Last January 28, the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST) celebrated its 400th anniversary. Your Chair Wrecker nurtures fond memories of years spent in the UST College of Arts and Letters (Artlets). Our Artlets batch was the very first to be produced by the Communication Arts Department.
It is easy to remember my UST years with fondness.
Who can forget how easily the UST campus can transform into a facsimile of Venice with the slightest downpour? Who can forget the sight of silly Thomasians who would bravely wade bare footed into the floodwaters along Espana and Dapitan Streets? They valued their shoes, which are replaceable, more than their feet.
Who can forget the memories of sex segregation when male and female students were compelled to take separate stairways to upper floors of the campus buildings? There was this old Dominican priest, Fr. Modesto Mata, OP, who made it his mission to break up boy-girl tandems in the campus, even when sex segregation was already lifted.When a boy and a girl were seen walking together, Fr. Mata would position himself right in the middle of their path, forcing them to create a wider gap.
Maloy Panlilio, one of the femme fatales of Artlets, used to hitch up her skirt to show more of her beautiful legs. Maloy would lower her skirt whenever she passes the Main Building, the usual hunting ground of Fr. Mata. Because of his age, many of us wondered if Fr. Mata was a vestige of the Spanish Inquisition.
Who could forget the other femme fatales of the late 1960s UST campus? In the Commerce Building alone, where Artlets is also housed, any heterosexual male student’s heart would pound faster upon the sight of Grace Lesaca, Vini Luciano, Aileen Samson, Marylocke Sardalla and Martha Martinez, to name only a few. From my psychology class, my neck stretched by easily two more inches just to catch a glimpse of Grace Lesaca walking to her class.
Who can forget the historic Main Building where a thousand ghost stories have emanated? When we walked down from the top floor where the UST radio studio was located, our female classmates would make it a point to be closer than usual to us males. With all my 6 feet and 250 pounds then, a time when your Chair Wrecker could still play competitive basketball and Jai alai, the ladies must have felt more secure. Or were they were simply using the fear of ghosts as an excuse for the intimacy?
Who can forget the trouble our ethics professor got into with Artlets Dean, Fr. Tomas Martinez, OP, for stating in class that under certain circumstances — like as a release for high tension — masturbation is not a sin? Fr. Martinez was a very kind soul but he could not betray his Dominican conservatism. It was an exception which could have found acceptance in a Jesuit campus but not in UST.
Who can also forget how poor Fr. Martinez reacted when UST had its very first campus demonstration in 1968, keeping in step with the campus activism of the period. Fr. Martinez reacted as if the end of the world was happening already. He went on the intercom which is linked to every Artlets classroom and led everybody in prayer. Actually, the issues of the demonstration were generic. Thomasians just would not have it said that we did not have a campus demonstration.
Your Chair Wrecker was active in campus theatre, the Aquinas Dramatic Guild. A dream role was chosen for your Chair Wrecker — King Henry VIII in The Royal Gambit. How lucky could a guy get with six of the most alluring girls of the campus to play the role of my six wives? Alas, the production was aborted. God must have read my mind.
We used to go to “Los Indios Bravos” and “When it is a gray November in your soul Coffee Shop” on A. Mabini in Ermita for some culture and artistic pretensions. We reveled to the music of the Beatles, Monkees, The Association, Peter Paul and Mary and Tom Jones. It was in our generation when marijuana and uppers became the entry point of what is now a serious national drug problem. We were keeping in step with the Beatles whose music also started to reflect the youth’s new form of high. For me, the spirit in the bottle was still the preferred morale booster. The conservative in your Chair Wrecker simply rejected Mary Jane and drugs.
Who can forget that melee during an inter-collegiate basketball game at the university gym? A commotion occurred outside of the gym and a chase ensued. Obviously one group was outnumbered. The chase headed in our direction and just then somebody among the pursuers shouted: “Yung malaki na naka blue (The biggie wearing blue)!” Your Chair Wrecker happened to fit the description to a tee. Luckily, the mob got their biggie in blue and it was not me.
Who would believe that a Pontifical University will have a safe zone and an unsafe zone? The Education Building was considered the safe zone. Beside it, the Engineering Building was considered the unsafe zone. When the 1968 NCAA Basketball Champions, the Letran Knights, brought their victory motorcade to UST, considered a sister institution, a desk was hurled from the Engineering Building. Luckily, it landed on the roof of one of those American cars from the 1950s which are as hard as combat tanks and the desk just bounced off the car roof without harming anyone.
Who can forget the V, the Varsitarian, the UST student publication? The V has produced its fair share of the Who’s Who of Philippine Journalism. Who can forget such cerebral professors like Ting Pantoja, Emerita Quito, Josie Acosta and the late Ofie Dimalanta?
Thank you UST for all the fond memories — oh yes, the education too!
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