Ronnie Cabanes




Gina Bautista- Navarrete
Ronnie Cabanes

Jun Baylon

Yna Valenzuela-Torres

Happy Esquivias-Dos Santos

Rene Molano

Deah Navarro

Fr. Lito Jopson



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(a.k.a The Story of My Life)


The reunion left me, and I suspect most of us, so overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that it took a while to make sense of them all.   It takes a long flight from Manila on my way to London for me to give my reflection a semblance of organization and set my thoughts into writing. There are just so many words waiting to be written…


Let me begin that my USTHS experience deviates significantly from the mainstream and so certain perspectives might be unique to me and potentially even strike others as "weird".  As mentioned at the round table introductions during last Monday's Silver Trek, I probably hold the dubious distinction of being the one who "almost" didn't make it

to this batch … That statement provides the context on which these accounts are written and expectedly, the homecoming touched all of us in different ways …   


And so for most parts, the visual presentation during the homecoming was not only a nostalgic trip but a revelation as well.  Many of the images, I saw only for the first time.


Except for initial attempts to be a YDT officer which quickly turned me off because it required that I cut my hair at a time when long hair was "in", I was never really a part of any school-sanctioned club or activity.   The only times I was ever inside the auditorium

of the Main Building was during the early part of first year and finally, during graduation day in 1980.   Otherwise, every school program presented an opportunity for me and my friends to cut classes.


I was pleased to see ANTHONY CASTILLO after all these years.  He was my very first seatmate in UST. During those much tamer years, SALVADOR TAN, JOEL NAVARRO, MEL NALAGAN and of course, our dear JUN BAYLON were my classmates too.  Twin brothers ALFONSO and FERNANDO VILLAROMAN were among my first friends.  I used to able to distinguish one from the other.  That night at the reunion, I couldn't anymore. 


Was it Alfonso or Fernando who reminded me how we used to oogle at Rosella Liboro?  Though I remain ambivalent about who said it or that we really oogled at Ms. Liboro, I do remember how we used to drool each time Ms. Bionic Woman passed by.  She was the red-haired girl who was in her senior year when we were freshmen.   In our pubescent

years, a three-year age gap seemed like a decade and so we never had a chance.  Needless to say, we never came close to even just knowing her name.


Indeed, it appears that the only talent I exhibited in high school was getting into trouble.    The reunion provided a venue for me to mend bridges with HAROLD KRAFT, BERNIE PONCE and BOOTHWELL DY.  As for our amiable moderator REY ESPINO, I made peace with him earlier on.  They were all kindred souls who otherwise would never get into a tiff.   In high school, we ended up at opposing poles of the juvenile frat wars.  From hereon, I shall hope we could remain forever friends.


No, I wasn't always an incorrigible student.     I was delighted to see DR. REYNALDO REY-MATIAS, with whom I grew up with at San Beda.    Yet I was looking for other faces.   Other Bedans like Caloy Roque who used to share my passion for poetry as a young boy.   Jun Bantug who was my best friend and neighbor.   Raffy Camacho who was the brother I never had.  Val Llaneza, Nick Cruz, Joel Salaveria, etc.  Witnesses to my gothic metamorphosis from honor student/school journalist as a Red Cub into a USTHS basket case.  I remember how it was at the eve of high school graduation day when Caloy asked me, “What happened to you?”




Yet, for every face I saw, there would be more faces that I would look for.   Mike Sison and Gus Fuentes were USTHS batchmates who attended Mapua just as I did.  There, I would lead the student council and become editor of MIT's own, The New Builder.  Having had no formal training in journalism, my staff and I would learn a lot from the copies of other school publications that would be mailed to us each month.  This includes The Varsitarian. 


I thought The Varsitarian had one of the most admirable lay-outs among all student papers at that time.   I remember reading the name MA. REGINA BAUTISTA not knowing for sure if she was a HS batchmate.  Perhaps that is yet another indication of just how out of touch I had been at UST?   (Note: May heaven forbid that her editorial instincts kick in and she starts editing me now!)  I am honored to finally meet her in the events leading to the reunion.


Truly, up until the later part of senior year in high school, the only girls from USTHS that I personally know were Red Camacho who was my  "kinakapatid" and then Rona Reyes whom I met on a bus ride from España to Fairview during first year.    Somehow, I went to more parties with my cousins and Bedista friends and so ended up meeting more girls from other schools.   School fairs?  Except when we were freshmen, I don't remember USTHS ever having a fair thereafter.  I do remember attending Sienna's with my classmates every year.   And Holy Spirit's because my sisters were there.   So too was my girlfriend for most of high school.


GIGI ACO, VITA PARAS, JANET TAN, SIGRID TACTACIN and CHIE MENESES were among the middling number of other girls I met at UST High.  I was glad to see them once again.  


Throughout the night, I kept looking for friends.   As a sophomore, my close friends included future "ice cream tycoon" GERRY DAYAO and future "drug lord" Nap Agoncillo.  Gerry was there that night at the reunion but Nap was not.   Same with golf buddies Rickey Leuterio and Mervin Moulic.  I thought Melvs planned on coming? What happened?  


As the slide show played on, the images flashing in my mind include the first few times in my life that I made my mother cry.   First, when I got very poor grades in Algebra.  Next, when I presented her with a slip from Mr. Tagaro asking her to come to his office after I got into a fight.    People talk about how USTHS is part of who they are.  Well, these events were major turning points in my life!  


It was my failing in Algebra under Mrs. Angeles that challenged me take up engineering in college.   Somehow, I wanted to redeem myself as I probably did.   Algebra was the only math subject I ever failed.  Not a small feat considering that I took up BSEE which had the most math.  During the board exams after graduation, the math segment would be where I got my highest scores!  


And it took Mr. Tagaro and Mrs. Taas to make me realize the depths into which I had fallen.  Sadly, the decision to transfer after high school was also driven by my personal need to leave UST if only to start afresh in a new environment.  I thought it would be more difficult for me to arrest my downward spiral had I stayed on.  


I took the UPCAT and the MIT exams and passed both.   In the end, I chose MIT although during the admissions interview, the guidance counselor took notice of the grades on my report card and couldn't make out how I managed to get such a high score in my NCEE!  


Had I gone to UP, I could have been in the good company of  Teng, Wendel, Leo, Rey and the rest.   TENG AGUILAR and I share the same Ora et Labora roots.   Not to mention that our respective partners are good friends.   WENDEL MEDIARITO whom I met for the first time only three years ago and shortly after the ball started rolling on the preparations for the homecoming, is a good friend of one of my golf mentors.  At some point right after college, the name LEO RIINGEN would just seem to keep propping up at every turn.  Whenever I start dating a girl, Leo would either be her friend or an officemate.  As for REY ESPINO, I think I've said enough.


In my profession, people would wonder what I meant whenever I say that I'm involved with international relations.    Among our batch, the few exceptions would include RICO RICAMORA, MELANIE ARSUA-MANUEL, and MAAN RECINTO-MENDOZA.    Rico, I would see whenever I had meetings at PLDT when I was at NYNEX but because we didn't go to the same college, I remember wondering if it was really him.  Melanie, I just found out that our teams would have discussions and occasionally even lock horns over contentious issues without us knowing that we are batch mates at the opposite ends of the table.  And Maan, it was only on our second or third business meeting together that we found out we were both from UST.  I would consult her from time to time especially when I was working in Singapore.  She would be one of my resource persons back home.


It's amazing how one could come across names and faces without knowing that you share the same roots.  During the Silver Trek, I discovered for the first time that GERALD NALAGAN (pronounced with a foreign accent) and I worked for the same company and had the same circle of friends without ever bumping into each other!   And, of course, his cousin MEL NALAGAN (this time with a local accent) comes from my hometown in Pulilan.


But the biggest revelation yet was JUDITH MERCADO-PONCE.   As early as my first year after college, our paths would cross.  She was my best friend's office mate and I would visit them often.   Later, I worked with her husband on some projects.   And even much later on, I would do business with her company.  Judith and I would sit together in meetings for hours.   Yet,  it never occurred to us to ask each other what school we were from in high school.  The moment I saw her at the reunion, there was no way I couldn't readily recognize the very familiar face.  I just couldn't make out what on earth she was doing there?  When we had the chance to talk, we had a blast!


Knowing how I had remained so faceless in high school, one might be tempted to ask:  was I really there?  Even IBE AREVALO and our class valedictorian RENE MOLANO had to check and double-check the Veritas to make sure.   They would not be alone in their uncertainty.   Until now, in my professional environment, I have always been labeled as a Bedan-Mapuan.  Am I really a Thomasian as well?  Proudly I would answer:  YES I AM.


Because even away from España, UST lingered.  Other than Mrs. Angeles and Algebra, UST's biggest influence on me would be in my love for history (Note: one of the people I was looking for that night was batchmate Augusto Viana who wrote a book about the Japanese occupation.  I brought along a copy in the hope that he could sign it) and even more so, literature.  


Where San Beda gave me Henley, Whitman and Caroll, UST introduced me to the likes of Shakespeare and Poe.   Though I never really studied (I was a basketcase, remember?) and merely went by from what I could recall from the lectures (since I cut so many classes, there wasn't much to recall and this explains my failing grades in Algebra), I

kept on reading about history and literature.   Though not much of a library-type,  I did go there away from the watchful eyes of my frat brods (whom I know would consider it conduct unbecoming) to read, one chapter at a time, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger 


Quite understandably, during my four-year stay, my favorite mentors would include Mrs. Mañago, Miss Ochoa, Mrs. Gutierrez, and Mrs. Songco.  Their inspiration would serve me in good stead at MIT where appreciation for the classics enabled me to earn higher-than-normal grades in the soft subjects, pull up my GPA, and keep my scholarship.   Many times, Humanities and related subjects would be my life-savers.  Plus, they provided much-needed refuge from the otherwise dull technical stuff.


After UST, life as I knew it was never the same again.   Often, I would miss my carefree days at Santo Tomas.  I would pass by it everyday on my way from our house in Sampaloc to Intramuros and back.   In later college years, I was frequently bereft of jeepney fare and I would walk to school.  It was quite an ordeal.   If only for that reason

(and notwithstanding my earlier statements about the good company of Teng,) I was thankful I did not enroll at UP.  Walking all the way to Diliman would have been torture! 


Once in a while, I would pass by the chapel.   Santissimo Rosario.  Every now and then, I would be going out with a UST coed and I would find reason to visit her at the campus.   It was always good to get a glimpse of the old school grounds.  Occasionally, I would spend afternoon hours by the football field. 


There, I would gaze back with fondness at the memory of my first sip of beer, my first puff of weed.  Adolescence was a time for many firsts and it was while in high school that I went through most of it.  It was at UST where I caught my first glimpse of the world as it truly is.  The transformation of my sheltered boyhood existence into life in living color.  Complete with its ups and downs.  With friends who have stayed on. Friends who have left. And friends who have passed away.    


Ngayon, natapos na ang palabas.  Now that the show is over, the question begs to be asked.  Where do we go from here? 


My wish is that the bonds re-established and the new friendships made would not just be for naught.   I have waited 25 years to be back with people who have touched my life in many different ways.   I may not have another 25 years left to go.   It is my hope that I should not have to wait that long to be with them once again.


The magic of UST High . . . I wasn't sure then.  But now, I understand . . .


Ronnie C. Cabañes


PS.  I shall forever be thankful to the people who made the e-group possible and the various committees who made the homecoming a HUGE success.   There are so many names to mention, people who lead and people who worked quietly behind the scenes.   I shall leave that task to others and not even attempt to list them down or I might just miss a few.  


But I should acknowledge HAPPY DOS SANTOS and YNA TORRES for putting the program and the slide show together.   Most of all, I should thank JUN BAYLON for never tiring of being everybody's friend and for getting me back into the fold...