Reminiscing College Years in Letran
Sometime in 1970 I was admitted as freshman in Letran College. There was an entrance exam although I could not recall whether it was checked at all. I merely passed and breezed through it. Next time I knew, I was already enrolling. There I met a group of fellow youngsters fresh from high school. We were graduates from different secondary schools from all over the country. We were a hodge podge of initiates dreaming of a college degree for a possible crack at prosperity in the future.
I have classmates coming from the North, from the Visayas and I think, there were also from Mindanao. I have classmates with Chinese ancestry too. Majority were scions of prominent families. Letran College has been known as an exclusive school for boys, until school administration allowed the entry of female students. I think we were the first batch to have female classmates. Letran College became the foremost initiator of the co-ed system.
Four and five years later, our female classmates would rule. Our valedictorian was a female. She was Vivian Tornea, presently a ranking official in the Overseas Welfare Administration (OWA). The rest of the boys would just sing halleluiahs. Most of the girls would also dominate our classes. I never recalled anyone among us, the boys, would even challenge such dominant academic posture of the girls. We were merely confined to pranks and pulling one mischief after another, pushing tomfoolery and creating trouble. It was never a rewarding experience at all but unfortunately, I was one of the leading lights in the shenanigan sector. Everyone, was for me, a subject for ridicule; a figure for laughter; a model for amusement. Of course, I learned the trick when I was in high school and was reinforced further when joined by another prankster—Dan Bassig, scion of a successful real estate practitioner of Pasig City.
I was having a grand time laughing all the way, pinching my classmates, joking with everyone until one day, I realized that my grades were all falling apart. My serious classmates were advancing while in my case, I was failing one subject after another. The result: my batch graduated a year ahead of me. It was a very sad and inopportune time. For me, the period wasted was regrettable and disastrous. Worst, my parents were not even aware of it. I graduated without a peer, alone one October month, half a year later. While my classmates were having a grand time hunting for jobs, I merely retreated back home licking my academic wounds and laughing, not on my favourite subjects—my classmates, but on myself.
Years later, I would find out that a number of my classmates were already above the rim. Some were full-fledged lawyers; others bank officials, successful entrepreneurs, high government officials and triumphant businessmen. Those guys and gals who made it came from the middle class. Those who came from prominent families splinted. Some improved their lot and the other half, suffered setbacks. One of them was Igmidio “Jun” Dacanay, my buddy, constant company and exempted from my aggressive jokes. He would be around as audience to my stand up comic expressions. Jun was a scion of a transportation magnate and bus carrier Dacanay Express, plying the route of Manila-Baguio-Manila. Their family business was one of those which crashed because of Martial Law. Their evening trips were affected when curfew was imposed. From there, their business slowed down and they never recovered. To date, Jun is a Pastor, a calling which according to him was an effect of his rehabilitation from a traumatic period. Once, he was a prominent name in Baguio and instantly, his family’s wealth disappeared, and he became a non-entity. He was depressed to the point of suicide.
More years later, decades more actually and we were all nearing the twilight of our years, the midlife period. I would note some classmates were already having some grand time with their grandchildren. Some have retired from work. Others were still enjoying the perks of high end privileges as a result of their positions. In my case, I merely coasted along in my government post. At times, I was exceptionally appreciated, and in some instances, I was harassed. During these periods, I would find some classmates worthy of visiting, as others would find time visiting me.
Jun Dacanay visited me several times. The last time was when he brought me longganisa, that which was the pride of Baguio, and I suspect, a specialty which he was marketing side by side his preaching routine.
My constant callers were Vio Mateo and Bong Feliciano. They would drop by my office, pull me out and the three of us would just immerse in nearby hot springs at Los Banos, Laguna. It would become almost a crusade until I was sent to provincial sorties.
There was Dan Bassig. He retired from the US Navy and as a US citizen, his residence is in California. But he would rather shuttle to and fro the country of his origin. He would suddenly pop up and would complain for some physical ailments. At that time, I had a friend who was having a session with a faith healer. Dan would confess and would plead that he was cured of his restless leg syndrome. He came later to ask me to visit once again the faith healer. Previously, he was in a group of those seeking reliefs too. When Dan asked me where all the guys he was with, I must disclose that they were all goners already. Dan never insisted to visit the place once again.
There was also Rudy Gundran. Rudy is still connected at SSS and quite facilitative for his friends. Because of his competence, I was able to ask his assistance to help me enrol all the “tambays” of Recto and Quiapo as SSS card holders! Even pickpockets are SSS members now under the category of self employed!
And, yes Tanggol Co. Tanggol was the most consistent. He was there in Muntinlupa displaying his European car and when I was assigned in Davao, he was there with her European wife! Once I had an occasion to visit Beth Salonga, owner of FerSal Appartele and Salonga Music Store. Her musical instruments carried the name of her husband, the brand Fernando. I used to attend an instant mini-reunion at the house of Marlyn Torres-Galvez, presently deputy Ombudsman.
Of course, there is always Joseph Castelo, a serious guy and supplier of security papers, on league with Angel Lee, a respected owner of a brokerage firm. I met once Ted Granados, and the last time was when he was contemplating on a Congressional seat in Leyte. I was informed though that he was cheated. And then, there was Ed Garcia. He was a successful government lawyer until he transferred from one department to another. Last I heard of him, he was moving abroad. Rolly del Rosario I understand left for Canada. I once saw him decades ago when both of us were fledging marketing personnel. I was then a med rep of Mead Johnson, in Rolly’s case a salesman for Johnson and Johnson at Bicol region.
I once saw in one occasion at Marlyn’s residence Noel Trinos’ favourite seatmate, Carina del Valle. And yes, once before when I was completing my graduate studies at UP, I chanced upon Noel who was then taking up law. He begged and profusely supplicated me not to see him after that. I did. He was fearful that I might pepper him with jokes until he grows callous on studying. Next time, I heard was that he is a full fledge lawyer already. I met Dar Santos who was at that time a no non-sense lawyer and was checking a case at Muntinlupa. I was already the Superintendent of the National Penitentiary at that time. We never had a long conversation though since he was in a hurry for another legal appointment. I was about to pull a gag on him and tell him that I will recommend the release of a number of prisoners, thousands of them, especially those whom he defended and lost.
There was this Marquez (the first name escapes me always). He was transferee from a seminary and spent a couple of semesters at Letran. I don’t know if he graduated in another school but he was one of Muntinlupa’s successful automotive supply store. We just recognized one another when I was buying a spare part for my car.
I have this classmate who is a top gun in the Office of President, Bobby Dumlao, a lawyer and director of the Presidential Action Center. I remember the guy so well. We had a tiff during our sophomore year and we were then on a youth camp in Baguio. Our batch was marooned inside a public school classroom.I was sleeping soundly when out of the blue he awakened me by slapping his slippers on my face! There was laughter all around and he became an instant slapstick. And who will not get mad. In my case, I merely kept silent and slept. But a few hours later, when everyone was snoring, including Bobby, I had a grand revenge. I shoved my boots into his mouth! While he was spitting madly, as our group suddenly awakened, laughter reverberated kilometres away. From there on, he never forgot the incident and carried the slight and offensive act for years until decades later; we would be reunited under the aegis of government service. Both of us having completed law and having a good position in our respective organization would have a face off in some cases. We have forgotten our juvenile antics already although I am still alert when beside him.
I would still dream that one day I would be able to attend a reunion where all our classmates would be in full attendance. As it were, I would be a recipient of some snippets of information on the whereabouts of our professors. Atty. Hector Villacorta, a funny man during lectures and a serious law practitioner would shuttle from one high government post after another. He was recently until he was politically replaced as Chairman of the Veterans Administration. There was Prof. Cesar Marquez, prim and proper and full of machismo when he was our icon in English is now leading a life as a transgender in Baguio City. Prof. Punongbayan was for years, as our philosophy mentor, returned to his first love—selling mussels in Farmers’ Market in Cubao. The rest, I have as yet to check out.
I still cherish those years in Letran, although at that time, I would rather call it “Let’s run!”