More than a comfort zone

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Jan 3 2011

AN old joke among V staff members—I am Juan De La Cruz, major in Varsitarian, minor in AB Journalism.

For better or for worse, not a few among us have found a better reason to be in UST because of the Varsitarian. Often, we stay in our classrooms for but a few hours then spend the rest of the day at the paper’s office.

It helps that Room 105 is probably the next best thing to a “home office.” The ambiance is at times corporate, but oftentimes friendly, if not, “family.”

Located at ground floor of the Tan Yan Kee Student Center, the V’s fifth home for the last 80 years is where some 40 student-writers spend precious hours between and after classes for intense newspaper work that’s arguably rivaled only by the professional media grind. But there’s more to our job. We’re also into non-editorial activities—quiz and literary contests, to name a few. And oh, we do our homeworks, too!

The posh, one-floor, L-shaped Varsitarian office, where the publication moved in a year ago, boasts of corporate-like interiors. It’s a lot better than any major daily’s workplace, according to former V editor-in-chief Rina Jimenez-David, who, along with other V luminaries, graced the blessing of the new office on the publication’s 79th year anniversary.

Visitors are greeted by a student clerk at the receiving area where most clerical transactions take place. Across the student clerk’s pad is a rectangular-shaped working area divided into 12 cubicles. Each of them has its own cork board, a three-layered steel cabinet, and desktop computers with flat LCD monitors the paper’s 11 sections.

The new office also has a conference room where meetings and story conferences were regularly held, a visitor’s lounge, library, storage facility, stock room, a pantry, and locker area.

Nestled at the leftmost corner of the V’s library is the wooden statue of Jesus Christ wearing a golden crown and holding Liber Vitae or the Book of Life. Atop the golden crown is the Dominican cross surrounded by spades which represent the Varsitarian’s 10 sections.

Former editor-in-chief Nicolo Bernardo broached the idea of the Liber Vitae statue to inspire and provide spiritual guidance to the writers.

Memories of Rm. 112

As for two-term editor in chief Eldric Peredo, who was with the V for six years, the former office–Room 112–located at the left wing of the Main Building was still “a lot more comfortable” than the present quarters.

“The former office was a more comfortable place where we bonded a lot compared with the corporate-looking environment of the new office,” he says. “The editorial board was intact in one side of the office, contrary to what the new one has.”

Made up of wooden interiors with a tapered range of mirrors at the left side of its walls, the two-floored room was inaugurated in 1979 and was the Varsitarian’s home for the next 27 years. Hanging above the mirror walls was the painting of the Holy Nazarene, the black replica of Christ housed in the Quiapo Parish whose feast day is commonly attended by thousands of devotees every January 9. The painting was the work of former V artist Rogin Tallada and was adjudged as one of the best theses painting for 2004.

“My painting was inspired by the photo taken by Jason Jaud, former photography editor, during the Quiapo feast,” Tallada says. “I left the painting inside the Varsitarian office to serve as my souvenir and so that staff members would still remember my legacy.”

Today, the 4x8 feet painting rests on the wall above the student clerk’s table in the new office.

One distinct part of the old V hub that endeared most staffers to it was the dark room. Incidentally, the present office has no need of it anymore because of the immense popularity of digital photography.

“The dark room also served as the writers’ private lounge where they could air their problems with their closest colleagues,” Peredo says.

Unlike the new office where each section has its own computer, the old office had only seven computers—three for layouting and four for encoding. But despite handicap, staff members then produced an average of 12 issues and two magazines a year.

“It was where friendship started and ended, where lovers talked and broke apart, where professionals argued but stayed professional,” Peredo says. “We were kids running a complicated organization, so it was natural to have those kinds of problems.”

Near the post-office

Alice Colet-Villadolid, former editor of the Varsitarian’s defunct Coed section, recalls how the paper’s third home looked like when the publication reclaimed its place at the Main Building in the late 1940’s.

“The office was then located at the right side of the Main Building. It only had one floor but was double the size of the classrooms of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. Unlike the new office, the Varsitarian’s room had two doors, one for entering and one for exiting,” Villadolid says.

The doors led to a narrow lobby bounded by a long desk and where students could make queries. Behind the desk were eight typewriters for the staffers. Only the regent of the publication, the faculty editor, and the adviser had their won tables.

“The office had no dark room so the photographers were compelled to process their pictures outside,” Villadolid says.

Change venue

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1942 subsequently disrupted the Varsitarian’s operation, forcing the then 13-year-old publication to abandon its first office located at Room 2 of the Main Building, which was turned into a concentration camp by the Japanese Imperial forces.

Under the first post-war editor-in-chief, Eleno Mencias, the Varsitarian resumed its operation in 1945 with a cubicle inside the UST gymnasium, then the building that houses the UST Conservatory of Music, as its second office. V Danielle Clara P. Dandan and Kristine Jane R. Liu