Faithful to the craft

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Jan 3 2011

SHE COULD HAVE been a doctor, and her grandson as well. But “stubborn” passion got in their way.

More than 30 years ago, a young Rosalinda De Leon flirted with the idea of entering medical school soon after finishing her journalism course in UST.

The idea triggered much brouhaha among her peers, yet it all but dissuaded her from pursuing a then growing interest in medicine. It wasn’t exactly a surprise considering her active volunteer work in many UST-led medical missions in college.

But journalism was determined to keep the aspiring doctor in its fold.

The journalism magna cum laude graduate woke up one day and realized that her other dream deserved a break, if not an emphatic boot.

Looking back, Rosalinda, now editor of Woman Today, knows she didn’t exactly make a choice between medicine and journalism. She went to writing and medicine became a recurring theme.

Rosalinda is particularly into what she calls “service journalism,” and is convinced that much of the advocacy was nurtured during her stint as the Varsitarian.

She was known in the paper as the “iron lady,” during her term as editor-in-chief in 1970. She commanded respect and gave little room for “tolerable notoriety” among younger staff members. The disciplinarian in her was very much at work in enforcing deadlines and high standards of writing.

“During my time as editor, I valued deadlines much,” she says. “I scrapped articles submitted beyond the deadline because during our time, we released tabloid-sized issues weekly, which contained news articles and commentaries. Time was essential to be able to publish weekly issues, so that was why I needed to be hard on the deadlines.”

Rosalinda spoke from personal experience. Before assuming the V’s top post, she was the publication’s most outstanding staff member for two consecutive years.

Bigger awards came much later when she won the Pediatrics Journalism Award given by the Asian Science Writers Association when she was associate editor of MOD magazine. She would also be feted by the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Medical Women’s Association for excellence in journalism. Had she pursued medicine, she would have been part of both groups. But they’re proud of Rosalinda, the journalist, just the same.

Aside from its weekly issues, the Varsitarian under Rosalinda’s supervision also released a monthly newspaper, which contained literary works and feature articles, and three journals (written in English, Filipino, and Spanish).

Kicked out

Soon Rosalinda’s leadership faced a major test. UST expelled 21 Varsitarian staff members, including her in October 1970 for publishing a lampoon issue that labeled Pope Paul VI as “Pop-eye.” The pope was then in the country on a historic visit.

Despite the controversy, Rosalinda still managed to hold the publication and serve for another term as editor-in-chief.

Another De Leon would arrive at the Varsitarian more than three decades later. Like Rosalinda, her grandson Jordan also considered medicine.

But the pull of journalism proved too much, at least, in the school level. Jordan’s grandfather Rogelio is the older brother of Rosalinda.

Jordan joined the V as a Medical Technology major whose only experience with writing came when he was managing editor of his high school’s student paper. But the newcomer showed promise as a Special Reports writer and was promoted as concurrent News and Special Reports editor.

“There was of course some degree of difficulty on my part when I entered the Varsitarian, considering that I had to do a lot of balancing act to survive the grueling academic load of an incoming intern, without losing grip of my duties as a V staffer,” says Jordan, who joined the student paper in his third year.

Indeed, studying hematology, immunology, and bacteriology while editing or writing articles in between breaks – not to mention completing a round-the-clock internship – proved disastrously exhausting for the 20-year-old De Leon.

He reveals that he almost dropped the pen after being compelled to relinquish his editorship in the Special Reports section for personal reasons.

“It was hard because before I became editor I used to write for that (Special Reports) section. Also the writers (in the Special Reports section) have been close to me,” he says. “But I had to make a choice. It’s either I stayed with the V or I quit.”

Jordan stayed on as News editor until he graduated last year.

After passing the Medical Technology licensure examination last year, Jordan remained faithful to the craft, working right now as a research writer at Writers.Ph, an outsourcing company that crafts academic papers for students and professionals in various study areas like politics, medicine, business and arts among others.

Besides editing Woman Today, where she has been working for 19 years now, Rosalinda also writes columns for its sister publication, a culinary magazine which she founded herself. V Francis James B. Gatdula with reports from Samuel Raphael P. Medenilla