The Varsitarian – Then and Now

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Jan 2 2011

By Alice Colet-Villadolid

Alice Colet-VilladolidWhen I was a student, reading the Varsitarian for the first time strikes you as a shining beacon, a guide to where you could go if you are interested in Arts and Letters, or the Fine Arts, or the Law. Next, the Varsitarian beckons you to join its staff by taking the exam and passing it. Having signed up, you then become obsessed with it, you dream at night, you worry during the day, you anticipate the printed issue with bated breath. When you finally see in the new issue what you have written or edited or laid out or photographed, you giggle, laugh, and shout in happiness.

That is what the Varsitarian meant to me in the school year 1951-52 when I was its columnist for campus affairs. It must mean basically the same to those who came before or after those who are here today.

While the Varsitarian started out as a tabloid when Jose Villa Panganiban founded it, it became a news magazine in the 1950’s, patterned after Time and Newsweek. The news magazine’s requirements for extra-bright writing and people-centered data-gathering were just the right training for me as I ended up as correspondent for Newsweek and the New York Times in the 1970’s and 80’s.

In the Varsitarian staff in 1951-52 were my longtime friend, Ma. Luisa Zumel, who had persuaded me to join. Also on the staff were Ramon Lopez and Marcelino Foronda, Anita Diaz and Julio Esteban. Our editor in chief was Vicente Rosales Sr., who became a physician and later married Pieded Guinto. Our regent was the philosophy professor, Fr. Videl Clemente O.P.

The V office at that time was the first room to the right of the Main Building lobby or what is now the Office of the Rector’s assistant for administration. Right next to it was the office of the Dean of Women Dr. Josefa Gonzalez Estrada. This brilliant professor, who had studied at the College of Holy Spirit with my Colet aunts, took me under her wing, teaching me many skills and refinements. One of her duties as dean of women was to help enforce the segregation of boys and girls. I remember with good human now that she did not hesitate to scold me when she noticed that I chatted too long with some boys on the V staff.

Aside from the Dean of Women, there was a dean of discipline, the Rev. Fr. Mata. O.P., who made sure that we girls did not use the stairs to the left of the Main Building lobby, which was reserved for boys. Our stairs were those on the right. And there was no fraternizing at lunch time at the UST Cooperative, which was the only restaurant on campus at the time. How then did UST boys admire UST girls? Only by loitering in front of classroom doorways, which were always open at the time for there was yet no air conditioning.

On hindsight, I must say, that the no-coeducation policy of UST in the 1950’s and 60’s was good for academics. Both boys and girls could concentrate on their studies. There was no handholding or embracing to distract us, and we indeed easily earned honors and eventually our degrees.

Although I served only one year on the V staff, I have felt close to it ever since because I taught English and Feature Writing to many staff members and I met them later on in active journalism. May the Good Lord continue to guide and bless our friendship. V

*A summa cum laude graduate of the old UST Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, Alice Villadolid joined the New York Times as Philippine correspondent and later worked for Newsweek International. The executive director of the Philippine Press Institute from 1988 to 1993, Villadolid wrote the Filipino Journalist’s Code of Ethics. Her book, A Journal of Faith, won for her the Outstanding Catholic Author Award from the Asian Catholic Publishers, Inc.