Remembering the Fallen: A MAGDALO War Story Part I

(Note: The following is the text of an article that was published in MAGDALO, Vol XXI No1. Some text has been altered from the original version for better clarity, as this has not been published in four years. However, the final version published was heavily censored.)

by Jonas Lopez

Let no one forget,
Let nothing be forgotten!

Written by Russian poet Olga Berggolts, these words are etched in stone and steel at the entrance to the Piskarevsky Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia, the final resting place of over 1.5 million victims of the longest siege in modern history: the siege of Leningrad (it’s Soviet-era name), which lasted from early September 1941 to late January 1944, with half a million people dying in the first six months alone, from cold, starvation, disease, and German attacks.

As one of three MAGDALO staffers that were given a chance to return in 2004 after over a year spent in forced exile (now this is the real year-long absence, unlike that fat-tub editor known as Mr. “From-Hell-and Back”, whose apparent definition of which was not reporting at the office for months at a time, let alone contribute articles, but had The Nerve to show his face at the staff-retention interview-and got retained in the process), those same words were ringing in my mind as I looked back at the twists and turns my life had taken in that space of time. I couldn’t even help but laugh and vomit in disgust at the all-too-dismal performance of that SHAM of an Editorial Board which prevailed in our absence. I think most of the students who read their issues would agree with me. At the time, I was so disappointed by the makeup of the staff: full of bureaucratic weasels, ass-kissers and brazenly bold turncoats, two of whom did not even report for work when every staffer was needed to complete what would unfortunately turn out to be ”The Issue That Nearly Was”: the EAC 30th Anniversary Special.

When I saw the staff list that fateful day in July 2003 without our names on it, I felt as if a ton of bricks just dropped on me. Appeals for reconsideration fell on deaf ears. Enraged by such a travesty of injustice, I swore to not ever again have anything to do with MAGDALO, and if it meant helping oversee its ultimate destruction, I would be more than happy to participate. I said to myself, “Ok, let’s see if these people are even better, but if they’re no…” Though I would not read their issues until after I returned, I was regularly updated by constant intelligence about what was going on inside, plus engaging in conversations with some of my former colleagues … and the data was not good.

SHAME & DISHONOR

If the persons who had us replaced then firmly believed that there was a united front among the lackeys they installed, well…I think they are, for lack of an appropriate word, “deluded.” United front my foot, how the hell could you explain the mass resignation of three editors and a staff writer-who wanted out because they couldn’t stomach the foul stench of the then-EIC’s chronic domineering and incompetence?  That person doesn’t even know jack about running a student publication. Because of what they did, I said to myself, “Damn, I gotta meet those guys!” and congratulate them for seeing the truth behind the lies, and for walking out rather than put up with such a facade full of hot air. In fact, I’ve met three of them, and they are heroes in my book.

What was once branded as pambalot ng tinapa further degraded into more offensive slurs I would have been proud to coin myself: Impromptu seat covers and placemats at the CSC office, toilet paper, “rolling paper”…no wonder the content of the then-Board was so lacking in substance, like what the hell did those people drink, expired pito-pito? Do you know that you could virtually create a paper air force from the bundles of their issues that were not distributed at the time (A B-2 stealth bomber made of MAGDALO issues? Now THAT would be something!)?  Mein Gott im Himmel, what a joke they all were! It’s also no wonder that a former staffer that goes by the name of-let’s call her Han Ji-hye’- once told me that they were ‘all form, no substance.’

That’s the truth, my friends: because of those very circumstances, MAGDALO’s credibility and reputation went to the dogs, to such a low level that I even yearned for the day that nobody would ever think of reading even one issue-or worse, not one student signs up at the MAGDALO table during Org Week. Its near-devastation can be harshly compared to the pre-9/11 CIA: a place where politics, not national security, dictated operations and bureaucrats, not agents, made up the bulk of its personnel. The MAGDALO may not have had its very own September 11, but That Editorial Board’s performance ought to be the next best thing. I even chanced upon a thread about it in the EAC website’s Message Forum back in May 2004, called “MAGDALO: Rocks or Sucks?”  Many posts were made, but not one had any praises for MAGDALO and because of the offensive content (One post even claimed it was “mandated by four horrible creatures”-I think it was the then-advisers), I found the entire thread removed from the site a few days later!

SPLIT-SECOND CHANCE

I was at first skeptical when an ex-adviser encouraged us to give the MAGDALO a second try in June 2004, because it was my then-belief that former staff members need not apply; I remembered one signing up before, but it turned out he just failed the exam, so there was no ‘stipulation.’ Soon enough, I found myself looking up some ex-colleagues that were still studying in EAC and encouraged them to give it one more shot. In the end, three of us took the plunge.

I learned that the two scumbags who were left from ‘that Board’ actually had the guts to apply again. Though they both passed the initial exam (together with the three of us), only one of them showed up at the interview-the other simply disappeared, probably because that old fool knew that she wasn’t going to be EIC a second time. I myself failed the interview (don’t know why, but my two old colleagues made it through): the day I found out, I was so furious, I even skipped classes that morning. I admit I was incensed, but as I learned that they were in need of extra people to complement their manpower pool, I decided to go back as a Correspondent. I thought that if they can bring back the trust of the students in their campus publication, I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world…because I had some bitter scores to settle.

BETTER RED THAN DEAD

Well, as these words see print, a new school year is already underway and a new MAGDALO batch has assumed office.  New year, new dreams, and new hopes for the future. I may have returned for only a short time last year, but to tell you the truth, not even during my first time around did I ever feel so alive enjoying my work here at MAGDALO.  Just writing this one article actually makes me want to shed some tears of joy at how fortunate we were at being given such a rare opportunity to come back-the first ever ex-staffers to have done so. From someone who virtually hated the organization he was once a part of and more than eager to see destroyed, I suddenly felt that there was still hope that MAGDALO can regain its old glory, thrown away by the evils from within and ‘up high’. Think of your student publication as a beat-up car being refurbished by a journalism version of the West Coast Customs crew you see on MTV’s Pimp My Ride. At least the pain and anger I built all that time is being converted to positive energy. We were practically learning how to become a student publication all over again, to bring back the ‘Student’ in ‘Official Student Publication of Emilio Aguinaldo College’. As I once paraphrased a familiar line, ”Hell hath no fury like a MAGDALO staffer betrayed.” I found myself taking to my job like a duck to water: participating in staff meetings, helping the editors add more ‘oompf’ to their articles, and representing MAGDALO at CEGP events in ways that had never been deemed possible before, showing to our fellow campus journalists that with idealist Emilians on the team, the MAGDALO back then was a world away from the ugly, deceitful smear that prevailed among those staff who represented the publication before…especially the poor excuse of a batch that came the year before I returned.

In a way, I could say that my comeback story roughly parallels that of Slam Dunk’s Hisashi Mitsui, who returned to the Shohoku varsity team he used to hate after nearly demolishing it (and breaking down in tears after seeing his old mentor, Coach Ansai). I fully believe that with your support my fellow Emilians, MAGDALO will lay the foundation of a bright future for itself and also for EAC. \ I also have a good feeling that some of the MAGDALO alumni who were the best-performing staff members of their day will be proud as I am of MAGDALO’s achievements in the past year (Well, not everybody counts; only those former staff who gave their very best to serve the students’ interests do count, not political stooges like some people we know).

To help secure this bright future, this calls for a break from the norms. For starters, it’s a humble belief that some of the people who have dishonored MAGDALO’s name and nearly brought it to its grave once must have even the slightest sense of delicadeza (do they even know what it means?) not to poke their noses anymore into something that’s waaay out of their league. You and I know who you are-you’ve already done too much damage! Keep your slimy hands off MAGDALO and let it chart its own future; there’s no need for old, incompetent dinosaurs with self-serving ideas anywhere on the Board, and don’t even try throwing those words back at me.

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