Best, worst of times | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Best, worst of times

PLEASE INDULGE this personal announcement. To all “classmates,” batch 1976, AB Journalism at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas: We will be observing the 40th anniversary of our college graduation on Saturday, March 19, at the UST Alumni Center.

The celebration starts with registration at 11 a.m., followed by a “short, simple Mass” at 12 noon, and then by lunch, games and other “activities” until around 5 p.m.

A special treat at the Ruby Reunion will be the presence of two of our professors back in the day. The first is Rodolfo Clavio, who taught philosophy and theology but is best remembered as the Artlets faculty secretary who later became university registrar. The other special guest is Lourdes “Ma’am Nena” Syquia Bautista, best and most fondly remembered for her classes on literature and theology, as well as for acting as a “role model” on motherhood (she has 12 children and was married to our journalism professor Felix Bautista), womanhood and Christian living.


The best news is that attendance is without obligation whatsoever, except for your personal presence. I’m sorry to say I won’t meet this last obligation as I will be in New York to take part in side events at the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the United Nations.


* * *

I WAS originally asked to deliver my reflections on “the way we were” in the early 1970s, a “golden time” when we were all young and frisky (frisky!) and brimming with optimism about changing the world.

Just before entering UST, I had been involved in student activism and of course my assignment was to work on “propaganda” for our organization. My attraction to journalism was born on those afternoons spent delivering our press releases (which I also wrote) and entering the crowded, noisy (typewriters going clackety-clack!) newsrooms of different newspapers, rubbing elbows with (or rather, braving the scowls of) hard-boiled desk editors who would look up with annoyed expressions and snatch my proffered pieces of paper with a grunt.

Imagine my (and perhaps most of my fellow aspiring journalists’) disappointment, dismay and shock when, just a few months into our freshman year, martial law was declared and all newspapers and magazines, save for a few crony publications, were shuttered. Journalism did not seem like such an attractive career choice then, with the arrest and detention of prominent writers and journalists serving as stark reminders of the fate that awaited crusading or merely outspoken members of the press.

No wonder the number of journalism majors was barely enough to fill a single class, whereas by contrast, the number of “mass comm” majors spilled over into two or three classes. And even then, a number of my journalism classmates ended up in public relations and related fields.

Journalism in those days—in our university paper The Varsitarian, for one—meant mastering the skill of “saying something critical of government without inciting too much interest from authorities.” It meant wielding one’s words with the skill and precision of a surgeon using a scalpel, rather than with the brute strength of a laborer crushing rocks with a sledgehammer.


At the same time, though, these were the halcyon years of our youth, our time to explore the worlds of carefree (and lasting) friendships, relationships, romance, and yes, dare I say it, sexuality (yes, even in the Pontifical University!).

I wrote before that those were “the best of times and the worst of times.” And those times are worth recalling, if only to remind us of everything we lost, fought to regain, and now must fight even harder to maintain.

Many thanks, too, to classmates who labored long and hard to plan and organize these events: the indefatigable Ignacio “Iggy” Dee who seems to have kept tabs on most of us through the years, Marian Martin, Vicky Dominguez Alumbro, Techie Salud and Milagros Bas Espinas. And a special shout-out, too, to two classmates from abroad who kept tabs on the event: Edgar “Egay” Santiago and Mon Mayuga.

* * *

THERE’S a radio commercial that featured two brothers talking about places around the world that one of them was planning to visit. When the traveling brother mentioned his dream to visit Korea, the other sibling remarked: “Why bother? They’re all here!”

Indeed, the number of Koreans visiting or living in the Philippines has been much commented upon. Koreans make up the biggest number of foreign tourists entering the country, while an estimated 100,000 Koreans live here, for varying periods, either to study English or pursue businesses. One reason, say some, is the much lower cost of living in the country.

At a recent trade and media event, I asked Asiana Airlines manager Cho Yong-Han and Incheon Airport marketing director Alex Lee why Koreans love to visit the Philippines. Cho ventured that it’s because “the Philippines is so near to Korea, and so it’s convenient to visit.” Lee gave a rather novel (and historical) reply: “Koreans are very grateful to Filipinos for the role you played in liberating Korea [during the Korean War].”

* * *

WHATEVER the reason, the other side of the picture is true as well: an increasing number of Filipinos have chosen to either visit Korea or choose Incheon Airport as a stopover on the way to destinations elsewhere.

In connection with this, Asiana, Incheon airport authorities and HanaTour recently launched a promotion called “Stop and Joy in Seoul,” which makes available to travelers on layovers different tour packages to explore Seoul.

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Asiana Airlines offers daily flights from Manila, Clark and Cebu to 24 countries, with convenient stopovers in Seoul.

TAGS: Anniversary, college, Journalism, Mass Communication, opinion

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