By Isabelle Yujuico
School-home-school-home. That was the humdrum of my elementary and high school years except perhaps for the last two years. My parents did not promote after school activities. Come college, I was determined to do a 180. As an overenthusiastic freshman, I joined six organizations, but it was only The LaSallian (TLS) that I stuck with until graduation.
I gained much from TLS, even post-college. The most obvious one was learning about the craft of writing as a Menagerie staffer. TLS was the springboard to my being a freelance writer. A former Menagerie writer, who was working for the lifestyle section of a national daily, tapped me to write an article that turned into many more. I got sneak peeks into different worlds, encountering a mishmash of people from local business tycoons to a Miss Universe runner-up with a soft spot for underprivileged children and a rock star with a penchant for stripping off his shirt. I also go to write advertising copy because of a referral from a coeditor.
TLS instilled rigor and was a good training ground. When I visited our former adviser, I said I found lifestyle writing easier than writing for TLS. Back when I entered the Menagerie, it was stressed than an article should at least include research from written materials (no Wikipedia yet!), and expert and man-on-the-street-interviews.
Post-college, I toyed with going to medical school. My turn in medical writing gave me an inkling that all that technical jargon was not for me. Covering health issues was far from frivolous and could get downright discouraging in the Philippine context, but it brought awareness and was a channel for advocacy.
However, I learned most during my stint as editor in chief (EIC) during my junior year. For instance, don’t expect things to be predictable, improvise, and survive. At times I felt that I was walking through a minefield, blindfolded at that. There’s no manual to tell you what to do when you encounter problems like missing editors, appeasing faculty who thought your staff was rude, lost pictures borrowed from a government agency, or an administrator who wanted to slap a case against one of your staffers for alleged “rumor mongering.” While sitting in on one of our editorial board (EB) meetings, a former associate editor wryly said, “It’s still like being in a telenovela. Nothing’s changed.” Getting through it all though gives you the confidence that you can handle things.
Decisions can be very difficult, and it is impossible to please everyone. You will never have perfect information and everything is a series of tradeoffs. Make the best decision under the circumstances and live with the consequences. Missteps are inevitable and own up to mistakes.
Many accomplishments rest on the shoulders of a team—a group of people who build upon the synergy of each other’s strengths and ideas. There is nothing like it when members willingly go beyond what is expected of them. Prioritize what will affect the organization or many people rather than just you. I had less time for my studies that I wanted, but ironically, I had my highest average GPA when I was EIC. Perhaps, I was forced to manage my time better and be more resourceful.
Looking at TLS before and now stresses the importance of adapting to technological advances. Having TLS on Twitter and Facebook and with a regularly updated website would have been unthinkable. Friendster was on its nascent rise and several batches held web launches only to have the site languish.
During my years in TLS, I’ve seen things from staffers being asked to submit 3 ¼ floppy disks to the shift to digital printing and TLS’s first fully colored covers. During my year as EIC, our scanner was indispensable and the photo section only had around two digital cameras among themselves. When our photo editor revealed that she no longer emphasized the use of the darkroom with its enlargers and chemicals, several oldies thought it was sacrilege. The USB stick was a novelty and during one press week, all looked in awe as our art and graphics editor brandished her brand new one.
Internet security experts would be appalled, but a few of us editors even shared our email passwords with each other. The place where we held press week usually had no Internet unless we could connect to the off-campus dial up. We’d ask whoever had access to save the files of work submitted online and bring them. After the paper was put to bed, our files would then be sent via airplane cargo to Davao where our printer was.
Nonetheless, the greatest thing I gained from TLS is the gift of friendship and camaraderie. I met some of my most cherished friends today through TLS. There seems to be an affinity and willingness to help among those who have made their mark in the staff box regardless of batch.
TLS alumni generously gave their time for seminars, panel interviews and to check the exams of editorial aspirants. We’d ask alumni to write columns and they would. Now here I am cobbling a column, the first since my junior year. Beyond newspaper matters, TLS friends helped me make sense of the morass called calculus and I played tutor to friends struggling with accounting.
A few years ago, when former EB members from at least five years got together at a wine bar, someone remarked, “We’re all so grown up now. We’re drinking Cabernet and not gin pom anymore.” But after our cheese platter arrived, and we all had no idea what was on the plate, it quickly turned into, “I guess we’re not so grown up after all.”
I even got two boyfriends out of TLS. I “bossed” the first when he was a newbie, and I was circulations manager, but that didn’t stop him many years later. I met the second, who was a few batches above me, during the 1st TLS (dubbed Tsampeon Lig op Singers) karaoke contest that was hatched by some TLS alumni. Good thing he had already left when I notched the lowest score of the night. Still that’s nothing compared to the co-editors in chief who got married and produced two lovely children instead of monthly issues.
This may sound like a hard-sell advertising spiel, but joining TLS was undoubtedly the best decision I ever made in college. If you have the passion and excellence, be a part of TLS. I believe that students should join an organization that they care about, not necessarily TLS. It’s also best if they seek a position of leadership. Yes, it can be an asset on the resume especially if you are a fresh graduate without work experience, but it is the totality of the experience that makes it worthwhile. Responsibility has its travails, but it also has its rewards.