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Thursday, September 3, 2009


Struggles of the FEU Advocate Revival

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Advocate resurges to defy the odds of looming extinction. Almost three decades since its last publication in 1972, fate has seemingly ordained the year 1998 for one of the most celebrated student publications to once again see the gleaming light of print. In December of the said year, the Tamaraw community became witness to the successful return of the FEU Advocate--continuing on its sublime creed of raising an informed studentry and reigniting the fire of vibrant campus journalism.

Restoring the Advocate after its forced shutdown during Martial Law, often proved to be a task in vain. Numerous attempts have been made to revive the publication, with many student leaders often labeling the project as a top platform. However, success has been persistently elusive, and FEU has been left for 26 years without an official student publication. During the years of Advocate's absence, the FEU newsletter and institute based publications aimed at communicating news to the studentry; such however, failed to reach mass circulation and remained short on filling the void of an official and identifiable student run newspaper.

A strong spark

In 1998, Aldwin John E. Magpali, and Ma. Lenore delos Santos, running for the top FEUCSO posts under the SAMASA ticket, also bannered resurrecting the Advocate in their campaign. Magpali, then FEUCSO vice president under Sandigan president Melchor Ng, eventually won the elections as FEUCSO prexy, with delos Santos as vice president.

Before Magpali, Melchor Ng, FEUCSO president of 1997 to 1998, cast a half- hearted attempt on reviving the publication, writing FEU President Edilberto de Jesus a letter on the matter two weeks before stepping down from office.

Refusing to end in failure like their predecessors, Magpali and delos Santos set off their term tackling the revival. The project was initially placed under the legislative board, headed by VP delos Santos and composed of FEUCSO representatives and elected presidents from different institutes. However, partisan politics took toll on the project, with members engaging in tedious debates over minute wordings in the being drafted Advocate constitution. Progress was imperceptible, and months dragged on without any concrete result.

Frustrated with the slow development, Magpali decided to take a more direct and drastic approach. He relinquished the project from the legislative wing, and pursued it through the executive branch, thus expediting the endeavor and putting it directly under his supervision. He then issued Executive Order No. 1 "An act creating an Ad Hoc committee for the Revival of the Advocate".

After three months of being stalled, gears have finally been set into motion. The proposed Ad Hoc committee composed of FEU professors, Mr. Marjueve Palencia and Mr. Job Montecillio; Dr. Theresa Oba, FEUCSO adviser; and FEUCSO VP Ma. Lenore de los Santos with Mrs. Dolores A. Reyes as chairwoman, created its first resolution, setting the date and guidelines for the selection of the Advocate Editorial Board.


Realizing that the revival would be met with opposition, Magpali and delos Santos focused on disseminating the campaign on the grassroots level. They organized a series of activities dubbed as "Pahayagan: Kailan ka masisilayan" and solicited the support of the students through a signature campaign. FEUCSO persistently emphasized that FEU had no official student publication—thus lacking the prime vehicle for unbridled student expression.

The activities included an essay writing contest, symposia on the need for a student publication, and an exhibit featuring student publications from various universities and old copies of the Advocate. The exhibit, where existing student newspapers were lined by side by side in contrast with FEU's blank canvas, proved to be the most effective eye opener. It pressed on the point that FEU's student newspaper has yet to be restored, while many of the similarly shut down student newspapers during the Marcos regime have long been reopened.

Support from the Tamaraw community was palpable despite polar agenda from some political factions among the studentry. The project however, generated a lukewarm response from the administration. Adopting a passive stance, it ceased to have a direct involvement with the revival other than approving proposed activities, with delays sometimes stalling the process.

Delos Santos recounts, “We thought at first why is the Admin giving us a hard time wherein fact the Advocate is a property and right of the students. But we did not let our emotions get the better of us. Organizing a rally, releasing manifestos etc were a complete no-no for our group.”

Cogs in place

Despite the difficulties, the endeavor trudged on its course. The exams for the selection of the editorial board were held with 105 participating students from different institutes. Prepared by Mr. Honor Blanco Cabie, Ms. Liana Barro, and Mr. Marjueve Palencia, the exam covered editorial writing, news writing, feature writing and column writing. A personality test was also administered, with the Ad Hoc chair conducting the final interview.

December 13, 1998 saw the announcement of the first editorial board of the revival era. Imelda 'Mimi' Lacambra, a Psychology student, was declared Editor-in-Chief. The following students were proclaimed for the respective editorial positions: Rona Erfe, Managing Editor; Diana Marie de Gula, Associate Editor; Ian Irvin Abello, News; Jose Jason Chancoco, Features and Literary; Albert Lester Lupisan, Arts and Photography; and Frechie Antony Macaraeg, Sports. Mr. Job Montecillo, Ad Hoc committee member and former Advocate staffer, was declared the Publication Adviser.

Although the groundwork has been set, the road ahead remained replete with challenges. Lacambra, a returning student who had been writing in the media before going back to FEU, faced the task of finally materializing the Advocate as a newspaper. On December 17, four days after declaration of the Editorial Board, a dry run issue was released, which headlines the creation of the FEU electronic library.

From the ashes

The printing of the dry run issue was a welcome sign after many years of reaching so far as submitting proposals for reviving the publication. However, a myriad of struggles was still upon the new Editorial Board.

After the publication of the test issue, Montecillo resigned as the publication adviser because of the Editorial Board's inability to meet his professional fee. Thus, Lacambra elected to have an administrative adviser in the person of Ma. Theresa Oba. The election of an administrative adviser fulfilled the requirement of having someone affiliated with the administration oversee the organization’s processes, but virtually eliminated any mandate over editorial decisions.

The Editorial Board worked to distinguish the Advocate as an independent student publication. However, this proved to be walking a blurry line as the Advocate staff had to perform its operations in an office shared with FEUCSO. Although FEUCSO was instrumental to the reestablishment of the organization, disagreements over the former’s request to maintain a page for itself in the newspaper created a strain on the relationship of the two entities. The rift eventually compelled the Advocate hold office outside the University, as none was available within FEU.

The teeming challenges that confronted the Advocate as a newly established organization, along with the lack of funds and resources did not prove as insurmountable hindrances to its determined staff. Making use of her connections in the media, Lacambra managed to find a location which allowed the Advocate staff to work on its first official issue.

In January of 1999, an 8-page maiden issue was released, merely a month after the dry run . It headlined the celebration of the University’s 71st founding anniversary. Unlike its first counterpart, the maiden issue now featured a distinctive opinion page. In the front page article entitled ‘Behind the resurrection’ the Advocate acknowledged Magpali and delos Santos, then incumbent FEUCSO President and VP, as responsible for the successful resurgence of the publication.

Then FEU President Edilberto de Jesus also wrote the publication, recognizing the Advocate as the official student publication and congratulating the staff for its first issue.

Against the Tide

In the publication’s assertion of independence, the administration proposed that it lease an office from the University. Lacambra and Chancoco vehemently opposed the proposal, citing that although the Advocate was independent it was still part of the academic institution. The suggestion was then scrapped and the organization was granted its request for a separate office space.

Financial issues also beleaguered the Advocate. After Magpali’s term, FEUCSO remained to be the collecting arm of the organization. However, problems with the transfer of funds began to surface. Under new FEUCSO president Victor Ventura, the Advocate fund was withheld for months despite successfully collecting during the first semester. Despite repeated requests and demand letters, the FEUCSO administration under Ventura lagged on transmitting the funds, thus crippling the publication from producing a timely follow up to its maiden issue. This also led the Advocate to issue a statement outlining the details of what it deemed as a “disturbing problem”.

As most of the staffers functioned under contributory status, only a handful was left before a second issue under Lacambra was published. Working against the odds, the remaining staffers struggled to keep the Advocate afloat. By August, seven months after its maiden release, the Advocate published its second issue, a magazine special dedicated to the graduates of 1999. Originally conceptualized as a literary folio, the special featured several short stories and poems delving on a myriad of subjects, apart from the articles that brushed on the bittersweet nature of graduation.

For the readers, this is just a part of what we have worked on. This goes the same for our research on the FEU Advocate’s conception and eventual success before its shutdown. This is also where you come in, if you have pertinent information about the FEU Advocate, old issues, letters or artifacts, an Advocate alumni, or a relative of an Advocate alumni, please do not hesitate to contact us and aid us in this undertaking. Please see the sidebar on how to contact us or you may leave a comment with your contact information. We share this history project with the rest of you, readers and alumni, those who have been there and witnessed the FEU Advocate soar with every issue it released.


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