My shirt IScuter than yours!

Trust a witty shirt tagline to stir debates in even one of the most prestigious universities in the country, the University of the Philippines.

Quite recently, in an attempt to spread the UP pride and try to raise some funds at the same time, an organization from the university released freshie baseball and v-neck shirts bearing the words: “ISKOLAR THAN YOU” in accordance with the University Student Council. The phrase is a word play between ”Iskolar” (Filipino word for ‘scholar’; UP students call themselves as Iskolar ng Bayan) and ”Cooler than you.”

You couldn't get any iskolar than that!

You couldn’t get any iskolar than that!

The message wreaked havoc in social media, with activists clamoring for the misuse of the word ‘iskolar’ in the shirts as degrading the very meaning for which UP stands for, which is to serve the nation as the ‘iskolar ng bayan’ and not as a tool for egocentricity or arrogance. For them, the word is too much precious to be used as a pun, even if it’s a funny, witty pun.

Naturally, students from other state universities reacted at this. Ohhh, what would they think if they stumble upon the Diliman Shopping Center?

Naturally, students from other state universities reacted at this. Ohhh, what would they think if they stumble upon the Diliman Shopping Center?

Being somewhat of an activist myself, I get their point about the ‘iskolar’ thing. Coming from a state university, I understand the value behind it, that the word ‘Iskolar’ isn’t just a label to call yourself and your university’s culture. It’s being given the honor to be educated by the state, to be supported by honest taxpayers in this country, and no greater honor can surpass that than being in UP, which, despite its best efforts to provide education to poor yet deserving students, is forced to adapt income-generating schemes while acting as the trailblazer on the development of science and technology, research and innovation, arts and culture in the country.

Yet, you have to consider the marketing strategy behind ISKOLAR THAN YOU. To be honest, this is only pretty modest in UP standard. During my brief stint as a campus reporter, UP Diliman has become sort of my beat and I’ve seen more ‘aggressive’ and, dare I say, high-and-mighty ‘taglines’ than that. In defense of UP students, most of my barkadas are from UP who are the most humble, most unassuming people I’ve ever known, and yet, they are very proud of the school. Come on, people, what is NOT to be proud of at UP? 

The issue is a debate of perspective, not directly the message. Some people are okay with it, even non-UP students. It’s what UP is known for, right? Iskolar ng bayan? It’s not much different when you’re creating a slogan for UST or La Salle or any other school. A marketing strategist would approve.

But at the same time, bearers of this shirt, UP students, should understand that being an ISKOLAR goes attending the most prestigious school in the country; it goes beyond self-fulfillment and school pride. You are expected to give something back, even a greater part of your life, for the nation. In a way, being the iskolar ng bayan is both a privilege and a bane. A true iskolar is the one who understands how hard it is to serve the people and a nation who couldn’t, wouldn’t, help itself. He/she, I think, is the person who is way ISKOLAR than you, than me, and everyone else who call themselves as such.

Although, as one blogger pointed out, it would have been great if it’s ‘ISCUTER than you’ or ‘ISMARTER than you’. More catchy, less controversy, everyone’s happy.

To end this article, let me share to you some light exchange between two UP alumni



About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on July 17, 2013, in College Story, My country, reflections and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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