Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Graduates to revisit UP Beloved - PDI 16 June 03

Recall alma mater with pride

MANY of today's biggest names in politics, business, government service and even entertainment come from the University of the Philippines.

Graduates recall with fondness and pride their stay at the UP that helped them become successful individuals.

"In UP, students are not afraid to question their professors and say their opinion unlike in sectarian schools," said Reynaldo M. Lesaca, whose class, 1943 (diamond), is among this year's honorees in the UP general alumni-faculty homecoming on June 21, 4 p.m., at the Luciano E. Salazar Hall, Ang Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Other honorees are Classes 1953 (golden), 1963 (ruby) and 1977 (silver).

This year's theme is "Population and the Quality of Life of the Filipino."

An integrated production number, showcasing their respective eras, will be presented by the jubilarians. Medallions will be awarded to the diamond jubilarians. Hosting the program are Willie Nepomuceno and Tessie Tomas.

Leading this year's diamond jubilarians is 82-year-old Lesaca, who still lives in the same house on Mabini Street in UP Diliman built in 1947, when the campus opened in Quezon City. Lesaca raised his eight children, including noted pop-jazz violinist John, in the same house.

"I was the one who taught John how to play the violin," said the elder Lesaca, a civil engineering graduate.

Lesaca entered UP in 1938, when Jorge Bocobo was the university president. His wife Florinda Jacob, his high-school sweetheart and a native of Lipa town in Batangas province, is also a UP graduate. She started the kindergarten program in UP.

The couple has been married for 63 years now.

Face-to-face with Einstein

Lesaca, who earned scholarships in American universities, takes pride in being the only Filipino to have interviewed the great scientist Albert Einstein at the Princeton University in New Jersey on Dec. 29, 1947. The interview was published in the "Evening News" in December 1949.

Lesaca, who taught at UP, also served as commissioner of the National Pollution and Control Commission (NPCC) in the '60s.

Other diamond jubilarians are Dr. Virginia R. Nanagas, Dr. Iluminada de la Rosa, Teofila Ofelia Tamesis, Dr. Paula Santos-Umali, and Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit, father of Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit.

The golden jubilarians are led by lawyer Hernandez, who is on his third and last year as UPAA president. In March, the UP Alumni Association (UPAA) donated, through the UP system president Francisco Nemenzo, seven million pesos to the university's library modernization program that aims to convert paper files into electronic formats. The amount was on top of the 17 million pesos raised by the board during its term, which will end this month.

It was Hernandez's class that brought Guillermo Tolentino's oblation from UP Padre Faura to Diliman.

Hernandez took up pre-law at UP Iloilo, now UP Visayas. When he moved to Diliman for his law proper in 1948, he recalled there were only two buildings, both used as offices. Classes were conducted in American quonset huts. Dormitories were inherited from the US army, since Diliman was used as an army camp.

Open-air shower

"When it rained, we had no classes because we couldn't hear what the professor was saying anymore," Hernandez said. "Our shower was open air, and there was only canvas to cover you."

Hernandez and wife Matilde Montinola have five children who all went to UP.

Among his fellow graduates are former senator Juan Ponce-Enrile, retired Supreme Court justice Abdulwahid Bidin, Court of Appeals Justice Nathanael de Pano, former executive secretary Ponciano Mathay, Dr. Rafael Salas, the first Filipino undersecretary-general of the United Nations, and the late senator Mamintal Tamano.

Maria Anicia "Boots" Mejia, one-time Inquirer vice president, obtained her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from UP in 1978.

"It was the age of salsa, 12-set or the maski-pops for the terpsichoreally challenged," she said. "We were listening to the Fifth Dimension, Diana Ross, Supremes, and even Rico J, and Sampaguita. We also watched Woody Allen movies.

"The youths wore bell-bottoms, cheesecloth (read: see-through) and bead chokers. You weren't from the '70s if you didn't own a puka shell necklace."

Among her classmates were General Edgar Aglipay and General George Alinio; Ed Alvarez, who is now president of Orix Metro Leasing, the biggest finance company in Japan; Salvador Escaño, president of Price Development; Butch Garcia, a partner at Sycip, Gorres, Velayo and Company; Victor Manarang, president of Extraordinary Development Corporation; Fred Rosal, a lawyer; Belen Buensuceso-Tan, now senior vice president for corporate planning of San Miguel Corporation; Josie Agloro, executive vice president of Hermes Shipping; and Jun Sabog, associate professor in management at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Mejia met her husband, Oscar, then finance manager of the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP), in the same college.

Mejia was vice president of Far East Chemco Leasing and Finance Corporation, a joint venture of Far East Bank and Chemical Bank of New York, when she enrolled in graduate school.

This year's homecoming awardees include Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, most distinguished alumnus; Presidential Commission on Good Government head Haydee B. Yorac, most distinguished alumna; lawyer Ponciano Mathay and Professor Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio, lifetime distinguished achievements; GMA Network president Felipe L. Gozon, information technology and mass communication; and Behn Cervantes for theater arts.

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