My rejected UPCAT essay

Over the weekend, 75,000 young hopefuls flocked to testing centers all over the country to take the country's most popular entrance exam.

But this year wasn't like any other year, not like it was for Those Of Us Who've Gone Before. For the first time in UPCAT history, examinees would have to answer an essay question.

Within hours, #rejectedUPCATessayquestions was trending on Twitter. Some of my personal favorites were: Have you read the terms and conditions? What is the world's Number 2 shampoo? Jumbo hotdog: kaya mo ba to? Using the Mohs Scale of Hardness, determine kung gaano katigas si Basha. Kung ikaw ang nasasakdal sa Impeachment Trial, ano ang gusto mong sumakit sa iyo at bakit? Why do we fall, Bruce?

As a UP alumna and sometime-UPCAT-taker myself, I've decided to respond to the challenge and answer one rejected UPCAT essay question: Hanggang saan aabot ang bente pesos mo? You may answer in English or Filipino.

There is an old Filipino adage that states that he who does not look back on whence he has come will not reach his intended destination. It is perhaps more eloquently phrased in the original Filipino: Ang di lumingon sa pinanggalingan, di makararating sa paroroonan. The saying is an affirmation of the vitality of a sense of history in charting new roads; thus, in asking the existential question of how far my 20 pesos can take me, it is of primary importance to first look back on how far my 20 pesos have come in the years prior.

The earliest version of the 20-peso bill in the BSP website is a prewar banknote designed by Jorge Pineda, prominently featuring the Mayon Volcano. (It may interest the reader, i.e., test-checker into whose hands I commend my immediate future, to know that the Mayon Volcano has since been transferred to the reverse of the new 100-peso banknote; any implicit meaning is for the reader to infer.)

The arrival of the Americans ushered in the age of English banknotes. By 1951, the faces of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo were on the front, with the Cry of Balintawak and the Kartilya ng Katipunan appearing on the reverse. One can imagine that there were perhaps not many people at the time who were able to lay hands on a 20-peso bill. Then, the expression "bente pesos" couldn't have been thrown around as casually as it is today. This was, after all, the same point in history where a whole chicken in Max's only cost five pesos!

It was in 1969 that the prototype of our current 20 pesos first gained currency. Malacañan Palace was plastered on the back, with Manuel L. Quezon's face on the front-effectively replacing, as a famous historian once put it, heroes with politicians. (I am of the belief, however, that Quezon is more a hero and a statesman than most politicians we have today.) The text was also changed from English to Filipino, an apt reflection of Quezon's advocacy for a national language.

The same was updated and modified several times in the next few years: Marcos had "Ang Bagong Lipunan" printed on the front; renovations in Malacañan necessitated an updated rendering of the same. In today's hyper-orange version, Malacañan, though much smaller than it used to be, has been moved to the front, while the palm civet (with an improperly written scientific name) and the Banaue Rice Terraces appear on the back.

How far has the 20 pesos gone? Have we taken it further, or have we instead regressed? How far can my 20 pesos take me?

I can buy a newspaper with it-perhaps the cheapest reading material that will get my mind to different places. My 20 pesos can pay for a few jeep rides-to SM North Edsa from UP and back. Around the Oval several times over on the Ikot. It can pay for a monay with cheese, with big cheese, with coco jam, with ice cream. It can pay for four sticks of isaw baboy, or for a bottle of C2, or a few sticks of Marlboro. But it won't pay for parking in most places, won't pay for the Skyway, and it's not enough for a Jollibee 39er. It won't even pay for a Max's chicken leg.

Allegedly, it can buy me a Cornetto-even though it can't buy me a decent hoodie or a pirated DVD. My 20 pesos can't buy me love.

How far have people taken the 20 pesos? It's more than most people have given parking boys or beggars on the street. Whole families spend 20 pesos on instant noodles with extra water boiled water to feed six children. Other kids spend the same amount for extra whipped cream on their frappuccinos (and extra inches on their hips).

How many pens can 20 pesos buy for a writer like me?

As varied as one or four or none-depending on how far I choose to take it.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Phl aviation has met int’l safety standards – CAAP
    Phl aviation has met int’l safety standards – CAAP

    The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said that the country’s aviation has met international safety standards and is currently being reviewed by the European Union. Members of the EU delegation recently made a courtesy call on CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III. Beda Badiola, CAAP’s Flight Standards and Inspectorate Service chief, said all air carriers in the country have followed regulations that the agency was able to oversee properly according to standards. “They …

  • Absence of full-time PNP chief affecting police services
    Absence of full-time PNP chief affecting police services

    Despite the pronouncement of the leadership of the Philippine National Police that it’s business as usual, some basic services are undeniably affected by the absence of a full-time PNP chief, particularly the issuance of gun permits. The PNP had deferred the issuance of permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) since Dec. 3, a day before the Office of the Ombudsman slapped a six-month suspension on former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who is facing plunder charges. …

  • Expanded Phl-US war games start today
    Expanded Phl-US war games start today

    The Philippines and the United States will kick off today this year’s Balikatan military exercises amid concerns over China’s reclamation activities in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. More than 11,000 Filipino and American troops will join the drills to be held simultaneously in different locations until April 30. …

  • Budol-budol, dugo-dugo scams now online
    Budol-budol, dugo-dugo scams now online

    Authorities warned the public yesterday to be more careful in dealing with people they meet online as the “budol-budol” and “dugo-dugo” gangs have expanded their deceptive operations on social media. Senior Inspector Robert Reyes, assistant chief of the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) investigation section, said online financial fraud is one of the emerging forms of scams in the country. Reyes said scam operators are looking for prospective victims online through …

  • Noy wants next PNP chief to serve beyond his term
    Noy wants next PNP chief to serve beyond his term

    President Aquino is inclined to name a new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief who can serve beyond the 2016 elections. Speaking to reporters at the Tarlac National High School before the weekend, Aquino said he was bewildered by the amended PNP Act that requires all deputies of the PNP chief to serve or stay at least one year in his post. Among the contenders for PNP chief are Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr., suspended Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta and Director Juanito …

  • ‘Stronger global action sought on China moves’
    ‘Stronger global action sought on China moves’

    Stronger international action is needed to counter China’s rapid reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday. Belmonte noted that statements of condemnation from global powers on the continued encroachment of China in the disputed waters have been ineffectual. He added that China’s blatant expansion activities are making the problem not just a regional security problem, but a global one. “China is obviously violating our territory in front …

  • MILF refusal to surrender fighters jeopardizing talks
    MILF refusal to surrender fighters jeopardizing talks

    Leaders of the House of Representatives renewed their call yesterday to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to surrender its fighters allegedly involved in the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the House independent bloc, said the continued refusal of MILF leaders to turn over their men is causing the further erosion of support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress. “I hope the MILF …

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options