.

"Nasa harap ng PC," I answered.

"'Di! Sa'n siya kakampi? Or hindi siya magpo-political org?"

"Ahh! I don't think he cares. Kung ako ay non-partisan at si Kim ay Tapat, si Gerin ay apathetic."

"Okay na ganun siya kaysa Tapat!"

A few days later I'd see my brother on Facebook, posting stuff like "I am Tapat". I was surprised, because earlier he told me he didn't feel like joining a political organization. But I wasn't so surprised when my sister pointed out that he's probably joining the oranges for the privilege card. He's a bit of a cheapskate. He'd buy CDs in Singapore - this was when he bought music rather than downloaded them illegally - that are readily available in Manila because he wouldn't have to spend a dime.

The other thing that didn't surprise me? The three of us are, in theory, a good fit for Tapat. We have passionate opinions and we'd argue the hell out of them. My sister never signed up to be a member, but the oranges' beliefs resonated with her. Me? I almost signed up when I was a frosh - but only because I thought we had to be part of a political organization. Then I realized that I've never heard of the oranges' rivals, and decided not to sign up for the sake of fairness.

And it stayed that way for me. And my life was a bit less stressful. You know how I do with competitions when I have a stake. First lesson: you don't have to be part of a political organization in La Salle. They are, like every other organization in every other institution of learning, an optional thing and will only help you pursue an area of interest, or pad your CV.

Second lesson: do not join a political organization for the perks. Yes, both parties have membership cards, and presenting them can give you discounts in obscure places around the university, which pretty much means they're useless. (If you're a friend of mine and you're reading this, answer me: did you ever use those discounts?) Also, it gives the parties a false sense of security, that they have the numbers and they'll win the elections at the end of the school year. Then again, they always have a false sense of security.

But if you do find yourself agreeing, passionately agreeing, with one or the other's beliefs, then by all means, go ahead and join. Pour your heart into the organization (within reason, of course - you don't want to lose sight of your academics) and do your best to give your side victory. (Both sides would say they're not just here to win elections, but really now?) But here's a basic truth. Third lesson: they all fight for the same things. Watch them a week before freshman elections. Listen closely to what they're saying. They're all saying the same things, only differently.

Tapat, the oranges, appealed to me because they seem to be serious. Deadly serious, even. They're the guys who can analyze the hell out of any insignificant event and connect it to some global ill. They are activists - their ideology is very clear - and they like to use big words. "Reinforce student governance." "Innovate executive departments of the Activities Assembly." "Pedagogy." Wow. So serious. So mature. I must join them!

Tapat people tend to be, as I said earlier, those with strong opinions and even stronger personalities. You watch them give their speeches and it's like they'll kill you (hello, Chichi). Their members tend to go on to work in government (hello, Jenn) or become lawyers (hello, Reena, eventually). You get the idea.

On the other hand, Santugon, the yellows, look like all they do is have fun. "Mukha silang puma-party," my brother told me during that I-won't-join-anything conversation (again, sorry, Gem). That is an unfair assessment, since my Santugon friends came up with some brilliant programs during their time in the then Student Council. But when the oranges prefer to work, the yellows prefer to play. The former likes bureaucracy; the latter likes linkages. They are collaborators - their game play has always revolved around talking to people - and they like to have fun. You can't be always serious, after all.

Santugon people tend to be the most popular kids in high school. Sure, they transform into beasts when they give their memorized speeches, but off-stage it's like you can actually be friends with them (hello, Mae). Their members tend to go on to work in big business (hello, Nadia) or, well, Apple (hello, Les). Or fashion photography (hello, Jaja) or food blogging (hello, Jill). You get the idea.

My badly-made point is, you tend to join the group whose personality appeals to you the most, but both of these political organizations have the same aims, only presented differently. And there's no clear gap between the two of them. They campaign the same way. They think of the same programs. (They definitely build on their predecessors' work, no matter which side was it.) They offer the same premise of camaraderie... and it gets stressful after a while. Sure, it means you don't get asked the pervasive "have you voted?" question during voting periods, but that's because a lot more is put on your shoulders... and not just the party colors.

Also, I know Tapat people in big business (hello, Noey... only she doesn't remember me, judging from the puzzled look she had when I said hi to her when I bumped into her during a job interview last year). And I know Santugon people in government (hello, Redg... yes, I know, you're no longer in government, but the point still stands).

So, my ultimate lesson? Don't join any of them until you've really thought it through. Maybe next year. By then this would be applicable - I know I'm writing this after recruitment week - and you'd be a little more discerning, which is what I want. By then, you'd also realize that this guide is oversimplified - I certainly learned that after four years of coverage. Well, unless you were a "student leader" in high school, in which case, you're already a bit discerning, and I cannot imagine how much pressure you've got through before you could even enroll.

And your responses...

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