back when i went to university in the mid to late '90s

headlines and events

It felt somewhat like the lull of sorts after the tumultuous Cory transition after the Martial Law years. President Eddie's administration turned out to be relatively safe and stable (despite the crime wave, that is). Of course there was (and always will be) an unhappy opposition, but people were generally less upset about Ramos' term than about those of the two presidents before him (or of the two after him, for that matter). Though tibaks and professional protesters still always found something to rally about, I regret there weren't any majorly significant rallies or pivotal battles at that time.

Back in the 1950s, the gravest offense teens most often committed in school was chewing gum. In the 90s, there began an entirely different problem: students have been known to carry and discharge firearms in school. The world was shocked by tragedies such as the suicide of Jeremy Wade Dele (on whose story Pearl Jam based the lyrics of Jeremy), the shootings at the University of Texas and the Columbine Massacre.

Here at home, though there weren't any campus massacres, there have been shootings. Among the victims was U.P. student Nino C., shot point-blank in broad daylight, right at the A.S. , in the presence of his friends and many witnesses. The assassin was never found.

It wasn't uncommon in those days either to hear about university campus homicides that were frat hazings or rumbles gone wrong. There must have been at least one victim every semester. So many young lives wasted for every case - one dies, a whole lot of others go to jail for life.

Take a breath while I switch to something lighter.

On international headlines - The euro was introduced as a sort of common currency for Europe. Michael Jordan returned to the NBA (and starred in Space Jam), OJ Simpson was acquitted.

An infamous (but globally entertaining) scandal erupted involving a tin of Altoids, US President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton and Monica were said to have been the best-selling Halloween costumes that year.

And there was another fiasco, one involving the royal house of Windsor: Prince Charles' affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. His marriage to Lady Diana Spencer thus ended in a divorce in 1996 - this was a shock to the generation that witnessed their fairy-tale (or so it seemed) romance in the 80s. But all that was quickly overshadowed by the news of Diana's death by a car crash in '97. The whole world mourned the passing of the people's princess.

Within a few weeks of Diana's death, another iconic figure, Mother Teresa of Calcutta died.

And oh, the triple-tailed comet Hale-Bopp, last seen some 4,300 years ago, visited for a couple of months to say hello. Spectacular.

Some time after that, there was the once-in-a-lifetime visual alignment of the 7 other planets, as in you could see them lined up in a vast stretch across the night sky.

On the local page, the MRT finished construction and that made commuting so much more convenient.

We witnessed the Philippine Centennial in 1998 - that meant commemorative plays, tribute albums and docus on Rizal, Bonifacio et al ... and for us youngsters, celebratory rock concerts, street parties and reasons to get wasted.


Technology made some significant advancements through the mid and late '90s - and all with the Y2k scare hanging over our heads.

By this time almost everybody was on Windows - everybody who used IBMs, that is. It was also around that time that candy-colored iMacs entered the scene.

Intel's Pentium microprocessor was born. Intel inside became a popular slogan.

Then came a useful storage device: the zip disk. But CDs soon became cheaper and more commonplace, and most importantly, writable. The newly-available CD burner thus heralded the demise of the zip.

The internet grew rapidly and became more accessible. Modems and DSL made "faster" linkup possible (though compared to today, that was still pretty slow). Terms like WordlWideWeb, html and dot became part of everyday jargon. E-mails and chatrooms were new, modern venues for communication. It became an in thing to have an e-mail address and /or a personal website.

More people used pagers; units came out in various colors by then. But pagers were soon phased out of existence as the more useful cellular phones became affordable. Cellphones were going digital so text messaging was preferred. TXt spLng Bgan 2 2rn Uth N2 idjits.

Digital cameras were already in use. DVDs and MP3 players also came into existence, though were not yet practical as they were pricey.


We still had our regular doses of MTV of course. That's where we picked up hints on music, pop culture and fashion.

That '70s Show and Seinfeld were some favorites. Baywatch put on the red meat and became the most watched TV show ever. It was also in that period that we began to be pestered by the likes of Barney and the Teletubbies. And in-between came the numerous infomercials.

Monday nights, we watched Mulder and Scully on The X-Files. Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory and the refreshing thought that an attractive single man and attractive single woman can see each other every day and not hit the sack together (Or so we thought).

Tuesday evenings, we hung out with the gang at Dawson's Creek.

Wednesdays were reserved for everybody's favorite F.R.I.E.N.D.S. We just had to know - would Ross ever get back together with Rachel? Who does her hair? Will Monica ever get hitched? Smelly cat, what are they feeding you? Could TV be any more 90s than F.R.I.E.N.D.S.?

Every decade has got to have a hit hospital drama. Thursdays were thus spent in the E.R.

And Friday nights - well, Friday nights were for going out. In previous years, TV stations would put nice programs on Friday and Saturday primetime because that's when people were supposedly home (must have been a attitude carried over from the Martial Law years). By the late '90s there were so many hangout places and things to do, most people preferred spending their Friday and Saturday evenings out. That's why the most interesting thing on Friday TV were the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.


Sabado nights ... Sabado nights ... so goes the beer commercial that featured then-hotties Paolo Abrera and Ina Raymundo. According to many, Malate was the place to par-tay. According to others, Makati was it - Hard Rock, the newly-opened Fashion Cafe.

Rave parties were introduced into the scene and a whole raver subculture emerged.

By this time, most video games were already in 3d for maximum satisfaction. Speaking of which, the new-improved Lara Croft became a virtual sex symbol (No, not Angie but the video game character; at that time Angie was a lesser-known B-movie actress).

It was also in those years that a wave of more violent, more complex games came in: Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil, Warcraft. MMORPGs were born and a gamer subculture was taking shape.

Nintendo lost the monopoly on consoles with the introduction of Sony Playstation. And enter, Sega Saturn (and Sonic the Hedgehog).

For safer modes of indoor recreation, think Tamagotchi. Pokemon.

And stop by the Neoprint booth when you go to the mall.


I couldn't help noticing the increase of disaster movies such as Deep Impact, Armageddon, Dante's Peak, Volcano, and Independece Day. The biggest disaster movie of all turned out to be the biggest movie, period. That's James Cameron's Titanic, starring Kate and Leo (speaking of, the late '90s was a strand of several blockbuster movies for Leo; the only catch was he never won an award).

Though it was based on a Jane Austen Classic, Clueless (starring Alicia Silverstone) immortalized an exaggerated snapshot of the times. Teen flicks like Dazed and Confused and the Silent Bob and Jay series were popular cult flicks. A whole lot of other teen B-movies were produced (some of them recycling themes from the 80's) as well as slasher films featuring young stars.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were not just eye-candy in Good Will Hunting. That movie launched their previously struggling careers into star status. The enthusiastic Oscar acceptance speech must have helped too.

George Lucas came up with a special edition, digitally-mastered, 20th aniversary release of the Star Wars Trilogy. Shortly after was the showing of the heavily-anticipated Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Though there was much excitement about it - like 20 years worth of - it didn't quite deliver as expected. Still, Darth Maul rocked.

Move over, Vader. The face of evil, 1999.


Music became complex and interesting in the late '90s. Artists began to refuse being cubbyholed into genres so their explorations produced sub-genres produced sub-genres and crossed over to form hybrids.

For example. The term "alternative music" was fast becoming a misnomer as the genre was becoming more and more mainstream. For that matter, alternative was no longer characterized by a certain sound. It ranged from hard rock to electronica (which itself branched out into several tributaries such as trip hop, drum and bass, rave and trance) to shoegazer (Jesus and Mary Chain, Oasis) to light dream pop (Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Sugar Hiccup) to skate punk (Greenday, Offspring) to cute-sounding indie bands with female vocalists (Letters to Cleo, Moonpools and Caterpillars) to mad angsty chicks who can't actually sing (Courtney Love, Alanis).

Rock and metal did a lot of interbreeding since the 80's and spawned a lot of bastards that showed up in the late 90s. A hybrid of rap and metal, rap metal (which even FrancisM explored), and the even more aggressive hardcore rap / rapcore (Rage Against The Machine, Beastie Boys - who both, by the way, came to the country for concerts) were fast becoming popular . There was industrial metal (Nine Inch Nails, Filter and German act Rammstein). Marilyn Manson haunted the airwaves with his own brand of edgy shock rock that came with disturbing music videos). And then there was nu metal /alternative metal (as heard from Korn and Limp Bizkit, and local artists Greyhoundz, Slapshhock and Cheese [that's what Queso used to be called] ). There was also goth rock, which had a following in the growing goth subculture. Hybrids of rock and ska were incarnated in third wave ska (No Doubt, Save Ferris) and Ska punk (Reel Big Fish, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones).

Grunge was on a decline; it slowly gave way to what was later called Post-Grunge - a sound clearly influenced by grunge, but was more skilfully played, polished, radio-friendly and mass-appealing. Think Bush, Silverchair, Collective Soul, Candlebox.

Hip Hop too was diversifying. The deaths of Tupac and B.I.G. triggered many tributes. Those tributes catapulted artists like Sean Combs (otherwise known as Puffy) into stardom. Gangsta Rap crawled out of the ghetto and into the mainstream.

The late 90's marked the invasion of BritPop. Bands like Weezer and Oasis made their antitheses to grunge with more positive lyrics and bright instrumentation.

But the biggest Brit act to storm the world was the Spice Girls. They really grabbed attention with their two albums, eye-catching music videos, elevator shoes and lousy-ass flop movie.

Boy bands
, girl bands and teen bands accumulated around the globe, ad nauseum. Boyzone, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, 911, Fiv5, NSync, All Saints, B*witched, Vengaboys, Steps, et al. Let's not leave out kid bands like Hanson and the Moffats.

But of course, who would forget the time Britney sashayed into our lives wearing a short plaid skirt and pigtails? Back in the day she was still ... uh, still. She came in a wave of blonde female solo artists with Jessica, Mandy, Christina, Leanne.

Classic Britney

And wait - can you, like, do the Macarena?


The not-so-put-together-look of grunge was still slightly going on; the runways were endorsing heroin chic. A bad hair day could sometimes pass for fashionably unkempt.

The sloppy oversized jeans were slowly phasing out. Hip Hop fashion was morphing into polished, tailored, high-fashion ghetto-fab, as popularized by the likes of P. Diddy (who was then known as Puffy) and Lil Kim (I suppose it's partly because the artists were growing up and opted for more mature looks).

Accessories - silver was the in bling. It was also quite common to see men and women wearing bandanas on their heads.
Tattoos and body piercings became socially and morally acceptable, even for young teens (most popular were facial and navel piercings).

Eve Salvail

The Rachel and long, layered, super-straight hair were desirables. For men, the skinhead was gaining popularity - particularly convenient for young men who disliked the required ROTC crew cut, or not-so-young men who had receding hairlines. Both male and female ravers though seemed to like ultra-short-cropped colored hair.

Thanks to the likes of Wynonah Ryder (then a rising star) and Kate Moss (then the hot new young model), it became fashionable to look like an undernourished waif.

Oversized tops gave way to darted, tailored tops, baby tees and tank tops. Babydoll dresses made a comeback (from the 1970s, only without the psychedelic print); they were worn with boots. Metallic blouses made an appearance for a while but didn't last long.

Corduroy pants (another element from the 70s) and pedal-pushers / capris were back. Khakis, camouflage print and cargos were ubiquitous. It was also then that low-rise jeans gained popularity (to show off those tatts and piercings, I bet).

Slipper-shoes became a familiar item - those were sneakers or flats with open heels (They were ugly, but they were comfy and convenient). Platforms and pillar-heeled shoes were the thing for ladies. And speaking of footwear, hello Birkenstock.

I must mention the lipstick - red, pink and brights were out, lipgloss was passe. Brownish or nude shades were good, and they had to be matte. Makeup moguls came up with lipstick variations that "won't kiss off". Natural and earth tones were en vogue, body glitter was fab.

Something interesting was goth fashion (and the goth subculture). Dark clothes, makeup and everything.

and then ...

At the very end of the decade we had these massive street parties on New Year's Eve to welcome the new millenium. After spamming people jokes about how our computers and electronics were expected to melt down, we partied like it was 1999. Oh wait - It was 1999.

Some of us had the privilege of hearing the Philippine President speak at our graduation. And that was Erap. Wow, thanks. We commenced into a country with Erap as president (Say loser while holding your fingers in the shape of an L on your forehead).

The economy was so screwed, layoffs and mergers were common. It was challenging to find ideal jobs after grad. And that is a whole other story.
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