The New Builder

19 03 2013

This is where I earned my degree – the Mapúa Institute of Technology inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila!


WHERE THE hell is Mapúa?”

I was quite happy that when I looked up I immediately saw “The Bayleaf” all lit up in the Intramuros sky.  Though I was running late for my meeting with Ms. Ann of Beautiful Weddings for the final run-through of the Zildzic–Nuda reception program, realizing that I didn’t have to really worry where “Muralla corner Victoria Streets” is took care of whatever cares I initially had.

However, being still cognizant of the Intramuros skyline of 17 years ago, I knew that a part of The Bayleaf’s wall (or firewall) had passed beyond where I used to enter and exit as a college student proud to brandish my ID that said I was a Mapúan.  So right after my official business was through, I had to run next door to pay my Alma Mater a much delayed visit.

I don’t know what it is about “coming back home” to one’s school that instantly put an ear-to-ear smile on my face.  Even the possibility of being rejected entry at past 8:00 PM didn’t faze me a bit.  I immediately noticed that while the small security guard office of my youth had remained intact, the school had built a more spacious receiving area to welcome students and visitors alike.

Faced by the guard on duty, I blabbered about being an alumnus and how thrilled I was to be back within my Alma Mater’s hallowed halls, how I had just come back to the country after being away for quite a while, and how they should let me in just to allow me “a journey to the past”.  I guess I still had whatever iota of charm other people had attributed to me because before long, the security guard himself was smiling ear-to-ear at me, a reaction dittoed by a few students standing nearby.

“Sir, do you still know your student number?  And what degree?”

Like the muscle memory that makes you never lose your knowledge of riding a bicycle, the part of my brain that stored my college student number could only be too happy to finally retrieve the information from deep within my cerebellum convolutions.  Before I knew it, the numbers were just firing off.  “It’s 9–x–x–x–x–x–x–x!”

“Sir, here you are.”

“Really?  Does it say I graduated at the top of my class and that I was the Editor–In–Chief of the school paper?”  It has to be said that my reaction was part excitement at the thought of being granted entry and – yes, it has to be admitted – part (little) braggadocio.  It just felt like a very safe environment to just be myself.  After all, I was among “my people”.  My fellow Mapúans.

They made me note my entry down on the visitors’ logbook, demanded a valid ID, and on to my right wrist stamped, “MIT:  VERIFIED MAPUAN”.  I kept staring at this stamp, wanting to preserve it for as long as I could – which meant up until the time I took my next shower.  Hahaha!


This way to my school! It’s the one on the third floor.



It’s been almost a couple of decades since I last took this flight of stairs!



The School of ECE–EE–CoE is still at the exact same location. The office just had a facelift.



That flight of stairs was where my small circle of friends would gather daily before class. I’d pass by here on my way to the office of the school paper. I can’t remember if the circular bench was the one that was already there during my time but I do remember sitting here everytime it was my turn to distribute the latest issue of the paper.



The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Office. I used to hang out here almost daily. It was already closed when I stopped by.



The ATM machine is still located in the same small room across the Registrar’s Office. It’s RCBC now. But during my time it was a PCIB terminal. PCIB was later acquired by Equitable Bank, to become Equitable PCI Bank. This in turn was acquired by, I think, Metrobank.



The Gymnasium. Still exactly as it was when I was a student. This was where I delivered my Valedictory Address during my High School graduation.

Aside from all the rooms being air–conditioned, I don’t think much has changed.  The stairs landings where I would meet up with my classmates to check up on assignments or group projects are still there.  The NW (North West) room where I aced (read: got 100%) all of my Statistics exams – arriving 15 minutes late yet finishing first in about 15 minutes every time – is still there.  The laboratories where I played Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier now hold not only the history of those who had come before me, but also my own.

I went to the School of ECE–EE–CoE and asked the lone remaining faculty member and his four students all sorts of questions like who the dean now is and if there is anybody from my batch who has stayed to teach.  I heard some familiar names and left word for them to get in touch.

I left the faculty room all set to pay one final place a visit.  Clearly, I saved the best for last.

At the corner of the NW Building on the fourth floor is a place that was my home for four years.  As the “traditional” honor student in college, I shunned any involvement in extra–curricular activities except for three things – as a guest tutor at IECEP or any ad hoc remedial classes, as officer of the Honor Society (Hey, I wouldn’t miss my annual acoustic solo of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” during the Christmas Caroling!), and as a writer for the school paper.  That corner happens to still be the official address of The New Builder (TNB), “the official school organ of the Mapúa Institute of Technology”.

I felt my heart beat grew quicker and quicker as I inched closer to the office door.  It was as if the most important muscle of my body had lost regard for my existence and was threatening to break free from flesh and bones, wanting to beat me to making it to my intended destination.  I didn’t know what to expect and what to say to whoever I would chance upon at the office.

The only other time I was that nervous going to the TNB Office was when I went to report on my first day as Staff Writer.  It has to be said, I topped the Qualifying Exams of my batch of over a hundred aspirants.  Haha!  They took in the Top Four.  I guess that of the many things I wrote, it was my essay on how to handle criticism that was the clincher to my favor.  They handed us back our work and that essay was the one with the most glowing (handwritten) reviews.  Looking back, I was also nervous because I didn’t want to disappoint my eldest brother who was in the staff at the time and later became Editor–In–Chief himself.  In High School, we were in the same situation – he was Editor–In–Chief a couple of years before I assumed the post myself.  Insert cliché here – “history repeats itself.”  Haha!

I noticed that it was the still the same wooden door.  It was the same glass window.  The familiar comforted me and stilled my beating heart.

I knocked.

The door was opened and I broke into yet one of my unbridled introductions.  All that Staff Writer Ruben “Ruru” A. Mercado, Jr. could do was smile.

And I guess silently pray that I wasn’t some psycho.  Hahaha!

It really felt great to be home.  I couldn’t wait to go back.


My office of four years as part of the school paper. Hmmm… Memories light the corners of my mind… Hahaha!



eNTeNG, Editor-In-Chief (School Year 1994-1995) and Ruru, Staff Writer (SY 2012-2013). I started as a Staff Writer myself, SY 1991-1992.



It’s my turn to smile now.



This is Ruru, in action as drummer in the TNB Band (yes they have a band!), captured in a sketch by his girlfriend who is taking up Multimedia Arts and Sciences (MAS) and is on the Staff as well. Apparently, a lot of the writers in the school paper are taking up MAS.



There are at least twice as many people on the school paper Staff this time than during mine. To maximize the space, they built cabinets and desks all around the walls. Each staff member has his or her own space.



I think it was still a blackboard during my time. Hahaha! I like concept “brainstorming” or development that is on it.



It’s time to go. I will always love this place.



Of course I asked from Ruru a copy of the latest issue. As well as a copy of the latest Qualifying Exam questionnaire. During my time, we didn’t have this questionnaire. Instead, we were made to “anonymously” write a number of pieces under time pressure (a couple of hours) – an editorial, a personality profile, an interview feature, a couple of essays, poems, etc. I say “anonymously” because our works were only identified by control numbers, no names.



The Masthead. So now it is officially called “The Official Student Publication of Mapúa Institute of Technology”.



So we’re still lording it over Quiz Shows. I’ve had my fair share during my time. Hahaha!



I find this Editorial to be quite powerful and very “now”.



Meet The New Builder Staff! One thing that immediately leapt off of the page to me was the line “The New Builder is a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)”. We weren’t yet when I was Editor-In-Chief.



The TNB Staff… Putting faces to the names.



I totally agree!



Okay, I will say it… Guilty! Hahaha! Hopefully not all of the time. I have to say this, this is my favorite column name! “The Coffee Bean”… Nice noh?






The center spread is a very colorful feature on “Mapúa in Christmas Apocalypse”.



This is me! Hahaha!



I’m so tempted to answer this Qualifying Exam questionnaire!



The questions are part serious, part fun. I’m curious to read actual responses to such tricky, witty questions! But to start, I want to try answering them myself!



This marker commemorates our founder, Don Tomas Mapúa.



Proud to have a copy of the latest issue of The New Builder! The writers are really talented!



Parting shot. Till next time, MIT! And TNB!


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