This article was written by Kristine Panogot, an NSPC national winner in Feature writing representing South Cotabato then in Region XI.
Reminiscing about the NSPC
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|Written by Tinette Panogot|
|Tuesday, 10 February 2009|
| Just how memorable a part of student life in the Philippines is the NSPC?|
Google the NSPC, or its former incarnation, the NSSPC, and blogs surface in which NSPC alumni talk about the NSPCs they've been to and aspiring delegates talk about the NSPC they are going to.
Blogger Lourgen Therese Paderanga calls the 2006 Kalibo, Aklan NSPC her "most wonderful experience as a student" because her delegation later went sightseeing in Boracay. She divulges in her blog that although she dreamed about seeing other places, she thought that she had no chance of doing so because she lives in the southern part of the country. Then, "unexpectedly, a one of a kind opportunity comes my way -- to be able to have a trip to one of the places where I longed to visit -- the island paradise of Boracay," she gushes.
Nor is she the only one.
"(A)ng unang pagkakataon na nakasakay ako ng eroplano, at makatakas sa Luzon, ay nang palarin akong manalo sa RSPC noong nasa 4th year high school ako at ipadala ako sa National Schools Press Conference na ginanap noong Disyembre 1997 sa Tangub City. (The first time that I rode on an airplane, and was able to escape Luzon, was when I was lucky enough to win the RSPC (Regional Schools Press Conference) when I was in 4th year high school and I was sent to the National Schools Press Conference held in December 1997 at Tangub City)," reminisces Palanca awardee for poetry Edgar Calabia Samar in his LiveJournal blog. He remembers that the airplane landed at Dipolog and that they were able to stop at Dapitan to see the replica of Jose Rizal's house. To cap the experience, he then won second place in Editorial Writing.
The experience is not just tours and sightseeing, of course. The main thing that drives the NSPC is, and always has been, journalistic training and competition. The delegates have undergone rigorous eliminations at the Division and Regional levels in order to reach the Nationals. Formerly, ten winners for the two language mediums for each Division would battle it out in each category in the Regionals. Five Regional winners per medium per category would advance to the Nationals, where again, ten winners per medium per category would be chosen: the best of the best young writers in the Philippines. At present, the standards are stricter: only three Regional winners go on to the NSPC, and only seven National winners are finally chosen.
As blogger Ellaination recalls of her own NSPC experience: "(H)aller, reality check, imposible pa sa imposible na manalo ako sa Nationals. Jusmiyo, ilang manunulat ang kakatunggaliin ko mula sa iba't-ibang lupalop ng Pilipinas, ano naman ang panlaban ko sa kanila??? (Hello, reality check, it was greatly impossible that I would win in the Nationals. My God, how many writers would I be up against from the rest of the country? How could I win against them?)" But win she did.
"Sa bawat paglapat ng ballpen ko sa papel noon habang sumusulat ako ng articles kahit ako'y inaantok na... sa bawat madugong draft na ibinabalik mo... sa mga pagpupuyat na dinanas ko para lang makapag-press work... (For each touch of my ballpen to paper while I was writing articles even when I was already sleepy... For each bloody draft that you returned... For the sleepless nights that I experienced just to do press work...)," she goes on to thank her school paper adviser, who has since passed away, maintaining that even now that she is already working, she still continues to write.
Another blogger, Ako Si Pedro, looks back at his own bittersweet aspirations to the NSPC and pokes fun at himself: "...tiwala ako sa sarili ko. Alam ko na kaya kong umabot sa National Schools Press Conference. Tiniyak ko ‘yon sa nanay ko, sa mga kaibigan ko, sa punong guro namin, sa titser na gabay ko, sa mga kasamahan ko, sa takatak boy sa kanto na nagbebenta ng yosi, kending stork at vicks, kay mang carding na magtataho pati na sa alaga n'yang pusa na si mingming, sa mga harurot boys na traysikol drayber, at higit sa lahat, tiniyak ko ‘yon sa sarili ko. I'll bring home the bacon! Yeah baby! Yeah!---Ngunit nabigo ako, at kung ano man ang kadahilanan ay hindi ko na ikwekwento. Ayokong sabihin pa na isinisisi ko ang kabiguan ko sa ibang tao. (I had such confidence in myself. I knew that I could reach the National Schools Press Conference. I assured my mother of it, my friends, our principal, my teacher-adviser, my companions, the 'takatak' boy at the corner who sells cigarettes, Storck and Vicks candies, Mang Carding who sells taho and even his pet cat Mingming, the 'harurot (speeding) boys' tricycle drivers, and most of all, I assured myself. I'll bring home the bacon! Yeah baby! Yeah! --but I was disappointed, and whatever the reason was, I will not go into it in detail. I will not have it said that I blame my failure on other people.)"
Win or lose, however, Ako Si Pedro credits his experience with giving him confidence and some sense of direction. He writes: "Marami akong ginulantang nuong mga panahon na ‘yon. Ultimo mga kasama kong kalahok at dalawang titser na walang silbing nagsilbi bilang coach sa'min sa kompetisyon ay hindi makapaniwala na nanalo ako. Hindi ko sila masisisi. Isa kasing pilyong palikerong gago ang naging imahe ko sa eskwelahan. Na-stereotype na ako, nailagay na ako sa isang kahon at nalagyan ng marka, marka na palatandaan na ako'y isang gago. Animo'y alam na nila kung ano lang ang kaya ko. Hanggang dun na lang ako. ‘Yun ang akala nila! (I surprised a lot of people during those times. Even my fellow delegates and two teachers who served as our coaches in the competition could not believe that I won. I could not blame them. My image in school was that of a naughty playboy jerk. I was stereotyped, put in a box and marked, a mark that signified I was a ne'er do well. As if they were sure they knew my limitations. That I could only do so much. That was what they thought!)" His Press Conference days awakened a love affair with writing that lasted through his college days and finally inspired him to start blogging.
Inspiring and stimulating as it has been to those for whom it was a rite of passage, the NSPC has not been spared the impact of other events within the country. In view of its mandate of developing journalistic competencies among the youth, nothing could be more fitting. Media must, after all, have its finger on the pulse of current events. For some, however, supervening incidents that affect the NSPC could be irritating.
In his blog KnowReadKnoWrite, Gilbert Yap Tan thinks back on his stint as evaluator for three NSPCs, particularly recalling "what happened to the scheduled NSPC to be hosted by SoCot in 1993. Then DECS Secretary Armand Fabella decided to change the venue to Baguio City when a bombing incident occurred in nearby Sultan Kudarat. This was made a week before the scheduled event in spite of the fact that everyone and everything in SoCot were prepared for the hosting." That year, the South Cotabato delegation boycotted the event in disgust. The next year Fabella was replaced by Ricardo Gloria, and the NSPC finally arrived in Koronadal.
Even without disasters and catastrophes taking place, for other delegates it is a struggle to be able to go to the NSPC even if they have already qualified during the Regionals.
Budget is a big consideration, as a school paper adviser relates in his blog. He and his students had to solicit funds from the community to be able to attend the NSPC. "I experienced it thrice in a row looking at my student's determination to compete in the national but it seems that budget would somehow obstruct their vision. But we were able to hurdle the difficulties when we banked on the generosity of friends, relatives, politicians, and the school. It is at this point that since the school budget was poured off in the production of the paper, and some were appropriated to the fare and registration during the Division and Regional Schools Press Conferences, the national level seemed to have ended up a dream hanging out there. The last resort was to solicit benevolent assistance from known resources," he recollects.
Good or bad experiences notwithstanding, many agree that their NSPC experiences were memorable. Bicolano blogger Mitsuru, in particular, could not forget his own NSPC experience-- during the EDSA Revolution.
"I was neither at home in Tiwi, Albay nor protesting in EDSA at that time," he recounts. "I was in the Visayas, Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo to be exact during the National Secondary Schools Press Conference (NSSPC) held in that rustic but charming town and if I remembered it correctly, some 30-plus kilometers away from the City of Iloilo. I was in third year high school in 1986 when I was chosen as one of the representatives of the Bicol Region (by virtue of me landing in 5th place in the News Writing Category in the Regional Secondary Schools Press Conference (RSSPC) held at the Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City of the same year) to the NSSPC where lady luck smiled on me in Barotac Nuevo for I placed 9th (only the top 10 were announced and awarded certificates onstage) out of 150- plus contestants nationwide and was the highest placed Bicolano in the News Writing Category." While world-changing events took place far away in the national capital, the delegates went about their lectures and competitions, and followed the news avidly. Mitsuru remembers the late Joe Quirino wearing a yellow ribbon, and how "(w)hen the church bells finally toll(ed) on the night the Marcoses left Malacanang, the entire auditorium went wild as the delegates from Regions II to XII and NCR whooped it up while the delegates from the Ilocos just kept quiet."
Even an ordinary NSPC could be a major disaster or a major adventure, depending how you looked at it. To blogger Lily, who went to the 1994 Koronadal NSPC, it was both. She writes in her blog "Catching the Duma Virus": "Most of the teachers and parents were hesitant about sending us to Mindanao for the conference because they were terrified that this new terrorist group--- which the radio, TV, and newspapers were obsessing about--- might blow us up. I didn't like this Abu Sayyaf that people were talking about because they were ruining my opportunity to travel and bring glory to my family, my school, my city, my region, and most especially to my Darwinian instincts."
After three days bus travel (which she remembers as miserable), they finally reached Koronadal. For her event, Feature Writing, the topic given was: "I would travel to the ends of the Philippines for an experience like the NSSPC." All she could think to write about was: "What? No Abu Sayyaf?"
Lily ends her blog post: "(T)his essay should have been what I wrote in Koronadal. But it took me fourteen years and almost a week to write this."
That shows just how long the NSPC experience can remain fresh in a delegate's consciousness.