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Saga of the campus press

By Amadis Ma. Guerrero
First Posted 01:03:00 02/12/2007

Filed Under: Media, People

MANILA, Philippines -- Pablo T. Anido must have been a Renaissance man. A medical student at the University of Santo Tomas during the 1920s, he was also a writer, violinist?and boxer. In fact, he went on to become the first editor in chief of the Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST, in 1928.

The honor of being ?Father of the Varsitarian,? however, goes to the famous José Villa Panganiban, for it was he who persevered in putting together the fledgling school paper?which later won many awards?and helping ensure its survival. Panganiban was a linguist who later served as director of the National Language Institute; in 1972 he published the landmark ?Diksyunaryo Tesauro-Pilipino-Ingles.?

The other founders were Elizabeth C. Bowers and Olimpia Baltazar, a granddaughter of, no less, the poet Balagtas (Francisco Baltazar).

The Varsitarian is now celebrating its 80th year with a retrospective exhibit at the UST Museum (open Tuesday-Friday; tel. 7811815), ongoing until Feb. 15. ?Actually it?s only our 79th year,? Varsitarian features editor Mary Joy T. de Lara says. ?But we decided to hold an advance show because there will be so many events in 2008, the actual 80th year.?

The exhibit, curated by a team of Varsitarian alumni now working in the metropolitan media and set up by the incumbent staff?s editors and artists with the help of emergent artist Buen Calubayan of the UST Museum, is most interesting and highly recommended to students of journalism and history. The core of the exhibit is a phalanx of well-laid-out pages from vintage as well as recent issues of the publication, each emblazoned with the masthead of the era.


?We show the evolution of the paper in terms of mastheads,? De Lara explains. The mastheads are from 1928 to the present, with plain black fonts but occasionally backdropped by an attractive sketch (like the main historic building of the university). The present masthead is enlivened by blue and gold colors, showing a smiling sun amid royal and pontifical symbols.

A collage of scraps from assorted issues announces the exhibit as you enter the museum. We see snippets of editorials, feature stories, essays, poems, and published photos of familiar, newsworthy personalities such as John Paul II, Ninoy Aquino, Pepe Diokno and even Khomeini of Iran.

There is a small antique typewriter (manual, of course), circa 1917, which was later ?probably? used by one of the editors. And the former darkroom used by photographers has been recreated, as a kind of curiosity in this digital age.

When the Varsitarian made its bow in 1928, only 426 out of a student population of 2,000 supported the paper with a contribution of 10 centavos. To keep it going, each page had an ad from nearby establishments. Today, ads are limited to 2-3 pages at most, and some 33,000 students support the publication with P120 from their tuition. The Varsitarian is well-financed enough as to endow a professorial chair in journalism in honor of Panganiban and to open a spanking new office at the new UST Tan Yan Kee Student Center Building. (The office was blessed right after the exhibit?s opening by Fr. Ed Lleva of the Diocese of Caloocan, Fr. Nicanor Lalog of the Diocese of Malolos and Fr. Sid Marinay of the Archdiocese of Manila?all alumni of the Varsitarian.)

Many men and women who attained success in their respective callings (be it literature, visual art, the teaching profession, journalism or politics) first honed their talents at the Varsitarian, as editors, staffers, contributors, and layout artists. The honor roll includes Paz Latorena, Emmanuel Pelaez, Arsenio Lacson, Cenon Rivera, J. Elizalde Navarro, Celso Carunungan, Juan Frivaldo, Bienvenido Lumbera, F. Sionil José, Wilfrido Nolledo, Juan Gatbonton, Eugenia Duran, Gloria Garchitorena, Doris Trinidad, Sister Delia Coronel, Ophelia Dimalanta, Teodoro Benigno, Francisco Tatad, Neal Cruz, Alice Colet, Jullie Yap, Cirilo Bautista, Rogelio Sicat, Cristina Pantoja, Rina Jimenez, José Burgos Jr.,Eric Gamalinda, Antonio Lopez, Danny Dalena, Bernardo Bernardo, Archbishop Artemio Casas, Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, OP; Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ; Vim Nadera, Joselito Zulueta, and so many others.

By the 1970s, with the country in the grip of the dictatorship, the Varsitarian began to tackle national issues. This commitment continues. A recent story reported on Thomasians rallying and supporting the stand of the bishops against charter change. As the concluding text of the exhibit rightly declares: ?After eight decades of struggle and glory, the Varsitarian continues to write history.?

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