TWO years before it turned 50, I enrolled at the University of the Visayas. I had planned on studying in another university but the uncle who accompanied me from the province found the enrollment process there rather complicated, so we went downtown. It was a move that I have never come to regret.
This year, the university celebrates its centennial. So many years have passed since I first set foot in what was then the third largest university in the Philippines. I was 15 years old and carried no more than 110 pounds in my 5’4” frame. And I was so sickly, I skipped the ROTC on my first year.
Last Saturday, I returned to the university for a reunion of the College of Liberal Arts alumni. It was my first visit after so many years and as I entered the Colon entrance gate, a flood of memories shot through me: founder Don Vicente’s visits to the classrooms, Doña Josefina sitting at the accounting department counter, the promissory notes I signed so I could take the periodical examinations, peeping through a hole in the Doña Teresita side of the gymnasium so I could watch the basketball game between UV and Yco, the UV week and its main feature, the comparza.
I was in UV when I learned that President Marcos had declared martial law. In fact I remember exactly where I was when news of Presidential Proclamation No. 1081 reached us: at the canteen behind the zoology laboratory on the ground floor of the Teresita building. I was then the editor of the school paper and I had staff members and friends that I have been warned were subversive. Many of them disappeared, never to be seen again.
I remembered my instructors particularly the ones who taught English because it was my favorite subject: Mrs. Adeline Castillo, Mrs. Janet Rama, Mrs. Mathea Baguia, Mrs. Valmoria and Mr. Jaime Picornell. The course on Rizal was memorable because of the intense discussions Joselito Alo (now also a lawyer) and I had with our teacher, Mrs. Arreza on the sweating Fr. Damaso. Political Science 1 was enjoyable because of the wit and the way with words of our teacher, lawyer Joseph Baduel.
I was hoping to see at least some of them during the reunion but the only old familiar faces I saw were those of Atty. Baduel, retired RTC Judge Benedicto Cobarde, our former ROTC corps commander, retired police General Fritz Quiñanola, my law school classmate, former Labor Undersecretary Josephus Jimenez and Pinky Laput Maligon.
Mayor-elect Edgar Labella came much later because he had meetings with incoming governor Gwendolyn Garcia and incoming Mandaue City mayor Jonas Cortes. Alas, old college pals like Boy Alo and lawyer Aven Piramide did not show up. Maybe, some other time.
I look forward to that time. I was happy being around new and fresh faces last Saturday but there’s nothing like being with people you have spent your best and most exciting years with, reliving stories of our young adulthood, including, as Boy Jimenez said, the girls we had a crush on but who did not even notice us.
Sometimes, to borrow a line from Neil Sedaka, we miss the hungry years.