Ramblings

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Jan 2 2011

By Eldric Paul A. Peredo

Eldric Paul A. PeredoMemoirs on UST? I could write a book. Maybe even two.

In the beginning

In the beginning was the word that I qualified for the two Manila universities I took the entrance exams to: Ateneo de Manila, and the University of Santo Tomas. They were the only schools I tried out for because they have seminaries, and our high school rector would not sign any application papers for all others. Yes, I was then on the priesthood track since the manly young age of 12.

I opted to enrol in the Philosophy program of UST’s Ecclesiastical Faculties. This was in 1999, and I had no idea what to do once I started to live in the city. Today that is more than 10 years ago. I still had a head full of hair, a midsection full of abs, and naive about the ways of wild Manila. On UST:

  1. Beato Angelico building was a two-storey dwarf.
  2. So was the carpark. Because of this, you could still park in front and behind the Main Building.
  3. The Tigers were still a perennial threat in UAAP basketball.
  4. Architecture and Fine Arts were still one college. So were Tourism and Education. Ditto Commerce and Accountancy.
  5. Manuel Colayco stood proud where the Quadri Park is now located, overlooking fishers of the tilapia pond, who may have been enrolled in the university or otherwise. The fountain site is where the Student Canteen once stood.
  6. The UST Chapel was not airconditioned. But students still came a lot, especially on Wednesdays and Sundays, to watch seminarians during their scheduled masses or prayers (I was merely told this).
  7. I had not started calling PT/OT grads “galing Rehab” yet because the school was still called the Institute of Physical/Occupational Therapy.
  8. There was no Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.
  9. There was no Tan Yan Kee Student Center. There were frangipani trees and the martyrs’ statues in its stead.
  10. Students could still smoke on campus, and readily identified as hangouts of walking chimneys were the pavilions in front of the Raymond of Penafort building, Plaza Calderon, and the Engineering Complex.

But there are things that we may safely say to have always been perpetual:

  1. The University has at least one serious flooding every year (in 1999 and 2000, the annual big flood lasted a week).
  2. There is undue attention given to beauty pageants and other worthwhile student activities.
  3. Some red tape and the leeches manning them will always be there.
  4. Perhaps the reason for no. 2 – there are a lot of beautiful women in this school, under and over majority age.
  5. There will always be heavy traffic on Espana, Dapitan, Laonlaan, Forbes (Lacson), and Padre Noval.
  6. A great majority of students do not know what or where the Chiang Ching Kuo Center is (was?).
  7. Rev. Fr. Pedro Tejero, O.P., is still walking around briskly, if with a cane, every afternoon. He must now be 90 years old. His greeting does not fail: “Olaaaa kaibeeegaaan.”
  8. The football field stinks when the water does not evaporate within a period of 5 days.
  9. Couples still enjoy the “Lover’s Lane,” now more open, airy, and fun to hang out at.
  10. Almer’s. SR Thai. Merrie’s. Cely’s. Lisa’s. And all the other wonderful havens of possibly hepatitis-causing fare around the University.

The seminary schedule was strict. We rose at 5:30 A.M., took a bath, had mass at 6:00, breakfast at 7, and classes from 8:00 to 12:00nn. After lunch was siesta, and depending on the day, choir practice or study period until snack time at 3:45 P.M.. “Free” time was at 4:00-5:00 P.M. – this was when we played the sport that caught our fancy for the day. Then we hit the showers, studied a bit, then had evening prayers before supper at 7:00 P.M. 7:30-8:00 P.M. was “recreation” time, which meant you could watch TV in the common room, read newspapers, walk around campus, or study. Night prayers were at 8:00 P.M., then we studied some more, until lights out at 10:00 P.M. If we wished to study beyond that, we couldn’t use the overhead lights; we used table lamps.

My first year was pretty uneventful. My class was my barkada - seven provincianos and one from Cubao. There was a lot of drinking, smoking, gallivanting, eating out, and whatnot. But hold your gossip. We drank in our rooms or verandas, depending on whose was the least messy that night. We smoked on campus like the cool cats we were trying to be, especially by the football field during breaks, watching passersby. We ate out – we had the various “silog” combinations at Aling Gloria’s near Tolentino St., the immortal grilled liempo of Mang Toots, and dinuguan etc. at Lopez Canteen, which was always directed by a lesbian food barker. At other times we would find ourselves trying to outdrink one another in the former Burger King branch just outside the Dapitan gate. I still have the unbroken record of 12 glasses.

Intercollegiate football

I was a sports-minded provinciano, raised with the mantra, “mens sana in corpora sano”. I was in the varsity pool of three sports – football, volleyball, and lawn tennis. Among the three, I loved football the most. My high school team was included in the regional pool for the Palarong Pambansa the previous year, but I had to skip that because of another event, the National Schools Press Conference.

Back to UST

When I joined the “United Nations” team that were the Eccle Booters for the intercollegiate tourney, they already had two championships, both tournaments swept, under their belt. They were not in need of a high school Palaro qualifier that time. So, my first taste of college football was helping warm the deep Eccle bench.

But I loved the game. I kept joining the practices. Every afternoon, we had a special dispensation from the seminary rector to practice from 3:00 to 5:00 P.M. Never mind if I was not fielded yet. It was only a matter of time before they realized I could kick an arrow from the half of the pitch into the back of the net. By second year, I was a starting defender.

By the time I graduated with a law degree, I had become part of three championship teams (Eccle) and two runners-up groups (Civil Law-Graduate School).

Varsi or bust

Ah, the V. Now then. I was in my sophomore year when I became a V staffer. With my wits still about me, I had breezed through freshman year, and was becoming restless, wanting to find more to do with my collegiate adventure. Before the summer break I had asked permission from the seminary rector, Fr. Frederik Fermin, O.P., if I could try out for the university paper, but the old man wisely told me to try other things. I didn’t listen, of course.

So upon discovering in June of 2000 that there were new people at the top, I was determined to try again. I had already been attracted to the Varsitarian, having come from a high school campus paper career. I was so addicted that I read the V whenever it came out, and notwithstanding some obstacles, as a journal entry reveals:

“june 3, 2000

saturday

x x x x

after mass i stayed upstairs, particularly in alder’s room, which was only across the corridor from mine. x x x x i got alder’s copy of the varsitarian and started reading. x x x x alder started cleaning his room. In the process he put all the furniture out of his room, so his bed was near the stairs. there I lied down and went through my reading.

‘nice one, eldric,’ paul sayon said as he passed by me. zuk also smiled at the unusual sight – a half-naked seminarian reading the paper on a bed near the stairs. i didn’t mind.”

Sometime in August, I read a flier on a board at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, announcing “midyear qualifying exams.” I immediately sought the blessing of then seminary Rector Fr. Honorato Castigador, O.P. who willingly gave it, and unwittingly let me off the road less travelled and onto the path of worldly affairs and possible damnation. Ha!

I took the examinations with a fellow Centralite, now Reverend Father, Noel Abalajon. The test was on a Sunday, 12:00 to 6:00 P.M. and among others, required me to write a poem about my lips. Jayme Brucal and Michelle Dompor distributed candy during. With due respect to everyone, after going through that exercise, I immediately forgot about the V, convinced that the essay topics were a little too playful to be real. I got back into my routine.

That routine included getting wasted at community parties, including the one on 9 September 2000. Well into the seminary drinking spree, at around 10:30 P.M., I received a message from Carlo Isla, then the managing editor of the V.

“Congratulations. You have been chosen to become a member of the Varsitarian. Please attend the orientation tomorrow at the office, Room 112, of the Main Building.”

Then he called.

“Who is this?”

“Si Carlo Isla ito sa Varsitarian. Si Eldric ba ito?”

“Yes, speaking. What is this about?” (I had already imbibed about half a case. Sue me.)

“Tinext kita, pumasa ka sa Varsi. Attend ka ng orientation bukas, 9:00 A.M.”

“Oh, really? Thanks! I’ll be there. Sorry about the noise, we are having our monthly community party.”

“… “

“Okay, I will be there tomorrow. Thanks!”

Carlo Isla, or Carli, was the first person I sought when I arrived at the orientation. I apologized profusely, saying I could not be sure how I was with him over the phone the previous night. Did I say anything incriminating? No, he said. You were okay.

Okay.

I would recall those events months later, on 10 February 2001:

“saturday

x x x x

there was a community party here in the central seminary. i was getting drunk when carli, the managing editor of the paper, sent me an sms text saying I was one of the lucky few who were accepted into the staff, from among, like, 60 applicants. orientation was to be at 9 the following morning.

so i went. i don’t remember if there was an ROTC mass that particular sunday, but i woke up at almost 9, quickly took a shower, put on my black cebu shirt and went, planet slippers and all. no, i remember wearing my shoes then.

anyway, i was late thirty minutes. the orientation happened later still, one hour later to be exact. there were five of us[1] at the time the meeting with the editors happened.”

The rest is history. I would be with the paper and a number of crazy if brilliant student writers for almost five years (I had a one-year hiatus). I signed off in 2006, after my third year at the Faculty of Civil Law.

Loyal or clueless?

My siblings are also Thomasians. The eldest finished Accounting in the College of Commerce and Accountancy in 1996. The second topped the Nursing Class of 1997.

Me? I finished at the top of the V, thanks simply to the humor of its advisers and consultants. Other than that, I received a classical degree in the humanities from the Ecclesiastical Faculties in 2003, and a Law degree in 2007.

Why did I choose UST in the first place? Because my brothers came here. I attended my high school because my brothers went there, too. My staple answer to questions is that I saw how these schools moulded my brothers into the good persons and members of society, so I wanted that for me, too.

That is what you call “palusot ng clueless.”

But whether my reasons were not real decisions, the fact remains that I came to UST and over the years evolved into such a rabid Thomasian that I cannot stop talking about how great the years I spent here were. Ask my wife how I bore her with it.

But let’s just have a taste for now. Let’s save the rest for the book, shall we? V

If I am not mistaken, the other four were: Ma. Lynda C. Corpuz, Christian “yeye/yekyek” Bautista, Myra Jennifer Jaud, and Darell Dizon. But in all, ten people were admitted that midyear, including Karen Pena, Harold Khan, Paul Ryan Pagaspas, and my future wife, Ayesa Capati, who officially quit two weeks later. But that’s another, much longer, story.

*Atty. Eldric Paul A. Peredo was the editor in chief of the Varsitarian from 2004-2006. He is now a regular contributor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.