THE LOVE of wisdom and the word makes all the difference for the alumni of the defunct Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets). Such love and passion have made many Philets alumni among the Philippines’ dominant and influential thinkers, artists and humanists.

A playwright, actor, poet, translator, teacher and critic, the late Rolando Tinio’s multifaceted genius is reflected in the posthumous recognition he got in 1997 as National Artist in Theater and Literature. As founder and artistic director of Tanghalang Pilipino, he mounted classics of Western drama that he himself translated in Tagalog. He was a master of the theater, displaying multidexterity as director, production designer, costumer designer, music scorer, and actor. His translations are literary gems in themselves, showing Tagalog’s capacity to recast Western sensibility and idiom in Filipino terms. This cross-cultural absorption and assimilation was also on display in his most notable poetry, the “Taglish” poems of the late 1960’s and 1970’s in which he combined Tagalog and English idioms in a display of verbal wit and contemporary sensibility. The same quality was displayed in his work as a lyricist, putting modern Tagalog lyrics to popular Western songs, as in “The Lady is a Tramp” (Tinio’s translation—“Bakyang-bakya”). As a literary critic and teacher, Tinio was authoritative and savage, with a command of philosophy and aesthetics. Showing his Dominican background (he also studied in Letran), he would thumb down any show of intellectual pretension by declaring, “Hindi papasa ‘yan sa Salamanca!” (“I don’t think that will pass the scrutiny of the scholars of Salamanca); he was alluding to the ancient Dominican university in Spain that is known for its Thomist scholars. He graduated with a degree in Philosophy, magna cum laude, at age 18. Because of his brilliance, there’s critical and popular consensus that Tinio was a genius.

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Tomasino, tinanghal na Outstanding Student

Currently the vice-president for public affairs of the University of the Philippines, former Varsitarian editor in chief Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo is famous for her autobiographical-travel writing, reflected in her works such as Sojourns (1984), Celadon and Kimchi (1993), I Remember (1991) and The Path of the Heart (1994). She graduated magna cum laude in 1964 with a degree in Philosophy. She also finished her M.A. Literature from the University. Her novel, Recuerdo, won the Palanca Grand Prize for the Novel.

A literary innovator, Wilfrido Nolledo won first prize in the University’s Marian year Literary Contest in 1953 for his short story “The Beginning.” From 1956 to 1981, he bagged 16 Palancas for his plays and short stories. He finished Litt. B. Journalism from Philets, and wrote the novel, A Captive Splendor, which won the Roman Grand Prize in 1966. He also wrote Extranjera, which won the Gregorio Araneta Memorial Prize for the Novel in1981. But he came to international prominence when a US publishing house published his novel, But for the Lovers, with an introduction by the American writer-critic Robert Coover. Nolledo was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men for Literature in 1963, and is considered, like Nick Joaquin who praised him, a prose stylist and literary visionary. He died in 2004.

Considered the pioneer of the alternative press against the Marcos dictatorship, Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr. campaigned for press freedom during the Martial Law years. He founded several newspapers, including Malaya and We Forum, whose critical reportage of Marcos led to his arrest in 1982. Burgos was released after two weeks because of protest from the international press. Shortly after the Edsa Revolution, Burgos was named International Journalist of the Year by the United Nations. In 2000, he was honored by the International Press Institute as one of the world’s “50 Press Freedom Heroes of the Century,” the only Filipino in the list. Toward the end of his life, he became an agriculture journalist. He died in 2003. A Varsitarian reporter and a familiar campus figure during his student days, Burgos never acquired his Philosophy degree from Philets, but he was well-liked by the Dominicans such as Fr. Manuel Testerra, who remembered the young Burgos as fond of flouting rules and debating and bantering with his philosophy teachers.

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USTH holds endocrine lecture

The recipient of Outstanding Thomasian Award in 1980, Neal Cruz used to edit the Literary section of the Varsitarian during his junior and senior years in college. He was a student of the late National Artist N.V.M. Gonzales. He started out as a deskman of the defunct Manila Chronicle and later became the editor in chief of Pace News Magazine and Daily News International, and managing editor of the Daily Express and Daily Globe. He was National Press Club of the Philippines for two consecutive terms. He now writes a column of the Inquirer.

Federico Espino Licsi Jr., a 1959 Litt. B. in Journalism graduate, was the polyglot poet who wrote in English, Tagalog, Spanish, Bikol and Iluko, showing equal facility in all of them. His poetry selection, Tambor de Sangre, won him a literary award in Spain in 1977. He was a multi-Palanca award winner who also wrote strange fiction that, like Nolledo’s and Joaquin’s, prefigured the Latin American “magic realism.”

Tomas Barnes Sr. proved the saying, “the more, the merrier,” by landing in the history books as the “Thomasian with the most degrees obtained.” He earned 10 degrees from the UST, including Litt. B. in Journalism, Commerce and Civil Law. An authority in education, he taught at the Philets from 1935-1946 and was dean of the graduate schools of Educational Center of Asia and Lipa City Colleges. Barnes headed the alumni associations of the Faculty of Civil Law and the College of Commerce while having stints as an economist, businessman and civic leader.

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