Friday, April 20, 2007

History of the UP Aguman

Updated By Rex Dizon Salagpi 2001A

Since the early 30’s, Kapampangan-speaking students of the University of the Philippines Diliman have made attempts to form a Pampango association within the campus. Unfortunately, their initial efforts proved futile since no formal organization was ever established.

In 1971, a renewed move was led by some Kapampangan members of Lakas Diwa, an organization that aimed to promote the development of the Filipino language. In essence, the ‘splinter group’ of Pampango students adopted the concept of establishing a similar union that would specifically do the same for their native language.

Eduardo Cunan, then an Architecture student, led the university-wide recruitment effort which attracted at least 70 members. They called themselves the “UP Aguman”, subsequently framing the organization’s constitution and by-laws.

Due to the prevailing student unrest in the 1970’s, the first batch of UP Aguman members lost the opportunity to have the organization recognized by the university’s Office of Student Affairs. But nonetheless, the organization continued its efforts to promote their Kapampangan ethnicity in the campus. However, the student unrest became more prevalent, thus the organization gradually disbanded.

In 1973, two years after, the original batch of UP Aguman spearheaded a move to revive the organization, which proved to be the turning point for the organization. The original members drafted the organization’s constitution and laid out its aims and objectives. It was a year after the declaration of the Martial Law and the prevailing atmosphere in campus at that time was calm, yet very tense. The Office of Student Affairs exerted a rigid scrutiny of all organizations’ petitions for recognition due to the government’s ban on those with possible subversive leanings. Fortunately, as all noble goals are destined to be, the UP Aguman successfully hurdled the stringent criteria for recognition. On December 12, 1973, UP Aguman was given its long-awaited due recognition from the state university.

In our home province of Pampanga, people sometimes think that the UP Aguman is just another UP campus, like UP Clark, UP Diliman or UP Mindanao. Little do they know that for three decades now, the UP Aguman has served not only the Kapampangan students in UP Diliman, but Kapampangans in Pampanga as well. From academic and cultural to service-oriented activities, the UP Aguman strives to serve the best interest of the Kapampangan people, especially the youth. It also aims to provide a social support group for its members as they face the daily trials of college life in the flagship campus of the country’s premier university and a venue for physical, social and cultural growth as individuals and as Kapampangans.

Immediately after its recognition, the UP Aguman launched its annual academic competition – the Pautakan. Almost as old as the organization that established it, the Pautakan has also evolved throughout its almost 35 years of existence. Held every October of each school year, this highly anticipated contest officially opens the quiz bee season participated by the best schools in Pampanga.

In the mid-1980s, the UP Aguman embarked on yet another contest that showcased the Kapampangan youth talent – this time in the arts. On February 1982, the Sining was born. From just a handful of competitions, it has improved and expanded to its current edition of up to 16 separate individual and team competitions in the literary, visual and performing arts. It also aims to promote the Kapampangan culture, heritage and artistry with yearly themes that revolve or incorporate such rich local traditions and practices like the Crisotan (Kapampangan poetry).

The College Entrance Exam Review (CEER) is also one of the annual projects of the organization that caters to the Kapampangan youth. Every July, we invite the senior high school students of Pampanga for a whole-day affair of mock exams, review sessions, course orientation and other tips to give them a better chance on being an ‘iskolar ng bayan’ in the best university of the country – the University of the Philippines.

As rich as its history and achievements may be, the story of the UP Aguman is not without obstacles and setbacks. In December 2002, the UP Aguman suffered a major financial blow when one of its special projects did not deliver as expected. Instead of raising much-needed funds to augment its budget for its yearly projects, the UP Aguman was relegated in a desperate fiscal situation that it was not even able to hold one of its annual noble projects, the Sining 2003, in that school year.

Such financial bankruptcy would’ve spelled the end for a non-stock, not-for-profit organization like the UP Aguman. But instead of giving up, the members worked doubly harder to keep the Aguman spirit alive in the campus and in the province. With much help and support in many forms from its 600-plus-strong network of alumni throughout the country and the world, the UP Aguman continued to live on and survived its major monetary tribulations. Slowly and gradually, the organization financially recovered as the current generation of members continues to keep the legacy it inherited from the humble group of people that established the organization more than 35 years ago.

Today, the UP Aguman still functions with its guiding principles of truth, faith and kinship as it continues its tradition of service and leadership, while firmly believing that even we are still just students, we can help make a positive difference in our beloved province.

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