Illustration by Matthew Niel J. HebronaHIS INSTALLATION ceremony was meant to be strictly formal, but UST Rector Fr. Rolando De la Rosa, O.P. injected light-heartedness in the otherwise solemn and stuffy air of the jam-packed Santisimo Rosario Chapel with a couple of witty and funny remarks when he delivered his acceptance speech as the University’s 95th rector.

De la Rosa, no longer new to the rectorship game, served in the position for two terms, from 1990 to 1998.

But in his speech last June 10, De la Rosa jokingly referred to his third term as a “well-deserved punishment.”

“Sometimes it is hard to be a rector because you are praised for graces you have not done and blamed for mistakes you have not committed,” De la Rosa said.

After Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P. resigned as rector due to the UST Hospital controversy last September, De la Rosa served as acting Rector for nine months before being formally sent back to the rectorship by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education last April.

“Before I assume the rectorship, I am the acting rector for nine months, making me the most overacting rector,” De la Rosa said. “I also prefer the term ‘recycled’ because it is more appropriate and it sounds ecological. It implies that this University lasted this long because its rectors are recyclable.”

Faculty of Pharmacy Dean Priscilla Torres told the Varsitarian that De la Rosa’s unique sense of humor makes everyone at ease with the his presence.

“No one feels threatened or intimidated with him. In the many meetings that I have attended with him, Father (De la Rosa) always tries to put humor once in a while to keep us awake,” Torres said. “Father is always able to convert a serious scenario to a surprisingly witty moment.”

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Telling the audience how Alfredo Velayo, founder of the “legendary” Sycip Gorres & Velayo accounting firm, dreamed of being upbraded by an angel for not doing enough to help others, Father de la Rosa said Velayo consulted his fellow UST alumnus, Washington Sycip, and both agreed to help the schools that brought them up.

But Velayo reportedly hesitated in extending assistance to UST while Sycip was adamant that he would help only if UST was a recipient.

De la Rosa commented, “How I wish all our alumni will dream like Mr. Velayo but will act like Mr. Sycip,” eliciting loud laugher from the audience.

As De la Rosa spoke about the plans of the UST Medical Alumni Association in America to establish a Thomasian Alumni Center in time for the University’s quadricentennial, he committed a gaffe when he said that the inauguration would be in 1611, not 2011. When corrected by UST public affairs director Giovanna Fontanilla, De la Rosa countered, “That means you are still listening,” which again gave the audience another comic relief from the sweltering morning heat.

Perhaps worried that his speech was too long and boring, De la Rosa concluded it with the anecdote of a student who evaluated his teacher by telling her that if he had only 20 minutes left to live, “I’d want to spend them in your class because every minute in your class seems like an hour.”

Seen laughing over the anecdote was Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, the apostolic nuncio.

The wit and humor are a De la Rosa trademark, according to those close to him.

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As a seminarian in the Dominican House of Studies in Quezon City, De la Rosa, according to Fr. Virgilio Ojoy, O.P., a close friend, was fond of cracking jokes that would “elicit boisterous laughter” from the other seminarians.

Fontanilla, who worked with De la Rosa during Pope John Paul II’s visit to UST in 1995, said it was easy working with De la Rosa.

“I have worked with him during the papal visitation years ago and he was always friendly and nice to his employees,” Fontanilla told the Varsitarian.
Fontanilla said his humor and lightheartedness make working with De la Rosa easy. “In most gatherings, he would always make you feel comfortable because of his sociable aura.”

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