THE SIXTIES were a decade of ferment not only for the nation’s politics but also for its letters.

That ferment was reflected in the Varsitarian.

But what writer, poet, and educator Cirilo Bautista best remembers was the fellowship in the paper. “We had very good camaraderie in the Varsitarian,” he said. “The world was very small for us then. The world of our writing and of our classes.”

How the ‘V’ was

It helped that the paper was well-funded. “We were given salaries and we received our pay regularly,” Bautista said.

The most common problem was meeting deadlines, he said.

The ‘V’ during the 60s was a news magazine, much like Time magazine. “There were the literary and news sections, which were the main sections, and the other sections were society, filipino and features sections,” Bautista said.

Bautista started as a reporter in 1961, covering beats such as the College of Pharmacy and the School of Theology. He said his chief problem was establishing rapport and confidence with his sources.

Bautista said he even became a proofreader.

“I was in-charge of seeing all those typographical errors so that it would be avoided and that the pages would come out clear from the press,” he said.

It was harder to print a newspaper then because computers were not yet around. Proofreaders stayed overnight to check on the articles.

“It was quite a job because you had to read the proofs from the so-called linotypists’ galleys, which would be reversed,” Bautista said. “But I did not even wait for the proofs, I just read these things reversed. That was how I became good in proofreading.”

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Bautista later became literary editor. In the section was a proud and exquisite writer with the name Francisco Tatad.

Difficult decade

Although the ‘60s was a continuation of the ‘50s, they had its distinct qualities.

“We were really having some difficult times from the `50s because the effects of the post-war developments in the country were still being felt,” Bautista said.

However, the ‘60s were relatively easy when compared with the difficulties of the present.

“Life was very easy then, the peso exchange rate for the dollar was not very high. The `60s would be different only in the sense that this would be the years when the beginnings of certain developments in our social life would be starting, affected by the developments in abroad.”

By the end of the ‘60s, certain developments were already in ferment.

“Filipinos of my generation were waking up with the idea of equality among races,” he continued. “In the Philippines, the effects of these was for us students to see disparity between the rich and the poor and the foreigners in the country because in our case there was strong prejudice between the Filipinos and the Chinese.”

Age of writers

Several prominent writers at present started their works in the Varsitarian during the ‘60s. Among them were Jullie Yap-Daza, Jean Pope, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Rita Gaddi, Francisco Tatad, Bayani de Leon, Jaime Flores Jr., Jose T. Flores Jr., and Federico Licsi Espino Jr. Many Varsitarian writers became prizewinners. Some went into journalism, others stayed in literature.

“It was already assumed that most of the writers who were famous and noted are all Thomasians. In our case, UST has really come up with a lot of good writers. When you talk of writing and journalism, UST is number one because we have the facilities and the faculties,” Bautista said.

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Bautista said the Varsitarian provided both training and friendship

“After every issue, we would have post mortem for assessment of the issue by our adviser (Dr. Victor Gonzalez) and the editors. We would be gathering and talking about what was wrong with the issue and how to improve the issue so that the next issue would be better,” Bautista said.

He explained the post mortem was a kind of workshop that trained them on the basic know-how’s in newspaper management.

“Even if we were outside the office, we would be talking about our writing even if we were doing something else,” Bautista said.

The Varsitarian had its share of controversies.

“One most controversial was when we held a strike. We were supposed to give a symposium to criticize how UST was being run by the priests. Everybody was critical then,” he said.

However, a few days before, their reservation of the halls was cancelled. This spawned a student demonstration.

“It was very controversial because most of the student leaders who were involved were expelled,” Bautista recalled.

Being a Varsitarian member was memorable.

“Training is very valuable in improving the way you write. And at the same time, since we were working and student writers who were being paid, we learned to be responsible. We could not do things any way we like, we had to do our job or else we will be kicked out,” he said.

It’s the Varsitarian that makes staffers easy to market after graduation, Bautista said.

“I am very happy and proud of the fact that I stayed in the Varsitarian. It fed me with good training as a journalist and as a poet. I credit my university days for that, and I always mention that I am from the Varsitarian.” It is a very valuable experience for me, Bautista said.

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