Those Halcyon Years

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Jan 2 2011

By Adoracion Trinidad-Gamalinda

They are so far away, half a century away, those UST years that scintillate in memory as islets of serenity in contrast to present chaos and confusion.

The campus was not teeming with students as it is now, buildings at every turn, cars at all hours of day and night.All classes except of the College of Medicine took place in the main edifice, the centuries-old structure with meter-thick walls resembling a garrison more than a place of learning.

Sex segregation was strictly enforced, with separate entrances and exits for male and female (no recognition of the existence of a third sex). Curiously, the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters was the exception. Here boys were allowed to enroll in the same class with girls. That’s how Frankie Sionil Jose got to be my classmate in one subject, Charlie Agatep in about every subject, and my parish priest in one subject! Even if allowed communal space in a classroom, verbal communication beyond two minutes was frowned upon, and intimate chikahan definitely taboo.

The present medical dispensary was our only canteen where a group of five---Lourdes Sabido, Alita Villanueva, Azucena Dimson, Gertie Paguio and myself---habitually gathered for our frugal merienda during free hours. It didn’t take a fortune in those days with a bottle of coke at P.10 and a sandwich at P.30. With jeepney fare at P0.10, one had ample coins left to assuage the day’s hunger.

I don’t know if the practice persists but we didn’t call our lady profs “Ma’am”. They were all uniformly “Miss” whether single,married, widowed, virgin or pregnant. The males all merited a “Sir”. We had our favorites, of course, among them the late Atty. Marcos Herras, who taught us Latin for four sems. He was suave-mannered, ever the impeccable gentleman, terribly handsome and alas for us girls, happily married. For him I resolutely plodded through two years of Latin declensions and translating Julius Caesar’s History of the Gallic Wars from Latin to English.

Among the Misse,s my outstanding favorite was the late Dr. Paz Latorena, our short story guru who was the terror of the Philets students. There was a joke shared among us which is better rendered in Tagalog: “Kapag dumilim ang corridor andiyan na si Miss Latorena.” She was a true heavyweight in all aspects. I loved her acerbic language and treasured her dissection of our submitted works.

Fr. Dominguez was our professor in Greek--- a subject no one enjoyed.

He was quite old and my classmates had observed that when he came for his class, he would peer through the door and if he saw the room was empty, he would just turn around and head back to the convent. One afternoon no one was in the mood for pronouncing Greek words and writing them in the Greek alphabet, and a consensus was arrived at to play a little joke on our professor. We all stayed along the corridor as the near-sighted prof arrived, saw the empty room, and headed back to his quarters. For a while we snickered, enjoying our little joke, then became conscience-striken and ran after him. We apologized profusely for our cruel senseless joke and begged him to return to the class and teach us, but he just continued to walk away, back to the convent. Suddenly, we pitied him and was truly sorry for what we had done. Perhaps he didn’t have enough energy to walk back to the classroom or even to berate us. At sem’s end we found we had passed the subject by the skin of our teeth and God’s grace. And Greek---well, it’s still Greek to me. V

*Adoracion Gamalinda was a former literary editor of the Varsitarian from 1947-1948. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. She worked as the Women Section editor of the Manila Times and Focus Magazine where she became associate editor in 1973. Four years later, she led the National Media Production Center as its publications head before editing the People’s Magazine in 1978 and Woman’s Home Companion Magazine in 1980.