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Ecstatic

Happy

Proud

Teary-eyed

Victorious

but most of all…

EMPOWERED

These are words that best describes my emotions when I learned from the news that Gabriel Paolo "Heart" Diño was able to fulfill her "vow" to "make history" by being the first transgender Chairperson to lead the University of the Philippines Diliman’s University Student Council after last Thursday’s elections. This ushers a new chapter in the university facing the challenges of tuition fee increase and fraternity violence.

The Bachelor Science in Math major who graduated Magna Cum Laude and is currently taking up Masteral Science in Applied Mathematics in university bested three other candidates with 3290 votes and defeating her closest rival Martin Loon by 547 votes amidst of tirade and criticisms being hurled against her and her party candidates.

Quoting Diño, who said in a statement: "As a teenager, I endured stigma and discrimination from my classmates and peers because of my gender. And when I entered college, it was in UP where I got the opportunity to be accepted and grow. Serving the students in the student council for the past two years has been my way of thanking UP for embracing who I am."

Aside from Diño, transgender Pat Bringas who is a film major was also elected as USC Councilor. Interestingly, according to Ang Ladlad’s (LGBT political party) official statement: “The party also lauds the election of Alex Castro, a bisexual woman, as vice chair of the UP Diliman USC." This makes two of the top-most positions in the USC occupied by members of the LGBT community.

Indeed, UP has always been the vanguard of freedom of expression, human rights, and social acceptance when the Philippine society is still conservative and discriminating. It always takes a stand on issues plaguing the country and it gives voice to those marginalized such as the LGBT community. That is why, I am proud to be a UPian!

"UP has never been the university of the status quo. With issues such as gender discrimination, transparency and accountability in the USC’s finances, and the strings of fraternity-related violence in campus this year, it is high time that we become the change for a better UP," Diño said.

According to the Philippine Collegian, the official organ of the UP Diliman students, Diño’s party clinched 13 out of 34 seats in the USC, including six councilor seats and six college representatives. The Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand UP) won 10 seats while the Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan sa UP (Kaisa) also got 10 seats.

Heart’s administration is still yet to be tested. She assumes her post this coming Academic Year. But judging from her good track record in public service as Gender Committee Head of the USC for the Academic Year 2011-2012 and Councilor of the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010-2011, I am confident that she will be a good leader.

Congratulations Heart! We HEART you!