The prodigal V staffer : An Autobiography

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Jan 3 2011

By Jose Wendell P. Capili

IT WAS a brief stint. But it turned out to be the association of a lifetime.

I took the V exams at the end of my sophomore year. I really wanted to be a V staffer. I remembered praying hard in front of the Blessed Sacrament at the UST Chapel before the exams. I took the written exams inside a classroom at the ground floor of the Main Building. I chose to write an article on my relationship with God after climbing a mountain in Batangas. I also wrote articles about two illustrious V alumni: Kitch Ortego and Zenaida Amador.

Weeks later, I saw my name on a sheet of paper being posted outside the old V office. I passed the V written exams! Soon after, I was subjected to a series of interviews with publications directors Felix Bautista, Jesselyn Garcia-de la Cruz and Regina Cuizon. I was told that I have a good chance of becoming a staffer should I agree to write for the witness section. Immediately, I said yes.

But there was a problem.

I belonged to a conservative religious community. I also lived in their formation house. I was an AB Journalism student in UST during the day. At night and during weekends and school breaks, I took up philosophy, theology, Latin, Greek and Spanish classes at the formation house. My spiritual directors did not allow me to correspond with the V directors, editors and staffers. I was told that becoming a V staffer will be a deterrent to my means of formation.

I was hurt and confused terribly. I was locked up in the formation house during the summer break. My spiritual directors did not allow me to attend the V seminar at Pugad Marilo in Balayan, Batangas.

But Bautista, Garcia-de la Cruz and Cuizon believed in my potential as a writer. They subjected me to a second round of interviews with alumni and editors Chona Capulong, Don Dalupang, Noel Martin Bautista and Vim Nadera. They agreed to appoint me as a witness staffer despite my inability to attend the annual seminar. But I was instructed to work really hard as a V staffer.

As it turned out, the V enabled me to write articles for the witness section. But I also did a number of articles for the feature, Filipino, literary, news, research and special reports sections. I interviewed family members of Bobi Malay and Ed Olaguer after both activists were released from political imprisonment before Christmas. I did investigative reports about Philippine educational reforms, people power revolts and military coups. I revised my mountain climbing essay. I published poems and short plays. I began writing in Filipino. The V also appointed me to committees overseeing USTETIKA Awards for Literature and PAUTAKAN, the annual intercollegiate quiz contest.

Unfortunately, my spiritual directors remained indifferent to my stint as a V staffer. As a compromise, I submitted articles, attended meetings, and worked on my committee assignments as a V staffer. But I was not allowed to do press work at night. On the whole, I was discouraged from developing friendships with V staffers. Because of these, I refused to accept my honorarium as a V staffer. At the end of my junior year, my spiritual directors had instructed me to quit. I gave in. I did not take the V specialized exams for incumbent and incoming staffers.

Though I was not allowed to associate with V staffers, I yearned to remain connected with the V. I thought I can achieve this by joining the 3rd Annual USTETIKA Awards. My decision to join USTETIKA troubled organizers led by then V editor-in-chief Vim Nadera because I was not only a V staffer. I was also involved with the USTETIKA steering committee Nadera had chaired the year before. In the end, I was allowed to compete. Judges Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, Cirilo Bautista and Merlinda Bobis gave my entry the only prize for poetry that year. I received a cash prize but I did not receive any USTETIKA medal, plaque or trophy.

After my graduation from UST, I started teaching in UP. Imbued with unending grace, I left the religious organization that controlled me during my college years. Soon after, I started attending V get-togethers, reunions and other V-related functions more religiously. Through succeeding publication directors Gilbert Bola?os, Vim Nadera and Lito Zulueta, I sat either as head or panel member of succeeding V editorial exams committees. Twice, I emceed the PAUTAKAN. I was also a frequent PAUTAKAN and USTETIKA judge. Not surprisingly, I cultivated friendships with many V staffers and alumni. With all of these, I hope to pay my dues, finally, as a prodigal V staffer. V

Jose Wendell P. Capili earned his degrees from the University of Santo Tomas (elementary, high school and college), University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman, University of Tokyo, University of Cambridge and The Australian National University. He received Carlos Palanca, Cultural Center of the Philippines, UST and UP prizes for literature, as well as various scholarships, grants and fellowships.

He authored four books and more than three hundred articles. Currently, he is an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Arts and Letters, U.P. Diliman. He wrote for the Varsitarian Witness section from 1986 until 1987.