Upsilonians of Palawan and the PSU School of Law

Tonight, I shall be one among 1,853 pre-registered brods—not counting their dates—who will be attending the “Centennial Ball” of the Upsilon Sigma Phi (“Upsilon” for short) at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.  The number of those going—vis-a-vis the total frat membership, living and dead, which so far numbers around 3,500 Fellows—is not so small, especially considering that members only come from guys enrolled (at the time they are invited and initiated into the frat) in the Diliman, Manila, and Los Baños campuses of the University of the Philippines.

For the unfamiliar, the Greek letters, Υ, Σ, and Φ, actually compensate for the too-generic “University Students’ Fraternity”.  Having been founded in 1918 makes Upsilon the oldest Greek-letter fraternity in Asia.

To many of my generation of Filipinos, the Upsilon’s biggest claim to notoriety would probably be the historical fact that it includes Ferdinand Marcos and Ninoy Aquino among its members. But there also were Gerry Roxas, Doy Laurel (and his illustrious siblings), several other past members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, and many others who contributed more than the usual to shaping our history, not to mention incumbent senators Dick Gordon and Kiko Pangilinan, and U.P. Presidents Fred Pascual (immediate past) and Dani Concepcion (incumbent).



To bring the matter closer to home, Palawan also has its share of Upsilonians:  the list includes the late Judge Jose P. Rodriguez, Teddy Peña (former Minister of Natural Resources), Joe Laceste (a surgeon who served the rural poor), Tom Española (the banker and business magnate of Brooke’s Point), and Bert Oliveros (the longest-serving Mayor of Puerto Princesa).  May they rest in peace.

Among the living are retirees Roger Almira, Jun Tropezado, and Gabby Artillaga; and, still active in the professional world:  Nelson Devanadera (Executive Director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development), Riki Sandalo (U.P. Professor), Jay Rodriguez (my dear colleague in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan), Jojo Bautista (physician-gastroenterologist), Sammy Magbanua (Public Information Officer of the Provincial Government), Wilfred Larrañas (builder-contractor) and Nel Almario (banker).  A younger set of Palawan brods includes Paolo Devanadera, Jay Simborio, Jess Bream, Ralph Santos, the brothers Karl and Franz Legazpi, and Jalo Felizarte (Franz and Jalo are also my baptismal inaanaks).  My apologies to those whom I failed to mention.  Cheers to all Upsilonians!

But it is not just Upsilon that is celebrating a major signpost in its existential timeline.  2018 is also the 25th  year of operation of the School of Law of Palawan State University.  The Upsilonian Teddy Peña was its first—founding—Dean.

At its opening in 1993, the faculty included Atty. Jimmy Josol (a former Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member); then Fiscal (and later Judge) Perfecto Pe, Jr.; the late Judge Fil Vergara (may he rest in peace); Judge Leah Baguyo and Judge Joy Dilig (who were then young lawyers, almost fresh from law school). I was hired as college secretary after the assignment was refused by Joy Dilig and upon her recommendation (Thanks, Judge Joy!).  And so the administration of PSU Law initially consisted of two Upsilonians:  Dean Teddy Peña and myself.

But the PSU School of Law has come a long way in 25 years; of course, not without strong support from the University administration, notably the two Presidents who served during its conception, birth, and early years:  Dr. Teresita Salva and Dr. Crispiniano Acosta, Sr. (may they rest in peace).

After Dean Teddy Peña resigned to run in the 1995 elections, PSU Law came under the care of Dean Dave Ponce de Leon who, having been elected the Vice Governor of Palawan in 2001, was followed by Dean Roy Rafols (who placed No. 2 in the 1984 Bar Examinations); and lastly, by Dean Perry Pe, under whose watch PSU got a 100% passing rate (all takers passed) in the 2016 Bar Exams.

Our first batch of students graduated and took the Bar in 1997.  Three passed:  Rohima Sarra (now a Judge); Cynthia Castañeda (who opted for the quiet life of a homemaker and mother); and Adelina Benavente-Villena (now Deputy Executive Director of PCSD).  Since then, PSU Law has produced new lawyers every year, who are now serving as judges, prosecutors, public defenders, private practitioners, etc., all over Palawan.  As loyal alumni, they also contribute to the welfare of our law students and the continuing improvement of the law school.  Congratulations to the PSU community!

But what is the point of celebrating segments of time, of counting the years?  Obviously, it is to savor and to be grateful for the being of something good, and to pray and hope for its continuing existence.  Maybe not so obvious, however, is the implicit acknowledgment of an ending to come, whether in the near or far future, which could be viewed with joyful anticipation or with dread, but, in either case, inevitable.  On this note, I would like to end with a reminder to myself and friends that next Sunday is the 34th in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year that ends, which should also remind us of our own “end”, so that we may the better prepare for it. (18.XI.2018)

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