Editor’s Note: This article was supposed to be part of the Amihan magazine, the souvenir supplement to the Varsitarian’s 95th anniversary alumni homecoming on Jan. 14, 2023. But pressed for time and because of various campus health and security protocols that were still obtaining at that time, the “V” staff failed to finish the publication. The ”V” is finally running this article belatedly as a tribute to Rina, who died on Nov. 12, and to savor the beautiful memories she’s left behind.

IT HAPPENED before our time in UST – and the Varsitarian (“V”) – but traces of the First Quarter Storm that engulfed the country lingered still by the time we stepped into the UST Student Publications Office (the office of the “V” in the UST Main Building) for the panel interview that would determine our fate.

Mostly, these “traces” were embodied in some staffers who were part of the crew that came out with that “infamous” Varsitarian lampoon edition that parodied, among other matters, the arrival of Pope Paul VI for his first papal visit to the Philippines. Among them were Corazon “Peachy” Evangelista (later Yamsuan) and Nestor Cuartero, who were “V” staffers at the time that edition came out and expelled (though later reinstated), along with all the others.

That mattered little by the time that I and my batch of freshmen stepped onto the grounds of UST. I don’t know what motivated the other aspirants, but getting into the “V” was, for me, a lifeline. I had dreamed of entering the University of the Philippines (UP), but the letter informing me about passing the UP College Admission Test was withheld by my parents for fear – legitimate, I guess – that I would turn into an activist, if not a communist, once I entered UP.

I say it was a legitimate fear because, by that time, I had already taken part in several rallies and marches. This included an incident where I joined a group that infiltrated the halls of Congress, holding up protest posters while a session was going on. I’ve forgotten what we were protesting, though. We were herded off to a nearby police station and threatened with charges, but while no charges were filed, my aunt, with whom we were staying while my father recovered from a stroke in our province, refused to take me back. Instead, I was relegated to a dorm near Maryknoll (now Miriam College), waiting for my ultimate “freedom” from what I felt at that time was a “burgis” (bourgeois) institution.

Saving grace

Anyway, by the time I enrolled in UST, I was sufficiently mollified but still resentful. I had planned to transfer to UP after my freshman year, but in the meantime, the call came out for applications to the “V.” During this time, the “V” was, for me, a saving grace; I looked forward to every issue – once a week at that time – and convincing me that choosing UST for a journalism course was a wise decision. When I passed the exam and the interview, informed that I had made it as a reporter, I forgot all about my plans to decamp to UP.

The first thing I remember about my stint in the “V” was the lunch hosted by then publications director Felix Bautista for the outgoing and incoming staff. This was when I first caught sight of Peachy, who had already served one term as editor in chief and was about to serve her second term. She entered wearing a chic outfit that elicited whistles from the men on staff (this was before PC took over student mores and “#MeToo” caught on). To be honest, she intimidated me!

Mr. Bautista, whom we would all come to call “Sir,” was an avuncular ex-journalist, heading the journalism department at the Faculty of Arts and Letters and who was also a speechwriter for then just-appointed Archbishop (later Cardinal) of Manila Jaime Sin. At one point during the lunch, “Sir” urged me to try a dish that, he said, was a fried snake. I was taken aback, but sensing that this was a test, I gamely (if reluctantly) tried a few slices. To my surprise and relief, it turned out to be pork intestines, eliciting a gleeful laugh from “Sir.”

With all the other staffers, we trudged through the UST campus in search of stories, braved the noontime sun to make the long trek from the “V” offices at the Main Building to the UST Press, and grappled with disgruntled fraternities, unhappy deans and professors, and our own readers ignoring the piles of the “V” at the entrances of buildings and all our hard work.

At the “V” office

My stint as a reporter was brightened a lot by then-news editor Alice Martinez (alas, deceased), who, it seems to me, took me under her wing. Other memorable staffers who befriended me during that first summer were Nestor Cuartero, who is now a respected entertainment editor; Bong Osorio (also deceased), who would become a widely recognized public relations practitioner ending with his stint at ABS-CBN; and Tricia Policarpio, who was the only other staffer to join the “V” as a freshman, who became features editor and, as far as I know, was the first to go around campus wearing the new “maxi length” skirt.

Memorable were “Sir’s” publication assistants: Rory de Guzman and Josie Luna, who were the real “enforcers” at the “V,” hounding us about meeting deadlines and “sensitive” content, but also willing counselors and shoulders to cry on. A most supportive presence was Emmie Ybardalosa, our administrative assistant, who was always the first to report for work and was quick to assist us with whatever we needed.

During the summer “training,” I resolved to try covering as many other colleges in UST as I could. A memorable story was about the psychiatry section of UST Hospital, where I was first greeted by a portly man who introduced himself as a resident. I dutifully followed him around as he guided me through the section until a nurse caught sight of us and told the man off. Turns out he was a patient!

When the regular semester came round, I was assigned to cover the Office of the Secretary General, which was then occupied by Fr. Fausto Gomez, O.P. Fr. Fausto would eventually become a personal friend, but at the time I covered his office, he would frequently summon me to berate me for one perceived error or another.

Realities of journalism

Rina Jimenez in 1975 (File photo)

Now, the elephant in the room: We were “V” staffers at the height of martial law, so the administration was especially leery of “troublesome” content. As editors and staffers, we learned to go around restraints, couching political matters in carefully calibrated language that, we hoped, still got our points across.  Once, “Sir,” in one of his frequent soliloquies, started comparing the “V” to the UP’s Philippine Collegian, saying that our training at the “V” was more in keeping with the training of professional journalists from the newspapers where he had served (he had been editor of an afternoon daily). The Collegian, he said, was more of an outlet for the political activism prevalent in UP. Indeed, it was at the “V” that the other staffers and I learned the realities of journalism. It involved not just being careful with language and context but also being aware of other factors that might figure into our freedom to express ourselves. These might include the interests of the owners and advertisers, public opinion, as well as state security. Looking back, our years at the “V” were the best preparation for the future, launching our individual careers in journalism, PR, communications and media.

The landscape has since changed drastically, I know, and social media has since obliterated many of the “gatekeeper” functions that once were the province of journalists and publishers. But I am happy that distinctions still exist and are recognized between professional journalists who studied, trained and practice the craft and calling of journalism, especially the art of verification (and are held accountable for errors and missteps); and so-called “influencers” whose words can only be judged in context, many features of which are hidden from their consumers – material considerations with advertisers and public relations practitioners, personal bias, and political influence.


Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, my remaining years at the “V” I remember mainly for the many strong and enduring friendships forged, as well as the precarious grounds of – ahem – romance.

In my junior year, I was named news editor and later (a stint I had forgotten until I checked with back issues of the “V”) associate editor. Our editor in chief was Oya Castro, who had edited the Filipino section and proved to be an astute editor of news coverage as well. It was at this time that I met the friends I would keep for a lifetime: Pennie Azarcon (now Dela Cruz), Ida Bata, Jess (more formally, Jesselynn) Garcia (now dela Cruz), Marian Martin (now Layug), and Maloy (more formally Marilou) Ramos (now Barairo). Together with Peachy (who headed the communications office of the Archdiocese of Manila after graduation, where many of us re-grouped), we styled ourselves the “Sisterhood.” Another member of the gang was Eric Gamalinda, the brilliant novelist and poet now based in New York, who schooled our gauche selves in fashion, poise and dignity. We also count a legitimate “sister” among our midst: Good Shepherd sister Gina Kuizon (also deceased), who joined “V” after my graduation.

Jimenez poses in front of a panel bearing the list of former Varsitarian editors in chief alongside her fellow “Sisterhood” member Jesselynn Garcia dela Cruz at the Valik-Varsi Alumni Homecoming on Jan. 14, 2023. Jimenez led the publication from 1975 to 1976 while dela Cruz succeeded her in 1976. (Photo by Josh Nikkolai S. Bravo/ The Varsitarian)

Three other “V” staffers from our batch bear mentioning here. First, Edwin dela Cruz, who joined “V” as a “Circle” (arts and culture section) staffer, majored in political science and became a lawyer, mastering the skills needed to survive being Pennie’s husband. (Their son Emil would become “V” editor in chief). Next is Romy dela Cruz, who was part of the Filipino and later Sports section (a memorable story of his was his sky-diving adventure) and recently marked his and Jess’s 45th anniversary. And the third? None other than Rafael “Pie” David, an artist and photographer who became my boyfriend on our first date (don’t ask!). We will have been married for 45 years in December (2023).

Lensman to cardinals

Though not part of this trio but identified with the “V” that people always assumed he had been on staff, was Manuel “Noli” Yamsuan, Peachy’s “forever boyfriend.” Although a staff photographer of the Daily Express, he was always hanging around the “V” offices, regaling us with his antics and jokes, a quality he retained even long after he became the country’s premier liturgical photographer until his passing. (Noli Yamsuan was the official photographer of Cardinals Sin, Gaudencio Rosales and Luis Antonio Tagle during their respective stints as archbishop of Manila. – Ed.)

I wound up my years at the “V” as editor in chief, with Pennie and Marian as my associate editors. With all the other staffers, we trudged through the UST campus in search of stories, braved the noontime sun to make the long trek from the “V” offices at the Main Building to the UST Press, and grappled with disgruntled fraternities, unhappy deans and professors, and our own readers ignoring the piles of the “V” at the entrances of buildings and all our hard work.

Tables at the “V” office were topped by typewriters, which had lost their covers too long ago to remember and were sprinkled with a fine coating of dust and cigarette ash. We fed rolls of newsprint into the machines, and to edit, we simply cut manuscripts, stapled on re-written paragraphs, or, to the horror of reporters, balled up the newsprint and threw them into battered garbage cans.

Once, I visited the spanking new “V” offices in a brand-new building (UST Tan Yan Kee Student Center Bldg.) and marveled at the banks of computers and the pristine walls and desks. But I missed the chaos and din of the offices of old, the shabby surroundings, and most of all, the laughter, shouts, teasing and joshing that was daily fare at the “V” of happy memory.

Rina Jimenez-David retired as a columnist after 30 years at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. This article was written with valuable inputs from the still-enduring Sisterhood of the “V” Girls, otherwise known as “we old biddies.”


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