Do We Deserve This Kind of Graduation?

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewee but his message can be understood nevertheless. Original title of the article: “Deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?”

Mark Sahagun, 22, felt relieved following the announcement of Mayor Isko Moreno suspending the classes from March 9 to March 15, 2020. Just a few days after defending his architectural thesis, a break is what he needed the most. Little did he know that the class suspension is only the start. As days passed, the government announced community quarantines measures, lockdowns, and eventually affecting their graduation at the PICC supposedly last May 5.

The Start of His Future

Before the lockdown took place on the midnight of March 15 to April 14, Mark went back to his hometown in Laguna. At that time, he was still optimistic that they would have their graduation rites on May 5. But with the continuous extension of community quarantine measures after the lockdown, his dreams of graduating at the PICC did not happen. “Gusto namin na ma-experience ‘yung PICC eh. Isa sa bucket list mo ‘yun na maglakad ka sa PICC.” he stated.

However, the pandemic did not only affect his May 5 graduation but the start of his future as well. While in Laguna, Mark tried looking for jobs through JobStreet and he realized how little his chances are to land a job because he is in a province. He was accepted for a job in Manila but he rejected it. He had a job once when he was still an undergraduate student and he used it as his basis. “Yung ino-offer kasi sa akin lower than the salary [of my previous job]. ‘Yung travel, sobrang layo din. ‘Yung compensation, hindi din okay kasi mas mababa siya compared dun sa first job ko.” He also considered the safety of his family and himself. 

Mark mentioned that during this pandemic, the design industry felt smaller. “Sobrang limited talaga ‘yung possible work. Sobrang swerte mo, if makahanap ka ngayon, and maswerte ka or sobrang galing mo talaga to the point na kahit hindi sila opening, bubuksan nila yung slot for you kasi they want you na mapunta and ma-hire sa kanila,” he stated. “‘Yun lang ‘yung isa sa mga factors na sa tingin ko na iha-hire ka ngayong pandemic.”

With his future looking uncertain and nothing left to do, Mark started his own business, Plaintaire PH, a plants store offering air plants with holders. He felt grateful that amidst the circumstances that constrained him to go outside, he still found an opportunity to help his family financially through an activity that he finds joy in.  

Is This It?

Before their supposed graduation on May 5, there were talks that it would be virtual graduation and since it’s a new thing, they were clueless about what they should do. Some of the graduates took pictures because they thought that the administration will ask for their photos to be inputted on the presentation. However, they did not. They conducted the virtual graduation last September 30 and it looked like it was an ending credit of a film.

Mark spent about six years in PUP because he had to retake Design 10 and that is why he can’t help but be dismayed. “Sa totoo lang in-open ko ‘to kay Ma’am Lutap, “[Ma’am,] deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?” Mark shared. ”Sabi din naman niya, we cannot force na magkaroon ng physical graduation kasi nga pandemic. But sa tagal na tinagal niyo sa PUP, hindi ni’yo deserve yung ganoong virtual graduation.” Mark does not degrade the recognition that they received through the virtual graduation but he believes that they deserve better than that. “Meron pa kaming mas dapat na ma-receive na better recognition kasi degree ‘yung tinapos namin.”

They would have been happier if the virtual graduation was a temporary one, Mark suggested, and there would be a real one next year or when the circumstances allow it. They were willing to wait as long as it is in a “deserving ambiance, deserving ritual, [and] deserving rites.” But, the virtual graduation that occurred is already “the graduation”. It’s done. He now shifted his focus on his future.

We All Are In Different Pacings

Currently, Mark focuses on Plantaire PH but still, he wants to use his degree. “Itong lockdown nag open siya sa akin para matulungan ko yung family ko dito sa bahay. Also, na-experience ko din gumawa ng sarili kong business,” he concludes. “It’s one in a million chance na pwede mong i-grab na hanggang ngayon, existing si Plantaire, existing ‘yung business ko and masaya ako dun sa ginagawa ko. But I don’t want to leave my degree kasi siyempre sayang naman ‘yung six years na ginugol ko sa PUP.” He wants to take a risk next year, 2021—if transportation is readily accessible—and look for a job in Manila. Though he knows not to pressure himself too much on finding a job related to his degree but rather, just doing things that he is happy with and is making progress in.

“May kanya-kayang pacing talaga lalo na ngayon pandemic… Keep striving. Keep working basta as long as nagkakaroon kayo ng progress. Its a good thing pero ‘wag din kakalimutan ‘yung mga na-una niyong dreams and in time, magagawa niyo din sila after this pandemic.”

What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

During this pandemic, I was curious on why a lot of people began to take such huge interests in plants and baking. And that’s a great thing. I’m just genuinely curious why.

My answer came months later from an article posted in Farnam Street,

Why might baking be useful in times of stress? In Overcoming Anxiety, Dennis Tirch explains “research has demonstrated that when people engage more fully in behaviors that give them a sense of pleasure and mastery, they can begin to overcome negative emotions.”

At home with their loved ones people can reconsider what they value one muffin at a time. Creating with the people we love instead of consuming on our own allows us to focus on what we value as the world changes around us. With more time, slow, seemingly unproductive pursuits have new appeal because they help us reorient to the qualities in life that matter most.

Giving yourself the space to tune in to your values doesn’t have to come through baking. What’s important is that you find an activity that lets you move past fear and panic, to reconnect with what gives your life meaning. When you engage with an activity that gives you pleasure and releases negative emotions, it allows you to rediscover what is important to you.”

When I read this article, I began to look at reading and writing—the very things that I did the most during this pandemic—in a whole new way.

When my plans crumbled down and I can’t see my friends for such a long time, I turned to reading and writing. And this is where I concluded that reading and writing are not just some hobby for me. They are something for me to do—to live.

And so, I thought that it would really be an interesting question to ask to people this: What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

Their answers give you glimpse of who they are. Like what are you doing when the world seems to be crumbling down and things might not go back to normal anytime soon (or we may never go back to “normal”)?

Author and artist Austin Kleon wrote in his blog,

“There’s something about keeping your hands busy when your brain feels broken. I have friends with depression who build elaborate LEGO sets. I’ve read about veterans with PTSD who put together gigantic jigsaw puzzles.

We’re wired to want to turn chaos into order. Randomness into meaning.

It’s why hobbies are so important…”

It’s really interesting how we spend hours and hours doing academic work or literally, work but when negativity overwhelms us, we turn into planting, baking, writing, jigsaw puzzles, listening to music, reading, etc.

Why do we put lesser importance to the latter activities that I mentioned when they are the ones that makes us feel more alive and more human?

Even if I have a lot of things listed on my to-do list, I steal time for myself. To read, to write, and to just do nothing—because its through these things that I can rest and feel more alive than ever.

Ending with this line from the movie Dead Poets Society:

Image result for dead poets society quotes | Society quotes, Dead poets  society quotes, Dead poets society

Art as means to an end

Recently, I heard of graphic designer Craig Oldham’s work, ‘May They Never Be Deemed Low-Skilled Again’. This work is in response to the UK government’s hypocrisy during the past few months.

Source: Craig Oldham via My Modern Met

Written in small letters on the poster are the following:

“In February 2020, Home Secretary, Priti Patel labelled any person working under £25k per year “Low Skilled” or “Unskilled”. Only one month later, struggling with the COVID-19 crisis, that same government labelled them ‘Key Workers’, realizing just how important they really are. These workers haven’t just become key to society, they always have, and will continue to be, Key Workers. And long may that term live on.”

Honestly, in times like this, I find it really interesting on how designers find a way to stay “relevant”. What I mean by relevant is that they seek and devise ways on how they could use their skills in giving light to the people who are left behind.

When we are in crisis, we can’t just “not care” about what is happening because before we even become our professions, we are first human.

In an interview with My Modern Met, Craig Oldham shared, ” I have always believed that graphic design is a means and not an end—that it has a part to play, but it’s not necessarily the primary, or a driving factor in things like this. But I do care a lot about people, and this is an idea about people really. And about respect for everyone regardless of their occupation because we are all interconnected and equal—and equally important.”

I appreciate how he added that each of us are equally important regardless of what our job is. Honestly, our government need to learn so much from him. During this pandemic, our government acts like the millions of people who have lost their jobs this pandemic are just merely obstacles to success and growth of this country. Basically, they treat them as data. They try to dumb it down and say, “Oh good thing only *insert millions* people lost their jobs, it could have been worse.” Oh yes. It could have been but that’s not the point. And that should not be what you are saying in front of the Filipino people who barely even have the ability to make ends meet.

Going back, Craig Oldham continued, “Rather than a rightly positive message about staying at home, or being kind to each other, all of which are great messages, I felt it still important to stick up for those countless unknown workers who don’t have the relative luxury of being at home safe with family. They are really important people.

YES!! IMPORTANT!!

Also, can I just mention that in our country, most of the people working directly with a lot of people, like security guards, cashiers, nurses, waiters, garbage collectors, etc, are just earning minimum wages (sometimes, not) and it saddens me that they are risking their health and yet they are not paid well.

And lastly, he states about how design is a tool for good, even if others may rule it out as something frivolous, “Because we have a responsibility to our society. Designers, particularly Graphic Designers, can often lament and be frustrated at what they perceive as a lack of awareness or appreciation for what design is and can do. Well, for me, the answer to that is to prove it, and to engage your talents and time in causes and concerns which can make a meaningful impact on society and the world beyond what we have to do commercially to earn a living.

He concludes, ” I also believe that beyond design, beyond any occupation any of us do, we are first people belonging to a society and we have a duty of care to each other to make sure that society is fair and just, so we should be involved in campaigns and causes in which we believe could achieve this—design or not.”

After learning about his project, it gave me so much hope. Honestly, this quarantine I noticed that a lot of people turned to art, movies, music, and books a lot. This speaks so much that art may not literally be a tool to “save the world” but it is what we live for. Ending with a quote from Dead Poets Society:

Image result for dead poets society quotes | Movie quotes, Pretty words,  Words

Highlights From Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear and here are some of the lines I highlighted while reading the book:

  • “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. Despite our unique personalities, certain behaviors tend to arise again and again under certain environmental conditions. In church, people tend to talk in whispers. On a dark street, people act wary and guarded. In this way, the most common form of change is not internal, but external: we are changed by the world around us.” – James Clear

In designing, designers can influence people to act in a certain way using visual cues. They design a space not only considering the technical specifications but also how should they want people to act in the space.

An interior designer and a professor from SoFA Design Institute shared to us how her client had asked her to not place a dining table in their house because it is always left unused. According to her client, her kids eat separately in their rooms, hence she though it would be useless to have one. Through the story, our professor remind us how important designing can be. As designers, they can design the spaces inside the house in such a way that families will spend more time in the living room and dining room so they could eat and bond together.

Another example of redesigning an environment to shape human behavior is the Alley Oop of HCMA Architecture + Design. By adding bright colors, basketball hoops, and lights, the dark alley transformed to a public space. Observations showed that after revamping the alley, more women spent time and passed by the alley- this means that alley felt safer than before when it was all dark and gloomy. Also, college and high school students frequently use the space for their physical activities.

  • 1% Better Every Day

Reading one page a day.

5 minutes of exercise every day.

Writing a paragraph every day.

All of these when done for 365 days are a big thing. Most of the time, big goals intimidate us, but when we take it day by day, we can achieve it.

A novel might seem a lot of work and may take even for years. But when you write a page per day, by the end of the year, you will have 365 pages!

  • One small step per day. Every day.

“The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. It’s remarkable the business you can build if you don’t stop working. It’s remarkable the body you can build if you don’t stop training. It’s remarkable the knowledge you can build if you don’t stop learning. It’s remarkable the fortune you can build if you don’t stop saving. Its remarkable the friendships you can build if you don’t stop caring. Small habits don’t add up. They compound. That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.” – James Clear

Do it. Right now.

Writing this as a way of saying it to myself as well.

Do it. Right now.

The grim reaper might come for you in the next minute and you will not have the chance to do anything again.

Death may come to you anytime and the thought of it makes the fear of failure blue. Leaving only what is truly important.

Go. Do it.

Doesn’t matter if it would take a year to get it done. Time will pass either you chose to do it or not. If you start today, you’ll only have 364 days left. 1% progress every day.

Do it. Right now.

Look at the colors, look at the things around you and be amazed that every single thing in your room right now is made by a human, like us, who has fears and uncertainties as well.

Do it. Right now.

Motivation is overrated. Just do it. No one says on their deathbed, “I wish I have spent more time scrolling on Facebook.”

Go. Do it.

Because it brings you joy. It doesn’t matter whether you think you are good enough or not because everything that you do had and will shape you in the present moment. You’ll grow after doing something and you will never be the same again.

Go. Do it.

I’m rooting for you.

Gap Year Stories: July– Second Month

I used to describe June, the first month of my gap year as ‘the calm before the storm’. Because July is where I will officially start my internship plus, I have two blogs that I need to regularly update. However, now that July is over, I never felt like it was a storm. Sure, there were moments wherein my stomach churns because I was nervous about the article that I wrote for my internship. But after two days of it being posted publicly, I did not worry about my article anymore, I was off to write another article for my blog.

Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us, therefore, do our best to live but one day at a time. – Richmond Walker

For the month of July, I truly embodied the “living one day at a time”. Those were moments where I felt miserable but they are only moments, they do not last for the following weeks. The next day, they will be gone because it’s a whole new day, a new chance to live better.

Before July even started, I was nervous that I might not fulfill the projects that I committed myself to. Now, in retrospect, I realize that I underestimated what I can handle. I worried a lot about the hypothetical outcomes that I made up myself.

James Clear wrote,

Action forces prioritization.

If you’re stuck deciding between options, force yourself to act. You can only act on one thing at a time, which means you will have to make something the top priority.

Even if you pick wrong, you’ll learn something.

One of the things that improved this month is how I do. Usually, I spent a lot of time worrying before doing something. For example, I tend to overthink how long it will take to finish something instead of just starting. But I learned something from one of James Clear’s newsletters,

Stop worrying about how long it will take and get started. Time will pass either way.

Also, since I had more commitments last July (more than what I was used to), I relied so much on a system. I have days scheduled for writing, proofreading, and researching respectively. I finally but unconsciously established a routine that works for me this quarantine (this was a long trial-and-error process). My routine and system kept me afloat for the whole month without going crazy because of the things that I need to do,

In my Gap Year Stories: June- First Month blog post, I wrote that I’ll focus on researching design works that empathize with people (for my Empathy in Design blog and of course for educating myself as well) and I did accomplish that (my logbook says so).

The month of July has been an exploration plus a lot of time reflecting. It seems ironic that the month which was supposed to be hectic for me because of the responsibilities that I need to do turned out to be a month full of learning and self-reflection (I even posted more than 20 posts here in my website for July. A personal record!). I’ll credit my system for this feat.

Lastly, I think whatever happens self-reflection is what matters. Is what am I doing effective? If not, how could I iterate it? Why am I feeling like this? Am I doing things worth the time? Am I doing something that helps others whether in a tangible or intangible way?

This wonderful quote is from Marie Curie:

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.

 

No Student Left Behind

As of July 17, more than six million basic education students had not yet enrolled for the school year 2020-2021 in the Philippines and it is alarming. (Source: https://rappler.com/nation/millions-fail-to-enroll-elementary-high-schools-philippines-2020-2021)

The Department of Education had assured the public that there is no need for gadgets for their children to enroll because they created another option wherein students without gadgets and internet connectivity can still study through the printed materials that will be delivered to their house or respective Barangay officials.

However, here is another problem. Our neighbors stopped their son to go to school this school year– not because of the lack of gadgets and internet connectivity– because no one will teach him at home. With the printed materials option, students are expected to learn the learning materials on their own or with the help of a family member. Our neighbors chose to stop their son from schooling this year rather than letting him enroll and will probably not learn anything.

This can be a problem for a lot of Filipino families in the lower socioeconomic sector. There might be math problems, science concepts, or even English words that parents cannot explain to their children due to being unable to finish basic education themselves because they had to work early to support their families. In the Philippines, in public high school learning materials, all subjects are in the English language except for Filipino, History, and Values subjects.

When I was younger, my father forced me to read books in English. I used the word forced because I never really liked reading back then. I’m merely doing it because my father told me to.

Eventually, I grew to love reading. I started reading a lot that my father never had to remind me that I should be reading, instead of watching television. Through constantly reading, I got better at reading comprehension in the English language during my basic education years that I did not require a lot of help from my parents to explain to me something.

Moreover, the books that I read when I was younger helped me a lot, was from my dad. My dad saves up the small amount of money he can save every day and buys a new book for us. As I grew up, I realized that I was privileged during that time. Back then, my dad still has money to save while other families do not have and not because they aren’t disciplined. For a lot of Filipino families, they have to live for the current day. The money that they earn for this day is all used up for this day only– food, school supplies, utilities. Most of the time, it isn’t even enough.

During my basic education in a local public high school, I continue to discover how my privilege in reading significantly affected my studies. I observed that most of my classmates struggle in comprehending subject materials that are in English because they did not have a strong foundation of English. And it is not their fault. They just did not have a lot of opportunities to learn English.

I can understand and comprehend materials in English today and that is because of my privilege. Some students do not have the same privilege as I had. They need a teacher to guide them to understand and that is not easy if they do not have internet connectivity or even a gadget to attend online classes. What if their parents or anyone in their household cannot teach them? What will happen?

If the officials from the Department of Education had already seen this problem, and still chose to continue the current school year then they are okay with some students being left behind. They chose to open the school year just for the sake of opening it.

Education should not only be for the privileged. Education is a right. I know that school is not the only way where one could get an education. Trust me, I know that. But, for most people, it is a good place to start learning and be educated. Hence, I still believe that school is important.

With a country led mostly by officials who seem to not show any empathy for the poor and underprivileged, we should collectively speak up, together with the marginalized, so that higher officials up there will notice.

#AcademicFreezeNOW

#NoStudentLeftBehind

Right now, the Department of Education is still going for the upcoming school year. And a lot of public high schools are asking for bond paper ream donations (shows that the DepEd will not give them any budget for printing). These papers will be used for printing subject materials that will be distributed to their students this upcoming August 2020.

You can send bond paper donations at San Mateo Senior High School. You can message them at their official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sanmateoshs/

This post is not to shame anyone who will partake in online classes. If you can take online classes, then do. This is for the people who can’t. It is neither their fault nor yours. I just hope that we cared for them more.

What Happens When You Do Not Empathize With Your Users

Screencaptured this tweet from The Philippine Star

One thing that is significant when designing and a part of the process that should never be left out is: Empathizing With End Users.

The tweet above shows what happens when you take the users out of the design process.

Designing is not all about being tech-y or thinking of a lot of cool features that your competitors do not have. Its about your end users. The end users are the ones who will use the product so if it would not help them at all then, its useless. Hence, we need to understand the users’ circumstances, socioeconomic status, and behavior.

I’m writing this as this might be helpful to designers or people who will be designing products in the future. In our country, we do have a lot of problems. Oftentimes, those problems are born out of the lack of empathy from higher officials.

I’m not ending this post on a sad note. Here are examples of good design. By good design, I mean design that empathizes with people.

  • Visual Cues

Source: Vico Sotto Official Twitter Account

[There are a lot of cities who had done this, not just in Pasig.]

This is a really good example since people would follow the one-meter social distancing if we had set up cues for them to follow.

I had read once from a book that having visual cues is very helpful in regulating user behaviour. For example, it is easier for us to stop our vehicles when we see the red light, than without traffic lights.

Its not really that people do not have discipline but they just need cues to follow. Oftentimes, all it takes is a good design.

  • Rolling Palengke

The Rolling Palengke (literally Market On Wheels in English) is a great initiative.

I had seen vendors who sell fish, vegetables, and meat while riding on a bicycle with a side car (where the products are placed) ever since I was a kid but the fact the it became really popular after one local government initiated this means that a lot of people had not seen that.

Rolling Palengke / Market On Wheels is where food ingredients are placed on a vehicle and it goes to areas where people had to take transportation to go to the market. Basically, the ‘market’ goes near your place. This initiative took place after public transportation is banned and people are forced to walk to get to the market.

The above examples of good design were initiatives by several local government units and were answers to the problems faced by the users. I am happy writing all of the examples because the actions of these LGUs gave me so much more hope that we can improve our country with good design.

Lastly, we, Filipinos are currently facing various issues right now. This carrd contains information, actionables, and organizations where you can donate to help.

https://parasapinas.carrd.co/