The LaSallian’s transitioning years: An interview with Carmen Reyes-Odulio

The LaSallian, the University’s official student publication, started its operations in the 1960s. A paper for the students, of the students, and by the students, The LaSallian is deeply rooted in its colorful history, one that helped shape it into what it is today, which is the bastion of issue-oriented critical thinking.

This fulfillment wouldn’t have spanned for decades, however, if it weren’t for the myriad of people who lie behind every page written, printed, and read in the publication.

Forty years ago, Carmen Reyes became the publication’s first female candidate for the position of Editor in Chief (EIC). At the time of her application, she was serving as the secretary of the Council of Student Organizations (CSO), as well as the founder and president of the Physics Society.

“I was in the second batch of female students; La Salle started admitting female students in 1973, and I entered in 1974 so it wasn’t unusual to be the first female in anything already back then,” Reyes recounts. “There were already student organizations with female heads, as I was in the Physics Society, so it was just a matter of time before The LaSallian was going to have a female head.

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Freedoms curtailed

The organization saw difficult times during the Martial Law era in terms of what could and couldn’t be published. Student publications were allowed to operate during Reyes’ time as EIC, but there were still significant hurdles to overcome.

“The school administration appointed a University Board Review (UBR) for The LaSallian. It was comprised of Dr. Eduardo Deveza as its Chairman, Br. Edward Baldwin as Vice-Chairman, and one or two other faculty members,” Reyes recalls.

“We had to submit the blueprint to the UBR for approval to print, and even then, when the copies were already printed, we had to submit the actual newspaper for approval to distribute. We were allowed to publish articles about [the] school and its activities, but the UBR was very wary about articles that touched on topics outside of school, especially when they were about politics and the government.”

Staying true to its nature, the bastion of issue-oriented critical thinking tested its boundaries with the UBR back then. One time, the UBR disapproved of an article regarding a topic of national interest, and instead of replacing it with another article, a slanted headline that read “Disapproved by the University Board of Review” was seen in its place.

From December 1977 to February 1978, the organization had to stop publication. Reyes recounts, “We had meetings with the UBR and had come to an agreement, and there were certain articles in question then. At the time, there was a referendum that President Marcos had ordered scheduled for December 17, and those who would not participate would be jailed. We had something to say about that.”

When the December issues were delivered, it was mistakenly distributed without prior approval from the UBR. “We were accused of not following procedure. Because students were paying for the publication fees of The LaSallian, we felt that students should be given more leeway with the paper, and that it shouldn’t have to be censored by the administration. But because the administration would not abolish the UBR, we decided to simply stop publication.”

During the period that no articles were published, the student publication consulted several times with then-Senator Jose Diokno. Before Reyes’ graduation in 1978, the paper came to terms with the administration; Reyes was made to submit a letter of apology, and also publish a lampoon article that did not contain any political undertones. Printing resumed the next school year with a new set of editors.


Down memory lane

Being the EIC of the official student publication of the University in a time of tumult and unrest, Reyes has gone through both the sweet and the bitter blessings that The LaSallian has to offer.

The organization’s office was housed in the Student Affairs Center, a small two-story wooden building located between the then Gym (now the Yuchengco Hall) and the western end of La Salle Hall. Reyes took post as EIC of the publication in 1977—the same year the Student Affairs Center burned down in the middle of the night.

“We [hadn’t] started our publication yet, and were still undergoing training since classes had not started yet. We relocated temporarily to the Green and White office which was located on the mezzanine in the La Salle Hall main wing, facing Taft Avenue,” Reyes remembers. Incidentally, that is also where the current office of The LaSallian, and the rest of the Student Media Office (SMO) is now located.

Back then, coming out with a newspaper was a herculean task. Reyes recollects the process of publishing each issue as a taxing experience. “We had to do the physical layout, which involved cutting up the columns and taping them to sheets of paper the size of the printed newspaper. If we wanted to include pictures, we also taped them to the sheet of paper, cutting them or indicating that they had to be enlarged.”

Once the final copy was approved, the waiting game would not yet be over. The printed copies would be given after a span of a few days, and then had to be submitted to the UBR for approval for distribution.

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Thoughts on Philippine media today

Reyes expresses disappointment in how media is wielded today, saying, “Instead of giving unbiased, objective news, it seems to me that they all have an angle now. It probably makes for more sales or more clicks. I have now learned to double-check everything I read, even from sources such as major news publications. I was once told that media is still a business and thus they have to sell, and it saddens me that this is a fact of life now.”

Furthermore, there is also a stark contrast between information dissemination during the Martial Law era and today. Back then, there was serious lack of news; today, people are bombarded with excess information and disinformation. Reyes also laments grammatical errors that get published on the front page of even major publications.


To us, on the brink of our lives

As the first ever female EIC, Reyes doesn’t forget to remind everyone that having the top position of the organization is not so much a gender issue, but more about nurturing our capabilities and having integrity.

“I think we are fortunate to be women living in the Philippines, where the matriarchal nature of our society allows for males and females to be treated equally and where a male does not lose face if he reports to a woman supervisor,” she shares.

Clichéd as it may sound, Reyes also says that there is so much more ahead of us to look forward to after graduation. “Just remember that in school you may be a big fish in a little pond, but once you graduate, you will be a little fish in a big pond.”

As a woman of true leadership and legacy, Reyes goes beyond the confines of gender and upholds the belief that one’s character is what matters most in the real world.

By Eternity Ines

By Nicole Wong

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