By Antonio S. Frio
What was around us in 1958-1962? The great leap forward in China, British artist Gerald Holtom created the peace symbol, Fidel Castro is dictator of Cuba, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho movie is released, Berlin Wall was built, Peace Corps was founded, Russia launches first man in space, Cuban missile crisis confronts us.
Elvis Presley was the leading singing idol, dance craze was the twist, mashed potato, rock and roll. Popular songs were the Platters’ Twilight Time, Remember When, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Little Richards’ Good Golly Miss Molly; Neil Sedaka’s O Carol; Jackie Wilson’s Lonely Teardrops; Connie Francis’ Lipstick on My Collar, My Happiness, and many more.
Popular reading fare (including the patago) was the Philippines Free Press, Tiktik magazine, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Love Without Fear, Pinoy Komiks. Leading basketball stars were Caloy Loyzaga, Lauro Mumar, Carlos Badion. Cinemascope movies were The Robe, How the West Was Won.
Local film veteran actors and actresses were Pancho Magalona, Luis Gonzales, Romeo Vasquez, Van De Leon, Eddie Del Mar, Fernando Poe Jr., Mario Montenegro, Luis Gonzales, Rita Gomez, Gloria Romero, Alicia Vergel, Paraluman,Tessie Quintana, Lolita Rodriguez, Olivia Cenizal, Eddie Garcia, Ben Perez. Most imitated American movie celebrities were James Dean, Pat Boone, Elvis Presley.
Popular hair cosmetic for men were Tancho Tique, Colonial, Dixie Peach. Precursor of the Levis jeans was Macomber jeans, sold at ten pesos each (actually 9.95 pesos at that time). Preferred rubber shoes were Converse, Custombuilt.
Our freshman year 1958 started the second stage of my life after 16 years in Naga City. Fresh from the province (Naga City that time had urban stirrings, but still, the person and animo in me was total probinsiyano), I could barely speak conversational Pilipino in a totally strange place, especially the people and the food. Our “Tagalog” was the lingua franca we learned in high school, so traditional that I usually found myself saying “pahiram ng aklat” instead of “libro.” I found solace however in our fellow probinsyano freshman classmates, especially those from the Visayas and Mindanao whose language was similar to Bikol.
Later, the place became a little bit familiar and homey, there were regional student organizations catering to the probinsyanos! Remember the Bikol varsitarians, Lumabay-Labay, Panay-Negros, Novo Ecijanos, etc.? For the religious-minded, there was also UPSCA (UP Student Catholic Action).
As we attended our classes and became friends with other classmates, adjustment to the UPLB campus life became easier – and some years later, we became UPLB alumni.
This piece therefore is about remembering. Those precious moments in our formative years at UPLB truly contributed to our education, values, and what we are and have now in life.
- First day of registration in ROTC – My fellow Atenista from Naga was crying in one corner of the UPLB ROTC registration office at the back of Baker Hall. The reason: the ROTC officer initiating him commanded him to carry with his bare hands one of the old canons in the area to another place some 50 meters away. He said he could not do it because it was too heavy. Of course nobody expected him to to be able to do it – it was only part of the ROTC initiation! But why cry? Because he was afraid he would not be able to make it to a UPLB education!
- Still first day of registration, Baker Hall – All of us, freshmen and others were lined up in the second floor, all semi-naked and naked, waiting for the medical and physical examination. Many of us were so embarrased seeing each other in this condition, but after a while, what the heck, pare-pareho lang naman tayo!
- The UPLB siren (housed at the Security Office) signals end and start of a class period: blasting an ear-splitting hoot 10 minutes before the hour and exactly on the hour. Class starts on the hour and we take the 10 minutes before the hour walking to our next class (no jeepneys around yet). Most challenging walks were a class in Ag. Economics ending at 8:50 a.m. and another class in Agronomy starting at 9:00 a.m. Walking was brisk, no fast is the work, but we enjoyed the scenery of the Seniors’ Social Garden and the abounding martinez birds guiding us to the Agronomy building. Nowadays, the siren still works, but hoots only at 8 a.m., 12 noon, and 4:00 p.m.
- The baka-bakahan society – Remember the dysdercus megalopygus (cotton stainer, baka-bakahan in Pilipino) insects? They are the brown and orange colored insects we mostly saw at the base of the bombacacea tree, the kapok tree still living and found near the Palma bridge, the one that produces the kapok fiber for making soft pillows? You can spot them when they are so many, usually two insects tied together in a romantic posture. When student couples and sweethearts take a walk around the campus, they were usually referred to as members of the baka-bakahan society, as they also show their romantic holding hands, etc. And speaking of student couples, would you remember them? They were quite a fixture in the campus.
- Botany instructor, after a lengthy lecure: “Class, is this clear?” – Class: “Clear as mud.”
- As related by a friend –
Instructor: You there, give me an example of a dicot? “Mango, sir.”
Instructor: You there at the back, give me an example of a monocot. “Banana sir.”
Instructor: You, give an example of a monocot.
Student: (Caught offguard and now awake} “Another banana sir!”
- ROTC officer to student cadet: You there, STOP LAUGH!
- Reminds me of these fruits around the campus: The caimitos (star apple) as a staple snack item when studying for the finals during the summer period; the indian mangoes being sold and peeled by Aling Otik near the UPRHS gate (now an office of the Math and Physics Institute); the lanzones and rambutan in the student residential compunds where nightly raids are conducted; the pili nuts we used to gather in the IRRI pili drive.
- Dr. Dioscoro L. Umali (DLU) was installed as dean in 1959 vice Dr. Uichangco. My first impression of this later to be great UPLB leader was one of awe when he “lightened” up the campus by trimming the large trees, and giving the campus a much healthier and brighter look. He would soon lead the physical and academic development of the then College of Agriculture through the Five-Year Development Program of the World Bank.
- Taga-LB ka kung: This phenomenon became popular in the internet some years ago. But to us who had no internet then, TagaLB ka kung:
- Nakabili ka ng diyaryo kay Aling Teresa?
- Nakakain ka ng pansit na may sabaw sa Hongkong restaurant.
- Inabutan mo ang 50-centavo and 75-centavo student meal sa College Luncheonette sa Grove
- Naka istambay ka sa Gazebo, sa gitna ng football field (ngayon ay wala na ang gazebo)
- Dumadaan ka ng shortcut sa creek mula sa Languages Department (ngayon ay UPLB Post Office) tungo sa Baker Hall para umatend ng ROTC class
I encourage everyone to add their own unforgettable “Taga LB ka kung…” experiences. See you next time!