The two of us attended the Guidon Electoral Debate on National Involvement and University Issues held last February 11, 2013 from 4:30-7:30 at the Manuel V. Pangilinan roof deck. We desired to go to such an activity for in our four years in the Ateneo we have never attended annual events concerning the elections of student leaders. It is extremely unfamiliar territory but we decided to jump in and depart from out comfort zones.
When we entered the activity some people seemed to be surprised that we were there since they were mostly supporters or friends of the candidates.Another attention catching thing for them was the fact that we were wearing ordinary clothes while they were wearing the color of the party they were supporting. Some people even had clothes printed with the logo of the party that they were supporting. They seemed to be really close to each other since most of them were really noisy before the start of the program. They also seemed to know each other since most of them were either people from the Sanggunian or Philosophy majors. As friends, perhaps most were there in order to give moral support to the nervous candidates who had to talk to the crowd in order to win their favour. Some of them were very good at hiding the nervousness though some couldn’t help but stutter though they eventually recovered. Since most of the people didn’t know us, as seen from their faces when we entered the MVP Roofdeck and since we weren’t running for any position, the most “participating” thing we could do was to perhaps ask intelligent questions regarding the platforms or future plans of the candidates if ever they win the elections. The candidates were very happy to answer the questions of both the members of the audience and of the current Sanggunian. Perhaps our presence influenced the scene since we weren’t familiar to most of the people there so there were moments when they were staring at us.
In order to avoid further attention, we then immediately sat at the back of the audience in order to get a full view of the event. There were about a hundred people present, most of which were the hosts of the event, Guidon (student newspaper) organization members. From a general viewing the audience was a sea of Guidon members all wearing their organization polo shirts. Others at the event were an assortment of Political Science majors, members of various student organizations, photographers,curious students like us and the candidates themselves.Given the number of people, the whole venue was not filled however all chairs were soon occupied by the late comers. Throughout the duration of the event people were free to enter and exit when needed due to class or other responsibilities. Food and drinks however were not allowed thus people would also leave within the three hour event to grab a snack and return. In terms of the venue, the place was neither hot nor cold since it was open air at the roof of a high building.
With regards to the event itself, it was relatively formal.Individual candidates from either of the two student parties (Crusada and Ignite) mainly talked about hot university issues and how they wished to solve and address it.From here the opposing student party would rebottle and the debate would go on. From our point of view however it was not a type of heated debate but merely a back and forth elaboration of counter arguments. The audience on the other hand was relatively quiet and mostly attentive to the speeches given. Occasionally, when the audiences’ chosen candidate delivered his or her speech, there would be cheering and rooting. There were also some people who were not listening, either playing on their handheld devices or staring into blank space. The few remaining people knew each other due to the fact that most of them were either people from the Sanggunian or Philosophy majors. In effect, they were chatting with their fellow organization mates or friends.
In the activity we felt very lost and out of place. We were not used to attending events about Ateneo’s student government. Neither did we have any substantial knowledge on the running candidates’ platforms and programs. Every time a person steps on to the stage to deliver a speech, we did not understand the ideas and points they were stating. In our minds all their words were gibberish but looking around the audience, most people understood the general flow of the statements. We were outside our usual environment while most people at the event seemed familiar and at home. They were reading newspapers, nodding at certain points of the speech, and occasionally shouting and clapping when the speaker made a bold and strong statement.In bewilderment there were actually certain moments were we felt the candidates were establishing a firm oration like that of an American president addressing his people. There was one candidate who talked in a controlled manner, very confident of himself such that all his words were both calm and stressed at the same time.It was like we were watching a movie about President Franklin Roosevelt speech only from an Ateneo student candidate. We felt very pleased to be opened to realization that there are actual student leaders among us who passionately care for the welfare of the student body.
We were actually very lucky to have had an informant for the event or else we would have been lost in the sea of candidates, friends, and media covering the event. Our key informant was actually the Chief Editor of Matanglawin who was tasked to cover and document the Miting de Avance event so she was able to tell us generally who the people were. She also told us that near the end of the event, there was going to be an open forum wherein people and the current Sanggunian members can ask the candidates questions on the platform. She was able to give us general insight on who were the candidates since she was familiar with some of them. She was able to tell us a couple of things about the candidates such as who was smart, or who was responsible, or who would be better for a specific position. Our key informant was very helpful for us to understand what was going to happen during the afternoon. Since other people there seemed to know each other, it was going to be awkward if we talked to a random person. Talking to our key informant wasn’t since she was also our blockmate. Our key informant also told us that the different organizations who wrote for the school (such as the Guidon) was also there to cover the event. Without our key informant, it would be harder for us to immediately grasp what the candidates were saying since we didn’t really know them personally despite being classmates with some of them for a subject or two. With the help of our key informant, we were also able to know not only how the candidates presented themselves in public but also how they are as students of the school. We were able to know who were magis in class and in extra-curricular activities.
- What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
Last February 11, 2013, the candidates running for positions in the Sanggunian has the chance to present their platforms and future plans for the students and the school.Since it was basically a Miting de Avance and we couldn’t participate in it, in a way like going to the front to talk, we decided to mostly do observing. The most “participating” we could do was to perhaps ask intelligent questions regarding the platforms or future plans of the candidates if ever they win the elections.
Perhaps, participating in the event (like running for a position) would be a difficult process. That would definitely involve a bigger responsibility than just being a part of the audience and listening. Running would need more time and effort in terms of preparing a speech and polishing one’s platform. They seemed to do well in this aspect. Most of the candidates were good at presenting their platforms though some showed signs of being nervous. Despite this, we still think that they were able to do well in general especially in terms of letting the people or the attendees know what they have in store for the student body.
Basically, most of them want to increase the participation of the students in the activities for the coming year. Just because there are elected Sanggunian representatives for each block doesn’t mean that there is a guaranteed participation of most of the students. A handful of representatives is not enough to make the voices of the students heard so most of the candidates want to involve more people in decision making.
Some of them also talked about the plans regarding infrastructures which the school will build in the coming months/years. One of them was a covered walkway in order to help the students get to their classes faster especially on rainy days. We were happy about this since it really is hard to go from one building to another when it’s raining so hard. We don’t often get class suspensions on rainy days so this seems to be a way of preventing tardiness from classes which are not in the same building when the weather is not so nice.
2.What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
Given the fact that we had a key informant, we had the chance to know about the event and attend it. It was an event open for everyone and we just had to sign a registration sheet in order to get in. Our key informant was very helpful for us to understand what was going to happen during the afternoon. Since other people there seemed to know each other, it was going to be awkward if we talked to a random person. Talking to our key informant wasn’t since she was also our blockmate. She was able to tell us a couple of things about the candidates such as who was smart, or who was responsible, or who would be better for a specific position. Our key informant also told us that the different organizations who wrote for the school (such as the Guidon) was also there to cover the event. This was indeed an important event for the school since this would show the people how the candidates can conduct themselves in public gatherings such as the said event. With this, some showed strength in delivering their speech with confidence while other stuttered but eventually recovered. Of course, it is not an easy task to be able to speak in front of a crowd especially when not all of the members of the audience were familiar with the topics at hand. Fortunately, our key informant was very informed with such school issues so whenever certain things weren’t clear to us, we had the benefit of asking her from time to time. Without our key informant, it would be harder for us to immediately grasp what the candidates were saying since we didn’t really know them personally despite being classmates with some of them for a subject or two. With the help of our key informant, we were also able to know not only how the candidates presented themselves in public but also how they are as students of the school. Based on our informant’s previous experience, questions asked by the current members of the Sanggunian are usually deeper than those asked by other members of the audience. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that they are really the ones who know what are taking place behind the scenes
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
The benefit of conducting a participant observation is that we are able to observe the event naturally as it happens. In the event, we participated like any audience member would. As an effect after some time people did not really mind our presence. As oppose to a questionnaire and interview, in the participant observation we need not worry about people being self conscious. We eliminate the possibility of people acting and behaving differently because of the knowledge that they are partly being judged or analyzed as in the case of interviews and questionnaires.Instead, the observer is able to experience the event from its natural flow and dynamics and therefore get an actual grasp of an event’s context, in this case the debate.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
A questionnaire or interview might be better in terms of getting actual personal answers. In a participant observation, we merely interpret the events and social dynamics from an outsiders point of viewhowever the downside is thatwe cannot get hold of the insider perspective. We could deduce certain conclusions only on the basis of what we grasp from our senses but nothing at the level of first hand personal experiences from people ‘in the know’ or intimately familiar with the activity.
By: Cea Elomina
SA 21: Y