After graduating from the St. Joseph’s High School in Kiangan, Ifugao, I enrolled in the University of the Philippines (UP). The initial course that I chose was Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSF), which still then was offered as a degree program in the UP. I started well in our class but in the midst of the semester, I began to take note, that most of my classmates were the sons or daughters of nationally prominent families like the Padillas, the Balmacedas, the Lims and others. As one coming from the province a “promdy”, I realized, the chances of joining the Foreign Service would be comparatively slim with this array of pedigreed competitors, whose parents were influential in Philippine society. Very often, they were featured in the popular newspapers of the day. In the succeeding semester, I shifted to Political Science and Pre – Law.
From a highly conservative Catholic mission school, I was thrown into the outside real world when I landed at UP. I was exposed to the free, easy and at times bold eccentricity that abounds in the world of academe, and the widespread activism in the UP environment. The usual constraints of my catholic school days, was slowly chopped off by the liberal and the almost unlimited leeway vested to the students in handling their studies, in the formulation of their views and perceptions, but of course, with the “quid-pro-quo”, that one must pass his chosen course. The UP student is unceasingly programmed to achieve excellence. Indeed, going to UP, knowingly or unknowingly, enveloped you with that distinctive feeling, known us the UP spirit, “to strive to push on UP and going to win”. I joined a Greek - lettered fraternity in the university, which emphasized a rare and distinctive bond of brotherhood amongst the members. It allowed a kind of behavioral liberalism, starting with our very rough and sometimes barbaric initiation rites and other unethical activities. But that is UP, where we were subtly made to think that “we have no right to be wrong, to do wrong and to go wrong.”
For my first two years in college, I stayed in the UP dormitory inside the Diliman Campus in Quezon City. The dormitories then, were the Army Quonset House buildings left by the US Army. Each building accommodated twenty occupants, as the design of the building was that of an army barrack. It was an elongated building with both ends accommodating ten people, while the center space or middle part of the building, served as a study/conference room for the occupants. Most of the dormitorians were students from the provinces, except for a few Manila students, who chose to reside in the dormitory during schooldays and would go home to their Manila residence or houses only on weekends. My co-dorm mates were students coming from all parts of the country from up North to down South in the Visayas and Mindanao. The North student groups were mainly the Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Tagalogs, Pampagueños, Gaddangs, Ibanags and a few from the Bicol Region. The South groups were from Cebu, Eastern and Western Visaya.The Visayans coming from the Leyte region spoke a mixture of Cebu and Waray; while those from Western Visayas region Panay Island, spoke Ilonggo. My stay in the dormitory gave me the chance to meet and make friends with fellow students coming from different parts of the country.
Aside from the Political Science subjects in my pre-law course, I also developed interest in the Social Sciences. I joined the Anthropology class, then initially handled by Professor Tanco. Afterwards, Anthropologists Professors Jose Landa Jocano and Arsenio Manuel handled the succeeding advance classes in Anthropology. My interest in the study of Anthropology, which was defined as the study of society – the study of men (embracing women), their culture, beliefs, traditions, etc., was further enhanced with Dr. Landa Jocano and Dr. Arsenio E. Manuel, intense broad study and analysis of the country’s various societal and cultural groups, especially among the indigenous peoples. To further reinforce and broaden my knowledge on the social significance and aspects of Philippine Society, I also joined the class of Sociology Professor Jose Encarnacion. Later, with the arrival of Dr. Mario Zamoraa fresh graduate of Cornell University in Rochester, New York, USA, to head the Anthropology
Department of the UP, my involvement with Anthropology studies deepened as Dr. Zamora pointed out the need to establish a Tribal Research Center in the CNI. CNI Chairman Mamintal Tamano, readily agreed to the establishment of the Center. Tem Rodriguez who was then a Cultural Officer of the SEATO in Bangkok, Thailand, assisted us in putting up the center. Meanwhile, as part of my Anthropology course undertaking, and as a corollary to the establishment of the Tribal Research Centre, I wrote a book on the “Laws Affecting the Cultural Minorities”. The book was launched during the celebration of the Commission on National Integration (CNI) anniversary held at the University of the Philippines with President Ferdinand Marcos as Guest of Honor and Speaker for the event. My exposure to the basics of Anthropology and Sociology afforded me a better perception and appreciation of the structure and configuration of the various ethno-linguistic groups of the country.
Aside from my academic studies, I also enhanced my social and community involvement by organizing the “Vizcaya UP Varsitarians”. With fellow law students Noli Sagadraca, Romy Montefalco, who later became a Judge, and Johnny Mabbayad, Maurie Borromeo, from the Conservatory of Music and other lady students like the former Ms.Patrocinia Dumlao, Christie Baluyan, Pacita Galang, Arceli Domingo now Mrs. Agbayani, ALice Lazaro, Norie Tengco, Nely Moscoso, Corazon Callang and Ms. Fe Cabotaje-Antes and several others. We had an active Vizcaya student community where we would discuss a lot of issues including what we would all be in the future. UP Professor Concepcion Dadufalza was our adviser and later on she was succeeded by Ms. Sadang.
The ROTC program was derived from the Citizen Army concept in the Philippines anchored in our national aspirations for the defense of the country as laid down in the Philippine Constitution of 1935. The main implementing law was the National Defense Act (Commonwealth Act No. 1) which was passed on 21 December 1935. It embodied the recommendations of the American Military Adviser – Gen Douglas Mc Arthur to build a national defense system along the model of Switzerland’s Citizen Army. The military establishment of the Philippine Armed Forces would consist essentially two elements, a small standing force of professional troops and a mass reserve of partially trained citizen
soldiers. General Vicente Lim, (the first Filipino graduate of West Point Military Academy in the US.) recommended compelling all the colleges and universities to have ROTC. The regimentation of cadets who are taking ROTC was also approved by President Quezon as the best means of education of our future officers. Even Gen. Mc Arthur concurred in the compulsory course and regimentation of the Philippine Constabulary from the Philippine Army.
To me, the ROTC especially to the youth, dwelt in the values of discipline and leadership. Taking up and finishing even the basic two years training as a ROTC Cadet imbues one primarily with the essence of nationalism. And this is much more effectively attained, when one finishes the four years advance course. It contributes to further enhance the time honored values of respect, honesty, integrity, industry and concern for relatives, neighbors and countrymen, which was inculcated in us by our parents, by the schools and even by our religious faith. Even the late President Ramon Magsaysay, weighing all these problems that confronted the country at the time, saw the ROTC a ready asset that must be tapped in the gigantic task of nation building, security and development. He ordered the AFP to craft a realistic training program for the ROTC, particularly as a ready reserve component of the AFP Officer Corp and other related security requirements. At one time, the ROTC was tapped to guard the elections. In 1954, as directed by then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay who later became President, that graduates of the ROTC advance course from the different colleges and universities all over the country should undergo an eight weeks intensive training course – the Special Company Officers Course (SCOC) under the auspices of the Philippine Army. Danilo Lazo of the UP ROTC, topped the SCOC course and got a direct commission in the AFP. After his stint in various units of the AFP, he retired with the rank of Brigadier General (Ret). Other ROTC graduates, who were integrated into the regular force of the AFP, actively participated in the army operation against dissidents and other groups that threatened the stability of the country.
The course was programmed for eight weeks and conducted during the summer season with the first class attended by graduates of the ROTC advanced course in 1954 and in 1957 the fourth class was joined by graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1957. Through the years this two-month summer camp training was conducted not only in the Army but likewise in the Air Force and Navy, although with different course titles.
The eight-week course consisted of subjects that dealt with developing habits of self-discipline and decorum. The participants had to be in “spic-and-span” uniform and appearance – in crew cut hairstyle; clean shaven faces sans mustache or sideburns; fingernails clean and short; brass equipment and shoes shined, etcetera. As the class plunged into a much regimented way of life “inside camp;” the participants were subjected to various activities, such as having the reveille and “policing” (clean up” of the area as early as 4 a. m. Normally, classes started from 8 am till 5 pm Mondays till Fridays. At times, classes were held in the evening until taps. There were also rank inspections and Troop Information and Education sessions or “pep talk” by commanding officers on Saturdays and mass on Sundays. Whatever spare time we had, was spent preparing for the weekly graded tests.
The SCOC was basically infantry-oriented in its traditional role to fight the enemy in close combat by fire, maneuver and shock action to defeat him or destroy his will to fight, as part of combat arms operations. Lectures, demonstrations, practical exercises and military stakes included such subjects as adjustments to army life, customs and traditions of the service, aptitude for the service, service etiquette, infantry tactics from squad to battalion in offensive, defensive and retrograde operations, infantry weapons, military intelligence, personnel management, logistics, plans and operation, troop leading, command and staff, communication skills, signal communication, command and leadership, civil-military relations and many other subjects on military science and tactics.
Graduating from SCOC, you are conferred the rank of Probationary 2nd Lieutenant, a grade prior to become a regular 2nd Lieutenant in the Reserve Force. Those who topped the course like my co-graduate from the University of the Philippines, Department of Military Service and Tactics (DMST) Danilo Lazo was immediately commissioned into the regular AFP Officer’s Corps. A few other graduates, also joined the Officer’s Corps as integrees. Unfortunately though, because of my physical deficiency at the time – I weighed only 98 lbs, I was not included in the list of probationary 2nd Lieutenant. I tried to argue that my being under weighed should not be taken against me as I have successfully hurdled the intense training and requirements of the course. I even pointed out, that I topped in one aspect of the course – infantry tactics from squad to battalion offensive, but still I was told, that it was not enough to earn my rank as Probationary Lieutenant. I went to see Defense Undersecretary Jose Crisol who was our guest speaker during our SCOC graduation, and presented my case to him. Secretary Crisol was rather sympathetic and he advised me to go to the medical station of the GHQ at Camp Aguinaldo. When I reported to the medical station, I was instructed to eat a whole bunch of banana to increase my weight. I did eat bananas as told, but I could only consume three pieces and not the whole “piling”. And when I weighed again, I simply could not increase my weight. In frustration and disgust, I forgot all about getting my shoulder bar even as Probationary Lieutenant.
In 1970 when I was already a Congressman and Chaired the Appropriate Sub-Committee on considering the budget of the Armed Forces, one of the members of the panel of AFP Officer, that appeared before the Committee hearing in the AFP Budget approached me, if my memory does not fail me, he was a Col. Albano of the Personnel Unit of the AFP, and told me, “You can get now your commission as a Reserve Officer in the AFP with the rank of Lt. Col.” He showed me a whole caboodle of a thick bunch of papers and asked me to sign every page and that I should undergo medical physical examination. I politely told the Col. I have no need for being AFP Officer even in the Reserve Force, as it was not given to me, when I most needed it.
Meanwhile, as a graduate of the four year advance course of the UP ROTC, I joined the UP Vanguard Fraternity of the corps of cadets which was founded by the late Brigadier General Senator Macario Peralta, Jr. of 1934 UP ROTC Class with the late Brig. Gen. Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro also of Class 1934. During my stint as Vanguard National Commander 1990-1992, in 14 August 1992, we inaugurated the UP VANGUARD HALL OF FAME and HISTORICAL ARCHIVES, dedicated to the UP Vanguard members who emblazoned their flowing achievements in various fields of human endeavor, as examplars for generations to follow. Of course, the great Seven, so first installed – President Manuel A. Roxas ’13, General Carlos P. Romulo ’29, General Alfredo M. Santos ’29, General Macario Peralta ’34, General Rigoberto J. Atienza ’33, Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro ’34 and General Salipada Pendatun ’36 – all had common bond as Citizen Soldiers, only two carried on with a professional military career, and the other five returned to their civil pursuits.
As former National Commander of the UP Vanguard Fraternity, I was actively involved in all the projects and programs of the fraternity. One early morning in 26 July 1984, in the early TV news report of the day, an announcement was flashed on the TV screen wit my name and that of Transport and Communications Minister Jose Dans, Jr., that under General Order (G. O.) No. 622 and pursuant to Project 3670, by authority of President Marcos we were commissioned as Lt. Col. in the AFP Reserve Force. I was assigned my AFPSN 0-119325-A JAGS.
From there, the ROTC graduates metamorphosed from their originally designed training in the profession of arms, to the more mundane necessities of a growing society as shown by their skills and capabilities in responding to the multifarious needs of the fast increasing and growing Philippine community. With their ROTC exposure and training, these graduates found themselves gravitating towards civil undertakings like guarding the polls during election time, leading rescue and rehabilitation teams during natural and even man-made disasters, active participation in medical and dental missions among the poor and deprived communities. By and large, then ROTC graduates trained in various disciplines and calling constituted a ready pool of man power for the growing needs of the business,
commercial, industrial, agriculture, entrepreneurial and the economic demands of a slowly but steadily forward moving country.
In brief, the citizen army original concept of purely training in the profession of arms, has evolved into a functional and ready force to respond to the call for the eradication of poverty, disease, hunger and solving the unemployment problems especially in the county-side from where the rampant use of drugs and other vices especially among the youth, the unschooled and school-drop-outs, who are the easy targets of lawless elements. Undeniably, the problems of law and order, abounds mostly, from the countryside.
There was a downside though in the ROTC program, with the death of an ROTC Cadet in the University of Santo Tomas, as a result of excessive hazing. Thereafter, some legislators filed a bill in Congress seeking the abolition or bastardization of the ROTC program by proposing that ROTC be made optional and voluntary. A law was passed, known as the National Service Training Program (NSTP) emphasizing (3) program components namely (1) ROTC optional and voluntary; (2) Literary Training Service and; (3) Civil Welfare Training Service with six or seven national coordinating agencies mandated to implement the law. What could one expect of that set-up. It was a total flap. An awakened citizenry is now calling for the restoration of the ROTC program in accordance with the Citizen Army concept provided in Commonwealth Act No. 1 and the Constitution of the Philippines.