Lapuz’s loose lips (Part 2)

Patricio N. Abinales
Lapuz’s loose lips (Part 2)
During his time in UP, Jose David Lapuz was surrounded by engaging, quirky, self-absorbed individuals. That setting shaped his character. He was at home with these personalities.

READ: Lapuz’s loose lips part 1
Professor Jose David Lapuz’s early years as a
defender of secularism and the Enlightenment have disappeared in the current merriment/panic over
his ambition to be CHED chairman


Other personalities from his time as a student gave Jose David Lapuz a run for his money. When I was in UP, I encountered some of these engaging, quirky, self-absorbed individuals. I also heard stories about them from colleagues, comrades, and friends who preceded me at the State University. They were the smart “crackpots” and “characters” responsible for giving the State University of the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s that distinct personality that is now extinct.

Teodoro Agoncillo started class by spewing fire and brimstone on the repressive Spanish frailocracy, then went full throttle in support of Bonifacio and Aguinaldo (he was a little but guarded on Rizal). After 15 minutes on the Revolution, he would shift to his favorite historical figure: Manuel Quezon.

Agoncillo once recalled the story of Manuel Quezon waiting for the American Governor General on top of the Malacañang stairs, in his bathrobe. As General Leonard Wood was halfway up the stairs Quezon – according to Ago – half opened his robe, turned to his staff and said (I am paraphrasing here)  “Now, let’s see who the real boss is!” Agoncillo would smile as we all broke down laughing. He repeated the same story two weeks later, and despite it being old news, we still would double up in laughter.

Remigio Agpalo was as equally “Lapuz-ian” as his neighbor in the History Department. The political scientist would half-skip as he entered the classroom and begin the class by pointing out the inadequacies of existing political science theories as they applied to the Philippines. After going through Talcott Parson, C. Wright Mills, and others, he would raise his head, give this bright smile and declare: “The beauty of my theory….”

He would elaborate on his “theory” – likening Philippine politics to the human body. One time a classmate whispered to me, “Eh kung itinuli ang political system, ano’ng mangyayari?” (If we circumcized the political system, then what happens?) He would take the entire 3 hours to elaborate on his Pandanggo sa Ilaw approach to politics, and we marveled at how he was able to sustain his vociferous monologue.

From the Political Right came Congressman Cases, the ex-congressman from Ilocos Norte, a UP alumnus who earned his PhD at the University of Michigan. Hired by the Political Science Department to teach Philippine foreign policy as a lecturer, Cases treated his class like it was a legislative session with his voiced echoing through the west wing of the Palma Hall 4th floor that summer I took him. 

Cases was staunchly pro-American and argued for the permanent stay of the US bases. When we took him to task for this position, he responded like the way Joseph McCarthy replied to criticism of his anti-communist witch-hunts. 

“I am for the retention of the US bases, class, because if we take to removing the bases, the Red Chinese will come swimming across the China Sea, all 700 million of them. And you know what? We will either run out of bullets or mangagawit na ang mga daliri natin sa kakabaril at hindi pa rin sila maubos!” (We’ll get tired pulling triggers and still not wipe out the Chinese.) He warned that a second Great Deluge would blight mankind if all 700 million Chinese urinated at the same time, or that the Earth would break in half if they jumped at the same time from a 6-feet platform. 

He brooked no opposition. When a classmate challenged his Cold War views, he lashed back at him, shouting, “Why are you questioning me? You are only AB; I am PhD!” Instead of being scared, we all just laughed. I only got an average grade in that course, as my name was not a political name. A classmate with the last name “Lacson” got one of the A’s in class after Cases asked him if he was related to the late Manila mayor and he replied in the affirmative (not true, but who cared?).

The other brilliant “characters” in UP had their endearing foibles. 

A favorite of UP students before me was Professor Roque Mamon of the Department of Philosophy. His opening statement on the first day of his Philosophy 11 (Logic) was classic and well-remembered: “Good morning class, I am Professor Mamon, hindi puto, hindi ensaymada – Mamon! Whether you like it or not, you will pass this course!” For the next 3 months, he would puzzle his student with this “logical” preposition: “Queen Elizabeth is a ruler. A ruler is twelve inches long. Queen Elizabeth is twelve inches long???” 

Nationalists fondly remembered Mamon’s last semester before retirement, when he announced to his class that he was accepting a part-time position at the UP unit at Clark Air Force Base. After his students implored him not to serve the “imperialists,” he gave this fabulous reply: “Class, for many long years, the Americans have miseducated us. I am going to Clark because now it is our turn to miseducate them!!!” The class supposedly gave him a standing ovation.

This was the setting that shaped Jose David Lapuz’s character. He was at home with these personalities, and they were used to his antics, although not as amenable to giving him organizational responsibilities. He was all right for the speeches, the bomba against the anti-Rizalistas, the obscurantists, and the pro-imperialists. 

A lot of these folks did have their narcissistic tendencies, albeit in varying degrees. Lapuz was the “most extreme” because he was comical and candid about his narcissism.  

By the time he left UP for UST, his self-love had gotten the better of him. And with today’s generation never knowing about his background, it is easy to understand that, to them, Joe Lapuz is nothing but an ageing eccentric still seeking his place in the sun. 

Now Digong might just put him in that place. If Lapuz does become CHED chair (sans a PhD), then God really help us. – 

Patricio N. Abinales is an OFW.


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