Moving to Diliman

Remembering the University of the Philippines (UP) never fails to evoke in me nostalgic memories of events and circumstances that are now remote and irrecoverable. My UP episode began in 1948 when I graduated from Rizal High School, Pasig, Rizal.

I enrolled as an 18-year-old Foreign Service freshman at UP on Padre Faura Street, Manila. After having registered and paid the tuition fees, it was easy getting the class cards for my first semester. But not at the DMST ROTC office where before I was enrolled as a first year basic ROTC cadet. I was made to execute close order drills like forward march, to the rear march, halt, right, left, about face and right hand salute and finally I was made to sing to the tune of “Roll Out the Barrel” the definition of military discipline which I had to memorize in less than an hour. It was a period of acclimatization as a university student and I still have fond memories of my one-semester “porch lizard” days at UP Padre Faura, which is now the home of the Supreme Court.

It was during the 1948-1949 semestral break that the exodus to UP Diliman took place. It was a momentous event which began with the removal of the Oblation from its pedestal at the UP quadrangle at Padre Faura and loaded on a trailer van and it was accompanied on board by a band that continuously and alternately blared “UP Beloved,” “Push on UP” and martial air music. It was followed by a riotous but orderly group of faculty, staff, alumni and students who rode in assorted vehicles that made up the more than a kilometer convoy which slowly wended its way to Diliman. We were aghast when we reached the Diliman campus, which we found virtually a jungle and hardly recognizable with the thick foliage of cogon and “talahib” grass that covered many of the less-traveled streets. The Oblation was unloaded at the place where it is now presently located in front of the Administration Building, then still under construction. The only existing edifices were the Colleges of Law and Education buildings. Most of the structures in the campus were quonset huts left behind by the US Army and they were used as classrooms, student dormitories, gymnasium, a medical dispensary and residences of the faculty and staff. The Liberal Arts and Engineering buildings were still under construction and almost nearing completion.

The second semester of 1948-1949 officially marked the beginning of UP Diliman. Life at Diliman was romantically exciting with many students living in separate dormitories for boys and girls and the vast expanse of the 600-hectare-plus campus was conducive to nightly strolls by promenading sweethearts. I remember the Dean of Women, Ursula Clemente, who would lead nightly foot and motorized patrols armed with flashlights to ferret out nocturnal lovers from their trysting places. Not a few were caught. There was the Liberal Arts dean, Dr. Tomas Fonacier, who diligently enforced “No Smoking” in the LA building. His wife, Consuelo Fonacier, was my English 1 and 2 professor. I also remember Señora Rosario Borja, my Spanish professor, who all throughout my Spanish 10 and 11 classes never spoke a word in English or Pilipino. And who can forget Agustin Cailao, a national diving champion, our swimming instructor? On our first day at the swimming pool, he ordered everybody to swim two laps of the 25-meter pool. Those who made it were dismissed for the day and those who did not were left behind for their first swimming lesson.

The traditional Christmas Lantern parade was held for the first time at UP in Diliman, Quezon City, in December 1949 and as expected, the most impressive and orderly was the College of Nursing contingent. The following month, January 1950, a monthly social for students was started, consisting of ballroom dancing, intermission numbers and counseling/inspirational talks by the Deans of Men and Women and the parish priest, Fr. John Delaney, SJ, author of the book “Love, Courtship and Marriage.”

In 1950, I was accepted—after undergoing the usual initiation rites of a neophyte—as a member of the Upsilon Sigma Phi. My distinguished batchmates, to name some, were Benigno S. Aquino Jr., Nereo C. Andolong, Roque R. Ablan Jr., Ismael A. Mathay Jr., Teodoro Q. Peña, Alberto A. Pedrosa, Ernesto F. Sanvictores and many others. Aside from pursuing the Foreign Service course, I also enrolled in the Advance ROTC course. The ROTC Cadet Corps commander was Bienvenido Castro, who retired as a brigadier general of the AFP, assisted by Josephus Ramas who later served as commanding general of the Philippine Army. The corps adjutant was Mamintal Tamano who was elected senator of the Philippines. Of the 19 Advance ROTC graduates in my class of 1952, eight of us opted to join the AFP as 2nd lieutenants. We were called to active duty on July 1, 1952 and six of us attained the star rank, namely: Jaime Alfonso, Jose Magno Jr., Benjamin Duque, Eustaquio Purugganan, Benjamin Vallejo and myself. We are truly proud to be known as the Class of Generals of the UP Vanguard Inc. After serving the AFP for 34 years (including 10 years in Mindanao), I retired in 1986 after having reached the AFP mandatory retirement age of 56.

Sixty years later and now at 78, I can still vividly recall many memorable events of my four-year sojourn at UP Padre Faura and UP Diliman.

Push on, UP!

Brig. Gen. Carlos C. Aguilar (ret.) is 78.

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