Friday, June 14, 2024

Woodward’s enduring water issue resolved, management comm gap persists

By Paul Ray Donaire, Genno Gabriel Rabaya, and Zarelle Villanzana | April 26, 2024

Facilities Management and Administrative Services (FMAS) finally settled the water supply problem of Silliman University (SU) Woodward Hall, after the dormers’ protest on March 27.

“We had already changed the main water line from Doltz water tank to Woodward Hall with plans of redoing the layout of the water lines going to some of the dorms this incoming vacation,” FMAS Officer-in-Charge Engr. Lorena Mariño confirmed Thursday, April 18.

However, holes remain gaping, leaving room for the next protest-worthy issue to come forth. The issue of water supply did not start in March but stretched back in time. Moreover, this was not the only concern that Woodward Hall had, only the most urgent.

Dormitory faucets continue releasing water that contains a “little” dirt in it despite the newly installed pipes, according to Woodward Hall Dorm President Romnick Senarillos in an in-person interview on Tuesday, April 9.

Engr. Mariño responded that “the pipe replaced from the Doltz water tank to Woodward is only the ones outside at the back of the building so the pipes within the building are still not replaced.”

She also said that the university’s water source comes from the water pump, explaining that when water is pumped up from underground, it “naturally” carries some sediments along with it.

“Over time, these sediments clog up the pipes. The occasional dirt they have seen are these clogged-up sediments,” she added.

The dorms’ water supply problem was not just about the dirt, but also its accessibility. “Usahay labi na gyud didto sa third floor, sa mga babaye, mag-mulo sila kay dili sila makaligo kay wala’y tubig mag-buntag” (Sometimes, especially the female dorm residents on the third floor, they would complain because they don’t have water in the morning), Senarillos shared.

On March 19, the pipes from the third floor of Woodward Hall were cleaned, with clogged-up sediments dislodged, Engr. Mariño confirmed.

Dormers’ protest on water supply

Although the water supply problem was only recently fixed, this issue was not so recent.

Sa mga nag graduate na mga students, mao pud na ilahang gisulti namo. ‘Mao pod na among problem sa una,’ ana ba. So, until now na kami napod ang naka-puyo diri, naka-stay dinhi, so mao gihapon ang problem,” [From previous graduates (residents who have stayed in the dormitory), they also mentioned the same concern. ‘That was our problem before,’ they said. So, until now that we are the ones staying here, the problem remains the same], Senarillos expressed.

However, FMAS turned down the idea that the problem was only addressed after the protests.

“A week prior to the rising protests we had received a call from the Woodward Hall management regarding their water supply problem. People were sent and the solution we initially made was to clean the pipes,” Engr. Mariño clarified.

Like other dormitories on campus, Woodward Hall is also under the supervision of its own set of officers. As such, they held regular meetings once a month and made a collective decision to address a letter to the Student Housing and Residence Division (SHRD) office, headed by Princeton Apura. In response, they were told they no longer belonged under the jurisdiction of the said office.

To address their growing concerns at a higher level, the dorm residents sent a letter addressed to the SU Board of Trustees (BoT), however, they did not receive a response after a week of waiting.

In counteraction, dorm residents of Woodward Hall put up placards. Statements such as “Dungga ang among MULO!”, “Access sa Limpyo ug saktong supply sa TUBIG!”, and “IPAKITA ANG MAAYONG SERBISYO!” were some of the messages displayed in front of the hall last March 27.

After three days, the said dormitory held a silent protest at the nearest gate to Ruiz Administration Hall to call for administrative action in the middle of the Holy Week celebration on Wednesday, March 30.

Public commotion ensued after the protest was publicized, stirring reactions among the residents and non-residents of the SU dormitories. In line with this, the Silliman University Student Government Dorm Life Committee stood in solidarity and released a statement, calling for reform in these dormitories on the same day when the silent protest was held.

Woodward Hall ‘disowned’ by SHRD

Once a dormitory strictly for females, Woodward Hall became a One Formation House for Divinity School students, accommodating both sexes.

“What the Divinity School had for the formation house is only the second and the third floor. The second floor for the men, and the third floor for the women,” Rev. Trecita Reambonanza explained their situation. She is the house formator of Woodward Hall who also acts as their dorm manager.

“That’s why we call the second and third floor One Formation House because it is part of the recommendation of the accreditors. And the Divinity School is facing, again, accreditation sometime next school year,” she added.

Due to this setup, there has been a question whether Woodward Hall would be transferred under the management of Divinity School, instead of the SHRD office. “We have been disowned,” Rev. Reambonanza expressed.

With the letter sent by the Woodward Hall officers, the response received from SHRD confirmed that they were not under the supervision of the said office anymore and instead, they were redirected to the Divinity School.

To counteract this, the Woodward Hall officers visited the Divinity School to seek clarification on the status of the dormitory and determine which office they should contact for assistance.

“Mao tong ni-ingon pud sila, ‘No, dili mana’y mao kay dili gyuy mao ang agreement ana nga under namos Divinity School. Kay kung under namos Divinity School, dili namo magbayad sa business office, dili namo mukaon sa cafeteria. Pwede namo makaluto dinha” (They said, ‘No, that is not what the agreement entails that your dormitory is under Divinity School’s affiliation. Because if your dormitory is under the Divinity School, you don’t have to pay at the business office, you don’t have to eat from the cafeteria. You can already cook for yourselves there), Senarillos explained.

However, he confirmed that an “agreement” was reached that the Woodward Hall is, indeed, under the SHRD office. This was clarified during a meeting attended by several officials, including Dr. Edna Calingacion, dean of students; SHRD Head Apura; Rev. Van Cliburn Tibus, dean of the Divinity School; Dorm Manager Rev. Reambonanza; and Japhet Sendiong, Woodward Hall Vice President.

Dorm manager’s plights overlooked

“People before, I know that they were suffering, especially during the first semester that they still [did] not have a manager. So, they were the ones directly complaining to the Divinity School. So, when I was already here, I’m the one calling the Buildings and Grounds,” Rev. Reambonanza said.

Despite stepping into the role of dorm manager, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Rev. Reambonanza. Firstly, since her main role was being a house formator, she was not recognized as the dorm manager and, thus, not treated at the same level as other managers.

“Just as I am not made a member of the dorm management council, I am not also given a manager’s quarter. Because to them, I am not a manager, I’m only a house formator. But I’m doing everything, the work of the house formator, and the work of the manager,” she said.

While the BoT allowed Rev. Reambonanza to have her manager’s quarters on the first floor until May, her contract as the formator ends in July. So, unfortunately, when the time comes, she’ll have to pack up again to transfer to her previous room on the third floor.

“I said, it would take me time, and it would be very kapoy (tiring) to pack my things in that corner [on] that third floor — because I just stay in the corner, literally, because that room 38 is a study room for the students. So I just put a cabinet to cover my bed, and that is all my place […] I’ll just be spending the month, packing and unpacking again. That’s a waste of time,” she exclaimed.

Rev. Reambonanza also mentioned that she asked SHRD Head Apura if she could be included in the dorm management council, for the sake of the dormers of Woodward Hall.

“I was expecting. I was even asking Mr. Apura, ‘Can I be a member [of] this?’ Because I know I need to be there so that I will know what are the plans for the dormitories, so that I could relay and help implement these plans,” she said.

It is simply through the officers of the other dormitories that Woodward Hall gets their information.

After expressing most of her plights, she emphasized that her dismay is not personal.

“It’s not only for me that we are asking for a formator’s house — or a manager’s house. It is for my successor. Because it is very clear that my commitment here is only for a year, because I am already a retired employee of the university,” she said

“I said, it would be very difficult for the Divinity School to look for a house formator who should be a pastor if there’s no place for that pastor to stay here. Especially if they would be looking, searching for that house formator from other places, from other conferences. And it would be difficult for them to look for another single pastor like me, who has a house of my own.”

She also noted that it is the senior students who are initiating improvements, as they are leaving the campus and are looking forward to the accreditation time of the Divinity School.

“Of course, just like me, I am giving this as a sacrifice [to] my alma mater. Di pud ko ganahan nga madaot ang standard sa Divinity School just because there are some requirements that are not being met — there are some recommendations of the accrediting team that are not being met, kung kaya man lang nato i-meet (when we are fully capable of meeting them),” she explained.

As per Rev. Reambonanza, the accreditation period often ensues in February, and their next visit to Silliman is said to be in 2025. To fulfill these requirements, she guaranteed, “Of course, it’s the responsibility of the University.”

Problems extending to other dormitories

Maintenance problems like these also go beyond the walls of Woodward Hall and extend to the neighboring dorms, such as Larena Hall. President Zeina Luboton, a resident of Larena since before the COVID-19 pandemic, shared similar sentiments on their recurring issues.

Luboton said that residents on the third floor would experience low pressure with their water supply, hindering their usage for bathing and laundry.

“Especially in the morning. I’ve also asked my other dormers [and] they said there are also times na there’s no water completely,” she said.

She also shared that her mother, who used to be a dormer in the same hallway back when she was a student herself, had informed her of the water supply issue ahead.

Additionally, Luboton mentioned that the WiFi connection was slow despite the payment of ₱1,500 from the dormers. She said this affects the students who have to rely on the internet for their online classes and exams.

“Especially if abrupt ang pag-stop sa WiFi, pakalit (suddenly),” she said, adding that the slow connectivity disrupts dormers’ access to online platforms, such as mySOUL, especially since the data is “very slow” in some areas within the hall.

Another issue the Larena dormers faced was the presence of rodents, which Luboton acknowledged as a sanitary issue. She said, “If there’s like, gi-stock na [food] for eating biscuits. And then, pagbalik namonaa na may holes, agi sa rodent. Pero dili pud namo malikay.”

(Once we leave the food stocked for eating, like biscuits, there are holes in it by the time we come back because of the rodent. We can’t always avoid it.)

On the concerns raised by the Woodward protests, Luboton said that they sympathized with them because they also related to the issues.

According to her, “When we heard the news about Woodward, it was not really shocking, pero at the same time, we were sad, [because] the school kay wala rajud nila na-hear ila (did not really hear their) voices.”

However, Luboton noted that the SHRD office responds to immediate concerns like the water supply, especially when raised by their dorm manager, Elsamae Aliñabon.

In any transaction involving payment for accommodation, occupants must be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the amount they are paying for. Humane treatment, such as access to clean water, should be one of the fundamental needs every proprietor must provide. In the case of SU Woodward Hall, it took generations of dorm residents to endure a dirty water supply before it was finally remedied. Even then, there are still gaps to be bridged for residents to experience a worthwhile stay at Silliman’s dormitories.

As of writing, the Weekly Sillimanian has a pending interview with Dr. Edna Calingacion, dean of students.

SHRD Head Princeton Apura, SUSG Dorm Life Committee Chairperson Mary Elaiza Arabia, Channon Dorm Manager Euzebel Lasta, and Larena Hall Dorm Manager Elsamae Aliñabon declined to be interviewed. Edith Carson Dorm Manager Florengin Tabaloc and Dorm President Kayleen Odasco required approval from the SHRD office to be interviewed.

For her part, ICT Director Chuchi Montenegro did not consent to an on-record interview.

Meanwhile, Doltz Dorm Manager Joey Bontigao, Dorm President Dwight Al Uy, Vernon Hall Dorm Manager Rhayan Amaro, and Dorm President Jon Kyle Fredrick Tan did not respond to the interview request.

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