Remembering Class of ’52

11 February 2012

By Elmer Ordonez

THE UP Alumni Office has announced that Class of ‘52 is holding its Diamond Jubilee (60th year and up) in June this year. The surviving Class ’52 members are well into their 80s, waiting their turn or still making waves.

Take for instance former Justice Serafin Cuevas, defense counsel in the Corona impeachment trial, said to be running circles around the prosecution panel (except for a few like Farinas). Cuevas belongs to Law Class ’52, an outstanding batch of UP Diliman graduates. Consider also two former prime ministers, Salvador Laurel along with Cesar Virata (whose degrees were in engineering and business administration), one SC Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan, four SC associate justices Florentino Feli-ciano, Flerida Ruth Pineda, Serafin Cuevas and Hugo Gutierrez, one Appeals associate justice Ricardo Pronove, three senators Joker Arroyo, Santanina Tillah-Rasul (A.B. history), Salvador Laurel and Mamintal Tamano (arts-law), two Palace executive secretaries Joker Arroyo and Catalino Macaraig, Jr., Bartolome Fer-nandez, Commissoner on Audit, and justice minister Estelito Mendoza whose letter to the Supreme Court caused the tribunal to reverse its decision on the PAL employees union.

Two other Law graduates in public service were Froilan Bacungan (law dean/author of the Labor Code) and Augusto Cesar Espiritu (ambassador).

From Liberal Arts were two summa cum laude graduates, Florentino Feliciano (arts-law) and Shen Lin (B.S. math), and a number of distinguished writers including Virginia Moreno, SV Epistola, Raul R. Ingles, Maro Santaromana, Alejandrino Hu-fana, Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio, Ofelia Limcaoco, and Nimia Arroyo (all majors in English). Serafin Quiason (A.B. history) was the longest serving director of the National Library. Raul de Guzman (B.S. foreign service) became UPLB chancellor, Ale-jandro Fernandez, UP vice-president and president of Tarlac state university while Rufino Hecha-nova was President Macapagal’s finance secretary. Antonio Ari-zabal, Jr. (B.S.chemistry) became DOST secretary.

From Music I remember Ricardo Zamora (musical director of “Sunday, Sweet Sunday”) ; Education, Patria Gregorio (Bicol university president) and Ofelia Angangco (Arts and Sciences dean); Engineering, Ernesto Tabujara (UP Diliman chancellor) and Virata; Business Administration, Cesar Virata, finance minister and prime minister); and Agriculture, Jose Juliano (nuclear scientist) . Other achievers may be named by the Alumni office.

Class ’52 was one of three pioneer classes that joined the 1949 exodus to the barren heaths of sprawling Diliman campus, built before the war with two colonial-style buildings, occupied by the Japanese army and later by the U.S. military which bequathed many fabricated buildings including a gym, a theater, social hall known as Gregory Terrace, swimming pools, long quonset huts for offices and barracks and sawali cottages.. The campus was divided into areas with streets with American names. The cottages were offered at nominal rent to faculty as an inducement for them to stay since the transfer from Padre Faura was not exactly welcome. It was some 14 km from Quiapo where we took the buses to what we thought was the wilderness. The .UP alumni and parents of students were against the transfer. Like many students I was for the transfer. The ruined campus in Manila had makeshift classrooms and laboratories which leaked when it rained. President Bienvenido Gonzalez ultimately prevailed on the constituents that it was for the best.

The UP Newsletter edited by Felixberto Sta. Maria called Diliman “the brave new world.” In two years new buildings began to sprout on campus. Virginia Moreno wrote for ‘52 Philip-pinensian (which I edited):

“Rumour has it that even the raindrops in Diliman come bigger, by the child’s fist-size almost. Here the grass shoots taller, the air is rarer, the other landscape and to the painter’s eye none more color bright except that, let no one dispute this, the mountains whereon the only sun sets and rises makes a skyscape – what else could be more more perfect? So they say. And more: one goes building-hopping here; one reads volumes and not a mere book in a library that is not a room but itself a building; the engineering shop seems a factory, the Philippine Collegian is a metropolitan paper; the girls are Misses Universe, and the campus is a republic!”

Monthly socials were held at the Gregory terrace, with the dorm women residents bused in by Dean Ursula Clemente. The dance ended at eleven with the playing of Glenn Miller’s “At Last.” A few Halili buses on their last trip to Manila waited. Woe to those who missed the buses. No recourse but to beg classmates in dorms to put them up for the night.

At midnight the campus was deathly quiet. Not even the UP security police ventured out for HMB patrols roamed the campus. Former dean Francisco Nemenzo Jr. whose family lived on campus confirmed this at the launching of my book Diliman: Homage to the Fifties early last decade. My wife, then a resident of south dorm for women, remembered that they were herded to the basement when HMBs raided the PC detachment in nearby Balara. The other residents in sawali-built dorms fled to the Law building. Actually we lived in a time of checkpoints and writ suspension because of the Huk rebellion. Classmate William Pome-roy left for the hills just before the capture of the politburo including former Collegian editor Angel Baking. This is part of the context of the late 40s and early 50s when UP Diliman might have been portrayed in the Philippinensian as an idyllic grove of academe in the midst of social unrest.

(To be continued)

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