THREE a.m., October 24. I had a trouble sleeping despite a busy week. I cited three possible reasons for my anxiety: the Coke Light I had during dinner, the fact that I was sleeping over at another house, and the uncertainty of what may come out of Inkblots 2002.

I was having significant firsts in the Varsitarian: my first year in the publication and the first Varsitarian event in which I am chairperson. Months of preparation seemed insignificant as the event approached. Suddenly there were tons of things to do. Everyone was either feeling excited or panicked. Last minute preparations made everyone tense. Letters were needed to be given out immediately. And it was no joke organizing a nationwide event. Retiring to bed the night before, I prayed for everything to work out well.

When October 24 came, I was surprised that people still had the energy to respond to the 5 a.m. call time at the Varsitarian office. Time flew by. Before I knew it, it was seven a.m. and registration began.

Fellows started pouring in like hail. As expected, more than 200 participants came from all over the country some with smiles on their faces as they saw old acquaintances and some with serious looks, unsure of what to expect from the fellowship. Everyone could not contain the anxiety as more and more people crowded the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC) lobby. There were lines for the registration, payments for the fellowship fee, and distribution of kits and food stubs.

I was somehow thankful that I did not have to worry about this one because it was well taken care of by my colleagues. I had to run here and there for errands like everyone.

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Seven-thirty a.m. The auditorium was almost filled with student writers, editors, entrepreneurs, and company employees.

Like clockwork, my co-chairperson John Ferdinand Buen and I opened the program at 8:00 sharp. The Faculty of Arts and Letters Chorale sang the National Anthem, after which, UST Vice-Rector Juan Ponce, O.P. gave a heartwarming welcome to the fellows.

In his keynote address, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon encouraged the young writers to participate in socio-political issues through reliable reportage of events.

After a 30-minute break, CBCP Monitor editor in chief Jesselyn Garcia-dela Cruz began the conferences by discussing the ins and outs of news writing to the fellows. The ball was rolling. Sessions followed one after the other. Speakers who followed were: UP Institute for Creative Writing director Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo for creative non-fiction; and, The Philippine Star columnist and sports analyst Joaquin “Quinito” Henson for sports writing.

The fellows were still perky even after six p.m. when the sessions ended. They headed to the TARC façade garden for the dinner and Fellowship Night wherein they had the chance to break bread with each other. It was a chance for the fellows to get acquainted with delegates from other schools and share insights about campus journalism. For some, particularly those who have attended Inkblots every year, this year’s edition was a sort of reunion, as well as another chance to meet new faces and make new friends.

The highlight of the dinner was the launch of the new Varsitarian books: UST Varsitarian Campus Press Stylebook and Heaven’s Kitchen, a collection of inspirational entries published by the Varsitarian, spearheaded by publications adviser Joselito Zulueta.

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Meanwhile, Varsitarian staff members serenaded the audience with special song numbers. The “V” staffers aroused the spirits of the fellows, proving that the Varsitarian has more than just good writers.

I could breathe a little as I went home after the program. The next day was something to look forward to. Geoff, my co-chairperson said it best: “Isang araw na lang!” As I laid my weary body to bed that night, I went back to how the first day was and started worrying for the next. Needless to say, I was able to sleep for three hours.

The following morning was déjà vu. Everyone was as busy as on the day before, but now with fewer hassles.

The conferences started at eight a.m. Speakers were Sunday Inquirer Magazine managing editor Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz for feature writing; Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism broadcast desk manager Luz Rimban for investigative reporting; Tempo entertainment editor Nestor Cuartero for lifestyle and culture writing; and, Philippine Daily Inquirer Lifestyle subsection editor Joselito Zulueta for the state of the Philippine campus press.

A closing dinner followed after the sessions. Legato Strings of the UST Conservatory of Music serenaded the audience with a modern and jazz ensemble as everyone feasted. Soon, the Faculty of Arts and Letters Chorale opened the program with an invocation. That night, the second National Campus Investigative Journalism Award was given away by founder and Varsitarian alumnus Julio Macaranas Jr.

The night was heightened when Varsitarian photography editor Paul Ryan Pagaspas took over the microphone and entertained the fellows with a comic singing contest until the crowd dropped.

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Back at the office, the staffers were tired but still in the mood for something. There was a sigh of relief from everyone. Although most of us were deprived some of our semestral break, a well-deserved vacation was something to look forward to.

Overall, despite being more compact (it was held three days in past years), the fourth Inkblots left something memorable for each one who participated. Not only was it another milestone for the rich 75-year history of the publication, it was another step towards the fulfillment of the Varsitarian’s goal to help improve campus journalism. Truly, Inkblots is and will be more than just a journalism seminar; it is a fellowship that seeks to establish camaraderie among campus journalists.

For me, it was not only organizing a nationwide event, but also participating in one of journalism’s sought-after events. For those who toiled in the preparations, I am sure it was worth all the hard work.

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