V is for very vonderful people

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Jan 3 2011

By Karen B. Galarpe

“Oo nga ‘no,” I replied, matching the face with the mug shot on his column in that week’s issue of the Varsitarian. “Maliit lang pala siya.”

I looked again sideways and noticed how Mr. Dalupang seemed so…normal. Like he’s one of us. He was there on the sidewalk in his med uniform, sweating like the rest of us. But when I would read his column in the V, he seemed to me as someone tall and out of reach, what with his serious profound prose and courageous stand on issues.

I was in my sophomore year then at Commerce, and that started my interest in The Varsitarian. After having seen Mr. Dalupang in the flesh, I suddenly wanted to see how the other staffers looked. Not that I was boy-watching. It just demystified this group of people for me after having seen one of them craning his neck out for a jeep on busy España. It’s probably what an LA resident would feel after having bumped into Ben Affleck at the pharmacy, and suddenly wondering who else lives around the corner.

So when my best friend and classmate Richelle Araneta and I saw the poster announcing that year’s qualifying exams for the Varsitarian, we looked at each other and made a pact to go for it. We both loved to write anyway.

Richelle and I both made it—she in the News staff while I was assigned to the Research and Special Reports team. At Balayan, Batangas, where the seminar-workshop was held for incoming and incumbent staffers, we were just awed to meet the other staffers who we only knew by their bylines. Gina Bautista, that year’s outgoing EIC, was as sweet as can be. Her brother Noel, also known as Wewe, seemed so approachable. Their cousin Jofe Syquia took time out to really accommodate us, never mind if we were newbies. We met the famously rambunctious Vad Voice—Vim Nadera, Rocky Nazareno, Lito Zulueta, Jong Arcano, Lyndon Meris, Dwight Morales, Mon Correa, Sean Pleta, etc. Then there were the pretty and talented girls Louise Belle Baterna, Becky Añonuevo, Des Chiongson, and Gina Kuizon. And who could forget Nick “Avsz” (short for Avsecom; the story behind it is that he looks like one of the Avsecom men who supposedly killed Ninoy Aquino) Lalog with his blood-curling yell, “NEOPHYTE!!!” That was a cue for us to kneel pronto and profess three times, “Once a V staffer, always a V staffer!” finishing it with, “Hail!”

In my two years’ stay at the V, I’ve come to know other smart and wonderful men and women who have become true friends—Andy Saracho, Jun Carnecer, Carmie Dulguime, Nancy Almajose (who married another V staffer, Dan Morallo), Paul Pena, Nini Vargas (who married Paul), Oliev Laurel, Bernie Fortuno, Wendell Capili, Jay Javier, Bong Ferranco, Marlie Albaira, Ching Medina, etc.—everyone has become a genuine friend. Indeed, beyond the bylines, V staffers are really just down-to-earth warm people.

In college, we were there for each other through acne and boyfriend/girlfriend problems, low grades in exams (which we attributed to hanging out in the V office more than studying), late nights at the press going over pages literally cut and pasted, and political rallies. When one would come in sad or tired after a nerve-wrecking exam, we’d just say, “Tara, Lopez tayo.”

Then we’d all troop to P. Noval to pig out at Lopez Canteen. Sometimes it would be Tapsi on Dapitan, or, when we have more money, Janet’s on Dapitan too.

It has been more than 20 years since I left the V (I left in ’87) but the group is still intact and meet each other once in a while over good food and coffee here and abroad. We have partied hard in our younger days, even sleeping over at each other’s houses. We have become the ninangs and ninongs of each other’s kids. We have consulted the doctors in our batch for our aches and pains. We’ve engaged the services of the lawyers in our batch for legal stuff. And the priests in our batch have ministered to our needs time and again. In fact, Fr. Nick Lalog and Fr. Ramil Marcos have made our active yahoogroup their pulpit as well, delivering us their homilies every week, spiced up with wholesome jokes in between.

We’ve made kilatis each other’s partner/wife/husband. We’ve cried over each other’s shoulder and dispensed wise advice as needed. We’ve mourned with each other and celebrated together in moments of triumph.

“Wala na, forever na ‘to,” I thought to myself a few months ago after yet another lunch with Erli Mendoza and Jun Carnecer. The group may not meet as often anymore, but when we do, it seems like yesterday in the days when the anteroom was still there in the V office, when we had to type tuldok-style on ancient Olympia typewriters, when we would all hang out in the adviser’s cubicle (aircon kasi) and run out when Jesselyn dela Cruz, our adviser, would come in the door.

Bonds remain. As our mantra says, “Once a V staffer, always a V staffer. Hail!” V

Karen Galarpe was with the Varsitarian as a research and special reports reporter in 1985-86, and as senior staff writer in 1986-87. A Commerce graduate and CPA, Karen junked a promising financial career in the late 80s in favor of her first love, writing. A magazine editor, Karen was editor-in-chief of Smart Parenting and SME Insight Magazine, and former home and family editor and columnist of Good Housekeeping. Now she’s with Food Magazine as copy editor while doing other projects. Karen is a single mom to a 12-year-old son.