Happy, heady high school days with Isagani
WE both entered Torres High School in Tondo, Manila, in March 1947. Gani was the valedictorian of the nearby Lakandula Elementary School, while I came all the way from San Andres Bukid as the valedictorian of Epifanio delos Santos Elementary School.
When we took our entrance examinations at the same time, I realized I was a total stranger there. I didn’t know a soul among all the faculty and students around us, while Gani seemed to be already popular with everybody! I learned later that his parents were also teachers, just like mine. Gani’s mom, Pacita, was a teacher in Science, while his father, Bernabe, taught Mathematics and English.
Gani and I passed the exams, and we both landed in the elite Section One of the 47 sections opened that year to 2,256 freshmen students (48 in each section). By the time we graduated in 1951, less than half of that number remained because of drop-outs and other adverse eventualities. But, we in Section One managed to remain intact—from first year to fourth year!
Our love for writing drove us to become aspiring staff members of the school organ, the Torres Torch. Gani became editor in chief; I was literary editor and ran a regular column, “With the Faculty.” We were both members of school delegations sent to Baguio (1950) and Cebu (1951) to attend Secondary Press Conferences, where we competed for honors with other public schools and “brought home the bacon.”
I won only one award, for “Best Literary Feature Story” in Baguio, but Gani won more awards for running the best high school journal, cited for “Best Headline Writing,” “Best News Reporting,” “Best Editorial Writing,” and the like. That’s why we were so proud of him.
In our junior year, we were candidates for the Student Council elections, which Gani won hands down as president. I was a poor second. But, we both received the Leadership Award in our senior year.
Gani wrote beautiful editorials in the Torres Torch, which made me envy him for his good command of the English language. He seemed to do it effortlessly, while the rest of us struggled with syntax, the use of metaphors, and the like. Once, I asked him to teach me how to write an editorial for our Christmas issue. He stared at me and thought I was kidding, but perked up and seemed tickled pink at being given a chance to teach me.
In my high school diary, I described Gani as follows:
“T.D.H. (though not so dark), g.l. and very intelligent. He has a bony frame but has that poise and personality of one who commands respect. Acts as a good brother, and is very obliging to all. Silent but eloquent.”
I asked him for a photo, and what he wrote at the back really floored me.
“To Lena –
May this picture remind her of a naughty boy.
P.S. I can’t think of anything to write.”
—For once, my favorite campus journalist was at a loss for words!
The Del Valleans
That was the name we gave ourselves on graduation day when we posed for a class photo with our section IV-A-I adviser, Mr. Bartolome del Valle.
Henceforth, instead of referring to ourselves as Batch 51, Section One, we would just be known as the “Del Valleans.”
Over the years, we kept track of the whereabouts of each member, especially those who left the country for further studies abroad.
Ten years after graduating from Torres High School, the Del Valleans had our first class reunion in 1961 by sponsoring a Bingo Session near Zeny Inocencio’s poultry farm in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, where live chickens were raffled off as prizes! We had great fun and raised enough funds to make a donation to our Alma Mater’s Scholarship Foundation.
In 1964, when I was writing scripts for Sampaguita Pictures, it was my turn to host the Del Vallean reunion at my place when I arrived home from a location shoot in Hong Kong. This time, the donation to Torres High was a 16mm movie projector from Sampaguita with accompanying documentary films from our sponsor, the American President Lines.
In 1975, it was Gani’s turn to celebrate being chosen Outstanding News Editor by the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines. But, he begged off because of martial law. Much later, we learned that he was with the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s.
Last year, the Del Valleans celebrated our 60th anniversary in Bulacan province for the homecoming from Massachusetts University of Biology professor, Dr. Nira Bolinao. I was touched by the gesture of Gani and his wife, Mildred, in coming with us despite the lateness of the hour, to visit an ailing senior Del Vallean member, Dr. Ricardo Alday, in Malolos.
I can never forget how Ricardo’s face lit up as he murmured Gani Yambot’s name with so much pride and joy as he looked at us all, as though to say, “Hey, classmates, here is the publisher of The Inquirer inside my humble abode!”
In the firmament of the Del Valleans, Isagani Yambot was our brightest star. He will continue to be so as we love to talk about him, his works, his personality, and his importance for the age we live in.
Viva Del Vallean!