After breaking records two years ago with his final grade of 1.0-something, Valedictorian Stephen Mansanas’ star may have finally gone out. No longer the highest-ranking student in UP history, we contacted Stephen to inform him that he was now old news, his achievements moot, and that his life peaked in college, and also to ask him if he wanted to wish the new UP Valedictorian luck now that the title of “Greatest of the Great” has passed on to her.
But it looks like Stephen didn’t need us to tell him that at all. Living under a bridge in Marikina city, Stephen (“Steef” to his friends, “Candylips” to his clients) looks nothing like the handsome, fair-skinned Adonis that he was two years ago. Now dark, fat, dirty, and for some reason, Chinese, the former top-notcher now struggles with debt, homelessness, and poverty.
Mansanas, a Pol Sci graduate, used to spend his nights working in the library and churning out paper after paper. Now, he’s lucky if he manages to find a place to sleep at night, or toilet paper to wipe his ass with.
He explains that after graduation, he got involved with a gang of Social Studies students called the Filipino Capitalist Hegemony (no relation) who wanted to start an edgy, satire blog that focused on bringing hard-hitting comedic news to the people of the Philippines for free (not this one).
Since they were Social Studies students, the finesse and intricacies of business were lost to them and they forgot to take into account that since the website was free, they couldn’t earn money from it. While the blog was a hit, their bank accounts were hit even harder and after a year of “don’t worry, man, the money will come in soon!”, Stephen was finally bankrupted.
Now convinced that he needed a real job, he applied to every employer he can find, from Asian Development Bank (ADB), to Asya’s Sari-Sari Store and Insurance Dealership (ASSS-ID). “No one would hire me,” he lamented. “It doesn’t matter that I was a record-breaking batch valedictorian, the ‘BA Political Science’ part of my resume was all they looked at. ADB just took one look and asked, ‘Are you taking your Master’s?’ When I said no, the interview just went downhill from there.”
Stephen thought that an undergraduate degree was enough, pointing out his high-grades, his internship experience, and his solid one-year career as a satire blogger, but none of those things could replace the important, real-world knowledge that comes with a graduate degree.
He couldn’t even find underemployment opportunities, he bemoaned, saying that Mcdonald’s, Jollibee, or Broadcast Television were reluctant to even consider him. “To them, Pol Sci students are just communist saboteurs in disguise. The moment you walk into their office, they immediately think you’re there to unionize the workforce and ask for things like fair and equal wage, benefits, or proper hours. That’s not all we do, you know. We can destabilize the management in different ways, like by leaking valuable information or alerting people to the disgustingly illegal acts being done by the corporate bastards.”
Now all Stephen can do is hope that life gets better. While he’s been dealt a bad hand, he tries to keep optimistic about his goals. “Well, I guess I can go to the academe. Sure, it’ll be a soul-crushing experience to sell out to the Academia, but I can think I can hack it. My experience as a poor, homeless guy could make for a great paper, or even a book if I play my cards right.”
As we begun to wrap up the interview, we were interrupted by a knock on his cardboard box/home. A big, burly man came in with a fist full of coins. He was one of his “clients.” “Candylips?” he shouted.
Stephen pushed me out his box and told me that he had to take this. “Business,” he sighed. “A-are you a prostitute?” I asked for clarification, but also curiosity and consumer interest. “No, I’m actually a volunteer counselor. But the two are pretty much the same thing, I guess.”