Writing is a family affair

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Jan 3 2011

By Mika Rafaela A. Barrios and Raniel B. Tiu

“THERE is no balm in writing,” the father told the children, reminding them about the risk of flirting with letters and choosing writing as a profession.

But that mild warning hardly discouraged three of Felix Bautista, Jr.’s 12 children from entering the world of campus journalism through the Varsitarian.

Growing up in an environment influenced by their father Felix’s journalistic temperance and mother Lourdes Syquia’s academic guidance, Maria Angelica, Maria Regina, and Noel Martin never dreamed of becoming editors-in-chief of the Varsitarian. From their parents they enjoyed the liberty of choosing their own career paths, but the lure of writing proved too irresistible. Before they knew it, they were occupying the V’s top post.

For a while, it seemed they were influenced only by their father’s routine as a newsman and later speech writer of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. But the Bautista siblings were for real. The interest was there as early as high school when all three became editors in chief of UST High School’s student publication, The Aquinian.

All the while, father Felix never wavered in his support, consistently reminding his children that “writing should be done to express, not to impress.” The advice—nothing short of a mantra—would be distinctive character of Felix’s writings, and later, those of the children.

Eighth-born Maria Angelica “Gigi” Bautista-Rapadas served as Varsitarian editor-in-chief from 1978 to 1979. A magna cum laude graduate of B.S. Mathematics and recipient of the Benavides Civic Award, Angelica is an information technology expert and at present, chief information officer (CIO) of the Ayala Corporation. She is also the general manager of HRMall, a wholly-owned shared services subsidiary of the Ayala Group of Companies for human resource and payroll systems.

Angelica’s writing skills brought her far. In 1979, she was chosen to represent the Philippines to the Japan Air Lines Summer Scholarship Program in Tokyo after undergoing a series of interviews and submitting an essay titled, “How the Young Graduate Can Meaningfully Contribute to the Development of His Country.” She joined 35 other delegates from the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore. Angelica says the knowledge she gained during her three-year stay at the Varsitarian helped her in becoming the leader she is today.

“The V was my first real experience in managing people,” says Rapadas, who rose through the ranks of the V’s news section before becoming editor-in-chief. “I try to build up the same spirit of teamwork, dedication, and camaraderie in all the teams I work for or lead in the corporate world. Of course, having the talent to write and communicate is a valuable asset in any job. Writing a memorandum or business letter or report well, and with ease, helps.”

Before working as CIO for Ayala in January 2006, Rapadas was senior director for operations of the Asia Pacific division of Oracle, the world’s largest software distributor. She joined the corporation in 1995, first starting as Practice Director for Oracle Philippines before moving to Oracle Southeast Asia. She worked at Oracle for 12 years.

Following her footsteps was Maria Regina “Gina” Bautista-Navarrete. The 10th of the brood, she became editor-in-chief in 1984 while taking up B.S. Industrial Engineering. Currently the general manager and president of Red Ribbon Bakeshops in the Philippines and the United States, she acknowledges the Varsitarian’s pivotal role in her success.

Starting out as a news reporter and becoming associate and managing editor afterwards, Regina recounts how the Varsitarian equipped her with the essential social skills needed during interviews.

“The Varsitarian helped me gain confidence from having to interview a lot of people as a writer,” Regina says in an interview with the Varsitarian’s Breaktime Magazine last May.

Apart from the Varsitarian, she also delved into other fields of interest, such as volleyball where she played for the Faculty of Engineering. But despite her preoccupation, she still graduated cum laude and like her older sister Angelica, she also received the Benavides Civic Award for outstanding students of UST.

Being siblings to someone who also managed the V’s highest post, comparison between them may seem inevitable, but Regina did not feel they were being compared at all.

“I guess it helped that we weren’t really contemporaries. My sister already graduated from college when I joined the Varsitarian,” she says. “As for my younger brother, I think we overlapped a bit, but I was more senior (to him) so there was really no competition at all. I think we have more similarities than differences.”

Both Angelica and Regina served as editors-in-chief while their father Felix was still publications adviser. The sisters were naturally concerned of possible impressions that their position was a product of nepotism.

“But to be fair, the fear was mine alone,” Angelica says. “I never heard or felt anything negative from my staff: no resistance, no insinuations of favoritism.”

They note that family relation never made them skip the paper’s tedious selection process. Their surname might have been Bautista, but it was fair game in the screening.

“I rose from the ranks, first as reporter and then as News Editor,” Angelica recalls. “The qualifying exams were also graded by several ex-editors and assistants, apart from my dad. I didn’t have any private lessons.”

Dealing with pressure

For 42-year-old pediatrician Noel Martin, the virtue of time management was one of the many values he learned during his five-year stint at the V. Despite a heavy academic load typical of a second-year Medicine student, he still excelled as a Varsitarian writer and even assumed the top post in 1987.

While enrolled in Medical Technology from which he graduated magna cum laude, Noel applied for the Varsitarian in 1983 and was accepted as a news and special reports writer. The following year, he was promoted as news editor before becoming associate and later managing editor during his freshman year in Medicine.

Being the 11th and the youngest among Felix’s editor-in-chief children, Noel came under the pressure of performing just as well. He says much of it came from himself than from others.

“You always wanted to be better,” recalls Bautista, who now teaches Biochemistry and Medical Nutrition at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. “Not better than the one who had preceded you, but you (simply) wanted to be better than what you could actually do.”

Regina was no stranger to her brother’s predicament.

“Since my eldest sister had set the bar very high, all of us who came after felt that we too had to do well, in whatever we did,” she says. “I remember my mom telling us that we shouldn’t study too hard, that it was better to sleep than to study. She would send us to our rooms and turn off the lights, so we would set our alarm clocks at four in the morning if we wanted to finish our homework or cram for an exam.“

Noel says he ignored the people who occasionally compared him with his sisters, but took the experience more as a motivation to excel.

Aside from teaching, Noel also manages online communities, most notably USTExchange.com. He stopped his medical practice four years ago to focus on his master’s degree in Business Administration specializing in Health Care at the Ateneo de Manila University. V