0284C: Student Government Nostalgia

During most of my time at Ateneo, I was involved in student government to one degree or another. Throughout grade school, I was typically Class President for one reason or another. I even tried running for a position in the larger student council using what my sister and I thought was a very clever marketing gimmick. But I was not very popular or even known outside of the nerdier circles so I didn't win.

Come high school I found myself in a section that included many of the other class presidents that I had worked alongside back in grade school. So those years started out with me not becoming class president. But some other position opened up - the exact title escapes me at the moment. It was a weird pseudo external vice president role whose main responsibility was to represent the class in year-level decisions of the student council. What it really meant was that I attended meetings instead of the class president. It was a weird position but I enjoyed the work and it led to bigger and bigger things.

Man, but what was that title? I feel like it had a weird abbreviation like CSR or CSO but for the life of me I can't fill in the blanks. That's age for you. I asked around - turns out it was OCR or Official Class Representative. Wow, that title was very weird. It really was just all about representing the class in meetings.

Now the way things worked was that at the end of each year, the student body would elect the student council for the next year. If we were to compare things to the Philippine government, the student council was pretty much the national government while each year level had its Council of Presidents, which was sort of like the LGUs here. By the end of my sophomore year I had embraced the quirkiness of this role that let me attend meetings all the time and somehow ended up as the COMELEC representative for our year level. That meant I had to organize the year-level elections as part of the larger student council elections.

The details escape me but I know the election involved my classmate and friend and I think it was something like he was running unopposed. So we could just say he'd win by default but instead, we (the council? the student government moderator?) insisted that elections still had to go through since people had the choice to accept or reject the lone candidate. So we had an information drive about the importance of voting and things proceeded more or less as expected.

It was in the middle of counting the ballots that I checked all the tallies from the different ballot boxes we had set up (yeah we totally had ballot boxes) and realized something jarring - we did not meet a quorum. It seems silly to even think about it, but I worked from the core principle that for the election to be valid, we needed to have a majority of the year level having voted. And it wasn't even a complex deal - we just needed a simple majority of 50% of the year level student body plus one. And we had not met it.

So this pretty much set up the tone of my involvement in student government for the rest of my high school life, I think. Despite the elections involving a friend, I declared a failure of elections. The main penalty was that our year level would not have an official representative during the summer planning session. We agreed that a special election would be held at the start of the next school year and we'd see how things would proceed from there.

Ser Bernz
At the end of that year, the moderator for the student council (surprisingly I have a photo of him) invited me to still participate in the summer planning session as a volunteer. I wasn't alone - others had been asked to join so this was not a super special thing. But it was important and so I agreed and thus I actually had student government work over the summer.

Within the student council, I was soon called "the devil" in what I can only hope was a generally affectionate way. It was short for "devil's advocate", as the moderator had explained that this was one of the main reasons he felt I could play a key role in the student government. And I really lived up to that name as I would end up doing my best to ensure that all sides of any subject were fully discussed and even argued during council meetings regardless of how I personally felt about things. It was not uncommon that I could passionately argue for this or that case only to vote against my own arguments at the end of the session. Blame my two years of debate prior to fully committing to the student council, I guess.

Things reached peak weirdness when the moderator and I hatched up an unusual student organization in my senior year - I know it was called the CSS but I can't remember the exact definition. Something like the Committee for Student Services or other nonsense. Its purpose was to organize a dedicated pool of student volunteers - people who wanted to be more involved in student council activities and events but were not necessarily class officers. We were most busy during events. When we didn't have events I somehow killed the time either planning for events OR giving weird lectures on leadership. Why I thought I had the capability to train fellow students on leadership principles feels weird to me now as I look back at things. But I know at the time I was pretty passionate about the whole effort and I'd like to think we did a lot of good work.

By the end of high school, I was exhausted. I had put so much time and effort into the student government that I sort of promised myself that I wouldn't do that again by the time I hit college. It helped that I went to UP and not Ateneo, so it was a completely alien environment and I was no longer surrounded by people who knew of my student government streak and other achievements. I didn't even join an organization. I just largely focused on my studies and left it at that.

I don't know why I started to think about all this again. But don't get me wrong - I don't regret any of it. My work in student government really helped me grow as an individual and I know I learned a lot about leadership and dealing with other people and a whole bunch of other things during those years. My time with the Council of Presidents or whatever you want to call it remain to be some of my best memories of my high school years.

I don't know if I've ever told Ser Bernz "thank you" for all that. Him asking me to volunteer to do more was such an amazing opportunity. It literally changed my life, I think. Whether it was for the better largely remains unseen, or at the very least remains something for me to define and determine throughout the rest of my life.