During one of my visits at the Kaisa Headquarters in time for the upcoming USC Elections in UP Diliman, Sanlakas Youth Vice Chair BJ Costales introduced three of his slatemates for an orientation to our organization.

They are BJ’s co-councilor Jose Alinea of the College of Engineering, Tourism Representative Sheena Botiwey and Science Representative Gino Leynes.

Each one of them exudes a leader’s presence at first glance and they were eventually recruited to Sanlakas Youth.  I had a couple of chit-chats with each of them hours after but Jose’s story is the most interesting for me. His story speaks alot of his character.

Jose is one of the living reasons why the tuition increase should not have been approved two years ago. He is also one of the greatest arguments in support of the assertion that the STFAP has never been effective to aid poor-but-deserving students in pursuing UP education.

This Sta. Rosa Science High School alumnus told me that both his parents are unemployed. His mother was actually problematic about his college education after he failed to qualify for Bracket C of the STFAP. So despite his family’s obvious difficult condition, UP is still requiring him to pay 600 pesos per unit.

It is a good thing though that through his intelligence and diligence, he managed to be a scholar of the Department of Science and Technology.

But I’ve never seen him as a grade-conscious student. All the support that he is getting from his officers and co-members from the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers speaks a lot how active he is.

And as we unify Kaisa member-organizations about a disqualification case against his and some of his slatemates’ candidacy, it turned out that NCPAGSC Vice Chair Jhai Galenzoga is one of his dormmates, at the Yakal Residence Hall, and she was disheartened of the possibility of UP students being robbed of the opportunity to vote someone like Jose.

“Napakasipag na bata pa naman ni Jose,” Jhai disappointedly commented. Well, as a frequent visitor of the Kaisa HQ and as a keen observer of candidates’ behaviour, I must agree.

That same day that I managed to inform Jhai of the disqualification issue, Kaisa marched towards Quezon Hall and met with another party, Stand UP, to protest the said USEB decision.

The unity of Kaisa and Stand UP that night bore fruit as it produced enough pressure to make the USEB decide in favor of the supposedly disqualified candidates including Jose.

That night, cheers reverberated at the Kaisa HQ in celebration of that victory. And as I observe all of them, Jose is there silently smiling in his usual unassuming way.

I hope he is thinking that it is a good thing that he is now given a chance to fight for the rights of students like him; of working class origin.