Not just a writing guild

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Jan 3 2011

WE ARE more than a student publication.

Beyond its role as UST’s foremost media institution for the last 80 years, the Varsitarian has also provided unique avenues for the enrichment of the University’s young minds in the field of journalism, literature, academics, and the arts through its extra-editorial activities.

Among these events are the Pautakan quiz contest, Ustetika literary awards, Inkblots: The National Campus Journalism Fellowship, Cinevita film festival, and the Jose Villa Panganiban Professorial Chair Lecture.


Pautakan, the oldest annual inter-collegiate quiz contest in the Philippines, pits the best students from the different colleges and faculties of UST in a highly competitive, daylong competition.

It was born in 1977 during the term of their editor-in-chief Jesselyn Garcia-dela Cruz. Then under the generic name “Annual Intercollegiate Quiz Contest,” It would be renamed “Pautakan” two years later.

For some reason, the unimaginative original name was restored in 1980, only to be renamed yet again the following year. This time it’s “Brainstorm.”

Permanency came only after 1983 when organizers went back to the coinage “Pautakan,” which roughly meant “battle of wits.”

The College of Science became the inaugural champion and went on to win six championships, a feat which was duplicated by the Faculty of Medicine. The 90’s belonged to the Faculty of Engineering, which tucked five championships under its belt, including the first Pautakan trophy. The winningest team with seven championships was the Faculty of Arts and Letters, also dubbed the “Pautakan Team of the New Millennium.”

The Pautakan trophy, designed by Rommel Lugada (art editor from 1989 to 1991), was shaped like the V logo. Lugada also initiated the revision of the Pautakan rules, highlighted by the idea with three consecutive victories for good.

In 1997, the Faculty of Engineering brought home the first trophy, prompting the creation of a second trophy, still bearing the original design of Lugada. The Institute of Physical Therapy ruled the Pautakan in 1998, but was unable to win the following year, leaving the trophy unclaimed until 2002. From thereon, Artlets posted an unprecedented “five-peat” to land in the first Pautakan “Hall of Fame,” in 2007. That year, it decided to sit out of the competition, which was eventually won by the Faculty of Medicine.

Gawad Ustetika

Seeking to further nurture literary consciousness on campus, the came up with Gawad Ustetika, an annual literary contest. It has produced an excellent roster of writers such as Nerissa del Carmen Guevarra, Jose Victor Torres, Rudolfo “Jun” Lana, Jr., and Mike Maniquiz, to name a few.

Ustetika originated from a 1946 literary contest, which was held during the month of December. It was eventually renamed Rector’s Literary Contest in 1959, which lasted until Martial Law was declared in 1972.

In 1985, Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera Jr., editor-in-chief from 1987 to 1988, decided to revive the annual literary joust during a drinking session with other members of the editorial board.

Rechristened Gawad Ustetika— a combination of the word “estetika” (aesthetics) and UST— the literary contest served as a training ground for budding writers and future literary giants.

During the term of Fr. Roland dela Rosa O.P. in 1991, the Rector’s Literary Award was restored as part of Gawad Ustetika. It was given to any first-prize winner whose work best exemplified Christian values.

Lana, who later won numerous Palanca awards, received the first Rector’s Literary Award for his katha, “Tiririt ng Paru-parung,” and dula “Eksodo,” on top of his “Tomasinong Kwentista ng Taon” and “Tomasinong Mandudula ng Taon,” citations, respectively.

The literary contest used to be composed of categories in poetry, essay, short story, children’s short story, one-act play, tula, sanaysay, mailkling kuwento, maikling kuwentong pambata, and dula. But, due to the dwindling number of entries, the one-act play and dula were removed in 2000, while the children’s short story and maikling kuwentong pambata categories were also scrapped in 2002.

Another highlight of the Ustetika awards night was the Parangal Hagbong award, which recognized the contributions of notable Thomasian writers in the field of journalism and literature.

Launched in 1997 during the13th Ustetika, the first Parangal Hagbong feted two great Thomasian writers and former Varsitarian staff members, Roland Tinio and Rogelio Sicat. The event later became a fixture in the annual Ustetika. It has since been awarded to Cirilo Bautista, Bella Abangan, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, and Bienvenido Lumbera.

The name of the award was based on the Tagalog term Hagbong, a crown of leaves given to those who excelled in the arts and letters. It was founded by Ro-Charmaine Pidal, news editor and chairperson of the 13th Ustetika.

In 2004, the Varsitarian commissioned two notable artists, Romeo Forbes and Fred Caedo, to design the two trophies for the award.

Forbes’ creation, a molave sculpture with a kamagong base of two men supporting one another by the palm of their hands, depicts the dynamism of creativity. It goes to living recipients of Parangal Hagbong.

Caedo’s cold-cast ivory sculpture, which shows a pair of hands in the act of both acclaim and oblation, is awarded posthumously. Its first recipients were Tinio and Sicat.

Meanwhile, to rekindle the interest of Thomasians in prose writing and increase the number of applicants in the fiction and katha categories of Ustetika, the Varsitarian Literary Workshop was conceived in 2005.

The maiden workshop covered essay and short story writing both in English and Filipino. The following year, it was renamed the Varsitarian Fiction Workshop, which focused on short story and katha conceptualization and critiquing.

Open to all Thomasian students, the event enables participants to present their literary pieces for peer and panel critiquing led by acclaimed writers such as Jun Cruz Reyes, Eric Melendez, J. Vic Torres, Rebecca Añonuevo, Eros Atalia, Dean Alfar, Charlson Ong, and other notable writers.


Inkblots, the annual national journalism fellowship organized by the Varsitarian, aims to improve campus press through a series of journalism lectures by well-known media practitioners.

Taking the cue from the yearly Varsitarian summer writing workshop held for the publication’s staff, Inkblots emerged in 1999 under the terms of editor-in-chief Christian Esguerra, managing editor Adrian Montemayor, and associate editor Carlomar Daoana. The event, which got its name from the blot of an overused pen, invites fellows throughout the country for a series of which lectures on news, sports, feature, and lifestyle and culture writing to name a few. It’s sub-titled the National Campus Journalism Fellowship.

Through the years, renowned media practitioners have graced the national fellowship. Among them were Pennie Azarcon-de la Cruz, Sunday Inquirer Magazine editor and former Varsitarian associate editor, Joaquin “Quinito” Henson, Philippine Star sports columnist, Mario Hernando, Sunday Malaya editor and former Varsitarian news editor, Charie Villa, ABS-CBN News gathering chief and former Reuters correspondent, and Maria Ressa, ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs Department head.

Jose Villa Panganiban Professional Lecture

Named after the founder of the Varsitarian, the Professional Chair for Journalism, an annual lecture which tackles issues in journalism and current events, was established through a grant given by UST in 1999, also during Esguerra’s term.

However, it was only on Nov. 21, 2002 that the Varsitarian decided to hold the first JVP lecture with former Rector Fr. Dela Rosa, also a Manila Bulletin columnist and Commission on Higher Education chair, as its inaugurated lecturer.

The lecture is lodged with the AB Journalism program of the Faculty of Arts and Letters through an endowment by the Varsitarian.

Established writers like Alice Colet-Villadolid, a former Malacañang press undersecretary and New York Times correspondent, Eugenia Duran-Apostol, the Philippine Daily Inquirer founder, and, Jullie Yap-Daza, former editor-in-chief of the Manila Bulletin, have graced the event as lecturers.


Cinevita is the Varsitarian’s annual film festival, the latest addition to its list of extra-editorial activities.

Launched as part of the paper’s 79th anniversary celebration, the event was opened to the public, showcasing local and international features, short films, and documentaries that highlight moral values, life-affirming stories, spirituality, cultural and moral formation, and other family-oriented themes. Media and film professionals were also invited to give talks on the art and craft of cinema and film journalism, in line with Catholic campus newspapering.

The first Cinevita was held at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center, showcasing internationally acclaimed films such as Manoro by Brillante Mendoza and Kubrador by Jeffrey Jeturian. Other movies included ICU Bed #7 by Rica Arevalo, Ika-Siyam na Palapag by Anna Isabelle Matutina, Grave of the Fireflies by Japanese director Isao Takahata, and What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams.

Defunct extra-editorials

Through the years, some extra-editorial events were stopped, either from lack of participants or funds. One of these was the Thomasian Artsfest, which lasted only from 1994 to 1996.

It was organized by the Varsitarian, the Student Organizations Coordinating Council, and a network of arts and culture organizations in the University, such as the UST Singers, Teatro Tomasino, UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, UST Symphony Orchestra and other organizations from the College of Architecture, Fine Arts, and the Faculty of Arts and Letters.

The week-long festival included street painting, kite-flying, photo-essay contests; song and dance fests; arts and culture symposia; poetry reading; a photography exhibit titled “Lenspeak: a film festival; concerts; and CAFA’s annual art exhibit.

These activities were supported by the UST administration, through then treasurer Rev. Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P.

According to Roel Manipon, former associate editor and member of the organizing committee, the subsequent Varsitarian batch was not able to continue the Artfest for it was such an ambitious and huge task to gather the Thomasian community for the event.

The Varsitarian could not also shoulder all the expenses of the Artfest. From there, the organizing committee realized that it could not be made an annual event, but raised the possibility of making it a biennial or quadrennial project.

Another forgone extra-editorial event was the National Campus Investigative Journalism Awards (NCIJA), formerly the highlight of the Inkblots fellowship night.

Lawyer Julio S. Macaranas, Jr., a retired Washington-based legal editor and a former Varsitarian editor-in-chief, had provided an endowment to NCIJA in 2001 in honor of his late mother Mercedes.

However, due to the meticulous standards imposed by the judges, no winner was declared in all four staging of NCIJA, but special citations were made. Some of the judges were Macaranas, Maritess Vitug, Newsbreak editor, Glenda Gloria, Newsbreak managing editor, and Shiela Coronel, former director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and now the inaugural director of the investigative journalism institute of Columbia University.

Journalism seniors led by Angelo de Alban, a former Varsitarian Special Reports writer, won the first special citation for their investigative work on fake marriages at the Manila City Hall in 2001, which was published in the Journalese, the official publication of the UST Journalism Society.

But with the dwindling number of participants and the declining quality of the entries, Macaranas decided to cancel the event in 2005. V Aura Marie A. Dagcutan and Samuel Raphael Medenilla