Yakal is a dorm in UP Diliman. It was a “masa” [for the masses] dorm as it had double-deck beds good for four. It was known for the bed bugs that inhabited the mattresses. Bathrooms were common.
Yakal hosted many interesting, and later well-known personalities. It was a microcosm of Philippine society in the late 1960s to early ’70s. Those were years of activism, of Diliman commune, and Marcos regime. It was the time when the Philippine history textbook was Agoncillos’s book.
At Yakal, the opposing ideological factions treated each other civilly, or often just ignored one another. There were teach-ins from Kabataang Makabayan and related leftist groups. There were also fraternities and “tribal” groups galore: Beta Epsilon, Beta Sigma, Epsilon Chi, Sigma Rho, Upsilon Sigma Phi, Knights of Palaris of Pangalatoks, Hamili of Ilonggos, and Filipinos of the Bisayans.
Residents were diverse. They came from the north (Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Nueva Ecija, and Pangasinan) to the south (Agusan, Cotabato, Davao and Sulu). Many were products of public high schools.
From my recollection, here are some.
Jose “Pepe” Perez from Batangas, retired Supreme Court justice. He had the loudest laugh in the territory.
Fortunato de la Peña, president Duterte’s secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, and a UP engineer.
Francisco Viray of Pangasinan, former dean of the UP College of Engineering, and president Ramos’s secretary of Energy, 1994-1998. His room was beside mine.
Franklin Drilon, current senator and past Senate president and past secretary of three departments under Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos (Executive, Justice, and Labor and Employment).
Ericson Baculinao, chairman of the UP Student Council, martial law exile to China, and NBC Beijing Bureau Chief.
Nelson Navarro, editor of the Philippine Collegian, martial law exile, and, of late, Juan Ponce Enrile’s biographer.
Mukhtar Muallam, ambassador to Libya.
Rafael Baylosis, political science, cum laude, when Latin honors were very scarce. He later became secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Melito Glor of Sariaya, Quezon and my roommate for one summer, whose name is immortalized in the Quezon NPA command.
Lawyers. Alfonso Reyno, Jr., CEO of Manila Jockey Club; Luis “Chito” Veracruz, counsel of ACCRA Law; Rafael Morales, managing partner of his law firm and UP law class of ’74 valedictorian; Paraja Hayudini, partner of his law firm, and Dave Simon, assistant GM, Philippine Ports Authority.
Doctors: Eduardo Firmalo, Romblon governor; Copernico Villaruel, Philippine General Hospital orthopedic surgeon; Luisito Maano, former head of National Orthopedic Hospital; Gene Abis, a well-known eye specialist; and Jesus Baylon, former top executive of United Laboratories.
Engineers. Edgardo Paynor, CEO of Telmarc Cable; Antonio Ng, former CEO of Clark Development Corp. and managing director of Amkor Technology Philippines; Epifanio Lopez, UP engineering professor; Cesar Iñiguez, international water resources consultant; Lawrence Tumaneng, metallurgy/mining consultant; Alberto Selorio, Australia-based logistics manager; Cesar Monzon, LA-based engineer, Carlos Tiongco, retired from General Motors Michigan; Jun Papelleras of the University of Asia and the Pacific; Catalino Corpuz, community organizer; and Jose Albano, San Francisco-based; Victor Jaranilla; Tony Tañada, the Cimagala brothers; and Pete, my New Jersey-based brother.
Bankers. Edgardo Lorenzo and Samuel Basiao.
Luis Fullante, a working student, completed PhD in English at University of California, Los Angeles; Toronto-based Efren Marcos; and Davao activist Ray Quitain.
Jobs were easy to find then after graduation. I joined the government’s Metal Industry Development Center. I commuted to Taguig City via Highway 54 (now EDSA). Many overstayed at Yakal dorm as it was really cheap. When we were asked to leave, we moved to an apartment in UP Village.
When martial law was declared in September 1972, there was a lot of uneasiness on the campus. Military intelligence agents were all over, some taking graduate studies at UP. The left lost hope in a democratic struggle. By then, Marcos was ready to unfold his long-term ascendancy.
Those were the halcyon days of the ’60s, but later disturbed days of the early ’70s.
Parenthetically, China was ruled by the Gang of Four during the so-called Cultural Revolution in 1966-1976. The Cultural Revolution crippled the economy, ruined millions of lives and thrust China into 10 years of turmoil, bloodshed, hunger and stagnation. The Cultural Revolution’s official handbook was the Little Red Book, a pocket-sized collection of quotations from Mao Zedong. It was not until 1978 that Deng Xiaopeng launched a wide-ranging market reforms that led to a rapid 40-year economic growth and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.
The left was idealistic then. Perhaps, many students were naïve about how difficult it was to change society. Maybe, they did not realize that ASEAN neighbors — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore — were moving in the right direction without revolution.
But since they were hunted down for their ideas, many went underground and joined the NPA. Many were killed. One was friend Antonio Tagamolila.
Times have changed. Contrast this idealism with the extortion and burning of agriculture assets by the NPA fronts today. They have discouraged investments in the countryside. Some 800 workers lost their jobs with the burning of Lapanday plant and Macondray plastics plant in Davao last year. Recently, a small aircraft pilot was killed in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur. He was only doing his job: spraying fungicides over banana farms.
I wonder whether my generation (those who graduated in the late ’60s and early ’70s), whether left, right, or center, made a difference in the country’s development in reducing the high poverty and income inequality. Philippine poverty incidence at 21.6% is very high and several multiples that of Indonesia (10.9%), Thailand (10.5%), Vietnam (7%) and Malaysia (0.6%). It’s nothing to be proud of.
Or whether they just went with the tide as family concerns overrode past idealism or absorbed by the “system.”
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Rolando T. Dy is the Vice Chair of the M.A.P. AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.