Transition: A Herculean Job

by Azucena Grajo-Uranza ©

I was the president of the FEU Creative Writers Guild when we first conceived the idea of a literary journal. I was not its first president. That honor belongs to a fellow writer, Isabelo Crisostomo, who became president when the Guild was formed in 1952. But Isabelo left to work for the Guam Daily News, and so the next year I was elected to head it.

One day in 1953, our faculty adviser, Prof. Alejandro Roces, at a Guild meeting in his office, broached the idea of an annual literary journal that would embody the writings of both the students and alumni of FEU. He suggested the name Transition, for the journal was to serve as a Transition, especially for the student writer, from campus writing to the professional literary arena. Why not, we thought. We had enough literary material for it. FEU has always been richly endowed with writers both in its student population and its alumni. That is one of FEU’s proudest assets. Our real problem then was not talent and literary output but funding.

Since the publication was to be a student project, we were left to our own devices on how to fund it. We talked to every organization on campus, looking for a group that could help us with its finances, and finally we convinced the FEU Central Student Organization, the FEUCSO, to lay its bet on us.

We went to the different printing shops to look for the best possible quote and finally found the National Printing Co. who would do the job for us.

We already had a name, and the artist, Alfredo Roces, had designed a logo for us: a man going through a revolving door-very symbolic, we thought.

The printing quote was One Thousand Five Hundred Pesos for one hundred pages. At fIrst, I was daunted by the figures. One Thousand Five Hundred Pesos? One hundred pages? It was clearly a job for Hercules. But the other Guild members involved in the project were enthusiastic — Gonzalo Jurado, Benjamin Defensor, Alfredo de la Rosa, and Eva San Jose (Ben Medina was then busy with his bar exams). And eventually this group enthusiasm provided the steam to prod us to go ahead.

So again, we went to the FEUCSO, this time to show them our projected printing cost. FEUCSO thought it was something they could not afford. We argued and haggled and finally came up with an agreement — FEUCSO was to give us Seven Hundred Fifty Pesos, and the Guild was to raise the other half on its own. Fair enough. But the Seven Hundred Fifty Pesos looked to us like the national budget. It was at a time when the ordinary employee was paid One Hundred Twenty Pesos a month. And only Eva San Jose and Benjie Defensor were working. So we started to devise ways of raising the money. At that time our options were very limited. Students these days don’t realize the vast resources they can avail of for projects such as this. But in our time there were only two options open — a benefit show and a benefit dance. We used both.

We rented the FEU theater for a benefit showing of an old film. And we rented the FEU gym for a barn dance. A lot of our friends cooperated. They bought tickets, went to watch the old film, and danced at the gym we had converted into a barn.

From the two efforts we were able to raise Seven Hundred Fifty Pesos — and on the strength of this, we went to press. In those days, press work was “dirty business.” You really had to go to the press and sweat it out there, go through galley proofs, a couple of page proofs, before the final printing is done. And you came away sweating, smeared with printing ink and the dust of their composing room. It was pre-historic compared to these days when all you have to do is sit at your computer and then send your CD to the printer. No dust, no ink. But also no excitement of real press work.

Finally, the press work was done. The Transition was ready for delivery. It was a beautiful issue — all black chic for cover, with fifty-pound eggshell for inside pages. Time to settle our account with the press. We forked over our Seven Hundred Fifty Pesos and waited for the FEUCSO to give the counterpart fund. And that was when the fun began.  

Here I must digress a little to tell you what happened to the Seven Hundred Fifty Pesos promised by the Central Student Organization. Jimmy Flores was then the president of the FEUCSO and had made the commitment to give the counterpart fund to the Guild. But in the meantime, the election for Inter-Collegiate Girl came up that March (1955). Jimmy had a crush on the Philippine Women’s University coed who was running for ICG, against the University of the Philippines’ Dorothy Akol (who eventually became Inter-Collegiate Girl). Jimmy asked the FEU Advocate editor-in-chief, Gonzalo Jurado, who, as editor of the university paper, had the responsibility of casting the FEU vote, to cast his vote for the PWU coed. But Gon refused, for he had already given his word to his good friend, the editor-in-chief of the UP Collegian, a guy named Louie Uranza whom at that time I had not met and did not know. Now, Gon Jurado was also a member of the board of editors of the Transition. So Jimmy came back at Gon with the only weapon available to him — he froze the subsidy of the Guild, leaving us with an obligation we couldn’t meet. I had visions of being hauled off to court for non-payment of our debt to National Printing. For days, all that occupied my mind was the fact that I was confronted with a problem that had gone out of control. Jimmy made us stew for a few weeks, but of course, in the end, he delivered (after much cajoling, pleas, and an inevitable confrontation in the middle of the campus, complete with tears and recriminations) — and Transition had its debut.

The next year I joined the Faculty, and the Transition passed into other hands.

For some reason we got only to Transition 3 and stopped.

Eventually, Professor Roces left the FEU to become Secretary of Education –and Transition and the FEU Creative Writers Guild went into a long sleep. And just like the princess of the fairy tale, it needed a Prince Charming to kiss it back to life. That prince was Jess Cruz.

Jess Cruz was a young member of the Guild when Transition came out on April 15, 1955, and was not part of the struggle to get it bom. But he loved the Transition. And one day in 1990 I got a call from him to send my piece. Transition 4 was coming out! I wondered what fairy godmother had undertaken the responsibility for financing it. I presumed it was the university. It is always a blessing when university officials truly understand the value of a cultural education.

I dutifully sent in my piece, and the Transition has never failed to make its appearance since then. I hope we don’t stop at Transition 13, like we did with Transition 3. It would be difficult to find another Prince Charming these days. Personally, I don’t think we will stop. This rich cultural output that characterizes FEU will keep Transition going for years to come.

Perhaps, now you realize that Transition has not had an easy birthing. It has involved our blood, sweat and tears. It has involved the kiss of our Prince Charming to rouse it from its sleep. I hope you will value that as part of your heritage. And one day when you have become old alumni like ourselves, when you have taken your place among the celebrated writers of our country, I hope you will reserve your best pieces for Transition. ©



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One Response to “Transition: A Herculean Job”

  1. hello ma’am. I am currently enrolled in Philippine Litt. and was assigned to share something about you. would you please be kind to share us some things to ponder on our class? thank you very much.

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