Diliman, Quezon City By Joel C. Atencio (BULLETIN) One of the country’s leading poet and literary greats National Artist Rio Alma (a.k.a. Virgilio Almario) is now the dean of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman College of Arts and Literature (CAL).

how does it feel to be the leader of the UP-Diliman biggest college,

Almario bursts out a hearty laugh when asked how it feels like to lead CAL, UP Diliman’s biggest college: “CALbaryo (It’s a calvary). Because all the basic courses are here and the faculty is big too. We handle all the basic subjects in English, Arts, Filipino, Asian Studies, and all other fundamental studies in languages and linguistics. Classes are more than a hundred spread into 50 sections of each year level, so we have to find classrooms in other college buildings,”

Almario will prioritize strengthening the college by teaching subjects that promote love of country. “We want to make our learners have the desire to study and exert efforts to produce outstanding students, especially in the world of literature.”

Being a literary great, Almario wishes to change the curriculum so that students will rediscover the joys of literature. “But we will consult the faculty. I can’t force everybody to be a poet. I can’t say now what changes there will be. I will ask them to prepare for the planning workshops in August,” he explained.

Plans are afoot, with Almario at the helm, for the construction of a CAL building. At the moment, the college is housed in the Faculty Center and some classes are held in other buildings.

“No one would actually like to be nominated after Rosario Torres-Yu relinquished her post. Some people approached me and I felt I was accidentally chosen. I’m getting old and looking forward to a sabbatical leave,” explained Almario.

But a lot of people were urging him to accept the deanship. “By the time of the presentation, all other candidates had backed out upon learning I was also a candidate,” he said.

The appointment came as second of a two-part surprise when Almario was named last month as National Artist for Literature. “It was also a surprise for me to be a National Artist for Literature last June 25, 2003. It’s like a double whammy for me,” says Almario, formerly director of the UP-Diliman Institute of Create Writing from June 15, 2002 to May 31, 2003. He adopted the monicker Rio Alma Dean after Prof. Tomas Aguirre “baptized” him into the world of poetry while finishing his A.B. Political Science at UP-Diliman from 1959 to 1963.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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