LET us turn back the hand of time. The year is 1964. The Philippines is in a bullish mood in line with the winning slogan -- “This country can be great again.”
The newly elected President is a dashing bar topnotcher from Ilocos, Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The air waves are dominated by a four-man band from Liverpool, England. They are more popularly known as “The Beatles.”
The president of the Philippine Normal College is Dr. Emiliano C. Ramirez, Attorney Lila S. Garcia, a young lawyer, is largely unknown though carrying the lofty title of a legal officer. She was to become a President of the University herself. Marcos Canlas and Eliseo Ocampo are the more prominent figures in the Ramirez presidency. Both Canlas and Ocampo are Pampagueños.
Lo and behold!
Songs and laughter fill the air of the college auditorium. “There’s a bird in the nest, in the tree… etc.,” “Doe, a deer, a female deer…,” ”Let me call you sweetheart…” It is orientation period for freshmen.
The freshmen are mesmerized and enamored. Student leaders are shinning brilliantly. The all- stars are: a bedimpled, white-complexioned and articulate lass, Aurora Marcellana; a bespectacled dark Manilena who looks more of a provinciana, summa cum laude bound Rosita Gallega; a “crush ng bayan” Visayan who appears to be a master of both written and spoken English, Florante Pareñas; and the closest student to Room 2004, better known as Mommy Buenaseda’s kingdom, Edilberto Mandani.
The juniors are led by a conservative, sensitive and intelligent Nilo Rosas who became a VIP at the Department of Education later. His ally, Sheila Alcantara holds court. Enrique Coralejo, now the owner of some schools, the boy from Liliw is looking for a place under the sun.
The sophomores are raring to take-over. Malou Macatangay is looked up to as knowledgeable. Julito Pineda and Julian Balisi could not seem to agree on any issue and consequently represented rival parties. Manuel Ortega of the evening stars is a late bloomer. He became a government prosecutor. Milwida Guevarra is serene like the deep blue sea. Guevarra became a respected Undersecretary of Finance.
Since the male specie in the teaching profession is nearing extinction, male applicants with decent high school average are admitted without going through a written examination. Talk about inequality of genders but this is none of our concern.
Registration for freshmen is reported by the registrar as brisk. Myriad freshmen reached 22 day sections; two home economics classes and 6 night sections are formed.
After a year, Batch ’68 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting groups ever to pass the portals of the college. Violeta delos Santos of G-12 has the confidence of a campus leader. Her classmate, Ramon Guinto (San Beda Registrar) is emerging as the unchallenged “Maestro de Espana.” Guillermo Roman and Teofilo Aspillaga of G-14 join the Torch. Florencio de Guzman of G-10 wields charms in student politics. His classmate, Ocadelos Reyes (a three-term Mayor of Mariveles, Bataan) is intent in watching on the sidelines. The coeds (read: pretty ladies) are Espirita Aliwalas of G-1, Aurora Espiritu of G-13, Myrna Vega of G-19, Althea Lozada of G-3. Anastacia Ramos of G-7 and Carmencita dela Cruz of G-3. Anastacia Ramos of G-20 (Mayor of Plaridel, Bulacan) and Samuel Romero of G-17 (Vice Governor of Romblon) seem headed towards classroom duties.
The triumvirate of G-1, Ezekiel Alunen, a prominent and sincere overseas recruiter, Arsenio Maribbay and Jose Valmores (now a corporate lawyer) look formidable. Rene Romero of G-3 has broken his shell and challenges everyone to a debate.
So, a debate billed as the “Clash of the Titans” is staged. Alunen and Valmores on one hand versus Romero and this author on the other. The issue? “Should China be admitted to the United Nations?” The winners? Everybody because all the participants became richer in experience and years later, all these 68 alumni became successful. Valmores and Viray became lawyers. Alunen became the Chief Executive Officer of Dumez Phil. Inc. Romero is a distinguished professor official and Vice-President of our alma matter, PNU.
The professors are worth mentioning:
Education- Paz Abada and Reynando Dante Juanta
English- Lilia Cortes and Rebecca Alcantara
Pilipino- Genoveva Matute and Josefina Cruz
Science- Cesario Golla and Gloria Salandanan
Social Science- Racquel Saguil, Belen Leones and Asuncion Sarreal
Spanish- Teodora Collantes and Rita Madlangsakay
The years rolled fast. Suddenly, 1968 came. It was graduation time.
The graduation speaker is Senate President Gil Puyat of Guagua, Pampanga. The magna cum laude graduates are Nellie Apolonio, Bernardita Ocampo, Ofelia de Leon and Natividad Alegre. There are three male cum laude’s- Ramon Guinto, Ezekiel Alunen and this writer.
One chapter closes but others are still to open in the book of Class ’68.
Fifty years after (2018), we still feel like freshmen. The heart never grows old.