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Londoner Peps Villanueva: Reminiscences of college days and other parallel thoughts

Second of a series

Jose Villanueva—to be called Peps Villanueva later in the story—took his college entrance test at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas and passed it with flying colors. He was to enroll in a general education in his first and second years of Bachelor of Arts (AB). From a Catholic secondary school in San Juan to the same orientation of education this time in a pontifical university in España Boulevard in Manila where Jose was meant to major in Economics.

In dark pants and a white polo shirt, an Artlets—contracted word for Arts and Letters, the former Philosophy and Letters or Philets of UST—was Jose’s collegiate male representation in contrast to the blue skirt, white blouse with a blue crossbow tie as uniform among female students.

1970 was the year of the advent of a more liberal academic freedom especially in public schools like the University of the Philippines (UP) but its influences had permeated to other schools specifically in Manila.

UST especially the most liberal college, Artlets, wasn’t spared of the impact of student activism and youth empowerment. At the time, many progressive professors were in the faculty like Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Romualdo Abulad, Norma Miraflor, a certain Tuebeo (did I get the spelling of his family name right?) and some other illustrious pro-people intellectuals. Academic freedom was also at work however the prevailing learning atmosphere was still conservative if not reactionary. 

Many Artlets were active in youth organizations like Kabataang Makabayan (KM), Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK) and other street parliamentary student groups. Artlets Student Council which was the voice of the student body was also influential in the policy-making of the institution.

Peps Villanueva with wife Julie Villanueva

Some of the student leaders were Jose Lina, Jr., later to be known as Joey Lina, a government leader, and senator during the Cory Aquino administration, Archimedes Marquez, also known as Archie Marquez and others, many were activists. Joey would also be elected as governor of Laguna Province after his stint at the Senate.

Meanwhile, it was the Nora Aunor and other teenybopper frenzy especially among limp wristed sissies and male and female teens in search of other social belongingness in Lopez town in Quezon Province when the transferee from Eulogio Rodriguez, Jr. High School was already in his senior year at the Lopez Provincial High School. It was the carryover of his creation of VENT (Vilma, Edgar, Nora, Tirso) org, a mobilizing spirit if only among reluctant and tentative fans—for fun, peer pressure, and teen-age escapade no matter the jeers—which had infused in the academic color of high school life amid competitive trigonometry, history, and other basic subjects for completion to graduate.

Student activism in Manila was only in radio and evening news. What was mostly preoccupying the seniors was to go upright in the commencement exercises stage and to receive the diploma, to bedeck one’s neck with feather garlands and to go to Manila for college.

The provincial transferee student also took his entrance test at the FAL and passed it. He was excited and proud to have been listed alongside Fe Celia Manaois, one of the student leaders at the ERJHS. He was an admirer of Fe Celia who was in day school while he was at night one. Manaois was a great girl who was looked up to by her fellow classmates because of her exemplary academic performances, involvement in many extracurricular activities like Girl Scouting, sponsorship for cadet officers in the PMT, and other honorable campus events.

The provincial guy was enrolled at the 1B-3 of the afternoon session in his first year at Artlets. His room was at the so-called Annex of the Commerce Building where the main college classrooms were housed.

Jose was already in his sophomore year and he was running around with Joey and other student leaders. He was with Lina when they held a student strike (participants mostly attended during vacant hours) at the lobby of the building. “Anim na oras nang nagsasalita noon si Joey. E, katabi ako. Sabi sa akin ni Joey, ‘ikaw na nga muna.’ Kinuha ko ‘yong megaphone at ako na ang nagsalita (Joey was already talking for six hours. I was beside him. Joey requested me, ‘please replace me for the moment.’ I got hold of the megaphone and started to talk),” recalled Villanueva.

The student from Quezon Province, meanwhile, was a keen observer of the student action which was raising issues against the Marcos corrupt rule and complaints about school policies and grants of more academic freedom. On the streets, they were shouting expletives “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador (Dictator), Tuta (Lapdog)!” and US imperialism out. “Imperyalismo, Ibagsak; Byurukrat Kapitalismo, Ibagsak; Piyudalismo, Ibagsak (Down with Imperialism; Down with Bureaucrat-Capitalism; Down with Feudalism”) were the mantras. He would remember two second-year best friend female students who were passionately and brazenly bracing the radical views of student rallyists. They would talk to him and explained why they were picketing in the middle of the classes and he was enlightened.

Jose was a contemporary in college of newsmen Nestor Cuartero, Leo Estonilo, Biboy Cariño (who would later be a field reporter of Channel 4 news which leptospirosis would claim his life in coverage of flooded Manila in the late 80s), the late advertising man Czar Viriña etc. and news hens Myrna Castro (now de la Torre who would later be associate producer of ABS-CBN’s primetime news show “TV Patrol,” Executive  Producer (EP) of Ernie Baron’s “Knowledge Power” among other public affairs producing posts), Elizabeth Marcelo (who would later be news reporter of PTV-4) etc.

Elizabeth, also known as Beth Marcelo, was a popular campus figure—an academic achiever—who would recite with fervor Amado V. Hernandez’s “Kung Tuyo Na Ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan (When your tears have dried up, my Country)” in the middle of Jose and Joey Lina’s mass action. All her background in public speaking must have been put to practice in her nationalistic elocution.

It was pre-Martial Law but the atmosphere of discontent was indeed felt among the angry youth in Jose and his comrades.

In Jose’s third year when he was majoring in Economics, Martial Law was declared by Ferdinand E. Marcos. Many student leaders were arrested and tortured by the regime.

What would transpire in Jose’s political awakening? (To be continued)

Part One

Part Three

Part Four

PHOTOS

1.      Peps Villanueva with Bong Osorio

2.      Peps Villanueva with British-Russian classical pianist Olga Dudnik

3.      Peps Villanueva with Christine Alado

4.      Peps Villanueva with co-host in Ms. Philippines UK

5.      Peps Villanueva with Congresswoman Quimbo

6.      Peps Villanueva with Cynthia Barker

7       Peps Villanueva with Cynthia Barker

8.      Peps Villanueva with Danny Favour

9      Peps Villanueva with Dawn Zulueta

10.      Peps Villanueva with Fidel Ramos

 

 

Tagalog Version

Unang Yugto

Ikalawang Yugto

Ikatlong Yugto

Ikaapat na Yugto

 

 

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