Upon assuming office, Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno vowed to implement a strict liquor ban near schools across his city of jurisdiction. By July 25 of last year, he made good on his promise by signing Executive Order (EO) No. 17, which compelled city offices to scale up their enforcement of Manila’s already existing anti-liquor ordinances.

In theory, Ordinance No. 3532, which blocks the selling of alcohol within 200 meters of schools, and Ordinance No. 8520, which bans the sale of alcohol to minors in Manila, should already control the sale of alcohol in the city—but this is not what happened in practice. For years, drinking establishments and restaurants that had alcoholic beverages on the menu continued to operate near schools unimpeded. EO No. 17 was the final nail in the coffin for many establishments in the area. 

Drinks, but non-alcoholic

The first establishments that went dark after the order were Vbar and Beach House, well-known bars that line Fidel Reyes St. The bars were notorious for drawing large crowds to the area at night, especially on Thursdays; it fell silent on July 26, a Friday. Barn, another popular watering hole in the area, remained open and opted to serve food and non-alcoholic beverages instead.

Sherwood Place, located on Taft Ave., held out for only a few more days before it met a similar fate on August 1. Moreno, along with a team of city officials and policemen, shuttered establishments inside the complex, pointing out that it fell within the 200-meter boundary of DLSU—Br. Andrew Gonzalez Hall was just across the street—and must cease all selling of liquor immediately. 

Since then, bars looking to continue their businesses have been required to either switch to selling commodities other than alcohol, or shut down for good. Moreno’s words were blunt: “They can still do business, [but] not to sell intoxicating beverages or liquor. Puwedeng disco, puwedeng restaurant. They can sell drinks, but non-alcoholic.”

(They can be a disco or a restaurant.)

Policy crossroads

The liquor ban spelled the end for “Happy Thursdays” or “Happy T”. The drinking culture earned its sobriquet from the University’s four-day class scheme that ends on Thursdays.

But reports of incidents during Happy Thursdays had long been in the sights of the University administration. In a town hall discussion in 2016, Vice Chancellor for Academics Dr. Robert Roleda proposed to shift the University Break (U Break) from Fridays to Mondays. Roleda hoped the policy would restrict “excessive drinking” on Thursday evenings. It was an unpopular idea within the Lasallian community, though the shift was eventually greenlit in late 2017, under different premises, and the allusion to Happy T was instead replaced with statistics that class suspensions fell most frequently on Mondays.

But participants in the 2016 town hall meeting had already dismissed its perceived effectiveness, pointing out that students would just find workarounds—drink on Friday instead of Thursday, or drink elsewhere.

Then University Student Government President Pram Menghrajani instead proposed to “pressure the newly-elected officials of Manila” at the time to implement the existing ordinances.

Prior to the U Break shift back to Friday, University Chancellor Br. Bernard Oca FSC explained last July in an interview with The LaSallian that those involved in Happy Thursday incidents were not DLSU students, according to data from the Security Office and the University Clinic. 

“We discovered that whatever problems or violence or safety hazards [that took] place during Happy Thursdays during the Friday U Break [schedule], there were not really La Salle students involved,” Oca said.

Life without bars

Like the ultimately unsuccessful U Break shift, students can only offer the clampdown a cold welcome.

Miguel Antonio Lindog (I, AB-CAM) shares that he is not in favor of the liquor ban, claiming that the liquor ban would not keep students away from alcohol and that people would still look for means to access the substance should they really wish to.

Although he admits that the vicinity of the old bars have become quieter, Lindog also laments that “people don’t have the same enjoyment that they used to.” 

Similarly, Gabrielle Romero (I, BS-PSYC) says, “Students [generally] kept their Happy T activities outside the school, and in the end, overall discipline lies in the hands of the students themselves and the [Student Discipline Formation Office] rather than the government.” She also attests that the drinking culture did not stop after the bar closures, and that students have since resorted to drinking inside their condominiums or visiting farther and more expensive drinking spots. 

On the other hand, Tamara Cloa (I, AB-POM) says that she is in favor of the ban, despite expressing disappointment for not being able to participate in the University’s “Happy T culture”.

“The ban, in the grand scheme [of things], has improved the University’s image—especially considering that there [are] now minors in the institution. I don’t have the [statistics], but I think that parents are more at ease,” she argues. “The ban also positively affected the safety of the students, at least around [the Enrique M. Razon Sports Center] side…There were outsiders who also joined in Happy T, but they were usually rowdy and would start fights.”

Parents’ verdict

Meanwhile, for the DLSU-Parents of University Student Organizations (DLSU-PUSO), the EO is good news. DLSU-PUSO President Dr. Felicitas Ducusin shares in an interview with The LaSallian that the organization supports the initiatives put forward by Moreno—who was inducted into DLSU-PUSO last October—to ban the establishment of bars and the sale of liquor near the University.

Alongside the University administration, DLSU-PUSO had also taken steps to probe drinking incidents, forming the first Happy Thursday Regulatory Board in 2017.  Although admitting that most participants are non-Lasallians, then DLSU-PUSO President Atty. Dionisio Garciano resolved to find solutions to the matter, citing safety concerns as “[The bars] are DLSU’s neighbors.”

Ducusin adds that DLSU-PUSO also hosts parenting seminars in an effort  to dissuade students from taking part in the drinking culture. Designed to help parents engage with their children, these seminars are complemented by “bonding” activities among parents and between parents and their children.

DLSU-PUSO will continue to coordinate closely with Moreno, Ducusin says, to ensure that the ban continues to be implemented, adding that Moreno had also promised to participate in DLSU-PUSO’s projects. “He is the one spearheading this [liquor ban], and I am very happy for that,” she notes.

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