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Students used as human stand for electric fan

Commentary Boy holding an electric fan as Joseph Wee speaks

By Ellen Tordesillas

Julie Alipala of the Philippine Daily Inquirer posted last Sunday in her Facebook page a photo that was appalling and disturbing.

The picture was the inauguration of a three-storey, 27-classroom building of the Zamboanga City High School. The guest of honor was Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro.  The host was Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat.

Julie  said officials of the Department of Education-Western Mindanao were present. So were the  city councilors and barangay officials.

The picture showed  the Master of Ceremonies, who was later identified as Joseph Wee, standing behind the podium. Behind him was a student holding a desk electric fan. He was made a stand of the electric fan!

The photo reminded us of scenes in movies based on Biblical stories showing the Pharaoh or the Queen always followed by Nubian slaves holding a giant fan made of ostrich feathers.

Closer to home, it reminded me of señoras being fanned by a uniformed maid.

What happened in Zamboanga City High School last Sunday was sort of a modern version because instead of an ostrich or anahaw fan, they were using an electric fan. But it was still a master-slave setup.

Two of those who served as human stand for the desk fan were Boys Scouts, proudly wearing their uniform.

Julie said she found out  later that the not- so- bright idea to make the young boys  hold the electric fan to cool the guests was that of  a teacher, Jesus Francisco.

Didn't Mr. Francisco or any of the guests think of getting a small table or a chair to put that electric fan?

Didn't Bro. Armin, Mayor Lobregat and other officials notice the disturbing assignment of the boys in that event?  The boys were just a few feet away from them on the same stage.

Surely, they saw the boys fanning them. Was it normal to them?

A Boy Scout holds the electric fan as ZC Mayor Celso Lobregat speaks.The photo elicited nasty remarks about Mr. Wee, calling him "child abuser, "human rights violator," These hurt him so much he wrote Julie and asked her to removed the picture, which Julie did.

Part of  Wee's note to Julie:

"It was Mr. Jesus Francisco who only requested the boy to hold d fan temporarily not for me but for the guest because that was a hot afternoon.  The sun was toward the  podium.

"The comments were hitting me below the belt. Some were calling me 'child abuser'. My job there that afternoon was just to emcee the program, and I didn't request a fan from anyone to keep me fresh. It was intended for  the guest. It so happened that I immediately came in after the guest's message to call on the next speaker. Please be fair to me because I am not guilty of your accusation and much more of the damaging comments of the judgmental people."

Julie apologized to Wee for not getting his name  and reaction before posting the photo in her Facebook page.

While some of the commenters in Julie's post also apologized to Wee for being too harsh on him, Jaymee Gamil  remarked: "Was  the boy holding the electric fan invisible? The question remains: Why didn't Mr. Wee or any of the teachers, or the guests, notice his plight and attempt to fix it? Is it so normal for them? I would think it would be so easy to find a resourceful solution to the problem, bring in a table and place the fan there, for instance. It never occurred to him, or anyone in the school?"

Julie said the same thing: "I was wondering why no one from the teachers called the attention and suggested to place the fan on a table or chair. Teachers are respected individuals. They are our children's second parents in schools and are expected to protect the children's welfare and dignity."

Julie has a personal stake in this issue. She has a son who, in the future, might enroll at the ZCHS Main.

" I don't want him to experience what those boys experienced," Julie, speaking as a mother, said.

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