Saturday, January 2, 2010

UST Communication Arts student Celestino: A Pinoy teenager speaks to the world

JUST LIKE international award-winning speaker Patricia Evangelista, Communication Arts junior Vera Lorraine Celestino had been a Philippine representative to the international Soroptimist’s Violet Richardson Award for community service at the age of 17.

Celestino earned the right to represent the country in the 2005 award after ranking first in the national level and beating 16 other candidates from different provinces.
Celestino submitted her credentials to the headquarters of the Soroptimist in Cambridge, England where she competed with other young females from around the world in community service presentation. Although it was Tara Syed of Canada who eventually won, Celestino said she profited much from the experience.
“I still serve as one of the global voices for women and the underprivileged people,” she said. “Everyone can make a difference, no matter how simple his or her deeds, for the benefit of humanity.” The Soroptimist, founded in 1921 by Violet Richardson-Ward, means “best for women” in Latin. It is an international volunteer service organization that provides leadership opportunities to improve women’s lives. Among Soroptimist advocates were the late Princess Diana of Wales, who was known for her charity work for AIDS victims and for her pro-life Birthright foundation; and former president Corazon Aquino, the first woman president of the Philippines.
And now Celestino, at the young age of 19, is helping advance the vision of Soroptimist for strong women’s leadership.
When she won the Philippine led of the international award, Celestino was cited for her involvement in Cavite Institute’s Wishcraft, which raises tuition for children through the collection of recyclable materials.
“The award was a meaningful experience for me because it made a huge change on how I looked at life and myself,” Celestino said. “I’ve become more aware of the needs of people who have been deprived of their aspirations. I have realized that I could also help them in the best way I could.”
Through the support that she receives from non-government organizations such as the Rotary and Kiwanis Club, and from her high school mentors, Celestino helps children collect unused but recyclable materials like plastic or glass bottles, cartons and paper. A percentage of the children’s tuition is deducted depending on how many kilograms the students under the Wishcraft program collect.
Celestino’s hope to inspire the Filipina youth prompted her to try out for the Violet Richardson Award in the district level. Unexpectedly, she won and qualified for the national level. Her public-speaking skills, self-confidence, and congenial nature were a key in making her survive the contest. Given only 19 hours to prepare an essay consisting of 1,000 words, a Power Point presentation, and documentation of her achievements, Celestino was doubtful she could make it.
“I wasn’t even able to get a few hours of sleep and still had to present my work to the panelists after 19 hours. It was an hour and 30 minute ride from Cavite on the way to the venue in Manila for the national level. My coaches and I prayed with no expectations of winning,” Celestino said.
Ever since high school, Celestino has been very interested in social affairs. In fact, she was student council president during her senior year.
“A leader doesn’t only look into the horizon. He must think and understand as well what’s beyond it,” the Caviteña said.
She served her municipality when she was elected in 2005 as a Sangguniang Bayan youth councilor. Celestino got involved in Likhaan, a cultural program of the municipality for the performing arts. She said her work as a youth official developed in her patience and a critical mind.
Celestino has participated and won in various speech competitions within and outside her province. One of them was the UP Patalasanlahi, an annual competition on academics and the arts participated in by different secondary schools in the country. The speech competitions’ themes would usually concern social adversities in the country, which helped her gain knowledge on the needs of the people.
Although her family and peers expected her to take political science after high school, Celestino chose instead to take up Communication Arts in UST. Although she enjoys the fulfillment that public service brings, she now wants to venture into the art of communication. She believes that her current degree program will widen her knowledge on different ways of connecting with people.
“Politics isn’t the only way for one to be able to render service to society. Position is just one factor, but what’s really important is the willingness to serve without any expectation and being able to motivate others,” she said.
“I’m (advocating) for a more egalitarian and humane society through the art of communication,” Celestino explained.
Celestino joined a political party in the Faculty of Arts and Letters during her freshman year but eventually quit to concentrate on broadcasting. She became an active member of the Thomasian Cable TV where she is now an executive producer.
“The media play an important role in society. The power of information (comes in) different forms that can influence people,” she said.
Celestino said she believes that the Thomasian values of competence, compassion, and commitment direct the students to the right path.
“That’s the advantage of being young; we have more time for many good things to do for the world and we just need to work hard and be patient,” Celestino said. “God molds us everyday through the challenges that we encounter in life; we become more humble and responsible, and wiser.”

Movie and TV Director De Ramas - a Proud University of Santo Tomas Graduate

BEHIND the latest ABS-CBN teleserye, Walang Kapalit and other soap opera and movies that made an imprint in the mind and hearts of its televiewers is a former waiter turned film and television director.
Wenn De Ramas shares the popularity and honor to direct primetime soap operas such as Mula Sa Puso (1997), Saan Ka Man Naroroon (1999), Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan (2001), Bituin (2002), Buttercup (2003), Marina (2004), and Kampanerang Kuba (2005).

He also came up with laugh-out-loud movies which eventually become instant hits. Included in the roster are Ang Tanging Ina (2003), Volta (2004), D'lucky Ones (2006), Kapag Tumibok ang Puso (2006), and most recently, Ang Cute ng Ina Mo.

Making of a director
Life is a complicated script full of twists and turns. Wenn De Ramas knows this. What he is now is hardly prefigured by his 1987 graduation as a Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) student of UST.
At that time, De Ramas dabbled in events organizing, management strategies, and accounting, not film-making.
“Tourism and HRM were among the popular courses during my time. Sadly, things changed after the EDSA revolution,” he said.
But De Ramas does not regret taking HRM instead of a communication course.
“I learned management and accounting, which were my favorite subjects back then,” he said. “I have been able to apply these whenever I do production work since it deals with budgeting, supervising, and dealing with people.”
Known for his romantic Claudine Baretto soap operas and hilarious Ai Ai de las Alas comedies, De Ramas participated in short skits when he was in elementary school and was a member of the theater group in his high school. His passion for directing was further developed when he joined Teatro Tomasino, the official theater guild of UST, during his freshman year.
At Teatro, he immersed himself in learning the ropes of production such as lighting, directing, and even acting. “I also enjoyed working on props, make-up and costumes,” he said.
Aside from being a student and a loyal member of Teatro Tomasino, De Ramas was also a scholar of the University. Since his modest family could not afford his tuition, he had to maintain a high grade in order to retain his scholarship.
He shared one of his secrets on how he got through college life despite the seeming impossibilities: “I never bought any books that we needed in class,” he said. “I would borrow the books from the library, then return them in order to borrow the books needed for the next subject the following day.”
Being an HRM graduate, De Ramas applied as a waiter at the Aristocrat restaurant and worked there for two years. Although he was promoted to supervisor, he resigned soon after.
“I thought that it was time to resign because being supervisor meant that there was no other way up,” he said. “I had to move on. That was the peak for me at that job.”

True calling
From being a waiter and a supervisor in Aristocrat, De Ramas landed a job at ABS-CBN in 1990 after an old colleague from Teatro Tomasino recommended him as production assistant for the sitcoms Bistek and Abangan and Susunod na Kabanata. He has been with the network ever since.
“I was eventually trusted to handle the role of executive producer in a variety of shows which applied all the things I learned in UST like management skills, budgeting, and dealing with psychotic artists,” he jokingly said.
De Rama's said that in his directing, he is inspired by the late film directors and National Artists Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.
His lack of formal training in filmmaking was overshadowed by his vast experience in production and theater. In 1998, he directed his first movie, Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita, a drama topbilled by Rico Yan, Diether Ocampo, and Claudine Baretto.
De Ramas has proven his competence and flexibility as a director. He not only excels in directing television dramas and comedies; he has also achieved success as a film director.
“My mentors at ABS-CBN had intentionally trained me to do dramas in TV and somehow convinced me to venture into making comedies in the big screen,” he said. “It must have been really a calling for me because it has never crossed my mind to actually turn my passion into a profession,”
“I don't have a particular style when it comes to directing because it depends on the genre or story of the project,” De Ramas said.
Despite his flourishing career in show business, De Ramas said he plans to eventually go back to his first love and not let his degree in HRM go to waste.
“I plan to open a restaurant of my own,” he said. “But as of now, doing movies is my main priority.”
UST will always have a special place in De Ramas' heart as he really enjoyed his studies and extra-curricular activities in the University. He advised UST students to take advantage of what Thomasian education has to offer.
“I'm proud of UST and of course, Teatro Tomasino,” he said. “I loved my stay in the University and I am truly proud to be a Thomasian.”

University of Santo Tomas' music prodigy Reynaldo Reyes, a world-renowned pianist

WORLD-CLASS pianist Reynaldo Reyes has always believed that passion is the key to exceptional musicianship. It was this passion for music that led him to simultaneously attend UST High School and the UST Conservatory of Music and graduating at an early age of 17.

Reyes has always been a good student, although he never became an honor student. But he surprised himself when he decided to take high school and college.
During that time, students are still allowed to enroll in the Conservatory even without a high school diploma provided that classes are on private tutorial. Reyes even finished his Music subjects before finishing secondary school, but had to wait one year before he was allowed to graduate as minor subjects cannot be given until after high school. Being a high school and college student at the same time, he graduated from the University in 1950, Bachelor of Music.
After he graduated from UST, he continued his studies abroad, enrolling at the Conservatory of Paris where he won Premier Prix in 1957. The Premier Prix is a first prize title won in the year end-competition, a requirement for a music student to achieve before he is allowed to graduate. Upon graduation, he applied for his Master's degree and Artist's diploma at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland where he became a faculty member of the University in 1960. He was also named “Musician of the Year” by the University of the Philippines in 1957, 1961, and 1965—the only Filipino to be honored at three different times. In the international setting, he was a prize winner in three international competitions namely, the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition in Brazil, The Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy, and the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris, France.
Seven years after being indicted at the Peabody Conservatory, he returned to UST to receive the “Golden Cross Award”, the highest award the University bestows on its alumni for his contribution to music.
According to Reyes, his early education in UST contributed to his success abroad.
“One reason why I am very grateful to UST is because they managed to give lots of advance training for its students,” Reyes said. “I was part of almost all of the events at the conservatory so I had a very rich early experience as a musician which helped me a lot in Europe and the US,” he said.

Thomasian, Filipino, and proud
Reyes has been a Music professor at Towson University (TU) in Baltimore Maryland, USA for more than 40 years now. However, his tenure at TU does not deter his loyalty to his alma mater. He claims that he owes his education to UST, and feels that he has to give back something that the University will be proud of. Because of this, he is now using what he learned to benefit other people by using music as a medium of improvement for those who are mentally ill.
But apart from being loyal and grateful to his alma mater, Reyes also claims to be a nationalistic person. Although he has been living in the United States for 54 years, he says that he has never changed his nationality.
“I am still a Filipino citizen and will forever be. I feel that if I change (my citizenship), I will be selling my soul and gratitude,” he said.
Wanting to contribute to the progress of the country's intelligence, Reyes regularly comes home twice a year for three decades now at his own expense and time to talk about the importance of listening to classical music to students and rural folk, and since 2001, has performed free concerts and talks on the importance of classical music not only in terms of art and aesthetics, but also of education.
“Filipinos in general are not well informed enough,” Reyes expressed.
The effects of classical music on the brain are already known to First World countries, but unfamiliar to most Filipinos. Reyes believes that most Filipinos have a misconception about music as something abstract which only sounds good to the ear. For Reyes, many schools do not teach it because they are not aware that it can also be an objective avenue for self-improvement.
“Our officials are also not aware of the benefits of listening to classical music so our curriculum barely touches on that subject,” he explains.

Music for the brain
In a previous article from the Varsitarian, studies have proven that listening to classical music does not only nourish the brain, but can also help the mentally-disabled to improve.
Classical music is a good source of neurons, or new brain cells, which are continuously generated throughout one's lifetime. Moreover, classical music is also used as therapy for abnormal people, anesthesia for operations, and also therapy for the sick and the mentally-challenged.
Commonly known as the “Mozart Effect,” scientific research explains that the physiological, psychological, mental, and socio-emotional effects of listening to classical music are beneficial to patients because it regulates respiratory patterns, improves memory, and decreases tension.
There have been several cases wherein playing classical music to patients during and after surgery helped reduce the pain. A research by Drs. Kathi J. Kemper and Suzanne C. Danhauer from the Southern Medical Association reported that a number of vascular surgery patients showed decreased pain levels after a music session.
True enough, Reyes himself found improvement in his son who was initially diagnosed with autism when he was born. Now 25 years old, he initially couldn't speak until his father taught him to play and listen to classical music on the piano. Reyes' goddaughter who was mentally challenged also began to talk after five years of taking up music lessons.
His first efforts on putting the music therapy theory into use has benefited his family.
“My success, my ambitions and my energies to succeed stem from my family's ambition not to fail. We don't have to always emerge at the top, but we have to try to be the best. Learning does not stop with aging and improving is not hindered by age. It is hindered by lack of desire,” he said.

University of Santo Tomas Filmmakers

GREAT films are made up of moving pictures with much of the strips drawn from the inspirations and lives of the filmmakers themselves.

That's a grain of truth for Thomasian filmmakers Milo Tolentino and Brillante Mendoza whose distinct opuses echo much of their peculiar interests from the ordinary to extraordinary, whether personal or public.

Milo's mysteries
Tales of ghouls and goblins shaped the world of Communication Arts alumnus Tolentino—who has earned a name in making independent horror films—even when he was a kid.
Back then, Tolentino was an aloof kid who didn't play much with other kids his age as he would prefer to unwind at the backyard of his grandma's house in Lipa City, which overlooked a misty, serene river. Around this setting, his lola would tell stories about the supernatural, which roused Milo's interest in the netherworld.
“During those days, my lola never failed to mention about legendary fireballs, tikbalang (half-man, half-horse giant), and all those types of monsters in Batangas,” he said. “At first I was scared, but as she shared more afternoon stories with me, my fear of the unknown grew into fascination.”
Not only was Tolentino fascinated with the uncanny. He became a bookworm and developed a penchant for the theatrical arts. This enthrallment for the mysterious hooked him to Stephen King's best sellers and Steven Spielberg's blockbusters.
Fantasy stories and other forms of fiction transformed Tolentino into a fan of magic realism. He carried this obsession through high school and later on to his filmmaking career. Although Spielberg's fancy visual effects lured Tolentino's gaze toward the mystics, these did not make him readily fall in love with the film craft. Instead, Tolentino channeled his inclination to writing.
“I never imagined myself making a film,” Tolentino said. “The people around me saw my potential as a creative writer instead.”
On his sophomore year at UST in 1987, Tolentino joined the Varsitarian and was assigned to the News section.
“Since my style of writing was very descriptive, I felt really out of place as a news writer,” he said. “But although that's the case, I never lost touch with my literary forte.”
While writing news articles, Tolentino would contribute poems and short stories to the Literary section, as well as art critiques to the paper's Circle (arts, culture and media) page. He was promoted to Literary editor the following year.
“My first fiction short story was titled Dawn to Dawn, which was very much like the theme of my second Cinemalaya short film Orasyon,” he said. Both of his creations deal with the agony of ageing, as he was nostalgic of his grandmother.
While helping edit the Varsitarian, Tolentino was also an active member of the Salinggawi Dance Troupe, which granted him a scholarship. He was also the musical director of the Artistang Artlets and a member of the AB Enrolment Committee all at the same year. Tolentino managed the pressure of handling four extra-curricular activities simultaneously. In fact, he said he prioritized his non-academic affiliations over his academics.
“UST gave me venues that made my talents more mature and more visible,” he said.
Right after college, Tolentino worked as a junior copy writer for ADSystems where he previously had his on-the-job training. While into mountaineering, Tolentino embarked on photography with the prodding of his colleague, former Varsitarian photographer Roderick Javier. Within two years of taking images in black and white, Tolentino was able to put up two major exhibits, Earth Spirits and Heavenly Bodies, which both had fantasy themes.
As a freelance photographer and a mountaineer, Tolentino also contributed travelogues to the Women's Home magazine where he worked with Manila Times journalist Tess Pacheco-Mapa. With much admiration for Tolentino's writing and photography, Mapa boosted Tolentino's enthusiasm for filmmaking. Tolentino soon enrolled in several film classes in the University of the Philippines in 2003.
“When I knew that I could enroll for a post-graduate course in film, I took the opportunity and indeed, it was worth it,” he said.
Majority of Tolentino's preliminary projects were flavored with the horror genre. Faithful to his childhood fascination with the eerie, his first short film, Buog, which he began filming as a student, featured a ghost. Tolentino competed in Cinemalaya in 2005 when his second short film, Alimuom, about a murderer's agony over the reappearance of his victim's vanished cadaver, became a finalist. Although he did not bag the Balanghay trophy for the best short film, Tolentino was ecstatic.
“My priority was just for my film to be screened and be appreciated by people in Cinemalaya since I think it's the best venue for launching indies,” Tolentino said.
Alimuom was followed by another thriller, Orasyon, in 2006, which was also a Cinemalaya contender. The 30-minute monochrome feature tells about a pious widow's vulnerabilities with the arrival of a nosy, meddling housemaid. This time, Tolentino took home the grand prize and earned the respect of colleagues in the field.
“Even before the awards night came, Orasyon was an early favorite for the top prize, which really surprised me since it was the least likely to win, being in the horror genre,” Tolentino said. The film was also screened in the first UST CineVita film festival last March, for its theme on faith and care for the elderly.
Tolentino's roster of films includes his experimental project featuring hermit crabs in Pagudpud Beach titled Uwang-uwang: The Hermit Chronicles, and his Cinemanila workshop short about the feet, titled Apak. Recently, Tolentino submitted his reedited, three-minute feature, The Boy Who Loves Flowers, to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco), which granted him funds after his story was selected last year. Tolentino was the sole Southeast Asian filmmaker included in UNESCO's top 10 grantees. He is also currently working with the production company, Studio Indio.
Now, Tolentino is keeping his fingers crossed on his latest short film, Kanlungan Sa Impyerno, for the Cinemalaya 2007.
“Just like Orasyon, we shot Kanlungan in Lipa too,” Tolentino said. “I really hope it would fare well to be a finalist in this year's Cinemalaya.”
The brilliance of Brillante
Thomasian indie film director Brillante Mendoza loved surveying his environment. It's as if everything that surrounds him holds a story to tell. The most vivid of these images were those he encountered during his bus trips back home from UST.
“Whenever I took my bus ride home, I made it a point to look on both sides of the vehicle: the glass window where I witnessed the nostalgic sights from the highway and the center aisle where I observed my co-passengers,” he said. “As I gazed upon these characters, I was already inventing stories at the back of my mind.”
Mendoza is a true-blooded Kapampangan. In fact, his three films, Masahista (2005), Kaleldo (2006), and Manoro (2006), were all shot in the scenic plains and spots of Pampanga.
“Besides the fact that I grew up in San Fernando, there were really a lot to observe about Pampanga,” he said. “Pardon my biases, but Pampanga is really picturesque even after it has gone through disasters such as the deluge of lahar (volcanic ash fall).”
Mendoza entered UST in 1979 as an Advertising student. Throughout his four years of stay in the University, he impressed his professors and peers with his dexterity in the visual arts by winning numerous intercollegiate art competitions year after year. Aside from these, what made Mendoza's sojourn in UST most memorable were the times he spent with his colleagues such as Egay Litawa and the late Tatus Saldana, who both became line producers for films.
“I will always cherish the bonding we had during those days when we had to beat deadlines and spend overnight group works just to finish our art plates,” he said.
Mendoza pursued a Master's degree in Advertising at the UST Graduate School after he graduated from the old College of Architecture and Fine Arts (Cafa) in 1983. But he discontinued his studies after he discovered his interest in TV production.
“My friend, Cafa professor Rey Maniego, encouraged me to join a film class organized by Ateneo De Manila University and the Mowelfund Institute,” he said. “That was when I met director Peque Gallaga whom I believed gave me the break in the film industry as an art director for Virgin Forest.”
Fresh from his filmmaking classes, Mendoza became Chito Roño's production designer for the director's first film, Private Show in 1986. Other movies where he aided in production design were comics-inspired films such as Baleleng at ang Gintong Sirena in 1988 and Valentina in 1989.
Mendoza has also worked on TV commercials. His latest commercial is the Smart mobile phone ad featuring Sam Milby, Angel Locsin, Dennis Trillo and Anne Curtis. To date, Mendoza has been a production designer and art director for nearly two decades.
“Although most of the time exhausting, I had so much fun doing the creative background for these movies and commercials,” Mendoza said.
During his stint as a production designer, Mendoza used the name “Dante” for himself. Back then, he felt the name “Brillante” was a very common name.
“After Masahista competed in Locarno, Switzerland, I used again my real name which was actually an advantage for my film to be more recognized by foreigners, especially the Hispanics, who have a clue of my name's etymology” he said.
Masahista took home the Golden Leopard Award, the top award in the digital competition of the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. After the victory, international distributors in Europe started mailing Mendoza to buy the rights for commercial reproduction of the movie. The erotic but socially sensitive movie about a young Kapampangan masseur was also exhibited in other five international film festivals such as in Toronto and in Belgium.
Meanwhile, Mendoza's short film Manoro bested six other competitors in the local digital film category for the best film award in the 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival last year. Manoro also served as the opening film for the first UST CineVita film festival for its multifarious take on the Ayta indigenous community, literacy, and education.
Mendoza has his own production company, Center Stage Productions, which produced Siquijor: The Mystic Island (2007) and Mel Chionglo's Twilight Dancers (2006). In all the movies that he has produced and directed, Mendoza has always wanted to convey his reflections of honesty and truth.
“Whenever I make a film, I always remain faithful to the truth,” Mendoza said. “For me, it is important to translate reality on to the screen for the audience to realize the truth.”
Mendoza has recently finished his fourth full-length movie, Foster Child, which stars Cherry Pie Picache and Jiro Manio in a story about a mother's bitter struggle to have her child adopted. Foster Child was screened in the Director's Fortnight of the Cannes film festival on May 17-27, only the second Filipino movie to be featured in the important Cannes program introducing to the world new directors. The first Filipino director to be featured at the Director's Fortnight was Lino Brocka–in 1978, when “Insiang” was screened in Cannes.
Mendoza is again filming another movie, Tirador, which deals with the lives of small-time snatchers during the election season.
Both Mendoza and Tolentino share their sentiments on the growing industry of films in the digital and video format.
“It's great to know that there are film festivals in the country that aid in the commercialization of independent films and the separation of the high-quality stories from the substandard ones,” Tolentino said.
“For as long as you have the right subject matter for film, embedded in an honest, well-woven storyline, the format should be the least of your worries,” Mendoza said.
According to these two Thomasian directors, aspiring filmmakers should take note of three values when crafting a film: sincerity, passion, and dedication.
“When I make my films, my whole mind, body, and soul are very much drawn to the whole process,” Mendoza said. “That is why after bringing my films to their completion, a distinct kind of fulfillment seeps into me.”
With several years more ahead of their budding careers as filmmakers, both directors promise more unconventional stories and stirring ideas in the future.
“I haven't thought about and made my dream project yet, and I'm not going to stop filming until I do so,” Tolentino said.

Seven presidential bets troop to UST

FOR THE first time since the filing of their candidacies, seven presidential hopefuls trooped to UST along with their supporters to face each other in a forum last December 2.

Former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, senators Benigno Aquino III and Richard Gordon, former president Joseph Estrada, Olongapo councilor John Carlos de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, and evangelical preacher Eddie Villanueva answered questions from students and personalities in “Harapan,” the presidential forum organized by the ABS-CBN News Channel, UST, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, and the Commission on Elections.

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar backed out at the last minute, according to news anchor Ted Failon.

Questions ranged from light ones such as “What vice or luxury can you not live without?” to those asking their opinions on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's bid for Congress, political dynasties, the Maguindanao massacre, and the reproductive health bill.

Two bets—cousins Teodoro and Aquino—appeared to have softened on their support for the population bill. Aquino did not say whether he would vote for it, but pointed out that the government should help parents decide on the number of children, and that the Church has a role in educating couples.

He noted that the population had doubled in the last 20 years. “We cannot deny the problem.”

Teodoro said the state should not have an active role in controlling the population, and that there was no need for a reproductive health bill.

“It is the moral responsibility of those who don't want legislation to control population, to do it themselves in the way they think is moral,” he said.

Gordon proposed to renegotiate with the country's foreign creditors, to free up the budget for more spending on social services.

Many of the candidates hit Arroyo for seeking a congressional seat in Pampanga to stay in power.

Teodoro, the candidate of Arroyo's party Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said he would “do the right thing” as president in response to a question on whether Arroyo as House speaker would have a negative effect on his administration.

On the Maguindanao massacre, candidates blamed President Arroyo for tolerating warlords in Mindanao, but Teodoro said the real issue was lack of money to strengthen the police and military.

De los Reyes, running under the Ang Kapatiran Party, said: “Kung hindi pinadrino 'yan ni President Arroyo, hindi 'yan mangyayari,” referring to the brazen slaughter of 57 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last November 23.

Partido ng Masang Pilipino candidate Estrada, who played the crowd, said: “I will not tolerate warlords in the area. If I were president, they would all be arrested in 12 hours.”

The debate happened four days before the proclamation of Martial Law in Maguindanao, which drew flak from lawmakers, who questioned its legality as there was no rebellion in the province. President Arroyo lifted the declaration on December 12.

Asked by the Varsitarian whether he would do ban so-called political dynasties, Liberal Party bet Aquino said the term “political dynasty” should be defined first, and that acts rather than personalities should be the basis so as not to restrict people from being in government for having the same surnames.

Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas Party said he would exercise “moral and righteous” governance and won't allow relatives to abuse power.

“I would automatically resign in case my immediate relatives commit corruption or crime against the government,” Villanueva said.

The auditorium was filled with around 800 people, most of whom were supporters of the candidates. Prominent political figures such as Ernesto Maceda, Partido ng Masang Pilipino spokesperson, and Bayani Fernando, Gordon's running mate, were also present.

'Presidential alumnus,' barred

Ernesto Ramos, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of the Philippines and alumnus of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (now Arts and Letters), said he was “barred” by ushers of ANC from entering the Medicine Auditorium to join the forum.

“I feel there is discrimination here. It was my first time to step again in the University after almost 30 years of stay in America. I feel that I am not welcome in my own alma mater,” Ramos, who graduated in 1960, told the Varsitarian at the sidelines of the forum.

Ramos, who tags himself as “The Alternative Leader,” said he was a speech writer for United States Rep. Carrie Meek in Washington, D.C. before he decided to “come home.” Danielle Clara P. Dandan

UST researchers enter global tilt finals

THOMASIAN researchers were named finalists in the Global Development Awards and Medals Competition 2009 for a research proposal dealing with the impact of the economic crisis on overseas Filipino workers.

The proposal titled “Crisis-generated Socio-economic Coping Mechanisms by Overseas Filipinos” by Alvin Ang, director of Research Cluster for Culture, Education and Social Issues, and Faculty of Arts and Letters professor Jeremaiah Opiniano, bested over 140 participants across the globe to become one of the three finalists in the competition together with researchers from Brazil and Uruguay.

This marks the first time in 10 years that Filipinos made it to the final round of the contest.

Ang and Opiniano were nominated for the Japanese Award for Outstanding Research on Development category, with the theme “International Migration: Crossing Borders, Changing Lives?” The merit is given to “exceptional, on-going development projects that have given maximum benefit to local communities and need further financial assistance to scale-up the project.”

“Our research aims to determine how overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are coping with the impact of the global economic crisis on their jobs, income, and family welfare conditions,” Ang said.

The study will discuss how OFWs in Taiwan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) were dealing with the economic meltdown. Taiwan and UAE are countries which have the highest number of displaced workers in the electronics sector.

Ang said the study would focus on how the government could provide medium- to long- term responses to the prevailing economic crisis.

“In a situation where the Philippines remains dependent on overseas employment and remittances, the crisis will still see no end until the government responds,” Ang said.

Just last September, OFW remittances reached $12.8 billion, a year-on-year increase of 8.6 percent, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed.

The final round will be held at the Global Development Network's Annual Conference in Czech Republic from Jan. 16 to 18, 2010, where finalists will present their proposals before a jury.

Joining Ang and Opiniano in the finals were “Regional Impacts of the Global Economic Slowdown in Trade Flows: the case of Brazilian states” by Gilberto Libanio (Brazil), and “Survival of Uruguayan Manufacturing Firms in a Trade Openness Process” by Dayna Zaclicever (Uruguay).

University of Santo Tomas : Youngest Civil Law dean appointed

COMMERCIAL law professor Nilo Divina is the new dean of the Faculty of Civil Law, starting his tenure as the youngest dean of the oldest law school in the country in the second semester.

Divina, 44, took over officer in charge Augusto Aligada, who replaced former dean Roberto Abad who was appointed to the Supreme Court last August 10.

Divina said his objective is to put UST in the top three law schools of the country during his three-year term.

“I know it's a gargantuan task, but it can be done,” he said.

To do this, Divina has set a three-point agenda. “[These are]: improving the roster of faculty members, improving the Civil Law facilities, and recruiting the best students not just from UST, but also the best from all over the country,” he said.

In the recent listing of the Commission on Higher Education, UST was ranked 7th among law schools nationwide based on the bar exams passing rate. But Aligada, in an earlier interview, dismissed the listing as “inaccurate” since it lumped all law schools in one listing without taking into account the number of lawyers they produced.

Aligada cited the case of the newly established La Salle-Far Eastern University MBA Juris Doctor program. It placed fourth because of its 77 percent passing rate, with 24 bar takers passing the test. UST, meanwhile, had a lower passing rate of 51.81 percent, but was able to produce 100 new Thomasian lawyers.

Divina said his office would coordinate with the Office for Alumni Relations to attract “well-meaning” patrons and friends to raise funds.

“Coupled with a scholarship grant, it would be easier to attract the top students from all over the country to enroll in UST if you have the best faculty members and the best facilities,” Divina said.

Moves to establish the Center for Commercial Law started under Abad's tenure will have to wait, he said.

“Bobby (Abad) had laid the groundwork for the establishment of a commercial law center. We will continue that. But first, my priorities are fixed on my three-point agenda,” Divina said.

Divina also plans to put a website for the faculty, which would serve as a legal search

By Darenn G. Rodriguez

UST Archives director Fr. Fidel Villarroel, O.P.

THE UST Archives houses a repository of countless documents, manuscripts and records of the country’s oldest university. For many people, reading, collecting and maintaining dog-eared pages seem may be an impossible task taking years and years to accomplish.

But Fr. Fidel Villarroel, O.P. continues to labor in the task of conserving and preserving the collection. He has served as UST’s archivist for 47 years. He has grown old with the task, just like the archives. Yet, he sees his job as “the most beautiful thing” he has experienced in life. Villarroel is a self-confessed bookworm who loves to read and browse through antique documents– an unsurprising fact for a man who, early in life, had shown signs of becoming the keeper of memories past.

Preaching history
Growing up in the town of Tejerina in Leon, Spain, Villarroel was inspired to become a priest by his high school teachers at the Dominican schools of La Mejorada and Santa Maria de Nieva.
“It was during high school when I developed the vocation of being a Dominican priest. That was the only thing I thought of taking as I was contented to become like my Dominican professors someday,” Villarroel told the Varsitarian.
While in high school, he became interested in studying grammar, language, Spanish history and literature. Although he had an inclination toward history, he did not consider becoming a historian since he was already focused on fulfilling his vocation to the priesthood.
But destiny intervened for Villarroel. After he was ordained in 1953, he and his classmate were sent to London by his Dominican superiors to take up post-graduate studies in History.
“I was sent away to England, for three years, to take up History at the University of London,” Villarroel said.
After finishing his Master’s degree in History in 1957, Villarroel was assigned to the Philippines to head the Spanish department of the University, a post he held for 22 years, from 1957 up to 1966, and then from 1968 until 1981. It was in UST that he obtained his doctorate in sacred theology.
Villarroel was appointed archivist of the University in 1959. He said he was the first person to hold the post after a hiatus of six years when his predecessor, Fr. Jose Maria Gonzales, O.P., left the post in 1953. It was also during this time that Villarroel began to research and write about Philippine history. He was especially interested in Filipino patriots who studied in UST, such as Jose Rizal, Fr. Jose Burgos and Marcelo H. Del Pilar.
“Since my arrival in the country in 1957, I always had the history of the Philippines in mind. Most of my books and my researches have been about Philippine history and also Church history,” Villarroel said.
Villarroel has authored some 20 history books, most of which deal with the history of the University and the Philippines. Among them are Apolinario Mabini; Father Jose Burgos, University Student; Jose Rizal and the University of Santo Tomas; Lorenzo Ruiz, the Protomartyr of the Philippines and his Companions; and The Dominicans and the Philippine Revolution.
His solid works in history have earned Villarroel national and international acclaim. Among the awards he received were the National Book Award, Catholic Authors Award, Dr. Eufronio Alip Award for Historical Research, Outstanding Thomasian Awardee for Historical Research, St. Antoninus of Florence Award for Humanities-Church History, and Gintong Aklat Award from the Book Development Association of the Philippines.
Villarroel was also invited to speak at international conventions such as the International Conference on the Historiography of the Church in China held in Belgium (1991) and the International Seminar on Ferdinand Magellan (2004).
Outside of UST, Father Villarroel enjoys a reputation as a masterful historian and scholar. Popular historian Ambeth Ocampo at one time wrote a column reporting how Father Villarroel exposed several historical errors in just one short paragraph by a Filipino historian. Researchers from other institutions also praised Father Villarroel for readily helping them in navigating through the labyrinth of the UST Archives and for his selfless assistance in their researches.

Keeping the house in order

Despite his genuine interest in history, Villarroel was confronted with a formidable task when he started working as UST archivist. According to him, the archives were in a state of disarray at the time of his appointment.
“When I arrived here, the archives were located in a small room in front of the Fathers’ Residence. It was unkempt, very dusty, disorganized and dark, with termites eating up some of the books,” he recounted.
He and his staff then began to restore the archives by arranging the documents according to year and topic, maintaining the cleanliness of the facility, and increasing the number of sections of the archives.
“Until now, I have been doing a lot of work in cleaning up the archives, putting it in order and increasing the number of our sections,” Villarroel said.
Some of the tasks that keep Villarroel and his staff busy are cataloguing the archived documents and restoring damaged centuries-old records.
“Many of the documents are breaking down in pieces, while some of the manuscripts are already unreadable, so they need restoration and preservation through chemical treatment,” he explained.
Villarroel also started microfilming documents stored in the archives such as baptismal records coming from different parts of the country dating back to the Spanish era.
Still more research
Aside from being the archivist and head of the old Spanish Department, Villarroel was also the Prefect of Libraries from 1978 to 1991 and adviser of the defunct Spanish student publication, La Voz Estudiantil, from 1957 to 1967. He has also been teaching Church History at the Faculty of Sacred Theology since 1963.
Moreover, Villarroel was involved in activities outside of the University such as serving as the secretary of the Papal Nuncio for 32 years (1959-1991) and also as the Dominican Promoter of Beatification Causes, which aided the beatification of the seven Dominican martyrs of Nagasaki of the 17th century and perhaps most important, resulted in the canonization of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, and several of his companion martyrs who were alumni or teachers of UST.
Despite his advanced years, Father Villarroel’s heart remains close to historical research. His latest project is to write the last part of his planned three-volume history of the University. So far, he said, he has read about 700 pages of archived records from the 20th century that can help him finish the last part of his UST history.
“That is a very meticulous task because I have to read all the archived records from the 20th century which I still have to write about,” Villarroel said.
Despite all the pressure and strain of research, Villarroel said he enjoys his job as archivist. He added he takes particular joy that whenever he rediscovers long-lost information about the University.
“Finding data and information about the past, which nobody has seen before, makes the discovery one of the happiest moments of my life, especially when it pertains to the history of UST,” he explained.
Deriving intense pleasure from scholarship and research and love for any piece of history about Asia’s oldest University, Father Villarroel vows to continue poring over the centuries-old documents stacked in the shelves of the archives, hoping to further save the memories of the University from dust and oblivion.

University of Santo Tomas Alumni: An International-renowned Singer and Performer

A match made in heaven best describes the marriage of performing couple Robert Seña & Isay Alvarez. In their collaborative recording Dueto, music lovers would instantly fall for the sweet, contagious love the couple evokes in their singing.
“Because we produced Dueto, we hand-picked the elements that we wanted to include in the album,” Alvarez said. “Although we exerted a lot of effort, we are both very happy with how it came out.”
Seña and Alvarez spent their college years in UST during the early 1980's. Although both of them were Thomasians, their love story unfolded only after college as their paths never crossed when they were on campus.
“I was ahead of him by two years,” Alvarez said. “We never met inside the campus though.”
Taking AB Sociology major in Translation in the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Alvarez belonged to the first batch of Artistang Artlets when it was organized in 1981, a year short of her graduation year. She was also a member of the UST Action Singers. Meanwhile, Seña, who took Industrial Design in the University, was a member of the Salinggawi Dance Troupe and the Atelier Cultural Organization. Although they knew people from each other's organizations, they never met.
“I even told Robert my amazement about us not even meeting each other in the then UST Cooperative Canteen during break time,” Alvarez said.

Perfect combination
Growing up, Alvarez always joined school songfests. Her love for music started when she saw and heard Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.
“I even wanted to be her sister and until now I do,” Alvarez said. “I think she inspired me the most to penetrate the world of theater later on.”
Seña, even at a young age, was always being asked to perform at family gatherings because of his breathtaking singing prowess. A play in Fort Santiago that he saw as a child inspired him to become a theater artist. “I was only 10 years old then and that play really sank right into my mind as very impressive.”
Their aspirations continued to blossom in college. Alvarez became active at the Artistang Artlets and the UST Action Singers (forerunner of today's UST Singers). When asked about her fondest memories in UST, she would mention her friends in those two organizations. “Up to now I'm still very well-bonded with my batch mates in Artistang Artlets,” she said.
Meanwhile, Seña enjoyed the arduous life of an Industrial Design student. It was in the strain of putting up exhibits and staying up late at night finishing projects that he found his best friends and colleagues. Seña was then already performing in stage productions in the now defunct Metropolitan Theater.
“Those activities are really close to my heart,” he said.
Meanwhile, right after her classes, Alvarez would go straight to the Metropolitan Theater to sing with the chorus in theatrical productions there. Later, she was soon given roles to play until she portrayed Monina in Gines Tan's 1985 musical Magsimula Ka. It was during her stint in the musical that she met Seña who was also in the production. They were introduced by their friends during rehearsals and gradually, the two performers became close. Although they became inseparable during the staging of Magsimula Ka, their relationship was purely platonic. No sparks flew between the graceful alto and the vibrant tenor.
“There was nothing romantic initially,” Alvarez recalled. “Even up to the time when we went to London to do Miss Saigon, we were just very good friends.”
Four years later, they found themselves performing together in the original 1989 London production of the hit musical Miss Saigon. Alvarez narrated how Seña would sweetly send her flowers or fruits during rehearsals. “He never failed to surprise me,” she said. “Robert is really sweet and thoughtful.”
In the musical, Alvarez played the role of Gigi, the world-weary prostitute who sings the heart-breaking song Movie in My Mind, while Seña played Thuy, the man betrothed to the female lead, Kim. But outside of the fiction of the stage, musical romance was blooming between the two actors.
In 1991, three years after the opening of Miss Saigon, Seña and Alvarez got married in a civil wedding in London. Two church weddings followed, first in London, then in Manila. Alvarez left Miss Saigon after getting pregnant with their first daughter, Maria. Seña, meanwhile, played the role of Judas in the hit West End revival of the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, and the lead role of the engineer in the German production of Miss Saigon.

Back where they belong
Despite the greener pastures in London, the couple decided that it was better for them to raise their growing family back in the Philippines.
“We were waiting for our papers in order to become residents in London, but when we had a baby, we didn't think that London was the best environment to raise children, so we forfeited our residency and went back to the Philippines,” Alvarez said.
“It was really the best decision for us because here we get to rest, go on holiday, and spend time with our kids. In London, we had to work non-stop because the shows were eight times a week,” Seña added.
At present, the couple has three children: 20-year-old Maria, 13-year-old Roberto Jericho, and seven-year-old Emilio. After Emilio was born, Alvarez took a break from the stage to raise her kids. She would wake up at six in the morning to drive her children to school.
Meanwhile, Seña continued to work on stage companies. He played Emilio Aguinaldo in Miong, Ravana in Rama at Sita, and Judas in the Philippine production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Alvarez returned to the limelight through plays such as Himala, My Fair Lady, Mga Anghel sa Lupa, West Side Story, Once on This Island, and They're Playing Our Song. Both of them reprised their original roles in the Philippine production of Miss Saigon in 2000. They also produced a show together, Love You, Hate You, Love You, at the Music Museum last year.

To God be the glory
Both credit their strong faith in God for the success of their personal and professional lives together. “For some people, being together as a couple and working together at the same time is difficult. But because we're both Christians, we try to do an excellent job in everything that we do,” Alvarez said.
Aside from this, what separates the couple from the rest of the artists is their undying support for Filipino music. According to the couple, through their newest album, they aim to revive the beautiful Filipino songs of the past that they believe should not be forgotten.
“What we really want is for Filipinos to be exposed to a different kind of music genre and at the same time, for them to appreciate old Filipino music,” Seña said. “Hopefully, artists like us who are trying to bring these songs back to life would succeed in this endeavor.”
The couple encouraged Thomasians and aspiring performers not to give up, to cultivate their craft, and to join organizations that will help them improve and develop their talents.
“Don't be afraid to explore different things, and when you learn something new, don't forget to share your discovery,” Seña said.

University of Santo Tomas Medtech Alumni turns to Bossa Music

IT WAS her dream to become a doctor so she could heal through medicine. But a twist of fate made her decide to heal through her therapeutic soothing voice.

Thomasian Medical Technology (Med Tech) graduate and Bossa Nova singer Sofia Josephine Mozo had her mind set on taking a medical study grant in Japan last year, but she simply couldn’t refuse the warm reception she got from the public after she released a demo tape of bossa, a Brazilian style of jazz.
“Although I was already set to go to Japan’s Gifu University as a research assistant in Hematology, I took the public’s appreciation of my song as a sign from God to sing Bossa songs for people,” Sofia said.
Sofia explained that after singer Sitti Navarro sparked the popularity of bossa, Ivory Records was looking for a Bossa singer of its own.
“They asked me to do a demo tape of the song ‘Desafinado’ which was aired over the radio,” she recalled. “Surprisingly, the song was warmly received and people were requesting for it.”
That one song eventually led to more songs that ultimately gave birth to Sofia’s debut album, Bossa Latino Lite and shortly afterwards, a sophomore album called In Love with Bossa Nova.
Although Sofia admitted that her unexpected entry into the music scene was a “fortunate accident,” as she was only asked by Ivory records to do a demo tape of a Bossa song or coach a would-be Bossa singer, the sultry 22-year-old singer was not expecting anything big as her song was aired over the radio.
Medicine and music
Although Sofia was more used to Med Tech functions such as blood extraction, identification of bacteria, and analysis of human feces, she found no trouble adjusting to the music industry having been a well-versed musician since high school.
“I’ve been a member of three bands. In high school, I had a rock band and alternative band and in college, I was part of an R&B and reggae band,” she said. “One way or another, my experiences with these bands helped boost my confidence when I began my singing career.”
She added that even though she had chosen Med Tech as her pre-med, her passion for music would always prevail over her.
“Even when I’m on hospital duty I would listen to different types of music that I like,” she said.
While most of her classmates were part of the boy-band craze during her high school years in St. Theresa’s College, Sofia was preoccupied with studying the history of Bossa music.
Bossa nova is a style of Brazilian music introduced in 1958 by Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes and Joao Gilberto.
The musical style evolved from samba but is more complex harmonically and is less percussive. It is most commonly performed on a nylon-string classical guitar, played with fingers instead of a pick. Other instruments include the piano, drums and percussions.
“My best friend in second-year high school, who was listening to a lot of popular music, gave me a tape containing songs of different languages. One of the songs was ‘Desafinado’,” Sofia said.
She narrated that upon listening to the song, her respect and curiosity for bossa grew.
“As a musician, I was challenged by the complex melody of the bossa genre. If you listen to the song, it may first sound dissonant and sometimes off-key, but if you listen more closely, you’ll see that it is not,” she said. “Bossa is actually a type of sound reminiscent of jazz.”
She was immediately swept off her feet upon listening to the sounds of Jobim, one of the creators of bossa. Immediately, she started studying how to play the bossa nova herself.
Although Sofia fell in love with bossa the moment she listened to it, she observed that it would be much better if it could gain more listeners.
“When my first album was released, my ultimate goal was for people to understand and appreciate Bossa more,” Sofia said. “For me, that was as equally important as selling the album because if people genuinely understand your music, they would also be interested in you, which is more important than any award or title.”
Thomasian beat
Despite her recent success, Sofia never fails to look back at her days as a Thomasian.
She said that much of who she is right now is due to her four years as a Med Tech student in UST.
“What I learned most in UST Med Tech is to be very reflexive, witty in making decisions and in handling pressure,” Sofia said. “I also learned how to multi-task from my hospital duties at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center.”
She added that until now, she still finds it hard to adjust to being a show-biz personality because all her life she had been a very private person.
“The feeling is so surreal. But I have always made it a point not to let my success get into my head and see to it that my feet are on the ground,” Sofia said. “This is probably another thing that UST taught me.”
Sofia may be well on her way to success, but she never forgets her dream of becoming a doctor.
“I will still take up medicine. But right now, I am just working with what I have and being thankful for the blessings.”

University of Santo Tomas Graduate: a National Artist for Literature

I enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas in 1944; the school then was in its old campus in Intramuros, close to the Santo Domingo Church. The main campus in España was the interment camp of Allied civilians, mostly Americans. After the first air raid by American carrier planes in September 1944, all classes in Manila were closed and in October that year, with Manila already starving, the country in shambles, my mother, a cousin and I walked all the way from Manila to my hometown Rosales, Pangasinan, where we waited for the Liberation. In January 1945, I joined the American Army as a civilian employee, and left the Army in October 1945. The following year, when Santo Tomas opened, I enrolled in the college of Liberal Arts as a preparatory medicine student.
How did I get to join the Varsitarian?
Miss Paz Latorena whom I already knew was a first rate writer was teaching English and I purposely enrolled in her class. On our first day, she made us write on a theme whose title I do not remember. It was not difficult—so when I finished it in 15 minutes, I asked if it was all right for me to leave. She said, yes.
The following session, she called my name and told me to see her after the class. She said I should take the examination for the Varsitarian that forthcoming week, and that I must not fail to do it. And that was how I joined the Varsitarian, first as assistant literary editor, together with Dolores Locsin, The literary editor at the time was Albert Card—an American veteran studying under the GI bill of rights.
In those days, there were separate entrances for men and women and separate classes as well, but not in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters because we were so few, the Varsitarian office was in the ground floor, the huge room at the right of the main entrance in the main building. Voz Estudiantil, the paper in Spanish shared the office with us. The Varsi Adviser was Francisco Cuerva, and the Varsitarian moderator was Fr. Florencio Muñoz who was also the University secretary; he was succeeded by Fr. Francisco Villacorta. It was the age of the typewriter, the flatbed press and the linotype. When we put the paper to bed, we really put it to bed in the flatbed press at the UST Printing Press which was then at the corner of P. Noval and España. There we often worked late at night, and got our fingers dirty with printer’s ink while we helped the printers set up the pages with the cuts and the proofs fresh from the linotypes.
When there were huge blanks that needed material, we typed out the stories right there. In those days, there was indeed a close working relationship between the editorial staff and the printers.
My first editor-in-chief was Eleno Mencias who was a medical student, then came Santiago Artiaga who wrote a column, Tiago Tiaga. He was in law, and finally, Manuel V. Salak. He was taking up Law. And on the fourth year in the staff, I became editor-in-chief, with Constante Roldan as my managing editor. I remember Cenon Rivera who was staff artist, then J. Elizalde Navarro, who lived by himself in a small ground floor apartment near the University. I often visited him and we reminisced about the war, and talked about art. He was then very much under the influence of Carlos V. Francisco.
Pepino Vinzons Asis, alumni editor—in the eighties, he visited me at my bookshop. He had become a priest and was in a poor parish somewhere in Bicol. We talked about the priesthood, its hardships I had hoped he would visit again.
There were several fixtures in the Varsitarian, the first of course, was Francisco Cuyerva who was the publications director and the office manager, Enrique Lumba who was responsible for running the office. I had no typewriter and he permitted me to work in the office at lunchtime or late in the evening typing out my manuscripts. Then there was Mike Evangelista who was alumni editor, who was also a very good proof reader, and Benny Buenaventura—the hippie poet and perennial student, who continually gave us his poems—some of them publishable. I was walking behind him once on the way out of the campus to España and he was talking to himself. I moved closer and realized he was reciting Shakespeare.
In the Varsitarian, Ben Rodriguez, Tedoro Benigno, Mary Ruff Tagle, and Eugenia Duran Apostol wrote short stories, and Adoracion Trinidad contributed poetry. Juan Gatbonton and Neal Cruz were reporters. Delia Coronel who was the coed editor became a nun and in Marawi, she translated the Maranao epic, The Darangen, for which she has yet to be fully honored.
My first formal dinner was tendered by the Father Rector, Angel Blas, for the new Varsitarian staff in 1946 at Carbungco’s—the only posh restaurant shortly after World War II. And so there we were, before that fancy dinner table arrangement, the different kinds of forks and knives. I did not know the sequence so I watched the priests, and followed their example. The red and white wine—that was easy enough. The soup and the fish, too. Then the brandy after dinner. I wondered why it was not so generously poured as the wines and so I gulped it, not sipped it, and almost choked.
I remember Johnny Frivaldo and our meeting with Father Villacorta, how he had asked for more pay for us staffers and more scholarships—which Father Villacorta granted. To prove his point, Johnny lifted one of his shoes which had a hole in the sole. Johnny was a very good politician, as his career later proved.
And Gloria Garchetorena, and Celso Carunungan—as literary editors they made a beautiful and a hard-working pair. Celso could write those complex and profound sentences—but he elected to write simply as was the fad in those days with Carlos Bulosan, and William Saroyan.
And since I was then an avid follower of William Faulkner, I tried to write differently, in a manner prolix and confused, one page, one sentence of convoluted thinking.
I recall only too well how once, Manuel Salak, who was then Varsi editor, and Manila Times reporter had inquired about one essay that I wrote. He said, it was beautifully written, but what did I want to say? I thought the words were by themselves explicit.My most important lesson in writing was given to me by Fr. Juan Labrador, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. This was sometime in 1947, I think. NVM Gonzalez was then editing the Saturday Evening News Magazine and he had used one of my short stories.
Father Labrador took me to the canteen—the building at the left of the main building. The ground floor was for students, the second floor for the faculty. We had mami and siopao. He asked me to look out of the window and tell him what I saw. I said, the high school girls playing softball. He said, suppose I put curtains on both sides of the window, what will you see? I said, the curtains and the girls playing softball. Then he leaned forward and asked, Suppose I covered the entire window with beautiful curtains, what do you see?
I said, the curtains, Father.
He said, that is writing. Never cover the window with curtains, no matter how beautiful. Leave something clear so that your reader can see what is beyond the window.
His eyes twinkled, Besides, you will always be a second rate Faulkner. You can be a first rate Jose.
So, goodbye William Faulkner. And shortly after, Miss Latorena dropped by the Varsi office. She had read my latest short story and she said, now I was not just telling stories but writing them.
The happiest days of my youth were spent at Santo Tomas. Thanks to the Varsitarian, I had a small pay and a scholarship as well. And most of all, although it was not at the campus where I met her, it was at UST where my future wife was studying, too. When I first met her, I asked if she had read me. She said, no. Did she not read Varsitarian at all?
Again, she said, no.
It was a monumental put down, but it did not faze me. V
Francisco Sionil Jose is the National Artist for Literature. He is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers in English. His works, most famous of which are the Rosales Saga, had been translated in 22 other languages. He founded the Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets and Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) in 1957 and became the Varsitarian editor-in-chief from 1948-1949.

Gatekeepers of National Pride: Alumni of University of Santo Tomas

THEY WERE men of wisdom whose intellectual guile and artistry have enamored a nation and kept it from the bondage of cultural apathy and ignorance.
Of the 16 Thomasians who were named national artists, three are former Varsitarian staff members–Francisco Sionil Jose and Bienvenido Lumbera for literature, and Jeremias Elizalde Navarro for the visual arts.
Francisco Sionil Jose
During his formative years as a writer, Jose, a naitve of Rosales, Pangasinan, was deeply inspired by the works of “Jose Rizal, Anton Chekov, Stojowsky, William Faulkner, and several black writers,” according to him. There was also the constant support he got from his mother Sophia and Fr. Juan Labrador, O.P., former dean of the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets), now Faculty of Arts and Letters. Convinced at a young age that writing was “an expression of memory,” Jose, the 2001 National Artist for Literature, would live by this principle, his impressions, social consciousness—and memory—finding flesh in his novels, short stories, poetry and essays.
“It (writing) is memory put down on paper. So my earliest memories are my basic capital as a writer,” Jose tells the Varsitarian.
In 1945, he entered UST as a Literature major then joined the Varsitarian the following year.
Jose’s subsequent editorship, however, had to endure the heavy hand of censorship, with articles especially those with political overtures, having to be tamed by the school administration.
“It was during that time (1947-1949) that the Parity Rights was amended,” Jose says. “The students back then were very interested in politics.”
But it was only after the Second World War that Jose and his colleagues truly felt the burden of censorship which greatly exasperated them.
“We knew ourselves to be mature, and we knew what censorship was. And though we never took it upon ourselves, there were times when I got very angry about it,” he says.
Jose also founded the Philippine center of the international organization of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN) in 1957. As a man of letters, he thrived in the company of deliberate solitude, a situation that helped him complete some of his many notable novels such as Ermita (1988) and the Rosales Saga, which includes Po-on (1984) and Tree (1978).
His experiences abroad gave rise to his other successful novels such as The Pretenders (1962) and My Brother, My Executioner (1979).
In 1974, Jose received the Outstanding Alumnus Award for his literary achievements. His other writing diadems include the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1980, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1981 where he bagged the grand prize for his novel Mass, and the Varsitarian’s Parangal Hagbong in 2005.
Bienvenido Lumbera
Wordplay and a sense of social awareness typified Lumbera’s literary temperament.
The Lipa, Batangas native injected social relevance to his essays and stories by using intricate yet level-headed words which he learned from reading the dictionary and some children’s story books during his primary-school days.
“When I was in Grade 6, I wrote a composition using fancy words from the dictionary,” Lumbera says. “My teacher could not believe that I wrote it, and that I had the ability to write such a composition.”
After high school, Lumbera heeded the call of writing as he entered UST in 1950 to pursue a degree in journalism. He joined the Varsitarian in 1953 and became a literary editor before graduating cum laude in 1954.
Lumbera’s poetry collection, “Sunog sa Lipa at Iba Pang Tula,” won a Palanca in 1975 and like Jose, he also received the Magsaysay award in 1993. In 1998, he was awarded the Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines Para sa Sining.
As a librettist and scholar, Lumbera has published books on culture and nationalism, one of which is Philippine Literature: A History and Anthology (1982), which he wrote and edited with his wife Cynthia. The anthology, while recounting the country’s literary history into five periods (pre-colonial, Spanish colonial, American colonial, the Third Republic and post-Edsa), also raised the standards of Philippine literature against the “prevailing literary customs” characterized by the aversion toward the study of ethnic lore. He also penned Writing the Nation: Pag-aakda ng Bansa (2002), which tackled Philippine arts and culture.
Proclaimed National Artist for Literature in 2006, Lumbera, whose works subsequently became part of the canons of Philippine literary criticism today, holds this distinction in high esteem. “When (a person) assumes a title like the National Artist, one needs to be circumspect in his views since he is speaking from a point of authority,” he says.
Jeremias Elizalde Navarro
Besides producing the finest writers of the country, the Varsitarian also produced masters in the visual arts. Case in point: the late Jeremias Elizalde Navarro who was declared a National Artist for Painting in 1999.
The Antique-born Navarro first entered the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts in 1947, but later transferred to UST where he majored in Painting. He joined the Varsitarian in 1948 and became its Art editor from 1949 to 1951.
As a V artist, Navarro conceived Varsilaffs, which provided comical renditions to everyday University-life scenes and Season’s Harvest which portrayed harvest-time landscapes.
Besides dabbing paint onto the canvas, Navarro also explored and used other media such as hardwood, metal and stone in his later works. He was also known as one of the pioneers in incision paintings, a technique that emphasizes texture by laying thick paint on carved wood or stone surfaces.
Among his masterpieces were “A Flying Contraption for Mr. Icarus” commissioned by the Lopez Museum (1984), and “I’m Sorry Jesus, I Can’t Attend Christmas This Year” (1965).
Navarro represented the country in various artistic competitions abroad, such as those in Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Japan, Indonesia, and the United States among others. He also staged numerous one-man exhibitions.
For his sharpness with the pen vis-à-vis his artistic brilliance, the Varsitarian conferred on Navarro, (who also ventured into poetry and art criticism later in his career), a posthumous Parangal Hagbong award in 1999. On June 10, 1999, he died of bone cancer at the age of 75.

University of Santo Tomas Graduate: Campus Journalism runs in Bautista Family

“THERE is no balm in writing,” the father told the children, reminding them about the risk of flirting with letters and choosing writing as a profession.
But that mild warning hardly discouraged three of Felix Bautista, Jr.’s 12 children from entering the world of campus journalism through the Varsitarian.
Growing up in an environment influenced by their father Felix’s journalistic temperance and mother Lourdes Syquia’s academic guidance, Maria Angelica, Maria Regina, and Noel Martin never dreamed of becoming editors-in-chief of the Varsitarian. From their parents they enjoyed the liberty of choosing their own career paths, but the lure of writing proved too irresistible. Before they knew it, they were occupying the V’s top post.
For a while, it seemed they were influenced only by their father’s routine as a newsman and later speech writer of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. But the Bautista siblings were for real. The interest was there as early as high school when all three became editors in chief of UST High School’s student publication, The Aquinian.
All the while, father Felix never wavered in his support, consistently reminding his children that “writing should be done to express, not to impress.” The advice—nothing short of a mantra—would be distinctive character of Felix’s writings, and later, those of the children.
Eighth-born Maria Angelica “Gigi” Bautista-Rapadas served as Varsitarian editor-in-chief from 1978 to 1979. A magna cum laude graduate of B.S. Mathematics and recipient of the Benavides Civic Award, Angelica is an information technology expert and at present, chief information officer (CIO) of the Ayala Corporation. She is also the general manager of HRMall, a wholly-owned shared services subsidiary of the Ayala Group of Companies for human resource and payroll systems.
Angelica’s writing skills brought her far. In 1979, she was chosen to represent the Philippines to the Japan Air Lines Summer Scholarship Program in Tokyo after undergoing a series of interviews and submitting an essay titled, “How the Young Graduate Can Meaningfully Contribute to the Development of His Country.” She joined 35 other delegates from the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore. Angelica says the knowledge she gained during her three-year stay at the Varsitarian helped her in becoming the leader she is today.
“The V was my first real experience in managing people,” says Rapadas, who rose through the ranks of the V’s news section before becoming editor-in-chief. “I try to build up the same spirit of teamwork, dedication, and camaraderie in all the teams I work for or lead in the corporate world. Of course, having the talent to write and communicate is a valuable asset in any job. Writing a memorandum or business letter or report well, and with ease, helps.”
Before working as CIO for Ayala in January 2006, Rapadas was senior director for operations of the Asia Pacific division of Oracle, the world’s largest software distributor. She joined the corporation in 1995, first starting as Practice Director for Oracle Philippines before moving to Oracle Southeast Asia. She worked at Oracle for 12 years.
Following her footsteps was Maria Regina “Gina” Bautista-Navarrete. The 10th of the brood, she became editor-in-chief in 1984 while taking up B.S. Industrial Engineering. Currently the general manager and president of Red Ribbon Bakeshops in the Philippines and the United States, she acknowledges the Varsitarian’s pivotal role in her success.
Starting out as a news reporter and becoming associate and managing editor afterwards, Regina recounts how the Varsitarian equipped her with the essential social skills needed during interviews.
“The Varsitarian helped me gain confidence from having to interview a lot of people as a writer,” Regina says in an interview with the Varsitarian’s Breaktime Magazine last May.
Apart from the Varsitarian, she also delved into other fields of interest, such as volleyball where she played for the Faculty of Engineering. But despite her preoccupation, she still graduated cum laude and like her older sister Angelica, she also received the Benavides Civic Award for outstanding students of UST.
Being siblings to someone who also managed the V’s highest post, comparison between them may seem inevitable, but Regina did not feel they were being compared at all.
“I guess it helped that we weren’t really contemporaries. My sister already graduated from college when I joined the Varsitarian,” she says. “As for my younger brother, I think we overlapped a bit, but I was more senior (to him) so there was really no competition at all. I think we have more similarities than differences.”
Both Angelica and Regina served as editors-in-chief while their father Felix was still publications adviser. The sisters were naturally concerned of possible impressions that their position was a product of nepotism.
“But to be fair, the fear was mine alone,” Angelica says. “I never heard or felt anything negative from my staff: no resistance, no insinuations of favoritism.”
They note that family relation never made them skip the paper’s tedious selection process. Their surname might have been Bautista, but it was fair game in the screening.
“I rose from the ranks, first as reporter and then as News Editor,” Angelica recalls. “The qualifying exams were also graded by several ex-editors and assistants, apart from my dad. I didn’t have any private lessons.”
Dealing with pressure
For 42-year-old pediatrician Noel Martin, the virtue of time management was one of the many values he learned during his five-year stint at the V. Despite a heavy academic load typical of a second-year Medicine student, he still excelled as a Varsitarian writer and even assumed the top post in 1987.
While enrolled in Medical Technology from which he graduated magna cum laude, Noel applied for the Varsitarian in 1983 and was accepted as a news and special reports writer. The following year, he was promoted as news editor before becoming associate and later managing editor during his freshman year in Medicine.
Being the 11th and the youngest among Felix’s editor-in-chief children, Noel came under the pressure of performing just as well. He says much of it came from himself than from others.
“You always wanted to be better,” recalls Bautista, who now teaches Biochemistry and Medical Nutrition at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. “Not better than the one who had preceded you, but you (simply) wanted to be better than what you could actually do.”
Regina was no stranger to her brother’s predicament.
“Since my eldest sister had set the bar very high, all of us who came after felt that we too had to do well, in whatever we did,” she says. “I remember my mom telling us that we shouldn’t study too hard, that it was better to sleep than to study. She would send us to our rooms and turn off the lights, so we would set our alarm clocks at four in the morning if we wanted to finish our homework or cram for an exam.“
Noel says he ignored the people who occasionally compared him with his sisters, but took the experience more as a motivation to excel.
Aside from teaching, Noel also manages online communities, most notably He stopped his medical practice four years ago to focus on his master’s degree in Business Administration specializing in Health Care at the Ateneo de Manila University.

University of Santo Tomas: A Rich Heritage of Arts and Letters

DORIS GAMALINDA. Eric Gamalinda. Natasha Gamalinda. Jonathan Gamalinda.
For these three generations of Gamalindas, being with the Varsitarian runs in the family.
Doris, the family matriarch, led the way when she became the paper’s literary editor from 1947 to 1948. Her son Eric would assume the same post more than 20 years later, before her granddaughter Natasha took her turn as the section’s editor just five years ago.
Like his kin, Natasha’s cousin Jonathan all but escaped the lure of the Varsitarian where he served as assistant art director in 2006.
Adoracion “Doris” Trinidad-Gamalinda started young with the craft, writing as early as elementary when she worked on her valedictory address. There was no stopping the writer-in-the-making since then, as Doris further honed her skills at the Varsitarian during the post-war.
But Doris the Writer would take a break soon after graduating summa cum laude in Philosophy at the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. For the next two decades, she would become a full-time housewife to Marcial Gamalinda, Jr., whom she married in her junior year in college.
She returned to writing only after her husband suffered a stroke and had to quit his job at the Development Bank of the Philippines. She worked as the Women Section editor of the Manila Times before the paper was closed down soon after Martial Law was declared in 1972.
Doris then moved to Focus Magazine where she became associate editor in 1973. Four years later, she led the National Media Production Center as its publications head before editing the People’s Magazine in 1978 and Woman’s Home Companion Magazine in 1980.
Though it was quite obvious that writing ran in the Gamalindas, Doris swears she never prodded her children or grandchildren to follow her footsteps.
“I have never imposed my ‘values,’ literary or otherwise, on my progeny. I am ‘mom’ or ‘lola’, always will be. And I hope this is value enough,” she says.
But whether she liked it or not, at least one of her eight children would go the similar route. It was quite evident early in his life that young Eric was no different from his mom. He devoted much of his free time reading, an attitude that introduced him to literature.
In no time, Eric began reaping awards, too. At 17, and a college freshman in 1972, he published his first collection of poems titled Fire Poem, Rain Poem.
Like his mother, he, too, joined the and wrote for the Literary section in 1974. He later became assistant literary editor, and then literary editor in 1976.
After college, Eric worked for the Mabuhay Magazine, wrote music reviews for Jingle Magazine, and penned investigative articles for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
His essays, plays, short stories and poems garnered several Palanca awards. In 1997, he became the publications director of the Asian American Writers Workshop. He was also a resident writer artist of different international organizations in Europe and was the first Filipino to have a story published in the Harper’s Magazine, a monthly general-interest magazine in the United States covering literature, culture, finance, politics and the arts.
Eric says her mother never failed to give him advice—though subtly—about his writing from his Varsitarian years up to the present.
Although given this privilege by his mother, Eric tries not to do the same to the batch of younger writers in their family.
“I tell them when I like their work, but I think young writers should be free to develop their talent on their own. My opinion might just inhibit them or make them too self-conscious,” says Eric who taught Asian American Literature and Asian American Cinema at the Columbia University last semester.
Never too late
For Doris’ poetess granddaughter Natasha, being a late bloomer is a non-issue as far as her innate writing talent is concerned. Unlike the other Gamalindas, she did not start writing until she was in high school.
She might be a bookworm like her grandmother and uncle when she was younger, but 25-year-old Natasha felt she was meant for something else other than writing. So far, the so-called search for that “something else” has gone nowhere but in writing. Like Doris and Eric, she is also with writing. She says much of her inspiration came from her late aunt Diana, who wrote poems.
“I was mostly inspired by the poems of a late aunt who was also a writer before she drowned when she was 19,” she says. “I had romantic notions that I was continuing what she might have left behind. When I think about it now, it seems silly, but that’s how whatever it was that drove me to where I am now had started.”
Natasha was a member of The Flame, the Faculty of Arts and Letters’ college paper, and the Thomasian Writers’ Guild when her poem, “Puddle,” was published in Montage, the Varsitarian’s literary magazine, in 2002. She became the V’s literary editor in 2003 and then chairperson of the 20th Ustetika Literary Student Awards in 2004.
Natasha says she joined the V partly to escape the pressure of joining Ustetika. Then and now, budding writers in UST are almost always expected to try their luck at the annual contest, a sort of literary baptism of fire for them.
“I was friends with most of the people I’m competing with and it just felt strange,” she says. “I still wanted to devote my energy into writing, but I couldn’t deal with so much competition. Luckily, joining the V turned out to be one of the best impulsive decisions I’ve made in my life. It might have rooted from chickening out, but I learned a lot in my stay there.”
Like her uncle Eric, Natasha also look up to her lola who never ceases to give her pointers about writing.
“My grandmother has always been a very, very patient reader,” she says. “I make her sift through horrible-rhyming writing exercises and she was always very encouraging. My grandma has always been kind with her comments.”
At present, Natasha is completing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines.
Brush over pen
While his grandmother, uncle, and cousin drew pictures with words, Jonathan Gamalinda delved into another artistic field: fine arts. As Doris’ grandson-artist left the Varsitarian last May, he recalls all the lessons he learned during his three-year stay at the publication.
“I must admit that this publication contributed a lot in honing my artistic skills,” says Jonathan, whose father Marco is an accomplished painter. “There, I received a lot of critiques from my superiors unlike in CFAD (College of Fine Arts and Design), where I only got grades.”
Aside from being the V’s assistant Art director, Jonathan drew editorial cartoons for CBCP Monitor, the official publication of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), and worked as a layout artist for the UST Office of the Secretary General.
At present, he is with ArtOne Designs and Communications, Inc., a design agency established in 1991, which specializes in print communication.
Though his expertise is in the fine arts, he did not exactly abandon writing. In his senior in college, he became the first editor-in-chief of Hiraya, CFAD’s official student publication.
“It was not an easy task to revive a college paper,” says Jonathan, who also wrote a column titled Ventriloquist during his term as assistant Art Director. “Although Hiraya was not very successful with its maiden issue, I am proud to be its first editor-in-chief because I saw that Fine Arts students had the ability to write. They just needed proper guidance and encouragement.”
He currently plans to publish a compilation of his short stories to go with his illustrations. V Francis James B. Gatdula and Reniel B. Tiu

UST Communication Arts student Celestino: A Pinoy teenager speaks to the world

Just like International-award winning speaker, Patricia Evangilista, Communication Arts junior Vera Lorraine Celestino had been a Philippine representative to the International Soroptimist's Violet Richardson Award for community service at the age of 17.

Celestino earned the right to represent the country in the 2005 award after ranking first in the national level and beating 16 other candidates from different provinces.

Celestino submitted her credentials to the headquarters of the Soroptimist in Cambridge, England where she competed with the other young females from around the world in community service presentation. Although it was Tara Syed of Canada who eventually won, Celestino said she profited much from the experience.

"I still serve as one of the global voices for women and underprivileged people", she said. "Everyone can make a difference, no matter how simple his or her deeds, for the benefit of the humanity."

Celestino believes that the Thomasian values of competence, compassion, and commitment direct the students to the right path.