A man MSU built--out of nothing

Berteni "Toto" Cataluña Causing poses for posterity
inside his room at Room 22, Super New Boys
Dormitory, immediately after graduating with
a degree of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
on April 5, 1988.


Soliloquy of a man MSU built--out of nothing:

No one can put an MSUan down!


Who am I?

The best answer I could give on this 1st of September 2011 is: "A man MSU built."

If a graduate of University of the Philippines or Ateneo or La Salle is proud to tell the whole world they are a product of his or her school, perhaps I am much prouder when I would sum up myself:  

"No man can put an MSUan down. I am a man Mindanao State University built--out of nothing."

Line of trees at the golf course of MSU in Marawi, where I studied my lessons.

           I was a young man of nothing because my parents had nothing to pull out of their pockets if only to spend for my college education.
Lucky for me, aside from graduating with honors (Second Honorable Mention, Best in Math, Best in English Writing, Model Student of the Year, and Gerry Roxas Leadership Award) from Koronadal National Comprehensive High School in 1982, my Dad Remo Centeno Causing and Mom Marianita Cataluña Causing would not be burdened: I got many college scholarship awards to choose from.

Two of those scholarships were full scholarship awards from MSU in Marawi and MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology.  At that time, the MSU campus in General Santos City was the nearest to me but its courses were only up to high school.  I had also full scholarship offers from the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato and University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City.

Of the three elite schools I mentioned above, only Ateneo had campuses in Mindanao: one in Davao City and another in Zamboanga City. 

While my parents were thinking about celebrating a thanksgiving in our house in Baldostamon Subdivision, I was clueless on what was lying ahead of me.   I cannot stop them from enjoying in their feeling of being so proud of their eldest son who graduated with the most medals.
My dad and mom were not oblivious of the fact that my mind was disturbed by the thought that during my last two years in high school, our house never had any electrical connection to South Cotabato Electric Cooperative.  I admit, everyday my father would steal electricity from lines passing through a “kamuntiel” tree beside our house and he would dutifully beat the sun to remove the hooks or linesmen would put us in terrible public shame as electricity thieves.   I cannot forget the words of my father: “Maskin mangutang ako ipatumba ko isa ka baboy para sa bata ko. Ti, libre na sa college e.”  I was smiling with a grin while hearing those.
When summer of ’82 was about to complete, I was asking friends on which school to choose to study for the civil engineering degree that my high-school-graduate-only father wished for me. I was considering MSU in Marawi and in Iligan but I was afraid of the stories of deaths and brutalities lurking there.  But the story of poverty in our family was compelling: I ended up choosing MSU Marawi.

Upon entering the campus, accompanied by my mother, I was confused. Luckily, we met elder students who came from South Cotabato and they entertained us.  Among them, I specially mention Isidro Planto (now a high school principal) and Feldion Tupas (now a municipal officer in Lake Sebu doing big business out of tilapia).

On that very same day, my mother left me and I cried a river in the company of these newfound friends: it was the first time for me to be separated from her.  Nevertheless, homesickness diminished little by little: Thanks to the golf course (where I would usually study and let student's stresses out and do some bonding with my frat brothers and sisters).  When classes began, I found myself shocked by the way of teaching although I easily adjusted to the regimen.

The rest of the stories there inside the campus showed me making a name for myself. Many thanks to those dean’s lists posted on bulletin boards.  I found myself excelling in Math, English, Physics, Biology and Chemistry.  I also enjoyed the company of Alpha Cosine Theta, a fraternity of engineering students and mathematicians doing tutorial lectures to students who seemed like were born to be poor in numbers.

Frankly, I knew I could have graduated a Magna Cum Laude from MSU. But my laziness got the better of me.  An incomplete grade lapsed into a 5.0 to disqualify me from becoming one, although my general average made the cut for a “cum laude” honor.  Nevertheless, I comforted myself that the honor one got from school does not determine the success or failure of a man.

I graduated only in April of 1988, due to failure to complete some academic requirements. Thereafter, I went to the hometown of my grandfather, Agosto Posadas Causing, in Ajuy, Iloilo.  There, aside from doing community engineering works, I enjoyed the company of my cousins and relatives, almost all of them sported “Causing” as the family name.

            In 1989, I left for Manila to go for the proverbial “greener pasture.”  I found myself doing first the job of a spinner in a disco house in Quezon City. Thereafter, I got a job that carried with big pride: project engineer although not yet licensed.

            Thereafter, I found myself applying to become a sportswriter of People’s Journal Tonight. I was given an examination by Sports Editor Ed Andaya, who then took me in and gave assignment right for the next day.  Thank you so much Pareng Ed: He trained me in the art of sportswriting and it was the learning I got from him that earned me the honor to be offered by Mr. Alfredo Marquez (may his soul watch me from heaven) an appointment to become a copy editor of the news desk.

            While covering sports events, I was bringing with me my engineering books to review them after work. Eventually, I took the licensure examination for civil engineers. (During that time, board exam results would come out more than a year from the day of the examination.) While waiting for the result, I was promoted to be a senior desk editor. One day, my colleagues in the sportswriting community called up to surprise me with congratulations.  (Noli Cortez was the first to do so.) Times Journal Sports Editor Enrique “Tata Iking” Gonzales put on my sports story this byline, “By Engineer Berteni C. Causing.” Thanks a lot to him. Since I found writing wonderful, I decided to stay put where the news is, so to speak.

            Thereafter, I stepped up the ladder of my writing career until I was appointed as news editor by the greatest press freedom fighter of all time, Joe Burgos (the father of the missing Jonas Burgos).

            In 2001, I thought of pursuing a law degree. So I studied, again as a scholar, at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) College of Law, which I chose due to its proximity to my office at Port Area, Manila.  In 2005, I graduated as the only man in a class. While working as the managing editor of Kabayan newspaper, I was doing reviews. Alas, all except for one of us in the PLM Law Class 2005 passed for a 90% passing rate.

            In every stage of my life was always a story of struggle. But the survival training and excellent academic regimen I hurdled at MSU would always make me a better man after each misfortune.  That is, although regret would always form a part of each story of fall: thinking that the cause was so simple that I could have not fallen. The bitter and better part of this lesson is: One stands only right where he falls.

Another area of MSU golf course where I studied my lessons.

            Nevertheless, past can never be present unless one would allow bad history catch up with and trip him or her down.

             Now, I am impassioned with the work of pushing for the ultimate justice system that will be the ultimate solution to all socio-political problems of the Filipinos.  I am actively doing a campaign to educate the people about jury system, a mechanism where it is the people who act as judges instead of the judges and the prosecutors, the ombudsmen and arbiters, most of whom betray the people, consciously or otherwise.

            My tears always fall upon seeing judges and fiscals forget that their power to judge belongs to the people and that it is only entrusted to these supposed "men of laws."

           No one can overturn my belief that only when the Philippines is under a jury system that it can truly become a government for the people, by the people, of the people.

           As firm as my belief that no one can put an MSUan down, I will see to it that my graveyard someday will bloom with wreaths of flowers of justice born out of the jury system, which I can accept as a reward or punishment in exchange for my only life.

            And as a tribute to the institution that built me to give true meaning to all my dreams and is celebrating its founding today, I can boast nothing can pin me down: “No man can put an MSUan down. I am a man MSU built—out of nothing.”

            Happy 50th birthday, MSU!


             Maraming Salamat po sa inyong mga tinuran. Nakakadagdag indak po iyon sa aking mga paa para sumayaw sa mga himig na sa mga pangarap ko ay didilig.

            My tribute to my alma mater in the process compelled me to present the general picture of how bad our situation was.

           I forgot to say in my article that everyday I went to school, I was eating with salt or "ginamos" (shrimp paste) only as viand. Seldom can I taste the food eaten by well-off families then. Then I had to walk ten (10) kilometers a day to and from school, since elementary up to high school.

           While I was in Grade 1, I was cooking rice for the whole family before leaving for school at 6:30 a.m. On Saturday, before playing with playmates, I was used to climbing the mountain near our house to gather firewood that I would ax into pieces and dry for the whole week supply. Oftentimes, I would savor the daily breakfast of hot rice with water and salt.

          I was a bit malnourished and skinny as a kid. 
          My tears fall everytime I reminisce those bad old days.

          If I would have enough time, I will write the full details as far as I can remember.
          Again thank you.

            MSUanly yours,




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