In Defense of Professor Monsod

I don’t know what it is, but recently, I’ve had a lot of beef with local news websites and news papers. There was that John Mayer concert review, the Philippine Star’s Supreme section referring to Neil Patrick Harris as a “as a fairy godmother to those that trail the Homo Highway” (in a write-up lauding the “It Gets Better” campaign at that) and the Star’s YS section where a writer had the gall to write the gem below, when talking about the things that annoy him:

People who are too masa: Doesn’t mean because you’re poor, you can’t afford culture. The internet is cheap. It’s P15 per houe in hole-in-the-wall cafes. Spend time on the internet learning about things that could make you intelligent. Expose yourselves to things that are not Star Cinema and noon-time shows. You’ve run out of excuses. The internet will stop us from being Oriental.”

Arrrrgh. Reading that again made my head ache. But I digress.

This is about this article from the GMA7 website, in reaction to Professor Monsod’s final lecture to her students. While Professor Monsod so obviously does not need anyone to defend her (and I bet she couldn’t care less), I felt the need to voice out my irritation, if not for my former Professor, then for my Alma Mater.

I have a few bones to pick with the article, the first being this: the writer, a doctor, either did not understand the video, or refused to understand it. Because Professor Monsod was very clear. She was addressing a very specific group of people: the students of UP Diliman. Period. Full stop. She never intended this to be shared beyond the four walls of the School of Economics auditorium or to be heard by anyone else but the 100 or so students in that Econ 100.1 (or was it .2?) class. Therefore, if you’re an OFW or a child/parent/spouse/sibling of an OFW who DID NOT GRADUATE FROM UP DILIMAN, chill. The lecture was never meant for you or your parent/child/spouse/sibling. If you need proof, fast-forward to 0:54 and 1:14 on the video. If you didn’t pass the UPCAT, no reason to get your panties in a bunch.

Bone of contention no. 2: how it was written. And, no, it’s not a matter of style and personal taste (I won’t even touch her comparisons to Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings. Umm. Really?). For one, it wasn’t fact-based, or, at the very least, it didn’t tell the whole truth (which would be tantamount to lying, too, no?). For instance, she says Professor Monsod expressed her anger towards those who have chosen to leave their home and their people to find work, sustenance and success in another land”. Umm, no she didn’t. She was angry at those UP graduates who leave the country and don’t give back to the country and to the university (see 7:38). Quite a different thing.

Finally, what annoys me the most is the fact that it was even published. While the doctor is entitled to her opinion, it can and should only be published if she presents a fair picture of what she is against. And that is not the case here. As already discussed, it wasn’t based on fact. She also twists the Professor’s words. The writer asks How is it a betrayal of the Filipino people for a Filipino in another country to be recognized and applauded for the good that he does on a global scale?” Again. NO. That wasn’t the betrayal Ma’am Monsod was referring to. What she regarded as a betrayal was leaving behind the people and the country that paid for your world-class education (see 5:47). So not only did the doctor misrepresent facts, she also put words into the Professor’s mouth. And still, the article was published. Bad job, editors. Bad job.

To add insult to injury, apparently (according to the GMA7 website commenters’ Googling skills, at least), the doctor is a UP graduate. Although that would explain a lot, actually (guilty, much?). This UP graduate, working in the US, felt the need to defend herself and her life choices, albeit in an ill-judged manner. Such is the power of Professor Solita Monsod’s words.

Now if only the doctor channeled her obviously hurt feelings into the “doing good and paying forward” she referred to, then she would’ve proved the Professor wrong. Instead she wrote that article.