Grad School in Ateneo

One of the universities I was eyeing for college was Ateneo, but my mother was against it for several reasons: it was too far, it was too expensive, and it was too elitist. I ended up starting college in UP (which was just about as far as Ateneo), but eventually moved to the PNU to accept an NSDB scholarship.

When Sr. Lucy Togle (then principal at the SSC High School) said I should start taking my Master’s in English Literature at the Ateneo so that I could start teaching English in the schoolyear 1984-1985, I immediately jumped at the chance. After all, SSC would pay for my Master’s and I would have a full-time job teaching a subject that I loved. So off it was to the Ateneo, where I met the formidable Fr. Joseph Galdon, S.J., who was then Chair of the English Department. He started me off taking a couple of courses on teaching literature, then later selected courses here and there that he knew I was interested in and that would somehow be related to what I wanted to specialize in: Creative Writing and the teaching thereof. I remember each time I would enrol for a new semester, he would tell me, “There’s an interesting course that I’d think you’d like. You should take it.” And I would. And none of those courses really led to specialization in one of the four genres offered by the department, as I found out when I had to prepare for my comprehensive exams. I had to specialize in one of four genres: Drama, Fiction, Poetry, or Criticism. I was in a bit of a quandary, and Fr. Galdon said I should just pick whichever genre I wanted to take comprehensive exams for. He provided me with the exam readings for each area and I quailed at the lists of fiction, poetry, and criticism volumes and articles that I had not read.

My spirit rose when I looked over the list for drama: except for a couple of local selections, I had read and knew every play and playwright on the list. As a matter of fact, I had been zealously collecting drama literature throughout my undergraduate years, and reading everything I could get my hands on. Besides that, I had already read volumes of drama in high school, as I had hoped I would one day be a serious playwright. I opted to take the comprehensives for Drama.

My graduate thesis was something else. Because I had begun the course with the notion that I would be specializing in creative writing, Fr. Galdon had encourage me to relate my interest to my teaching, hence I thought of writing a thesis on teaching creative writing through journal writing.

That is the story behind why my thesis has nothing to do with the area of specialization that I wrote my comprehensive exams for, and why I need to explain each time why I specialize in “Drama and Creative Writing”.

I started taking units only in summer for the first two years, but when I was told it would take forever for me to complete my Master’s if I did not take units during the regular semesters as well, I started enrolling in one or two classes each semester, in addition to my full-time teaching at SSC High School. I also gave up the leadership of the English Area when I started studying during the schoolyear rather than only in summer, so that I would not be too preoccupied with administrative duties while teaching and studying as well. Still, it took me all of 4 years to complete my credits, a year to study and write my comprehensive exams, and another year to complete and defend my masteral thesis and graduate. Six years all told and all worth the experience.


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