Memories of an Amihan

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Jan 3 2011

By Ma. Helena I. Reginaldo

I NEVER admit to growing old. Not when the first strand of gray hair appeared, not even when young whippersnappers started adding “po” or “opo” in our conversations with them. How can I admit to growing old, when I’ve stopped counting birthdays at 27?

Yet even I had to concede that time marches on when I visited the new Varsitarian office at the Tan Yan Kee building. Together with some of my fellow amihans, we toured the place, marveling how everything looked, well, high-tech, as compared to the V of our time. Everything looked so modern, making me feel suddenly dizzy at the speed of how everything changed seemingly overnight. The feeling was confirmed when a contemporary asked out loud, “But where’s the darkroom?” Yep, today’s V has definitely grown with the times.

For I belonged to an era when the V held office at Room 112 in the Main Building. The office at that time had no mezzanine; inside, a small reception area is the first room you see upon entering. The main door is usually festooned with cartolina greeting “cards”, complete with a caricature of the staffer and witty (or ribald) greetings from fellow V staffers. Nearby is a wooden table stacked with back issues of the daily broadsheets; behind it is a wall plastered with art posters and covers of rock albums (I remember a particularly garish one of Pink Floyd and The Wall).

Turn left, and you enter the office itself. Lining the left wall are rows of wooden cabinets, topped by individual lockers for the staff. Past this is the darkroom, flanked by an old refrigerator. The right wall is studded with various bulletin boards assigned to the different sections of the paper. In the center of the room are long tables with an assortment of Olympus and Underwood manual typewriters, where we would bang away at our stories just before deadline. A couple of electric fans whirl lazily overhead.

At the farther right corner of the room is the glass-enclosed office of the Publications Director, Ms. Jesselyn dela Cruz. An airconditioned room, we would sometimes seek refuge here when the heat got to be too much. A favorite place to snooze was the wooden sofa just beside the door; many a senior editor caught forty winks at this spot.

The office was more than just that for most of us. It was the “tambayan”, the home away from home, the third place between school and home. It opened early, and stayed that way till very late. It was here where I learned the ropes of newswriting before graduating to doing Special Reports. I juggled studies with doing legwork, meeting people, crafting stories. And on the side, having fun meeting and making friends with writers from the other colleges.

I got into the V when I took their qualifying exam just before summer of my junior year. My notice of acceptance arrived in the heels of my exam results to the majors I applied to; I didn’t get in my first two choices. I mourned my loss on the trip up to Baguio for the V writing seminar, with Charlotte Tang and Olivia Laurel trying to cheer me up for getting in the other major I chose.

In Baguio, our batch was welcomed with a riotous “initiation”. Games that emphasized teamwork were mixed in between lectures on writing and trips around the city’s scenic spots. At one point, we got caught in the rain while at Mines View Park; I remember Vim Nadera huddled with me and Mary Jane Llanes under a ridiculously tiny roof, in an attempt to keep us dry.

Over the course of my two-year stint at the V, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of writing for the V. I’ve witnessed the grief of parents who lost their son to a swimming accident at PE. I saw Colayco Park give way to the rise of the Central Library. I didn’t go home for the first time when I had to join my fellows in preparing for the Pautakan and Ustetika, and instead, snatched what sleep we could at the dorm room of our editor in chief, Lea Yap. Or the subsequent high the next day after the successful run of the event, and we celebrated by having dinner at KFC Vito Cruz and goofing off the night in a bike ride at the CCP grounds.

Another memorable experience were the hours spent in the printing press, watching strippers prepare the upcoming issue. No, they’re not into undressing, rather, these are the technicians in charge of attaching negatives onto page flats, each signature “photographed” and imprinted into metal sheets, which in turn would be daubed with ink and start printing the pages of the V.

Beyond the scholarship, the bylines and the friendships forged, the V was more than being a testing ground for future journalists, writers, poets, storytellers, communicators. It is a dynamic family that has allowed me to grow and develop into a better being. As an amihan, I invite all V staffers, past and present, to bring your ribbons of memories and let us weave it together into a virtual tapestry of our common history. After all, “once a V staffer, always a V staffer”! V

Ma. Helena “Reggie” I. Reginaldo wrote for the Special Reports section of the Varsitarian from 1989 to 1990. She is currently writing for the Corporate Communications Office of a holding firm.