I miss Perspective

Perspective is the official student publication at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. At the freshmen convocation in 1993, I was so impressed with the then-editor in chief’s talk that I walked straight to the paper’s office immediately after the program to inquire how to be part of it.

Joining Perspective turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in college.

I hurdled the exams and interviews, and went through months of apprenticeship before finally seeing my name in the Perspective staffbox. I looked forward to the staff meetings and the debates we had about the editorials and the events happening in and out of campus. (I distinctly remember how Ate Lours gathered interested editors and staff for a discussion of what turned out to be the document that will split the Left — that Reaffirm document of Armando Liwanag. That was a scoop.)

Ma. Lourie C. Victor a.k.a. Ate Lours commanded everyone’s respect and admiration in the paper. She was our mother hen, competent editor, capable manager. She inspired us to think and rethink, to criticize and problematize, and to build new worlds in our minds. She demanded competence because the paper was only ours to manage and produce on behalf of our publishers and readers. She did all these while endlessly landing in the dean’s lists as either college or university scholar, and as a varsity pingpong player.

We looked forward to receiving our honos — that’s honoraria for you — but the biggest attendance is always recorded in the staff meetings and in the overnight sessions at TACT along Grove where we typed our first, second, third, fourth, fifth or nth draft until the section editor or the editor in chief is satisfied. Joseph was the record-holder in the number of drafts ever produced — I forgot exactly how many but I vaguely remember that it can’t be lower than a dozen!

At TACT, we had to contend with floppy disks getting broken. Yes, we used the 5.25 inch floppies at the time! The wordprocessor was WordStar, while some use WordPerfect. Laptops were unheard of, and I can’t remember anyone to be owning a computer.

In between writing drafts and trying to PR our way out in small talks with our editors, many learned to smoke. That was the time I first smoked Marlboro Lights menthol sticks if I was not munching cheese bread or drinking glasses upon glasses of Coke. No one seriously complained.

Of course, who can forget the sibling rivalry among the sections — Culture versus Features, News versus Features.

Modern-day heckling first came out in the Perspective from a pint-sized DevCom major who was known in SU as the winningest contestant in quiz bees and trivia contests. The Batangueño features editor who laughs at us and edits the Inquirer line by line has given up on us and the Inquirer. He is now the Professional Heckler of Pinoy cyberspace.

Romel, our layout artist and later managing editor, studied Marx by himself and gave us all sorts of riddles culled from the readings he devoured.

We had many apprentices but there’s this b***h no one can forget. She spoke colegiala English, was snotty, coñotic, and complained endlessly about work conditions in the paper. By law of natural selection, only the best remained and she was among the first to go.

Perhaps the best times for all of us was when we ourselves rented a jeep and dropped off copies of the Perspective in all major buildings and dormitories. We were always so happy and giddy when we see throngs of students ask for copies just before we put them in building hallways or the entrances to the dorms. We were flattered when student publications from across the region requested copies or asked us to help them out in trainings.

Perspective was not just professional. It was political. It dared go where the USC was always late. In one instance, Perspective led a huge anti-GATT contingent from UPLB to Manila. The USC said only two jeeploads of students will be able to come, but thanks to the staff’s widespread influence and splendid coverage of the issue, we were able to agitate more than a dozen jeeploads of students to join us for a rally at the Senate building in Manila.

(The Perspective’s critical position on GATT, now known as WTO, turned out to be correct. Agriculture and manufacturing suffered terribly in the first decade of imperialist globalization ushered in by that tratado ng peligro.)

The paper spoke and acted when it saw students’ welfare was at stake. Confounding critics, the Perspective launched a campaign against a preposterous dorm fee hike that would have thrown out thousands of students from affordable UPLB housing facilities. The paper came out with frequent reports, a peryodikit, and actually engaged in a dorm-to-dorm campaign. The dastardly administration plan was defeated by widespread protests.

The Perspective led and inspired the College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Southern Tagalog into becoming one of the best and most advanced chapters nationwide. Led by Perspective, CEGP-ST pioneered the roving journsems (journalism seminars) that provided a potent mix of skills training and socio-political education to campus journalists in the wide expanse of Southern Tagalog. Most of the provincial level formations were up and about, busy with journsems and campaigns and ably assisted by the UPLB-based and Perspective-inspired Regional Executive Committee.

Erwin Escubio and Marco Polo ushered in the modernization of Perspective and began preparations for a weekly run. Erwin was/is kuripot, Marco a dreamer and manager. Marco built on what Ate Lours and Erwin prepared and saved.

Unfortunately for us and for UPLB students, that dream of ours to make a Weekly Perspective died in a traumatic accident. The paper was waylaid. Prospective editor in chief Glenn Lubuguin was bumped off in an editorial contest no one bothers to remember because it was like the worst nightmare for many of my batchmates in the paper. The crisis afflicted even the CEGP-ST which later fizzled out to the dismay of counterparts nationwide.

After our stint in Perspective, we moved on. We brought our experiences and lessons in the paper to wherever life brought us, experimented even more, reached and touched more people either as activists our professors, consultants or volunteers, employees or entrepreneurs, both here and abroad.

I am eternally grateful to Perspective and my Perspective batchmates and I miss them all terribly.