Meet A Rocker Dean, Dean Joe

by Atty. Joe-Santos Balagtas Bisquera

I have been a frustrated Band member since the 60s. I started playing the guitar at age 8 or 9 and started my own little band when I was in Grade 6 at Moises Salvador Elementary School. That started when I bought a 2nd hand "baho", the original one made of gasoline drum using a string normally also used for knot-tying in Boy Scouting. Click kami noon both sa school and sa neighborhood sa Isabel, Sampaloc, Manila. Included among our "jamming" partners was Mon de Leon, the elder brother of TV Icon Joey de Leon.

I then went to UST Education High where I joined a singing quartet in which Emmanuel "Lakay" Flores started. In the same group was Necito "Necy" Cojuangco. Those in our batch were Jun Roque & Benjie Saldua. I was ahead of them in the music trend but I just did not have enough money to buy my electric guitar to be part of any band. Also, I had high dreams then and was tops in academics (I graduated 2nd Honorable Mention, only 1 of 4 Honor students in our batch).

Then, I went to UE to graduate BBA-CPA, Summa Cum Laude. I was finalist to the 10 Outstanding Students of the Philippines, 1968, Treasurer-National Union of Students and Vice-President, UE Student Government. Ako yung typical student activist noong dekada late 60s but managed to maintain my high academic standing. However, during several campus parties, I would stay beside the bands who were playing - Ernie Delgado & the Electromaniacs, Mandy Pena & the Skylarks - and often wondered if I were to drop out of my outstanding academics and go back to my love for music and join a band. Pag-uwi sa bahay, dampot yung acoustic lumanog guitar ko to replay those tunes I saw and heard the bands playing. Kayang kaya naman, brod!

I finally bought my 1st electric guitar - a Japanese one "Maya" - after saving some money when I started working. I started working and moved up very fast in the management ladder - ESSO (now Petron) as the youngest Accounting Supervisor; DELGADO BROTHERS as Controller and the youngest Director/Vice-President at 28 years old, MERALCO as Controller-PECCO (Meralco's Construction Company); SmithKline & French Overseas Co. (pharmaceuticals) as Director, Finance & Admin; MOTOROLA Phils as Finance Manager & FUJI XEROX as Executive Vice-President, Corporate Treasurer & Chief Finance Officer.

It was a Motorola where I spearheaded the formation of a Rock & Roll Band called "SWABE". For the first time, I had the chance to bring out my electric guitar with all those distortion gadgets. The band was composed of all type of employees - I was the most senior and probably the eldest doing the rhythm guitar, the lead guitarists were (1) a QA Supervisor who also doubled as a drummer and (2) a Security Guard; the bass guitar was a rank-and-file technician; (3) the keyboard player was a Senior Systems Analyst/IT Programmer and (4) several male and female vocalists ranging from rank-and-file Operators to Supervisors. We did a range of Rock N Roll music plus the latest Filipino tunes during company affairs, including several attended by then President Fidel V. Ramos and other dignitaries. It was my first experience to be playing live. All the band members had prior "playing" experiences with other lesser known bands but they knew how to play.

Since I was also an MBA Professor at De La Salle U (including UP, Ateneo, UE & PSBA), I had the opportunity to equally organize the "5 Forces" band composed of MBA Professors and students at De La Salle U-Taft Campus. We have played several times in public, including Christmas parties, GSB Nights, etc. side-by-side with the younger, more professional bands. We continue to be active and jam regularly. At one time, RJ (Ramon Jacinto) & I planned to put our DLSU band to alternate with them during one of his play dates at the Captain's BAR, Manila Mandarin Hotel. Unfortunately, RJ's Friday stint ended even before we could have brought the DLSU band on stage opposite the Ateneo gang.

In summary, I had opted to give my academic and business career the priority but came back to continue my love for music and today, plays the way I should have been when I was much, much younger.

About the author: Atty. Joe-Santos Balagtas Bisquera is currently (1) a Dean, College of Law, University of Manila; (2) BAR Reviewer in Mercantile Law & Taxation - UM, UE, FEU, San Sebastian College (formerly) & University of Pangasinan; (3) MBA Professor in Financial Management & Business Law - De La Salle U; formerly UP-Diliman, Ateneo, UE, PSBA; (4) Law Professor - UM, DLSU/FEU, UE.

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