04 February 2017

A Deliciously Eccentric Professor Called Dr. Villacorta


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Without a doubt, the most extraordinary first class was Philippine Government or just PhilGov in DLSU course parlance. The professor was this extraordinarily eccentric character named Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, who introduced himself in theatrical fashion and then asked all of us to expressively introduce ourselves by slamming our palms hard on our desks before saying our names out loud.

Initially, I was wary of him because he looked like a certifiable wacko. But my Manila-born classmates apparently didn’t scare easily and were soon on to him, laughing instead of being intimidated by his antics. The ex-Atenean among my classmates, when his turn came to introduce himself, went beyond simply slamming his desk and instead picked up his entire chair, slammed it hard on the floor and then shouted his name out loud.

The whole class froze instantly, worried that he might have crossed the line. Villacorta had a shocked look on his face, looked left and right through the corner of his eyes, then very deliberately said, “Very good…!!!” There was instant pandemonium as everyone broke out into wild laughter. It was like being in high school all over again.

Pretty soon, though, I was starting to get signs that Lia-Com might just not be the best choice of courses for me. Typically, I was breezing through subjects that required plenty of reading and writing – the Lia or Arts side of my program. But Advanced Algebra was as mystifying as ever, and I regretted not having paid closer attention to my high school Math teachers. In college, Algebra was being taught at a faster pace than it ever was in high school, so not having learned the basics properly made the subject even more a royal pain.

Because the other half of my program was business, I also had to take Accounting. Decades later when I took up Finance while working for my master’s degree in management, I had a gifted professor in Dr. Rufo Mendoza, who had this ability to teach sequentially from basic to the more complicated. He was the first to ever make me see that both Accounting and Finance could actually be not merely learnable but, more importantly, enjoyable.

But my first Accounting teacher in college was this young professor named Miss Pampliega who did not have that same gift of teaching. Hers was a bland personality, a soft voice and a tendency to speak only to those in front. She was quite the example of what is basically wrong with tertiary education in this country to this very day. Professors are hired on the basis of their credentials, and while this guarantees their expertise in their respective fields, whether they are able to impart their knowledge to others is a different matter altogether. In basic education, of course, at least the teachers are trained and have a better grasp of the learning process.

It also did not help that my first experience of Accounting was a three-hour marathon every Tuesday and Thursday that started at one o’clock in the afternoon and ended at four. When I was already teaching History in Lipa, the time slot I detested most was that from 1:30-2:30 in the afternoon. Having just had lunch and forced to sit through a lecture in early afternoon heat and humidity, students were plain and simply brain dead in that hour.

Accounting was by no means hard to learn, just addition and subtraction. But when I was spending hours upon hours trying to work back through my spread sheets trying to determine where I had misplaced a 0, I was starting to slowly realize that I did not have the patience for the subject at all. And while I passed all my subjects after the first semester, typically I would have made the Dean’s Honors List if subjects like Algebra and Accounting were not counted.

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