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HIGH BLOOD

A one-of-a-kind award

04:10 AM March 08, 2020

Last Feb. 22, the UST High School graduates of 1960, ’65, ’70, ’75, ’80 and every five years until 2015 celebrated their Grand Alumni Homecoming at The Tent of The Manila Hotel. The splendid affair was organized by the Golden Jubilarians, the Class of 1970. I was in attendance because I was given an award that I consider to be singular and unique. The citation reads: “In grateful appreciation to Mrs. Lourdes S. Bautista for being the oldest faculty member attending the Grand Alumni Homecoming of the UST High School and being one of the original teachers of the UST High School when it reopened after World War II.”

My award therefore is in recognition of my longevity and presence at the school pre-war.

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I was a third year journalism student in UST and a part-time employee of the Manila Tribune when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 8, 1941. World War II had begun for us. The Japanese commandeered the UST compound and converted it into an internment camp. All colleges were closed, with the exception of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and the College of Law based in Intramuros.

When Manila was liberated on Feb. 15, 1945, the Americans were freed and UST was returned to its Dominican owners. By mid-1945, several colleges had reopened. I couldn’t enroll in journalism because the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters had not yet opened, and so I opted for an AB major in English and literature degree, which required fewer units than journalism. I was eager to get a degree because I was already married and had a baby by then.

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One afternoon, on my way out of the Main Building, I noticed some men and women going in and out of an office. Curious, I asked why and was told that they were applying for positions in the High School that was set to open in a few months.

I went in myself and saw a handsome Dominican priest seated behind the office desk. He was Fr. Tomas Martinez, OP, the first director of the UST High School.

I introduced myself, saying that I was a college student before the war. I asked him if I could apply.

He laughed, “But you’re still an undergraduate.”

“But I’ll be graduating soon and I’ll make summa, I’m sure,” I replied.

“Still you have no experience.”

“How can I have experience if you don’t give me a chance?” I countered back.

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“I’m sorry, there are no more assignments. All classes are spoken for.”

“Father,” I said, “perhaps with my journalism experience, I can help you put up a school paper.”

Looking at me, he said, “That’s a good idea.”

Thus was The Aquinian (the school paper) born.

“Now, Father,” I continued, “I know I’m taxing your patience, but will you please go over your records and see if there’s still a subject that is unassigned?” Being such a kind priest, he indulged me. Finally, he said, “You’re lucky, there’s a religion class for sophomores that’s available.” He looked at me questioningly. I answered readily, “I’ll take it, Father. Thank you very much.”

On a small piece of paper he wrote down the subject, the class section, and the room number. (The High School then occupied a one-story building and two Quonset huts left by the Americans where now stands the Education Building.) I thanked him again and left. That was the beginning of a warm friendship that lasted for decades until his death in Madrid, Spain.

July 15, 1946, is an important date in the history of the UST High School. It was the first day of the first schoolyear—1946-47—as well as the first graduation ceremony after World War II. For me, it is doubly so because that was the day when I taught my first class in religion to the students of II-A, from 8-8:40 a.m., and later attended the graduation ceremony for my diploma at 5 p.m. in the University Gymnasium. Thus was launched my academic career in UST, which lasted for 51 years.

As for longevity, my reaching the venerable age of 96, let all the glory, honor, and gratitude be to God Almighty, who carries me in the palm of His hand.

* * *

Lourdes Syquia-Bautista (c/o her daughter [email protected]), 96, is a retired professor of the University of Santo Tomas, a widow with 12 children, 27 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.

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TAGS: High Blood, Lourdes Syquia-Bautista, The Aquinian, UST High School Grand Alumni Homecoming
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