This used to be my playground, Part 1 (our college days at UST)

(I wrote this nostalgia piece in 2010 for the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters souvenir program. The class of ’85, which I belong to, was celebrating its 25th year of “freedom” or homecoming. 😀

(It appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer later that year. So as to lessen the strain in your eyes, I’d like to share it with you in three installments. Those who came of age in the ’80s would know what I’m talking about. For those who didn’t, well, it’s about time you start learning about some pop culture history. The article is meant to be savored in small servings. Enjoy! :-D)

AT the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters’ quadricentennial (400th year) celebration in 2011. The girl on the left, I believe, is broadcaser Sandra Aguinaldo, while the guy is comedian Brod Pete.

IF I could sum up 25 years, the span of time between our graduation from college and our homecoming tonight, into one article of clothing, I’d readily go for a pair of socks or, to be more gender-specific about it (a term unheard of during our un-PC, smoke-where-you-like days), stockings.

I’m pretty sure most ladies tonight wouldn’t dare step out of their houses without slipping into a pair of Anfana or Kanebo stockings back in college. It seemed no matter how crisp that two-piece white-and-blue uniform was, the look seemed incomplete without wearing a sheer pair of hosiery before slipping into the latest high heels or penny loafers from Cardam’s or Syvel’s.

Stockings, despite eating up a considerable portion of every young woman’s limited allowance, were simply a must.

IT’S not 4, it’s not 40, it’s 400!

Never mind if they were going to an exposure trip to the slums of Leveriza or a lightning rally with their politically-awake objects of affection from one of those alphabet soups of organizations bent on seeking Marcos’ ouster, no fashionable woman from the University of Santo Tomas’ College of Arts and Letters (or AB to you and me) simply left home without ’em.

Even then, some college rituals defied explanation. Basta, it was simply how things from 1981 to 1985, the years we spent earning a bachelor of arts degree, were done.

Guys had a different, albeit opposite, concern. Whereas it was de rigueur for their women friends to hide their legs under those stockings, it was considered uncool for newly minted men-about-town to wear socks with their latest Top Siders, espadrilles, K-Swiss and even leather shoes from Marikina Shoe Expo and Cartimar.

How things have changed! While women these days, including 40-something cougars, have ditched inconvenient, snag-prone stockings in favor of going “nude,” men of a certain age risk being accused of not acting their age—or worse, likened to DOMs (dirty old men)—should they insist on wearing leather shoes without socks.

THE UST Main Library, one of the newest additions to the UST campus, which wasn’t there yet during our days.

And long before the likes of Courtney Love and Lady Gaga popularized “heroin chic” (read: smeared eye make up akin to black tears), not a few former UST AB coeds back then were probably among the first to unwittingly sport the look after their first brush with truncheon-wielding, tear gas-throwing riot police during one of those anti-Marcos rallies along Mendiola or Liwasang Bonifacio.

Wearing high heels and fully made up before the rally, complete with up-and-down eyeliner, full mascara, dripping lip gloss and half-a-can of spray net to keep those mini “tsunami” hairdos from sagging, not a few hapless PYTs went home their separate ways with ruined stockings, limped hair and bloodshot, raccoon eyes soon after. What were these girls thinking?

ISKUL Bukul, circa 1984, at the now gone Colayco Park

Since there were no cell phones yet, there was no way for us to text each other and regroup after being rudely scuttled by Marcos’ attack dogs.

That was only half the comedy, er, tragedy. The day after one of those rallies, I remember asking a female classmate what their beef with the dictator was, and all she could gush about was how cute and “principled” some of the male demonstrators were. She failed to say if those pretty boys were from UST, but I’d like to believe they were (wink).

If you find that lame, wait until you hear this story. Another group of demonstrators was out in the trenches shouting themselves hoarse in unison: “Marcos, Hitler, diktador, tuta! Marcos, Hitler, diktador, tuta! Marcos, Hitler, diktador, tuta!…diktador, tuta!”

Amid the din, one confused coed turned to a fellow coed and asked: “Nicanor? Sino si Nicanor?” I nearly fell off my wooden armchair upon hearing it the next day. Rumor has it that she was wearing a white-and-blue ensemble with an inverted V for a tie. Well, at least, you’ve got to give her a flat 1 for honesty. (To be continued)


2 thoughts on “This used to be my playground, Part 1 (our college days at UST)

  1. Hail Arts and Letters! I read somewhere that you graduated from UST-AB so now, this post confirms (or ‘confeerms’, ‘ika nga) it!

    Just to clarify, Mr. Vergara, I’m flattered that you thought I was a journalist. I’m not. I took up Communication Arts at UST too but my first job was at the rival broadsheet (wink, wink) partly due to my late Journalism professor at that time, who saw a “diamond in the rough” in my writing. And yes, I came close to choosing Journalism as my course. It was a three-way-tie between that, CA and Literature, thanks to Prof. Susan Macapagal’s influence on me as well. Needless to say, both Prof. Macapagal and my Journ professor were disappointed with my final choice (yung tatay ko kasi, natakot na baka daw daw ako ma-teargas sa rally if maging reporter ako). 🙂

    I haven’t been back in UST since 2006. The only changes I saw then was for the hospital, the field near the Engineering building that became a huge parking complex. During my time, Fra Angelico was still being finished at ang pangit pa din ng gym. I wonder what it looks like these days?

    So thanks for bringing back the memories of being a Thomasian. I can’t say my college years were the best but I met some really good mentors there that steered me towards my present career. For that reason alone, I am indebted to UST.

    • Well, graduates of Communication Arts can also make good journalists. Actually, you don’t have to finish journalism to be become a good journalist. A good number of my colleagues finished other courses and found out after graduation that their real calling is to tell stories as journalists, whether in print or on TV. Of course, it helps if you take up journalism to learn about ethics and news gathering. That’s something that is lost on not quite a few good writers these days: they lack the skills to be more empathetic towards their subject. That’s what I plan to blog in the future: writing in general. Thanks Mayo!

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