Batch ’88 @ Sigma Rho’s 75th

In 1988, on the 50th year of the Sigma Rho Fraternity’s founding, twenty-three then still quite young men joined the ranks of its Leaders, Scholars, Warriors and Gentlemen under the tutelage of their Grand Archon Jerome Nicolas P. Pauig.

On this very same year, Reverend Jimmy Swaggart resigned his ministry after it was found that he consorted with prostitutes (a man after some brods own hearts), Pan Am flight 103 was bombed and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, the Iran-Iraq war ended, PLO leader Yasser Arafat addressed the U.N. General Assembly; the Soviet Union left Afghanistan; the Olympic Games were held in Seoul, and Bush, Sr. wins the presidency. Locally, Corazon C. Aquino was still President of the country, Boxer Leopoldo Serantes got a bronze medal in the Olympics and Typhoon Unsang struck Luzon.
Most of these headlines are now forgotten, but for those 23 young men, 1988 was a year that would forever change them, marking their transition to an exclusive membership in the Sigma Rho and all that it stands for.

The batch’s roster of members spans the archipelago, from Ilocos, Pampanga, Cabanatuan, Iloilo, Pangasinan, Metro Manila, Negros, Batangas, Camarines to Davao. And presently, its ranks now span the continents, from the Americas to Australia, with members in New York, Canada and Sydney. As far as careers go, it has made its presence felt in government, business, politics, the press, legal practice, banking, the medical profession and even farming. As for their dedication to defending the fraternity’s honor, apart from their scholarly pursuits, as shown by its roster’s membership in the Order of the Purple Feather, Phi Kappa Phi, garnering cum laude honors and numerous awards, its members have been named as respondents or as ‘John Does’ in disciplinary proceedings before the SDT and at least one preliminary investigation in Quezon City, among others.

Rodel A. Cruz, a former Grand Archon, is now Head of Litigation at his law office. He was Senior Partner at what was formerly CVC Law otherwise known as the Firm. Prior to his return to that law practice, he served as one of the youngest Undersecretaries in government, first at the Office of the Presidential Legal Counsel and then at the Department of National Defense. At the DND, he was responsible for negotiating treaties, and executive agreements. He was part of the editorial board of the Philippine Law Journal and is a generous host for the batch’s gatherings at his home and at the CVC Rainmakers’ Lounge, for which we are forever grateful.
Yolando ‘Jing’ De Guzman is one of our designated warriors then, considering his size and frame, but he is also the batch’s designated lover. Jing has left hearts broken from here to Tacloban where he is currently based. For a time, he ran a driving school at Quezon City where three batchmates are his proud alumna. He now works with a German outfit, GIZ, that seeks to assist the Visayas on disaster preparedness. For a time, his reliable green Volkswagen was a batch vehicle for exploits both wholesome and not. He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters.

Jet U. de los Santos is another one of our fighters, a main protagonist who has kept our adversaries awake at night. He is also a stalwart member of the batch who has recently taken up big bikes, to have something even more powerful between his legs. He has served in government as well, under then Senator Biazon and in Congress as Chief of Staff for Representative Arenas of Pangasinan. He likewise worked at the Department of National Defense. We would still like him even if he was not the cousin of the famous entertainer Mocha although that is a definite plus.

Bobbit Diaz was a former provincial board member in Cabanatuan. He later sought further studies at the U.P. College of Law. He is best remembered for his generous hosting during the first fraternity congress at Puerto Azul as well as a road trip to his hometown which some of the batch had the good fortune to attend.

John-John Espino is our man from Dagupan, who seems never to have aged from the time we joined the fraternity, sporting the same hairstyle and body frame, when most of us have thinning locks and thicker bodies. His pride is his family and he is already set to have his children graduate from college. He is someone we can always rely on to take part in batch activities. During one trip, he travelled all the way to Manila from Pangasinan to go with us on a trip to Cagayan De Oro.

Cris V. Gaston is our bespectacled brod who once planned to take his scooter from Negros up to Cagayan de Oro just to be with his batchmates. His clear graded glasses on ray-ban frames are his trademark, something a senior brod once thought would prevent him from ever getting married. But he did finally land one and he is now in Negros, taking care of the family business and pursuing game fishing and into denying he ever goes to certain places where some ladies seem to recognize him as a regular for some reason.

Angel H. Gatmaitan is our resident practicing lawyer and mystic, sporting magic stones, gems and amulets. He used to stay in a hospital in Quezon City, not as a patient but as a tenant! He has his own firm based in Manila and is a seasoned litigator who also likes seasoning his dishes and cooking. He is not a man to be trifled with when withdrawing money from an ATM as the car of a certain person will attest. For a time, Jay-jay joined the monastery but had to leave, after failing to follow our advise never to pick up the bar of soap if it falls to the floor at the communal shower. He is a man of faith as well as a man of the world.

Lindy Lachica is still currently with the Department of Foreign Affairs after retiring from ‘local affairs’ when he got married. However, he has plans of starting a legal practice in New York and is hopeful that other brods will join. He has all the degrees and accreditations you could wish for, from an Ll.B from the U.P. College of Law, an MBA from Singapore, membership in the New York bar and has been accepted as a solicitor in Australia. He has three children and is married to Mel. He is also a former Grand Archon of the fraternity. He is a second gen Sigma Rhoan being the son of Atty. Wellington Lachica, Batch ’58. He helped in organizing the Filipino American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (FALDEF) in New York, serving as its Executive Directorand member of the Board. FALDEF provides pro-bono legal services and educational programs for the migrant community in New York.

Chris S. Lomibao is the partner in crime of John-John, hailing from Pangasinan as well. He is with Congress, as Committee Secretary of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs and divides his time between making laws and practicing it. We try to keep him away from street food as much as possible lest we get ourselves into trouble. He is a dependable brod, who epitomizes our stand by the side dictum.

Leo A. Loquellano is originally from Tagbilaran Bohol. He is another of our batchmates who chose public service being our other Congressman or man at Congress. After his stint in government, he is now into his own lucrative legal practice as well with an office in Manila.

James A. Loyola is our member at the fourth estate or the press, covering business. He is the man on the beat and the man to beat at the Manila Bulletin and also dabbles in PR work. He just concluded this year his stint as President of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines or EJAP (not FEJODAP). He is a man who always remembers important events and is the perennial favorite godfather for children of batchmates, maybe because of his reputed riches.

Manny ‘Doc’ P. Luna, is another alumna of U.P.I.S. who later on decided to settle in the United States and is originally from Ilocos. After graduating from UP with a degree in Philosophy , he started as an IT expert in California. He later secured a degree in BS Finance from San Jose University. He now spends most of his time at the Department of Motor Vehicles and acts as a driving instructor giving higher marks to blondes who really have more fun. He is very active with the US-based brods.

Jong Mejia’s origins are in cold Baguio. He tried his luck as an engineer in the country before deciding to look for greener pastures in Canada where our very own Grand Archon Jerome Nicolas P. Pauig has likewise settled after his retirement from a multinational company. His cold roots should serve him in good stead in the snows of Vancouver.

Ray L. Manuel is the real doc, as he is our pulmonary specialist for children. Despite his specialty, he is not into heavy breathing except as called for by the circumstances. Ray has helped people far and wide, specially the children of his frugal batchmates and their need for medical care, particularly for free or discounted shots and vaccinations. During one trip of the batch, he rendered aid to an ailing airline passenger, and was rewarded with the cell number of one of the stewardesses. Among other professional engagements, he is currently the school physician at Lourdes School Mandaluyong.

Esmer C. Amistad is the self-appointed chronicler of the batch with a legendary memory even after imbibing not a few shots of scotch. He never fails to record batch gatherings for posterity and injecting his trademark sense of humor in his memoranda to the batch. He is married to Lizette Amistad and also one of the most prolific in the batch. He has four children, Lorenz, Samuel, Ana and Carlo and still managed to have time to write two law books. He now acts as legal counsel at a listed company.

Jason M. Paredes, our fair-skinned brod who traces his roots to Isabela is another product of U.P.I.S. He is now a legal counsel with UCPB after spending some time in New York where he likewise worked as a lawyer. He started his career with the brods, joining the Manalo Puno Jocson& Placido law offices, where he worked with batchmates Jay-Jay and Lindy. He is married to Millicent C. Paredes and they have three children: Steffi, Diego and Alexis. At a young age, Diego is already showing shades of his father, reputedly having a girlfriend as early as pre-school.

Alfred C. Ocampo is one of our resident playboys specially during his day. His thin and lanky frame with the perennial cigarette belied his charms to the fairer sex. He was likewise one of the fraternity’s dependable “generals” during his campus days. He used to work with the Department of Agriculture and last we heard, he was connected with the BPO industry. He shares a common bond with a number of the brods who graduated from U.P.I.S. and thereafter joined the Sigma Rho.

Boyet T. Quilala is our resident G.I. or genuine Ilocano, dividing his time between Quezon City and the Ilocos. His appeal to the fairer sex is legendary. During one incident, he is best remembered for sporting a bulletproof vest. When asked why he donned it, he answered, “sayang batch, nakasabit lang dun e.” During our souvenir photoshoot at U.P., there was talk of having drink sa “ramurs” for old times’ sake. His reply,”wag dun Batch, sawa na ko sa ramurs, sa halmits naman.”

Joby Bautista who hails from the great plains Nueva Ecija was formerly with PhilHealth. Now he is his own man, taking up farming at his hacienda while overseeing the Presidency of his own rural bank. We remember his practice of stopping at the bus exit door, just to smile and look at his batchmate who gets off later and shouting “Ka-batch, P—E!!!”, leaving the latter to face the consternation of the other passengers. He is now into mountain biking and uses cars with shocks that have quite a loose play for some reason and sports footprints on the ceiling. He is a devoted husband to Katsy and a doting father to Sophie and Rafa.

Mon L. Recto is more fondly known as Rec3, being the third of the Recto brothers to join the Sigma Rho. He has a BA in Public Administration and an MBA degree from London where he met and recruited the now Senator Sonny Angara. He later worked in Nokia at Madrid from 1995-2006, spent stints working as an expat in Helsinki, Kuala Lumpur and is now with HP New York. He is married to Dr. Charlene Oris Recto and they have a 4 year old daughter Julia.

Rey S. Razon of San Fernando Pampanga is reportedly into preaching nowadays. He was originally a fishpond magnate at Villa Barosa, Pampanga. During his first year in law school, before the advent of electronic copies, he was known for getting photocopies of all the cases for the semester on the first day of classes. He would lug these cases around, including his law books, in a big briefcase. He would open and close the law library while deep in his studies.

Caloy K. Villafuerte is our “mate” in kangaroo land, hopping from Manila to settle for good in Sydney. He now has two children. For a time, he was known as the businessman of the batch, always on the look-out for opportunities. He is now into a transportation career and often visits the country for the batch’s regular get-togethers. He is our landed brod, owning properties here and there. Jing and Caloy have been in perennial dispute, on who has the earliest student number in the batch.

Manny S. Solis is a former DENR boy, one of the lucky ones who was given a break to work there by the brods while taking up law. He has parlayed this into a career in land acquisitions and is on his way (if he has not yet gotten one) to a PhD in Adelaide, Australia. Caloy and Manny are our two men down under.
Twenty-five years later and on the fraternity’s Diamond Jubilee Year, Batch ’88 has remained true to the vision and ideals of the Fraternity’s founders. Long after their induction to the brotherhood, Batch ’88 remains equal to the challenge of remaining true to our ideal of being Seekers of the Right. The Batch serves notice of this to all andlet no one doubt it. In the end, it is not the year you entered the fraternity that defines your batch. It is shown by how you have kept fealty with its principles of sacrifice, loyalty, obedience and service. On this score, Batch ’88 stands proud with all the other brods who have served the Sigma Rho silently, faithfully and well.

by Esmer Amistad ’88