Anding Roces Sealed My Fate

by JESUS Q. CRUZ ©

(Editor’s note: This foreword intended for Transition 11, written by Jess Q. Cruz in 2004, was read by Miel Ondevilla at the Necrological Service in Jess’ honor at the FEU University Chapel, 8 June 2005)

My family wanted me to be an architect. I dreamed of being a seafarer and sail the seven seas. I took up A.B. English, met Anding in my junior year, and he sealed my fate.

He was my instructor in American literature. We were a perfect match: he loved talking and I enjoyed listening. He never noticed me until I submitted a report on Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre. It was not the review that impressed him but a watercolor drawing I made of a scene from the novel. He told me that he had it framed.

In my senior year, I was in Anding’s class in Short-Story Writing. He didn’t lecture on the elements of fiction. He narrated anecdotes about great writers. Once he invited the boy-genius from U.P., David Cortez Medalla, to talk to our class. Anding said nothing about the short-story I submitted, a poor imitation of Nick Joaquin. It was published later by Celso Al Carunungan in the weekly magazine, Kislap-Graphic.

Anding was the adviser of the Advocate. I drew cartoons for the paper and illustrations for poems and stories. I also had a regular column on the arts.

By the time I finished my course, Anding had become Dean of the Institute of Arts and Sciences. Before I could transfer to UST to take up Architecture, he asked me to handle two classes in English 1. Thinking that I might as well continue teaching, I enrolled at the Ateneo for a Master’s degree in Creative Writing.

It was around this time that Anding asked me to do a series of twelve watercolors depicting supernatural creatures of Philippine mythology such as the kapre, tikbalang, asuwang, tiyanak among others. Six of these paintings were reproduced in full color in the Christmas issue number 1957 of the Philippines Free Press. He had them framed and hung in his office. He later donated them to the National Museum, where I supposed, they have been consigned to some musty bodega. He also asked me to execute the cover of Transition 3, FEU’s literary annual that he had launched three years before.

When Anding left FEU to take his post as Secretary of the Department of Education, we felt like orphaned children drifting in limbo. His soul-siblings, among them aside from myself, Benjamin C. Bernales, Jose M. Buhain, Godofredo C. Camacho, Isabelo T. Crisostomo, Benjamin G. Defensor, Fred dela Rosa, Buenaventura S. Medina, Jr., and Azucena Grajo-Uranza, eventually would find their moorings in different ports – education, press relations, and journalism. But in whatever area they cast their anchor, they were outstanding achievers.

In 1963, I was granted a Fullbright-Hayes scholarship to take up Creative Writing and Humanities at Stanford and Columbia. I came home after a year to find FEU on shambles. Francisco Arcellana brought Azucena and myself to U.P. Diliman to teach Humanities. After two semesters, I returned to Morayta feeling that I had to help carry on Anding’s mission. I sorely missed FEU’s Golden Age with Anding.

Survival was not easy. I moonlighted as a book-cover designer for the Dela Salle Press and wrote reviews on the seven arts for The Manila Chronicle, The Manila Times, and The Manila Standard. Determined that there should be a cultural renaissance in FEU, President Felixberto Sta. Maria, with the full support of the Chair Lourdes R. Montinola, established the President’s Committee on Culture patterned after that of U.P. and revived Transition. I headed the PCC after the retirement of Nick Agudo and advised the staff of Transition. The effect of all these activities was inevitable – a cerebral stroke that robbed me clear eyesight and part of my memory.

Did Anding ever get to know that I won awards twice each in the Palanca and Focus literary contests for the short story? When the Office of Research and Publications of Ateneo de Manila University launched my book, Games and Other Short Stories, an invitation was sent to Anding. He didn’t come.

Now I am poor, old and sick. But I have no regrets. My wealth lies in the thousands of students who have learned from the joy of life they have found in the literary creations of the masters. At least three of them have won the Palanca too.

Very recently, Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) awarded me the Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez for Outstanding Educator in Literature. I would like to share this award with Anding.

Anding had wanted me to be a painter. I had dreamed of being a seafarer, visiting exotic lands and writing fiction like Joseph Conrad. Instead, I am just a plain schoolteacher doing some moonlighting on the side to keep afloat. Is it true that those who can’t write teach?

For all that I have not become and for all that I am,

Thank you, Anding.

Jesus Q. Cruz ©

 

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