The true enjoyment of storytelling lies heavily on the person telling the story. And John Jack Wigley is an example of those blessed with a natural gift for bringing characters and plots to life. A graduate of AB English from the Holy Angel University with Masters (2004) and Doctorate (Cum Laude, 2012) in Literature at the University of Santo Tomas as well as a resident faculty member of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters, Jack has made use of this talent in two of the best way possible: teaching and writing.
Being a Thomasian professor, Jack is well known for his tenacity to bring out the best out of each of his students in the wittiest way possible. Even as a child, Jack already has the makings of a good teacher as he used to gather little children from his neighborhood every day to read out stories from the book his mother bought for Christmas. He would then ask the children questions regarding the story, have them look at illustrations and even rap his ruler on the wooden kiddie board he used when he saw their interest wavering. Jack’s passion for teaching and learning is so that he had once rejected the position of Director at the UST Publishing House a few years back, wanting to focus on his professorial duties and to finish his Doctorate degree. The esteemed alumnus animatedly related the reason for his passion for teaching:
“I owe my education to UST. When I enrolled at the UST Graduate School in the late 80s for my MA, I knew in my heart that I was destined for bigger and greater things. I was one of the best students in Holy Angel University in Angeles City when I graduated in college. But nothing prepared me for what was to come in my MA schooling. Having been a promdi all my life, I literally had a culture shock coming to Manila. I thought I was the best already. When I stepped at UST and met legendary teachers like the late Dr. Carolina Garcia, I felt like I was the dumbest student in her class. I had to drop her subject, Comparative Literature, because, honestly, I didn’t know what she was talking about. At that time, I never read nor even heard any literature from China, or Russia, or Persia. It was a humbling experience for me. So, in order to compete with my fellow students, I had to study and work double-time. I had to prove that I was worthy of a UST education. Eventually, I became a student of the literature luminaries of UST – Milagros Tanlayco, Ophelia Dimalanta, and Florentino Hornedo. They were my idols.”
As a Thomasian writer, he has co-authored literary works namely “Philippine Literatures: Texts, Themes and Approaches” (UST Publishing House, 2008) and “In Synch: Edith Tiempo Made Easy” (UST Varsitarian, 2009). His first solely authored book was entitled “Falling Into the Manhole: A Memoir” published in 2012 by the UST Publishing House where he also serves as Director since 2010. The one-hundred-forty-paged collection of personal narratives was well received by the public as Jack toughly reveals facets of his growing-up years as an illegitimate, half-American from Pampanga while undergoing problems with his gender and identity as well as coming from an impoverished family then later on being a university professor. These stories share not only brutally honest memories but also Jack’s natural humor which lays down interesting slices of his life.
The success of his first book was followed by a second titled “Home of the Ashfall: A Memoir” published in 2014 by the same publishing house. Like the first book, ‘Ashfall’ was also received well as Jack continues on his stories about the latter years of his life; as an adult in quest for an American visa which he describes as a humiliating affair being done by most of the Filipinos at that time and his longing for a father figure. His stories for both books were touching especially the narrative about his mother. Aside from his books, he is a prolific sharer of many stories about his love for music and movie stars, specifically Madonna and Meryl Streep, his ever entertaining conversations with his ‘kasambahay’ and his playful ‘lait’ outbursts in his classes or every day commutes regularly posted on his Facebook wall; some of which are already included in his latest book titled “Lait Chronicles” published by Visprint, Inc. in March 2016.
Having faced a myriad of problems from childhood to adulthood, Jack strove hard to triumph through these experiences and devoted his time educating and honing young Thomasian minds through writing and literature. As a result, he is recognized by various literary groups all over the country. He was a fellow of the 2014 UP National Writers Workshop and has been a judge in the annual Gawad Ustetika. He was a recipient of eighteen (18) Most Outstanding Teacher Awards in the Basic Sciences in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy of the UST College of Rehabilitation Sciences.
Indeed, Jack has become a true Thomasian even if he only received the Thomasian education later in his Masteral and Doctoral studies. When asked how he determines himself as one (a Thomasian Alumnus that is), he answered:
“I really don’t want to talk about myself in these situations. Really. I feel that since I had already published three books of creative nonfiction, more or less, they already present a picture of me. Maybe you could try to read them. Perhaps they could help illuminate who I am as a person. But one thing that I feel strongly about myself is that I work hard. I think I have very good work habits. I don’t stop until everything’s finished, even if this means I will have long and sleepless nights, or I will sacrifice weekends. I guess I got this from UST. Thomasians are known to be hardworking people and they perform duties without much fanfare or complaints. And I am very hopeful. Even when things get out of hand or when challenges arise, I always keep a good head above my shoulders. I always think that problems have a way of getting resolved in time. Some get solved quickly. Others take time. But everything gets better in the end. I keep the faith. Faith and hope – these are Thomasian core values, aren’t they?”
Sources: Book images from www.goodreads.com