To help you out, we got some essays that were given in previous admission cycles. They aren't for the ACET or the Ateneo, but at least you get to see in flesh and blood what that 'decent' essay we're talking about is.
"Imagine looking through a window at any environment that is particularly significant to you. Reflect on the scene, paying close attention to the relation between what you are seeing and why it is meaningful to you. (300 Words)"
It’s only been 30 minutes of forever, yet the stubborn monotony of dull trees and shrubs looks set to be disturbed by signs of something remotely civilized soon. From my vantage point on the back seat of our car, with just the side window separating me from the world, I’ve already seen a great deal of nothing: Huge horse-drawn carts with traditional hand-woven baskets, one or two volcanoes, wide swathes of rice paddies, water buffalos and the occasional undisturbed church or ancestral house left over from the Spanish era.
But hey! A McDonalds! This was the first relic of true city life I’ve seen in quite a while, and to be honest, in the twelve-hour trips from Manila to our hometown in southern Luzon, these were the only places I genuinely looked forward to.
30 minutes so far on the way back to Manila, several years later, it still seems every bit a bite off forever as it did back then. Endless streams of computer shops, prepaid cellular phone loading centers, one or two strip malls, and of course good old McDonalds or KFC, in every single city we pass by. Every single one. Through just one path that has essentially remained the same, I’ve seen my country, as I knew it growing up transform into something totally unrecognizable.
The old churches and volcanoes never seemed so majestic and refreshing, but amidst the numbing expanse of modernity, it’s easy to forget how, just recently, people thought of these sights another way. Modernity was both exciting and trite, then again, so is everything old-fashioned and natural now. What I’ve discerned though, through years treading the same road is to simply take in everything and appreciate them for what they are, not for what they aren’t, treating all sights as impostors just the same.
"Share some of your favorite books, poems and authors. Feel free to touch on one, some or all."
Ask any Filipino high school student what book was the toughest read he’s ever had.
You won’t get War & Peace or the ridiculous jumble of letters that is Finnegan’s Wake. The most common response is “Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay ni Florante at Laura sa Cahariang Albania: Quinuha sa madlang quadro historico o pinturang nagsasabi sa mga nangyari nang unang panahon sa Imperiong Grecia at tinula ng isang matouain sa versong Tagalog.”
If you know a bit of Spanish, you could probably pick up a fourth of the meaning of this mouthful, which everyone just calls Florante and Laura; F&L for teenagers like me.
For a story with an absurdly long name however, it has a relatively simple plot, based largely the author Francisco Balagtas’ own experiences: The prince Florante is thrown into a forest to die by a rival, but finds an unlikely ally in a Muslim warrior. They return and win back the kingdom, marry their lovers who were stolen from them, then live happily ever after.
Clearly, the beauty isn’t entirely in the plot, which could be thought of as clichéd in some patches. The beauty is rather in the walls of text, intricate and marvelously sculpted, that describe everything in such great detail.
Most people don’t see it, intimidated because of a chronic lack of knowledge in the Filipino language prevalent in most students. They see it as no less alien than the clutters of Kanji I’ve tried to read before, but I was fortunate that necessity obliged me to learn. Instead of reading abridged comic versions or English translations, I knuckled down and looked for word definitions and interpretations on the net, which assured that I understood the flowery descriptions of otherwise simple lines inside-out, enabling me to better appreciate the elegance of his writing and our language in general.
While it was grueling to trudge through the thick poetry of F&L, I did gain a good understanding and appreciation of this book whose sheer verbosity scares the Filipino youth away from having a good look at it nude, without the aid of other versions. I’ve also learned to love and eventually immerse entirely my own native language both as a nod to generations past who knew the book word by word and as a way to remain genuinely Filipino in the midst of what may be an unstoppable wave of westernization.
What I’m most proud of though, as I confide with some friends, is that unlike 99% of Filipinos, I won’t die misinterpreting, or even not knowing F&L’s most famous line, which roughly translates as
“Oh love most powerful, you vanquish clans with your strength. You enslave hearts which lay out all for your sake solely to your will.”
It doesn't sound quite as powerful anymore, having lost the nuances of the original, but this most famous and supposedly most romantic of lines, as told by many young Filipino lovers in an attempt at old-fashioned courtship, actually describes an attempt by a father to take his son’s fiancée, even if it meant that he would abandon common decency.
The line is far from romantic. Chilling and revolting might be better words to use, but most people die without ever knowing that truth; a shame for such a work, and perhaps more shameful for us caretakers of a heritage.