IT TOOK more than three centuries since its foundation before the University of Santo Tomas could come up with a school paper of its own. It required the resourcefulness and courage of Jose Villa Panganiban (who later became the prestigious head of the National Language Institute) and the other founding fathers before the wish of having "something to write on" could be realized. For indeed, putting up a school paper then was next to the impossible—financially and administratively.

But for Panganiban, the idea of having an official student organ, one that would serve not only as a chronicler of campus events but also as a repository of student talents, was more than a passing fancy. It was a question rooted in raw optimism and constantly kindled by the burning passion to write.

In January 1928, a group of student-writers of the original UST Literary Club eventually secured the sanction of the University authorities for the publication of an official college paper. They practically begged for funds, subscriptions and contributions to finance the paper.

Indeed at the start, it would seem as if the Varsitarian could not go on. The infant was so poor it almost died at birth. But it did not. For although the Varsitarian was poor in the coffers, it was never impoverished in spirit. Through the years, the Varsitarian has grown.

One day in September 1927, a group of young Thomasians under the leadership of a journalism student—Jose Villa Panganiban, gathered at the University restaurant. The group drafted a petition addressed to then Rector Rev. Fr. Serapio Tamayo, O.P. calling for the establishment of an official student organ in UST. The idea, however, became an unhappy victim of the Filipino ningas kugon.

Instead, the UST Literary Club was organized which received an official sanction from the Father Rector in December of the same year.

Despite the pessimism of everyone, of even some of the initiators themselves, about the possible success of the student paper in the University, the club, under the presidency of Pablo Anido (a junior medical student), revived the original plan of putting up a college paper.

At the same time, Panganiban, who was then working as a hot cake cook in the University restaurant, wrote a letter to the Father Rector and presented his views about the matter:

"There are 2,000 students in Santo Tomas. Let us admit that 1,000 of these are slackers but we still have 1,000 students to help us in the undertaking. At [a] 50-centavo subscription from each of the latter, we can publish a college paper that will live until March 1928 at least. Besides, there is income from the advertisements and this will help a great deal."

Prof. John Jefferson Siler of the English department and one of the moderators of the Literary Club admitted that the suppositions of the hot cake man were really convincing. So after a series of correspondence and conferences with the Father Rector and University authorities, and with the support of Prof. Siler, the Father Rector gave his approval.

Consequently, on the morning of January 16, 1928, the maiden issue of the Varsitarian came off the press.

Anido became the first editor in chief of the Varsitarian, with Panganiban, the hot cake man and fondly dubbed the "Father of the Varsitarian" as the associate editor, business manager and editor of the Alumni and Humor sections. Rev. Fr. Juan Labrador, O.P. (then dean of the College of Liberal Arts ) and Prof. Siler became the first moderators.

Through the years, the pages of the Varsitarian would be graced by some of the most sterling names in Philippine journalism: Teodoro Valencia, Joe Guevarra, Felix Bautista, Jose Bautista, Joe Burgos, Antonio Siddayao, Jess Sison, Jullie Yap-Daza, Antonio Lopez, Rina Jimenez-David, Neal Cruz, A. O. Flores, Jake Macasaet, Fred Marquez, Mario Hernando, Alfredo Saulo, Alice Colet Villadolid, and Eugenia Duran-Apostol.

The titans of Philippine literature learned writing in the Varsitarian: Bienvenido Lumbera, F. Sionil José, Celso Al Carunungan, Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, Paz Latorena, Cirilo Bautista, Federico Licsi Espino, Wilfrido Nolledo, Rogelio Sicat, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Norma Miraflor, Eric Gamalinda and Vim Nadera.

Varsitarian alumni also distinguished themselves in public service and in other fields. There are the late Manila Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson, the late Manila Archbishop Artemio Casas, former Vice-president Emmanuel Pelaez, the late Sorsogon Gov. Juan Frivaldo, Sen. Francisco Tatad, former Philippine Medical Association president Dr. Vicente Rosales, Sr., and National Artist for the Visual Arts J. Elizalde Navarro.


  1. I wrote for the Varsitarian for five years, including two years as a reporter, another two years as the sports editor, and as associate editor in my last year, 1963, when I graduated from the Faculty of Medicine & Surgery.

    Some of those names above are familiar to me – Kits Tatad, Jing-Jing Pantoja, Willie Nolledo, Joe Burgos, Cirilo Bautista, and Julie Yap, who were all on the staff of the “V” during my time. Roger Sicat and Federico L. Espino contributed to the literary pages. Tony Siddayao was three years ahead of me but he was known at the time as the country’s premiere sportswriter working for the Manila Times. Professor Felix Bautista of Philets and Dr. Vic Rosales (a former “V” editor-in-chief) , on the other hand, served terms in the capacity as the magazine advisers but in different years.

    Three of the editors I served with included Hermie Azarcon, who left for the U.S. where he worked for the Detroit Free Press for years till he retired; Jose T. Flores, Jr., who was one on the young, bright literary lights at that time; and Jean Pope, who was a feature writer for the Manila Times while still a student. I have never met Eric Gamalinda but he is rated as one of the top Filipino-American writers today.

    Writing for the Varsitarian indeed was a good experience for me. In 1980, I founded the medical publication for my medical society here in Daytona Beach, Florida and became its first editor for five years. From 1985 to 1990, I was appointed the editor of the Journal of the Florida Medical Association based on the work I did for my society magazine. The Florida Medical Association extended my term for five years as editor when I took the helm of the FMA TODAY, a monthly tabloid devoted mainly to medical economics, politics, ethics, and other issues. I’m gratified to report that in 2000, at its annual meeting, the FMA granted me its highest award it can give to physicians – The Award of Merit. And that was based mainly on my journalistic endeavors.

    I have been retired now from my medical practice for almost nine years, after practicing Internal Medicine for 33 years. The writing itch has not left me, for I still contribute pieces, mainly on medical issues, to the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Orlando Sentinel.

    Looking back, it has been almost 50 years since I left UST. Some of my best memories were spent with the “V”. The five years I had there gave me the impetus to continue writing, and for that, I owe a lot to the opportunites that I could not have gotten anywhere else.
    Daytona Beach, Florida

  2. No other campus paper in the country can match, nor surpass, the Varsitarian’s illustrious history and achievements in campus journalism.

    Mabuhay ang Varsi!

  3. Father Tomas Martinez O.P told me that many Alumni are proud of their Alma Mater while our Alma mater is proud of her Alumni.
    I am not a Journalism graduate 🙁 but a Philosophy graduate of the College of Philosophy and Letters known as Philets. So, nobody can expect Jounalistic skill on me lol
    I have many thoughts and ideas but not in an organized form :-(.
    I fear the written form because once you commit an error it is more difficult to correct :-(. well, have a glorious 400th years Anniversary I wish I can be there with you all .

  4. well, during my time in 1960-i almost joined the V as a filipino editor..instead,.bayani de leon, a well-known writer/activist, encouraged me to write for the literary contest. as a vernacular writer (liwayway and komiks writer (pilipino writer image was very low that time…still the victim of “white english supremacy”…anyway, roberto bornay and myself were tagalog writers…so, i joined the literary brigade and i did the essay contest and i won the consecutive literary contest…i was also one of the advisers of the “Salinggawi Dance Troup” with Prof. Emerita Basilio..and i was the person to name the dance troupe after many research works and consultations with our tagalog professors at the college of education…being in canada, i am working to support salinggawi financially to support the archival plans.
    i will be attending the quadricentennial celeb…and i am excited to be a part of the celeb..i will be at ust on jan. 21 to ogle the events…
    here in canada, i am active in playwrigthing and filmmaking…i joined various international fringe theatre festivals in canada…
    and i won the international rizal centennial poetry contest (the only expat who won among the 68 submissions…and among the more than 200 submissions nationally) in 1998…isagani cruz and preciosa soliven did inspire us on their critique…
    would the V write about us…thomasians who are very active in the literary pursuits in north america (USA and Canada)
    we have added prestige to the Thomasian image…
    i founded the UST alumni association in my winnipeg city (the hometown of Winnie the Poh…and the most celebrated “Intrepid” in the 2nd world war in Europe…and the city who had the 1st filipino member of the Canadian parliament…
    and our newspaper, the oldest in the western canada…(my former columnist is my adopted brother- the late joe “tat” burgos, vic del fierro and cripina belen, and washington based filpino poet susan bonifacio…all philets/artlets… and currently, artlet grad- lucille nolasco, former cbn producer, now a radio host and associate editor of our newspaper…
    maraming salamat po…
    rod escobar cantiveros

  5. I agree with the question of hot cake man(was panganiban a working student?) My comment was just it is nice and wow it is too long to read. . . .

  6. Hi, I bouget some stocks when I was a student(1960-1964). have not cashed it ever since. I will appreciate if you can research on this stocks. its registered on my name.
    I am a U.S. citizen of the U>S> since 1970 .I trust you will email me the results.
    Thank you, Minerva S. Bayot


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