It’s been 99 years of championing Relevance, Integrity, Truth, and Excellence for Visayas State University (VSU), and what a joyous occasion it has been for the last two weeks. This was the first anniversary to be celebrated physically in three years due to the halt posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. All eyes were set upon the university as to how they would bring back the thrill and excitement for this year’s festivities, especially for those who are yet to experience it. But aside from all the fun and pride, comes a fair share of shortcomings. Afterall, not all shiny gifts include the fanciest of things when opened. Can we do better? That’s a fair question to ask, especially since 2024 is the centenary, and we only want what’s best for VSU. So, what really happened on this years’ 99th founding anniversary?

Who Ordered an Anniversary Special, with a side of Midterm Examinations?

From April 17-24, these dates became crucial to those who lived by the pre-semestral mantra of “Bawi nalang inig ka second sem”. Midterms was brewing a hotpot of anxiety-riddled Viscans with deadlines to cram and reviewers to marry in their sleep.  Unfortunately, this was also the same time where anniversary-related activities were starting to take place. Instead of being able to unwind and enjoy from all the academic stress, students were inconveniently distracted with anniversary-related activities sprouting from one place to another. Not only that, they also had to participate in the activities prepared by their own departments and colleges for the two-week celebration. The notion of enjoyment was simply defeated because of this scheduling conflict, gathering evident frustrations from everyone– whether you were a teacher or a student.

One may argue that it is always a matter of prioritizing what is important, but these two major activities arguably differ in the purpose they serve to the Viscan community. Truly, the idea of the celebration being the reward from a grueling week of academic torment seemed a little tone deaf. It showed how academic burnout can affect the participation and enthusiasm, as well as how it can encourage a passive entanglement of “fun” because we are, afterall, Viscans who are part of the 99-year legacy of the university. 

The Mr. and Miss VSU Pageant Ticketing Fiasco

Let’s get to the exciting part: everyone was truly delighted to witness this year’s edition of Mr. and Ms. VSU. As soon as various colleges posted about the screening details for interested applicants, everyone started to place their bets as to who they wanted to see on the main stage. Everything was postulated to be the best inception of the pageant in years, but eyebrows quickly raised right after the ticket prices were announced via the official facebook page of the Visayas State University. As I tried to get on the loop, I already expected that it would be priced and I had no initial qualms about it, but imagine my absolute shock after scrolling down the official candidate portraits to be greeted with ticket prices amounting to 100-500 pesos for onsite viewing and 99-299 pesos for the online livestream. This gained major backlash from the students, calling out the pageant’s organizing committee for its ‘non-student friendly’ rates; not to mention that students had to pay contributions in support of their college’s picks. 

The prices were later brought down from 100 to 75 pesos for the pre-pageant competitions (preliminary show and talent showcase) as a resolution from the emergency meeting between the USSC, Heads from the Marketing and Promotions, and Culture and the Arts Center, OSDS, and the OVPSAS. But despite efforts on lowering the prices, a Facebook post exposed the vacancy from the venue (which compared the pageant to an event being simultaneously held at time) with only the first few rows and the bleachers being occupied. 

A Wild Case of ‘Anniversary Fatigue’

This year’s anniversary saw the rebirth of numerous events and gimmicks sought to entertain spectators and the entire Viscan Community. From food stalls to college and non-student organizational booths, any Viscan would be greatly conflicted as to which ones to go first. When I first saw these makeshift stalls being set-up in the VSU Market, my initial thought was, “This is a big deal for us (Viscans).” After the schedule of the anniversary was posted, it promised a daily array of happenings, saying that there was something to look forward to. 

But the two-week period seemed a little stretched-out. Catching up or FOMO was a challenge for most students who wanted to see what each activity had to catch classes at the same time. While students continuously burned their midnight candles studying for the examinations, numerous events started to sprout everywhere like wildfire. Stalls were also selling goods and services which at times were irregularly priced. The events were greatly attainable on paper, but it was just exhausting to have back to back events morning and night, prompting students to just go back to their homes instead of celebrating the anniversary. Hence, two weeks just seemed a little overwhelming.  

But I’m not one to just ramble about these lapses– complaining without consideration does not make it anything better, so in an attempt to reflect on these issues, here's a few suggestions that could work for next year's merriments. 

  1. Midterm examinations and anniversary celebrations just do not go together. It may be idealistic, but one should be held before or after the other, not at the same time. A fine line between enjoyment and academics must be set if the university wants to hone every Viscan's participation, instead of endorsing an 'It is what it is' mindset. The Office of the President released a memorandum which indicated that no deadlines and no examinations were to be conducted right after April 24, following the suspension of classes on the 27 and 28 to give way for the anniversary festivities. Hopefully, this practice can be retained for the centennial anniversary. 

  2. The pageant should be accessible to students, if not made free. The technicalities required for staging a pageant are expensive, but when we talk about prioritizing the student’s fun, shouldn’t these rates also accommodate what we can only afford? We seem to forget that we are still under inflation, and what was cheap before, may account for something greatly expensive now. Trust me when I say that not every student is drinking those high-end boba teas or callously spending their allowances on colorful bracelets and trinkets that are commercialized in the VSU Market. Not everyone is impulsive enough to give in to these treats, let alone spend so much on a pageant that does not guarantee them a good seat. A paid show is not a good way to go, and the ultimate goal here is to involve the students, not discourage them. Hence, the involvement of the USSC, as our official student body, when negotiating about ticketing prices and other significant contributions for the anniversary, must be given gravitas, nonetheless. 

  3. Leaving spaces out for the night activities is a must. Though it does get a little tiring at times, it's great that we have nightly events to look forward to especially during this week after the midterm examinations.  Afterall, most of the students whom are attending these events live outside of the VSU dormitories, and given that these events mostly conclude past 10 pm, it would be probable to have these events at  earlier times of the day and be more efficient in maneuvering the performers, the runthrough, and every logistics. It would help to break these schedules apart so that we would not have to strike past the curfew for a couple of days and result in going over closed residential gates just to get home and lay around after a night of merriment.

To add to more, it would be great to bring back college and department nights to give students something to look forward to besides university-wide endeavors. I might as well jump into the bandwagon and manifest for a  'Ben&Ben cutie' or any other known OPM-acts for the centennial celebration, but that’s besides the point. 

Some choices were made and adjustments were always bound to affect the anniversary plans. Things were not done wrong, but they could have been better. It’s safe to say that 99 years was a good reminder of a culture that we value so much as Viscans and how we care about making it better for the upcoming centennial year. All these shortcomings do not make us forget about the 99 years of gains and successes we’ve fostered as a university, and that alone should be celebrated in all its glory.

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