Noel Torreta is mestizo. At any given time, he looks like he could recite poetry in Portuguese, with his eyeglasses hanging at the tip of his nose, his eyelids masking half of his eyes in a way that says what are you talking about, darling. Along the aisles and corridors of the Department of Humanities, he walks, always with a paper.
How old is he? 45? 50?
Noel Torreta looks at the plan of course work and True Copy of Grades, smiles, recommends Social Sciences such as Political Science for electives, with his head bent, his brown eyes peeking over his spectacles. Then he signs over “Academic adviser” for the first time.
Noel Torreta listens to the excuse that the teacher is a war-freak. Gentle eyes smiling, as if saying, oh honey, oh kid. He laughs: you’re changing your section because of that? But her attitude can bring out the best in you, you’ll learn a good deal from her, you know she’s really an expert in this field, what’s more important is to learn, doesn’t matter if she’s a terror prof, something like that–he could recite English sentences without periods, just commas. Pero, sir! So he signs over “Academic adviser,” smiling, shaking his head maybe.
Noel Torreta sits for about an hour with the critic Beng Espinosa and the thesis writer who just submitted a Marxist reading of an anti-formalist poetry of a comic book fanatic. His favorite word is “tenet” and he discusses literary criticism, after writing the word “pedantic” on one part of the draft. A month after, he sits with them again to discuss the second draft, where he put “photo finish” somewhere. Then the third. His last question: why don’t you teach at the Department? Pero, Sir… He says teaching in the University boosts self-esteem.
Noel Torreta hands over a piece of paper. Your teaching load, he says. Sir, Hum 1, Eng 2, Eng 103?! It’s my first (second?) year! His brown eyes peek over the spectacles again, smiling. He explains that the more courses you teach, the better opportunity to be promoted.
Noel Torreta walks past the cubicle week after week, reading papers, talking to students, laughing with colleagues, dropping by to chat about Eng 2 or or his other successful advisees whom he calls the “jems” of Batch 2001. Siempre Sir, adviser namin kayo e! he laughs at this.
Noel Torreta’s eyes could not be any wider. He laughs like a kid with Emmy Cervantes as they hear how the faculty member who resigned from UPLB went to Singapore to be an editor of an international magazine, only to be sent back once in a while somewhere near UPLB. His smile won’t go away. As always, he says, advisee ko yan!
Rest in peace, Sir Noel. Million thanks. We won’t stop making you proud of Communication Arts graduates.