Honor at what price
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2014 - 12:00am

I have always held the opinion that most people are easily forgotten, even by those who profess undying admiration and respect for them. All it takes is a decade or two of no mention and you’re not even history, you are forgotten. If there was ever a single gram of possibility to the contrary, that was totally wiped out by an incident I experienced recently.

During the 49th annual celebration of the founding of the UP-IMC or College of Mass Communication, I was approached by a well-dressed and pleasant looking lady, who excitedly said that she had hoped to meet up with me concerning the “Beltran Room.” This of course was a tiny elongated, plywood walled room on the second floor that was the typing room for broadcast and journalism students. It was never a pretty room from day one and the only distinction it had was having the name of the most terrifying journalism professor in the college, namely Louie Beltran.

In her polite and measured way, the young woman told me about how they wanted to fix the facilities in the college and since the room has been called the Beltran Room for nearly two decades, they wanted to give us the “first option.” Inquiring as to what that involved, she then informed me that I or we the family of the late Professor Louie Beltran could have the option to retain the family name on the wall of the typing room for the small sum of P1 million  which would be spread out in 5 years at an amount of P200,000 a year.

Because heaven was surely watching and because I knew that the young woman was almost standing on pins and needles, I simply swallowed hard, pulled the most sincere smile from the deepest regions of my bowels and advised her that I’d have to consult the family on how they would want to go about it. But to be honest I was mortified, not by the lady, but by the idea that to retain the honor once given to my father for spending more time with his students than with his own children, we now have to fork up P200,000 a year for five years, and then if we cared maybe renew the contract thereafter.

Because the group undertaking the fund raising had the most noble of intentions, I actually put away my hurt feelings and sleepless nights and spent the following 2 weeks pondering over the incident and idea.

I soon had to ask no one in particular: Do people even know how much journalists and columnists make in a month? What makes people think that we can easily pluck down 200K a year for the family plaque? I make an average of 50K a month as a columnist, which is already at the top of industry rates. I’m writing it down because I am sick and tired of fake media celebrities who inflate their salaries, contracts and status because they think this would win them acceptance among the rich and filthy rich. As a talk show host of ANC I received 30 grand a month for Straight Talk. This financial reality is why I double up as a trainer, consultant, lecturer, etc.

When my associate at DAP Ruby Villavicencio Paurom heard the story she rolled her eyes, expressed her disbelief, and wondered out why they did not make it a batch project instead of soliciting from Louie Beltran’s family? Beats me. From there I moved on and asked myself: If you had the money what would motivate you to donate to the reconstruction fund, or what would prevent you from giving a donation? That was a no brainer.

I would not donate simply because by and large the students who now go into Mass Communication do so for the wrong reasons. Every time TV crews go around asking college students what course and why, those who talk about MassComm usually have the same spiel: “I want to be just like Korina Sanchez or Karen Davila. I want to be popular, I want to be influential, and I want to be a media celebrity!” I’ve never ever heard any of them give a mature, relevant reply regarding what they hope to accomplish as trained and educated students of mass communications. I’ve never heard of a real passion and interest in newsgathering or investigative journalism. It’s always a selfie state of being. They want to be in the news, not gathering the news.

If that’s not enough reason, perhaps the idea that one must help himself is also a reason. It’s weird that we who have graduated are now asked or are trying to give back, but those who stand to directly benefit are not in the fight or the effort to raise funds or awareness on the subject. UP students have historically been participatory in national issues but don’t seem to put greater importance in their real needs such as better equipment, facilities and staff. God helps those who help themselves, people.

I guess the “period” on this epitaph would be the stories of how the College turns down offers from its graduates to be part-time lecturers, speakers or resource persons for free but hires NON-UP graduates? This to me is tragic. ALL UP students are suppose to give back to the University, but if giving back can only be done in cash or checques instead of service, knowledge and experience, where’s the honor in that?

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