I have always known Jaime Lao as an admirable human being. While undergoing dialysis treatment twice or thrice a week, he managed to serve as president of the Central Student Council at Divine Word College of Laoag, and president, too, of the Rotaract Club. He was also Editor in Chief of the school paper. All these he did while striving to have his name consistently on two lists: the Dean’s List and the kidney transplant recipient list. The former, he achieved; the latter remains elusive.
I first met him in debate practices for an interschool competition their school eventually won… over us. He is a lighthearted fellow whose energy and optimism belie his medical condition. But the other night, Jaime, now a law student, gave me a call; his voice was obviously pained.
Read his own account, dear karikna, to learn why.
I have been on dialysis treatment for more than four and a half years now and Divine Word College of Laoag (DWCL) has been a source of strength and inspiration during my years as a student there. My sickness seized my hopes and dreams for a brighter future because during that time, I thought that my end was near. I felt dying. But when I enrolled at Divine Word College of Laoag last 2008 for my second course, I found a new hope and a sense of purpose to live longer. I owe this to the students and to the teachers who believed in me, them alone and no one else.
Without bragging, I think I could be considered as a good student when I was at DWCL. But now I am hurt and deeply saddened because the school administrators banned me from visiting my beloved Alma Mater. According to the newly appointed Director of Students Affairs, Prof. Michael Madamba, I am not allowed to enter the school. He told me this during my visit last September 9, 2011 for the school intramural. I was shocked because I was not informed about it formally and, in my personal opinion, the banning was too unreasonable. During the general assembly of the college students last June 2011, I went there to invite students to participate for the “KABAGIS Run for A Cause”. The event was intended to raise funds to assist patients undergoing dialysis treatment, including myself. I always feel that I still belong to the DWCL family even after I graduated. I also felt that it was not too much to invite students to participate since the event also aimed to promote physical wellness, running, and most importantly, the value of life.
With regard to the invitation I did during the general assembly, I had prior permission from the CSC President but did not ask the proper school authorities since it would just be an informal invitation to the students. After my five minute talk in the general assembly, I was summoned to talk to the Director of Student Affairs. The Director questioned me why I went to the general assembly and invited students without any permission. He also stressed that the new priest in the school saw me and did not like what I did. I felt sad about it but I still apologized for not asking the school administrators for proper permission.
I am hurting and my heart is crashed because I am banned to visit my Alma Mater that has been my source of strength and inspiration to live more. I now feel worthless as an alumnus of the school. The banning, for me, was a clear message that the school administrators don’t care any more after you graduate. I am banned because I asked help and invited the students to run for a cause. As far as I am concerned, I didn’t promote havoc, violence, or chaos. I didn’t go to the students’ general assembly to rob or steal from anyone — I promoted the value of life. Where is justice, peace, truth and love that we should all practice as it is embedded in our mission as Divinians? There was no due process which I believe I deserve and the others who are also victims of great injustice because of grave abuse of discretion. What kind of values are we trying to impart to our students if we cannot practice our authorities entrusted to us in a proper way? I wonder what Jesus Christ would do if He was the one to decide whether or not I will be banned just because I promoted the value of life by inviting students to participate in a lawful event.
We are a government of laws and not of men. Nobody can just decide based on his own opinion, it should always be based on written guidelines and policies. For when this happens it would result to dictatorship. This is the kind of evil that should be avoided.
I have been a proud Divinian and I will always be; and always be a Witness to the Word… of truth, love, and justice, all of which I did not feel last Sept. 9.
School administrators may have been wary because the event promoted by Jaime was sponsored by the Samahang Ilocano (S.I.), a fraternity. Maybe the priests think, and they have the right to think so, that fraternities are harmful for students, and so they are taking extra precaution. But note that Jaime did not promote a fraternity. He only invited students to support a charitable event.
I am not defending the need for fraternities. In fact, my very first article that saw print (Mga Anak ng Frating), and that was in high school, was against such groups. And no, I am not defending fraternities because my Kuya Henry was president of S.I. at the Ilocos Norte National High School three and a half decades ago. I have never been a fan of fraternities, not even of the more popular ones.
But Kuya Henry has always been an astute citizen, a loving family man, and a devoted believer in God. And Jaime, an exemplary human being who finds meaning and purpose in S.I., has my respect. I am tempted to say that if all of us could be like these two men by joining fraternities, then, by all means, let’s join fraternities. But I will only say that if we believe in their worthy causes, then, by all means, let’s support them. We are quick to condemn fraternities when they initiate rumbles and public disorder, but why can’t we tap their back when they channel their vast energies into something productive? And why ban Jaime? A simple warning that he could not promote his group, in any way, inside the campus would have been enough. But to deprive the alumnus entry to a home he has always loved… isn’t that too much?
In the interest of fairness, I tried to contact Prof. Michael Madamba of DWCL to get his side of the story, but the security guard who picked up the phone informed me that school employees were having a recollection facilitated by the famous Fr. Jerry Orbos.
Anyway, Security Officer Joselino Bobiles confirmed that his office has not received any memorandum, not even an informal advice, that Jaime is banned at DWCL. His tone even expressed wonder as to why, if at all, the well-regarded alumnus should be banned.
I hope, as a fellow alumnus (I went to DWCL Grade School), that this issue is resolved the soonest, and always on the side of truth, justice, and compassion—virtues we expect school administrators of the ‘Pride of the North’ have learned in their insightful recollection.