07 April 2017

Some of the Most Memorable DLSU Professors


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Among the best professors that I had in my entire stay at DLSU were those of the History-Political Science Department. Among these, my most favorite were Dr. Soc Reyes, Brother Raymond Antolik and Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, whom I had already met when I was a freshman.

The first was my teacher in a course called Introduction to Political Science. Word from the grapevine was that she was “pink,” i.e. left-leaning. These were still very much the Martial Law years, so in fact, it could be utterly dangerous for anyone to even be labeled leaning towards the left.

If she was, though, she never let on while being our professor. She was thoroughly professional, eloquent and made no effort to sway anybody towards any particular ideology. If she criticized the Marcos administration at all, it was always prudently and within the context of the day’s lesson.

Because Martial Law had transformed the country from a democracy into a police state, the study of Political Science became even more interesting because it helped young people such as I was to fully understand the contemporary political environment. Dr. Reyes, because she was patient and taught systematically, ensured that all of us developed an appreciation of the science behind politics. It was a real pity that I only had her as professor for one semester. Because her specialty was Political Science, those who majored in History-Political Science saw more of her than those like me who took up East Asian Studies.

With Brother Raymond, a Czech-American from New York City, it was the opposite. I had him as professor for three subjects, including our program’s equivalent of a thesis. The first time I had him as teacher was in the subject Southeast Asia. Although this was a History subject, his approach was in stark contrast to the shallow memorization that was required of History students in elementary and high school. It was a lot more analytical and required a lot of visualization of the past, something that I found thoroughly enjoyable. When I come to think about it, my own style when I myself became a History teacher was probably modeled after his.

He didn’t always teach that way, he once admitted to me. I had complained to him in my senior year that another of my professors, an attaché from the United States Embassy – we joked among ourselves that he was CIA – read his lecture from several sheets of yellow pad. That, Brother Raymond told me, was how lectures were conducted in the United States; and how he himself used to teach in his first semester at DLSU. He quickly saw that he couldn’t capture and keep students’ attention teaching that way and subsequently adapted his style such that it could be appreciated by Filipino students.

Brother Raymond always reserved the last eight minutes of each session for a quiz. He gave just one topic based on the day’s lecture and we all wrote short essays on half a sheet of pad paper about it. This was a brilliant piece of innovation on his part which I myself used when I was teaching History. Any student who was not paying attention would not be able to write anything of substance. Like I said, brilliant!

As luck would have it, I would have a very happy reunion with my erstwhile deliciously weird Philippine Government professor Dr. Villacorta or Dr. V as we all called him. In my freshman year, my classmates and I once arrived at the classroom to find him seated cross-legged on the teacher’s table wearing an orange Ananda Marga robe and with sticks of burning incense either side of him. It was an incredibly funny sight but the wonder of it all was that he was still able to conduct the class.

This time around, he was our professor in a subject called Philippine Foreign Affairs. Because ours was already a junior majors’ class, he was a lot more subdued and there was less of that type of ludicrous eccentricity. Nonetheless, his was one of the subjects we all looked forward to. He was, at the time, adviser to the Marcos’ Kabataang Barangay organization. While he dutifully supplied us with copies of the syllabus as was expected of every professor, most of the time our lessons strayed away from this.

Instead, he loved to entertain us with first-hand gossip about the goings-on in government. Some were downright shocking and I dare not write about these because the personalities involved are still very much in power to this very day. I felt that none of us learned anything of substance about foreign relations but were, in exchange, very much educated on the realities of politics in the Philippine context.

I will never forget this one time when the clerk who administered the teacher evaluation surveys knocked on the door. Before leaving us under the supervision of the clerk, he laughingly advised all of us how he thought we would rate him, “Preparation: 0. Sense of Humor: 5!” I think most of us gave him full marks, if for the entertainment alone.

I also had a totally unexpected reunion with that brilliant Brother who taught my senior high school class in Lipa: Brother Sau Obera. Except, he announced soon enough, that he had left the Christian Brothers and said I could call him Sau or Mister Obera, whichever caught my fancy. But naturally, I refused. I continued to call him Brother Sau.

He was not from the History-Political Science Department, though. He taught Eastern Literature, which was a required elective for East Asian Studies majors. He was as brilliant as I remembered him and managed to transform what would have otherwise been a snore subject into something at least tolerable.

I must have made an impression on him during his short stint in Lipa because, throughout this elective class, he would read out parts of my essays to the class and point out to my classmates the seamless grammar with which I wrote. This embarrassed me, of course, because it looked to some of my classmates that we had something of a mutual admiration fellowship. I even got teased because of this.

My professor for another required elective was this British professor from London whose name was Mr. Slocock. Inevitably, part of his opening speech on our first class was to admonish everyone not to make fun of his surname because he had been picked on at school for as long as he could remember because of it.

He was an exchange professor, so he was at DLSU only for a semester or two. He spoke with the most delightful of accents, quite unlike those of the British shows I used to watch on television which half the time I couldn’t really understand. The accent, I would discover much later, was something called “Received Pronunciation,” a standard way of speaking common among the educated in southern England.

Because he was British, I thought once when I met him outside of class that I could strike a conversation with him about English football. I had been a big fan of the English club Liverpool since I was in high school, but there was just nobody whom I knew who was knowledgeable enough to start a discussion about English football with.

But when I asked Mr. Slocock if he was into football, he replied no with alacrity. End of conversation. My experience of Englishmen was woefully limited at the time but I couldn’t imagine one not interested in football. What were the chances that an Englishman not into football would end up my professor? It was like finding a Chinaman who didn’t like eating noodles. That was very strange, indeed!

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