QUARANTINE BLUES: Stranded UPV students want to cook their own food

UPV students stranded in their dorms in Miagao, Iloilo called out the administration to allow them to cook their food instead of buying from the University’s Employees Cooperative (UPVEC) starting today, April 20, 2020. (Contributed photos)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Students of the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) in Miag-ao town who had been stranded in their dormitories since the declaration of travel restrictions amid the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the province of Iloilo voiced out their anger over recent decisions issued by the school administration under Chancellor Ricardo Babaran.

Dr. Babaran issued a memorandum on April 16 disallowing students staying in dormitories to cook their own food and instead order from the University’s Employees Cooperative (UPVEC) starting today, April 20, 2020.

The memorandum also provided food subsidies for students staying in dormitories, however this was only limited to undergraduate students categorized according to degrees of financial vulnerabilities.

Several of these students or “dormers”, agreed to speak to Daily Guardian under condition of anonymity.

One of the students said dormers were informed of the changes on April 15, the day before the memorandum had been issued.

The students said that the chancellor met with them on April 17 to discuss the memorandum and other announcements.

It was at that meeting that the chancellor told them that the administration would also be blocking donations of fresh food products for the students, stating donor fatigue as the reason.

The chancellor also told them that they will be sent home starting April 30, or upon expiry of the ECQ in Iloilo.

The UP Board of Regents also approved on April 16 that the second semester for Academic Year 2019-2020 throughout the entire UP System will end on April 30.

Classes in UPV have been suspended since March 13, a week before Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. issued Executive Order No. 080 on March 20, effectively putting the province under the ECQ due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Dr. Babaran defended the new policy out saying the situation has changed.

Babaran said the new policy on food for dorm residents is meant to protect them from COVID-19. He added that he is willing to accept the criticisms hurled at the new rules but their priority is to ensure that UPV campus remains COVID-19 free.

The stranded students include 132 dorm residents and 111 who rent boarding houses.



On April 17, the UPV University Student Council (USC) published an open letter to the Chancellor on their official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The letter strongly denounced the imposition of the memorandum stating that contrary to claims that this was discussed with the students, there was no prior consultation conducted.

“We, stranded students, Residence Hall Assistants together with the UPV-USC strongly denounce your imposition because it is being enforced without prior consultation to the constituents affected by your decision. We have been vocal about opposing your proposal for the last couple of meetings but it seems that our democratic rights as representatives of the dormitory are being shut down by enactment of unconsulted decisions,” the letter stated.

The letter also stressed that social distancing measures may not be exercised in transporting the students and having them joined together in a common area.

“Furthermore, we have an existing systematic protocol on buying food and supply from the market. We have supported your decision to open the UPVEC’s grocery store because it is accessible and within the safety of the campus but we denounce compliance to your decision to enforce our meals to be bought/provided by its constituent cafeteria because it is illogical to transport the entire dorm population every meal time and have them mixed in a common area. It is a breach of existing quarantine protocols and is anti-progressive to the purpose of this ECQ. Making them eat in the same place, use the same utensils, and put them in the same space, is NOT EFFECTIVE quarantine,” it said.

The letter demanded that UPV officials conduct proper consultation with the students, and proper guidelines in combating COVID-19.

Signatories to the letter included Resident Hall Assistants, Student Dorm Representatives, and UPV USC Chairperson Adrian Camposagrado.

One of the students who spoke to Daily Guardian confirmed the details saying that the pronouncements by the Chancellor had been confusing, at most.

“Confused mostly. We’ve had meetings to discuss the situation in the dorms. But sometimes the memos he releases were not discussed with us beforehand or were completely different from what he discussed. Most of the time we’re either confused, surprised or disappointed,” he said.



Students have been allowed by the UPV Office of Student Affairs to cook inside the dormitories through an indorsement issued on March 16.

Cooking was allowed after students called up the offices complaining about getting their own food.

One of the students said that they have been cooking together in the dorms to cope with the mental health effects of the ECQ.

“Cooking together is a social act. It allows us to interact and to create memories. It is meaning making. And it helps us cope with social distresses,” she said.

Another student elaborated on the benefits of cooking their food together despite the difficult circumstances they were in.

“To be honest, for me personally, a part of me was kind of okay with it. I mean, this issue with food had been going on since the quarantine period and every time it got brought up, it really stirred great problems and stress for us. Though cooking in dorms takes a lot of effort for us dormers, but it’s very recreational, it gives us something to do and gives us a chance to socialize with people, it doesn’t make us feel alone. Of course, we are taking precautions, like social distancing and the proper etiquettes and all,” he said.

He explained that initially, there had been some problems cooking at the dorms, but eventually dormers were able to adjust to the challenges.

He added that they had even tried to work things out with the UPV administration.

“Initial problems for this were the hazards, but we now cook in an open place, specifically in our inner court per dorm, others outside, where there is better ventilation and less fire hazards. Second problem was exposure to the public as we would need to go to the market to buy the raw goods. We suggested that the [UPV] Admin would be the one to provide these goods through the [UPV Employees’] Cooperative and we would just buy from them for safety and less exposure, but this suggestion was rejected by the Chancellor. I think that was the concern we raised that had a big effect, but the Chancellor wants to do other things. Early on, they tried the same way that we would be buying from the Cooperative, but the dormers had a unanimous decision that we wouldn’t be buying from there. We let them know and they stopped, they didn’t bring that up for weeks, so we thought the situation got better. Limited number of people buy the goods once a week and we do measures to be safe, like immediately bathing and changing clothes including the foot wear. Our meat was delivered straight to our dorms too because we were in touch with a supplier,” he said.



A student said that some of them have been very concerned since some of their fellow dormers who lived in other parts of Panay Island were not able to go home because of the border restrictions.

“The students from Iloilo were able to go home. But those from Capiz were not allowed by border security officials, so they opted to return to Miag-ao. They had spent the whole day and students from Capiz and Aklan weren’t able to go home at all,” she said.

She added that the students had also complained about the University’s delayed response on calls for suspension of both offline and online classes.

“Students were complaining why the memorandum suspending all classes, including online, was released late. If it were done earlier, students from Luzon, Mindanao, and other parts of Visayas would have been able to return home, because part of the reason why the students stayed was because of the poor internet connections in their hometowns,” she said.