DepEd’s leaked proposal to use ‘sablay’ in graduation rites spurs concerns, suggestions

February 20, 2020 - 6:08 PM
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Photo by Charles DeLoye on Unsplash

The Department of Education’s leaked proposal on the use of “sablay” instead of toga during graduation rites drew suggestions and concerns that the agency may consider should the issuance push through.

On Thursday, DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua confirmed screenshots of the document circulating on social media that the agency proposed to change the graduation gown or toga used in graduation ceremonies of elementary and secondary schools.

The aide memoire, an informal summary or outline of a diplomatic message, was titled “Proposal to Use Sablay Instead of Toga for End-Of-School-Year Rites in Elementary and Secondary Schools” and dated Feb. 18, 2020. It bears his signature and name, and the official logo of the agency.

Yesterday (February 18,2020), an issuance bearing my name and signature trended on social media. The Aide Memoire…

Posted by Alain Pascua on Tuesday, February 18, 2020

These types of communication serves as “a briefer for current issues, position paper, or policy proposals” in their department, Pascua said, which somehow got leaked on Facebook.

“To clarify, the Aide Memoire has yet to be discussed at the Execom-Mancom levels and remains a proposition,” the official said.

In the leaked aide memoire, Pascua viewed the toga as impractical to the country’s humid weather. He also mentioned that it does not promote diversity of the Filipino culture given its “Western roots.”

He suggested that the toga should be replaced by sablay the academic sash used by students of the University of the Philippines in their graduation rites.

Despite not being official yet, Pascua’s post was shared on the platform over 2,000 times and was also picked up by the mainstream media.

Concerns and suggestions

Amid the support, some Filipinos discussed several key points on the proposition, particularly the production of sablays and additional costs for this change.

The “not Filipino” view

Pascua said that the toga is “not Filipino,” does not encourage loyalty, nationalism and patriotism to the country, unlike the sablay.

One Reddit user argued that without togas, students would resort to smart casual wear or school uniforms, which also have Western roots.

“If everyone’s wearing whatever semiformal or business casual wear, aren’t those also Western clothes? If they’re wearing their school uniforms… aren’t those also usually based on Western traditions and don’t uniforms also promote uniformity?” the user said.

If not school uniforms, the user also asked if schools would require students to wear national or regional costumes instead.

“Is everyone going to have to get individualized Filipiniana outfits like Barongs and ternos, and whatever other regional costumes people wear (because should Bisaya people really be asked to wear Barong Tagalog, etc?)” the user said.

Sablay production

Concerns on the production of sablays and the future of the toga business were raised by some users. This information was not yet indicated in the document.

One Reddit user suggested that the government should provide jobs to toga business owners who would lose their income over traditional weavers come the change.

“Kung ilan yung kinita ng toga business, ganun din kikitain ng sablay weavers. So we are choosing here. pero mas masakit mawalan kesa hindi magkaroon (hugot :)). Yeah isipin niyo, mawawalan nang source of income yung mga may toga business,” the user said.

Encourage diversity on the design

Pascua hoped that the use of sablay would encourage cultural diversity in schools.

One Facebook user then questioned if there would be a general design similar to that of UP’s and where would the funds for this would come from.

“Will there be a general design of Sablay? Or will you allow the schools to design it themselves?” the user said.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

The version used by the country’s premier university has “ukkil and geometric elements” and UP’s acronym is written in baybayin writing.

Additional expenses

Others expressed their worries on the additional expenses on the side of the parents when it comes to renting sablays.

“This is a welcome idea. But I am at a loss when expenses are mentioned. If we are conscious about the cost students and parents shoulder for the use of a toga, then how will they be spared from spending for the sablay?” one Facebook user asked.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

The costs of this initiative were also not provided.

A good proposal

Pascua was thankful that his proposal generally received positive feedback.

“One positive outcome though of the leak was that we were able to glean at the public’s sentiment towards the proposal, which has generally been favorable and very welcoming, give or take a few concerns that need to be addressed should the proposal be considered,” he said.

“We at the Department of Education (DepEd) value feedback and encourage everyone to voice their concerns and ideas,” he added.