DRAMA enthusiast Piedad Guinto-Rosales was conferred the Parangal Hagbong for lifetime achievement in the field of letters by the Varsitarian, the 85-year-old official student publication of UST, despite her refusal to call herself a writer as she does not consider herself to be one.

Asked to whom she dedicates the award, the 83-year-old Rosales held back tears as she said she owes everything to her alma mater, University of Santo Tomas.

"The University is my home. I met my husband there, married my husband there,” she said. “The University was my life. I still think of it as my second mother."

Guinto-Rosales, the youngest child of Manila wartime Mayor Leon Guinto, played a significant role that paved the way to the flourishing of drama in the University.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets), now Arts and Letters, Rosales went to Washington D.C. in the United States to pursue graduate studies in drama.

“I took the drama part of the Speech and Drama Department, not the speech because it was hard for an alien like me,” Rosales recalled. “As long as the Americans understood me, my accent was alright for me.”

Rosales said her love for drama came by “accident.”

“In my senior high school year in St. Paul [University], we had stage productions and that started my interest,” she explained. “So, instead of taking up English Literature, I chose drama to be the focus of my masterals.”

Rosales carried her passion for drama to University-wide organizations where she belonged, and created a dramatic group in the University’s own radio station.

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“We (the Philosophy students) started a radio station, the DZST, which is at present Radio Veritas. It was a small station in the fourth floor of the Main Building,” she said. “And since I was interested in drama even before I joined DZST, we put up the dramatic group in the station.”

It was through the efforts of Rosales and her colleagues that the Aquinas Dramatic Guild, UST’s defunct theater group, was established.

Bringing drama to life

Rosales was already teaching in Philets when she left the Philippines for her post-graduate studies. When she came back to the country after earning her degree in drama, she continued her teaching profession and applied everything she learned abroad.

“We put up some kind of a department. Not really a department, but a group of people who want to be in acting or directing. That was why AB had a drama course,” she proudly said. “We had [different] subjects in drama [like] modern drama, production, stage production and directing.”

Rosales said she considers initiating the inclusion of drama subjects in the faculty as the partial fulfillment of her dream to establish a Drama Department, which never materialized because of financial difficulties.

“My real dream was to put up AB Drama in the faculty but putting up a Drama Department also means putting up the stage, the theater itself, and it is very expensive,” she said.

Nevertheless, Rosales was satisfied with the recognition drama received, through her initiative, in UST.

Rosales always believed Filipinos are natural drama lovers, and that gave her the inspiration to pursue her vision.

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“Actors? Wala tayong problema sa actors. The Filipinos are good actors. Just tell them what to do, and that is it. They will perform better than your expectations,” she said. “So, ipinaglaban ko. If we cannot have the Drama Department, then let us have drama subjects. Putting drama subjects means learning the history of drama, present plays, and more.”

Rosales said her vision came from wanting to change the Filipinos’ concept of drama to a more “systematic and scientific” view.

“I started teaching drama subjects and at that time, the place was not really scientific, in the sense na walang system kapag nagda-drama, walang distribution of tasks, walang assignments. That was what I wanted to change,” she said.

A passionate teacher

For Rosales, the success of her students held greater than any award that was given to her.

“I do not have achievements. You know, it has been years, I do not remember. My achievements were my friends,my husband who I met there, the plays that I put up, and the students who I was very proud of and became very proud of me,” Rosales said. “These were my achievements. Like a lifetime achievement, a worldwide achievement.”

Moreover, Rosales called on aspiring playwrights and dramatists to settle for the few plays being staged in the Philippines and to strive harder for the revival of Philippine drama.

“Ang interes natin sa drama, lumiliit na rin. Sometimes it is more of melodramatic. Nawawala ‘yung different kinds of drama,” Rosales said.

She also advised aspiring playwrights to have their own identity and to showcase the things happening in the modern-day world.

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“Playwrights, you have to be familiar with play writing. If you want to write original plays, go ahead and write them. As a matter of fact, if you want to, be original. Do not always think that it has always to be according to the old.”

Rosales also said drama is not only about writing manuscripts, but more of putting what was written into action, because drama is supposed to be a visual art.

“If you are a playwright, your obra has to be staged. In New York, there are also sideway plays, other than broadway plays, tayo wala. A play has to be staged dito sa atin,” she said. “A playwright sees the play in his mind, and he would like to let others see it also, not just to read it.”

The Parangal Hagbong is an annual lifetime achievement in letters given by the Varsitarian to Thomasian alumni who made remarkable contributions to the development of Philippine literature. Hagbong is a Tagalog word that refers to a crown of leaves worn by people in the society who exhibit excellence in the arts.

The award will be conferred to Rosales during the awards night of the 29th Gawad Ustetika, the country's longest-running literary derby, on Dec. 14 at the UST Plaza Mayor. The other Hagbong honoree is the late Norma Miraflor.

Rosales is the wife of the late Dr. Vicente Rosales, Sr., former editor-in-chief and adviser of the Varsitarian. She is a mother of four, all of whom are Thomasians.

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