Fun and loafing at the V

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Jan 3 2011

By Pennie Azarcon-De La Cruz

SO HOW did we, a rambunctious group of some 20 over-caffeinated staffers just biding our time before springing the Great Filipino Novel on the world (or so we thought), manage with two manual typewriters, one rotary dial phone, and a weekly stipend of P5 to P10 for reporters and from P40 to P50 for the editors?

Well, you could say we were having too much fun to actually notice we were in boot camp.

While two of us were banging away stories on the antiquated machines, the rest were goofing around and needed no persuasion to become impromptu models for the staff photographers’ class assignments. The more loquacious gathered in a chattering circle that would later evolve into the Chismis Sisterhood, now on its 31st year and counting.

When the phone didn’t work (or once, when it was actually stolen), we would sprint off for face to face interviews with our sources just one or two colleges away, mini skirts flying, platform clogs skittering. By the middle of the first sem, several couples would discreetly pair off in quiet corners, hounded by hoots of warning against ‘similar activities,” a reference to the amorous goings-on in the College of Pharmacy’s Botanical Garden nearby.

Payday meant a riotous celebration at Tropical Hut on Espana, where a hefty burger was all of P4, including a drink. For the more moneyed editors, a short jeepney ride to Central Market meant shopping for wedge shoes, the latest fashion of the day and a definite splurge at P10 a pair.

Back then, you could say we already practiced pack journalism. Even as romantic pairs, we strolled around the campus in a pack, distinguished by our willingness to strike a pose at the merest sight of an SLR, quick to spot a photo-op and quicker still to corral a staff photog to immortalize us in film. The youthful shots would prove fortuitous. Many many moons later, we would haul them out before disbelieving progeny to prove that once upon a time, we had waistlines and a sense of fun. Or at least, enough gumption to imagine ourselves as Hilda Koronel’s “Ligaya,” striking a breathtaking sunset pose at Maligaya Beach, Batangas, for that groundbreaking movie, “Maynila, Sa Kuko ng Liwanag.” Twenty years after, armed with journalistic commitment to hew closely to truth, accuracy and objectivity, we attempted to re create the pose—to horrified reviews. “Brazen, shameless, heinous,” were some of the words used. Don’t you just love it when your kids show off their new enriched vocabulary?

But well, that was work.

For fun, we hied off to Batangas where we promptly appropriated the beach for “similar activities,” to the consternation of our publications director and the relentless flashlight patrol of his assistant. Christmas meant stay-in parties where Salsa was served on the dance floor, and men in skirts served as entertainment. Gift-giving varied from pathetic plants to second-hand books to plaster figurines, the meager offerings wrapped in kilometric paeans rife with poetry and signs of early poverty. “Dinaan sa dedication” would become our collective cry for years and we didn’t mind one bit.

Outside the campus, the realities of martial law lurked, a sinister shadow that would confront us many years later. But back then in the mid-70s, cocooned in the V office, it was just us, the weekly deadlines and the next photo-op in a world as heedless and self-contained as one’s youthful dreams. V

Josephine “Pennie” Azarcon-De la Cruz is the executive editor of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. She graduated magna cum laude and Rector’s Awardee in Journalism from the University of Sto. Tomas and was Associate Editor and News Editor of the Varsitarian during her college years.

Ms. Dela Cruz has won several awards in Journalism, among them two AIDS Media Awards in 2000, a DOST Science & Technology award, a National Book Award for best anthology, a Golden Quill Award for best travel story, two citations for gender-sensitive journalism. and a Silver Star award from the Women’s Health Foundation for health reporting.