In my freshman year, at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), I joined the U.P. Vanguard Fraternity by circumstance. The Vanguard is the fraternity of the members of the U.P. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (U.P. ROTC), which is also part of the national Citizen’s Military Training (CMT) program. During those times, it was required by law that all high school students (male and female) must take the Citizen’s Advancement Training (CAT) on their senior year of high school, and that all male college students must complete their CMT during the first two years of college. So as a freshman, I trooped down to the parade grounds for my first day of training, as was accidentally drafted to the Cadet Officers Candidate Course (COCC), and this was an event that would change my life.
In high school, the CAT was never taken seriously. And now that I was a college student, I assumed that the CMT would be just as worthless. However, the U.P. ROTC proved to be a real serious program, with a strict system that included weekly training sessions in military courses; such as orienteering, escape and evasion, first aid and survival techniques, urban warfare, rappelling, weapons training, combative training, and much more. We were required to follow a barracks schedule (yes we had a barracks) and strict dress code, and attend weekly military classes, and even had our (sort of) mess hall. On weekends, we would have the regular training days, where we will have the regular cadets (students who opted to take the regular CMT program) under our command in marching exercises.
Both regular students and the Cadet Officers have the option to complete the basic two years of training, or taken two more years to be a reservist officer in Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reserve, and add another 6months to be a commissioned officer of the military. I just wanted get this basic training done and not give a damn about this “advanced” training, let alone join a fraternity. However some of my companions at the COCC told me that they wanted to complete the training but they needed me to be with them to accomplish this goal. So I stuck with it, and the funny thing was I was the one who complete the course, while the others who asked me to stay had quit. And I never regretted making that choice of joining the Vanguards.
The UP ROTC was established in 1912, which was four years after the founding of the University of the Philippines. From a small office in the Manila campus, the UP ROTC is now located in a sprawling complex with the Diliman campus. The Cadet Officers (COs) had their own barracks, and there are quarters for the UP Band and the Tactical Officers (faculty or TacOs). The cadet officers’ barracks is called the Granadillos Hall, named after 2Lt Eustaquio Granadillos, a Vanguard who was killed in action in the 1970s. There was once an armory with hundreds of firearms in storage, including several howitzers used for training and “gun salutes” for visiting dignitaries; until they were all sequestered by the government of President Corazon Aquino in the 1980s, in fears that we might use the weapons for a coup d’etat, due to our affiliation with some key personnel of the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.
To advance the training of the cadet officers, the U.P. Department of Military Science and Tactics (DMST) was established, in 1922. The offices of the DMST are now located in the Vanguard Building, which was erected in 1972 along with the rest of the DMST complex, after the old barracks was burned down during the Diliman Commune of 1971.
Alongside the founding of the U.P. DMST, the U.P. Vanguard Fraternity was also established in 1922. Graduates of the COCC and ROTC programs are initiated into this fraternity. I have never been a fan of fraternities, and I even vowed never to join one when I was younger. However, I am proud of my affiliation with this group, not just because of the comradery that I have developed with all these people, but for the skills that were imbibed upon me which help me forge a very fulfilling life. These are things that I would have never learned, if I had quit ROTC and lived a typical Fine Arts student life.
Still we have had all types of people, who have forged ahead and joined our ranks. In fact, we have had several women join us, and become inducted into the fraternity as a “brother”. We also have a sorority, which is the U.P. Corps of Sponsors; but for the ladies who become cadet officers and join the fraternity are forever called “brother”. In fact, we can board to have the first female Corps Commander (the highest position), before the PMA (Philippine Military Academy) had one.
In 1948, the UP Main Campus transferred from Manila to Quezon City, due to the damages incurred in the old campus during the Battle of Manila, in 1945. One year after the transfer, the UP ROTC was given its official parade grounds in 1949. Although it is officially named the “Gen. Antonio Luna Parade Grounds” (named after the Philippine revolutionary general), everyone in UP just calls it the “Sunken Garden”
Gen. Antonio Luna de San Pedro y Novicio San Ignacio (1866-99) was one of the best strategists and fiercest generals of the Philippine-American War (1899-1902 “officially ended”), during the American Occupation of the Philippines (1898-1946). Brother to the renowned painter, Juan Luna, he first was part of the propaganda movement, and sought only reforms in the Spanish occupation, including the declaration that the Philippines becomes and province of Spain, thus considering all natives as Spaniards of equal rights. Although Luna was very successful in many of his campaigns against the Americans, his sharp words and short temper lead to many colleagues hating him, and eventually assassinating him.
Back at the DMST and the Vanguard Building is a collection of masterpieces, which most people are not aware of. At the lobby, there are several murals, including my painting “Liyab ng Kagitingan” (The Flames of Valor), which was part of my 1998 Philippine Centennial exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
There is another untitled mural by the members of the Artist Circle Fraternity or the CFA, which they accomplished to reduce the time they have to spend marching under the sun and rain, during the Saturday training days.
U.P. Artist’s Circle Fraternity was founded in 1972, at the U.P. College of Fine Arts (CFA). Being the only arts related fraternity in the U.P. system and the only fraternity at the CFA, the Artist’s Circle is mainly comprised of visual artists and designers. But in time, they also started accepting members from the disciplines of theater, literature, music, film, and architecture. During the Martial Law era (1972-1981), the Artist’s Circle served as the acting student representatives of the CFA students, after all student councils were abolished. Many of the members of the Artist’s Circle have moved on to be movers and shakers in the art and design world.
Inside the Vanguard Building’s Hall of Fame are four busts of Vanguards who have served as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which were created by Froilan T. Madriñan Jr. (1941-2008), who is also Vanguard of the Class of 1961. Madriñan comes from a long lineage of famed sculptors for the carving town of Paete, Laguna Province. Most notable were his father Froilan Sr. and grandfather Mariano Baldemor Madriñan (1858-1939). Madriñan continued his studies at the U.P. College of Fine Arts (CFA), where he would later become a teacher. In 1972, Madriñan was one of the faculty supervisors who help found the Artist Circle Fraternity of the CFA. Madriñan has also represented the Philippines in various international exhibits. As a freemason, Madriñan sculpted many of the busts of noted masons, in the various lodges all over the Philippines.
General Alfredo Manapat Santos (1905-1990) started his career after graduating Corps Commander and Honor Graduate from the U.P. ROTC, in 1929. Santos then entered the service as a first lieutenant in 1936, and later made his mark against the Japanese invaders in the Mauban-Atimonan defense, and led his first Regular Division troops in wiping out the enemy in the “Battle of the Pockets”, in 1942. After the war, Santos rose through various commands up to Commanding general of the Philippine Army, and eventually to be the first UP Vanguard to reach the position of Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines. By then, he became the first Four-star General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
General Rigoberto Joaquin Atienza (1911-1966) graduated with a degree in civil engineering, at the University of the Philippines, and was a member of the U.P. ROTC class of 1933. While studying at the U.P., he became one of the founding members of the Tau Alpha engineering fraternity, and was the editor of the school newspaper, the Philippine Collegian. Atienza was in command of the engineer battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment of the 41st Division, during the Battle of Bataan in 1942. He was later captured and became a part of the Bataan Death March. Atienza would continue his serve after the war, and serve as the Chief of Staff of the AFP under President Diosdado Macapagal. He is known best for being the AFP Chief of Staff that was in power when the AFP then enjoyed the real term of best military power in Southeast Asia. In his honor, the military camp of the 51st Engineering Brigade was named Camp Atienza, in 1979.
General Romeo C. Espino (1914-2003) graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1937, but entered the military service in 1941. Espino was part of the Battle of Bataan, in 1942; where he was captured and endured the Bataan Death March. Espino became the 3rd UP Vanguard to reach the highest military position in the land, serving as AFP Chief of Staff for nearly a decade – from 1972 to 1981. Aside from being a military officer, agriculturist, academician, lawyer, and corporate management practitioner, he has been involved with many other notable institutions, the longest of which was the Philippine National Red Cross where he served as chairman from 1975 to 1998.
General Fabian Crisologo Ver (1920-1998) started his military career as a third lieutenant with the guerillas fighting the Japanese invaders, right after his graduation in 1941. After the war, he continued his military career, as well as his studies. Ver first obtained a law degree from the University of Manila, and a degree in police administration from the University of Louisville. Ver also took further training with the Los Angeles Police Department, which lead to his holding the positions of Commanding General of the Presidential Security Command and Director General of the National Security Agency. In 1981, Ver was appointed as the Chief of Staff to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos.
At the board room of the Vanguard Building, there is a large mural that features the legacy of heroism in the Philippines, as well as the Vanguard’s role in nation building. The painting is entitled “Honor, Duty, Country”, which is the Vanguard’s motto, as patterned after the motto of the West Point Military Academy. This mural was created by the artist, Tam Austria, in 1984.
Atanacio “Tam” Pefaranda Austria (1943) is a noted painter of a highly styled form of genre art, which usually features idealized representations of the country folk. Although born in the town of Tanay, Austria drew heavy inspiration from the art of the nearby artists’ town of Angono, especially from his mentor, the National Artist, Carlos “Botong” Francisco. Austria took his formal studies in the arts, at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and graduated in 1954. Representing the Philippines in various international exhibitions, Austria was later honored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) with the Thirteen Artists Award, in 1970.
Back at the ground floor of the Vanguard Building, there is the “Leadership Library”, which part of the UP Library System. Also called the Vanguard Heritage Library, it opened in 2011, where many Vanguards, including myself, donated books on military training, military history, and leaderships.
Inside the Vanguard Heritage Library, there are several symbolist paintings hanging on its wall. These works are donations by Juan Hidalgo Jr., a noted writer and Vanguard.
Juan S.P. Hidalgo, Jr. (1936) is a noted writer, poet, editor and painter. Hidalgo was the editor of Bannawag, a weekly Ilokano magazine. One of Hidalgo’s advocacies is to promote the literature of the Ilocano people, and with that he founded GUMIL Filipinas (Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti Filipinas), the league of Ilocano writers, with chapters all over the world. In 1979. Hidalogo started painting, and became a founding member of the U.P. Campus Sunday Group. Hildalgo’s work has been recognized through the years, with his most notable distinctions are the 1991 Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Gawad CCP Pambansang Alagad ng Sining sa Panitikan, the 1991 U.P. Vanguard Life Achievement Award for Literature, the 1994 Sen. Heherson T. Alvarez Award for Literature , and the first ever Philippine-International Theater Institute (ITI) and National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Award for Culture-Friendly Media Institutions of 2004.
Part of the U.P. ROTC experience, is to put on the Rayadillo uniform. Patterned after the soldier’s uniforms of the Spanish Occupation (1521-1898), the Rayadillo represents the honor guard of the U.P. ROTC. There is the Rayadillo Honor Company, which is trained in specialized marches, including the “Silent Drill”, where the cadets execute a series of complex maneuvers without the commands of an officer or the dictation of a drumbeat. The Rayadillo Honor Guard can be comprised of cadets or cadet officers, who will execute the entry and exit color colors (the organization’s flag and the Philippine National Flag) during important events in the university and other external functions, such as the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
In completing the 4 years of training, the graduating class conducts the “Ring Hop” ceremony, which the pass through a giant replica of the UP Vanguard ring. Usually, the freshman class is tasked in building the ring from an existing wire framed skeleton, of which I have help in constructing on numerous occasions. And after completing the 4 years of ROTC, the graduates are listed as reserve officers in the Philippine Army. Many Vanguards have opted to continue their training, and have become decorated officers in the AFP.
One of those U.P. ROTC graduates who forged a distinguished military career is my great grand uncle and decorated war hero, General Falviano P. Olivares. During my training years, I knew that there was a general in the clan, but I was never aware that he was a Vanguard. It was only in death and induction to the Vanguard Hall of Fame, that I was able to meet my cousins from that side of the clan.
General Flaviano Ponce Olivares (1911-1997) graduated from the U.P. ROTC as the Corps Commander of the class of 1936. Olivares distinguished himself in the Mindanao campaign of World War II, and has become a three-time recipient of Distinguished Service Star and a single Military Merit Medal. Olvares continued his studies at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Leavenworth , Kansas. Olivares was a Constabulary Zone Commander at Panama Canal Zone in 1961, following by Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines a two years later, and becoming a Commanding General for the 1st Infantry Division by 1964. In 1965 he became a chief in Philippine Constabulary. In 1972, Olivares has been inducted to the Allied Officers Hall of Fame of the United States Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, USA.
Unfortunately, with the implementation of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) act of 2001, ROTC was no longer considered a mandatory program for college students. This lead to a sharp decline of recruits in the ROTC program, and the active roster of cadet officers has been reduced to a handful. Because of this, the U.P. DMST had to give up many of our offices to the College of Human Kinetics (CHK). Now the parade grounds have been left quiet, as the grass grows thicker, and the sounds of marching feet go silent. Many Vanguards pine for the days of glories past, while others continue to fight to bring relevance to ROTC in the 21st Century.