Monday, September 18, 2017

The 32nd International Coastal Cleanup day in San Narciso, Zambales

The 32nd ICC on the coast of  host town  San Narciso, Zambales.

The Philippines joined the annual global observance of  the 32nd International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day on Saturday, 16 September 2017 with the theme, “Together for our Ocean”.

Zambales was the focal province for the national observance led by ICC Philippines. San Narciso, our hometown, with an estimated 11,000 volunteers from its seventeen barangays, played host to provincial, regional and national government officials, CSOs and NGOs. 

This year, the aim was to surpass the 2015 number of volunteers but also to promote Zambales as an environment-focused province. Hence, the vision of creating an e-cropolis in the vicinity of Mt. Tapulao in Palauig, a mountain area cooler than Baguio, an ideal site for retirement houses of local and foreign seniors, and for an international convention center.

Students and teachers walked a kilometer from the town plaza to the cleanup site.

San Narciso town was conveniently accessible to the volunteers from outside the province being midway between Subic and Iba. It is the surfing capital of the province. It is also implements a marine biodiversity management flagship program-- marine turtle conservation and protection, the only one in Zambales--and this month happens to be the start of the nesting season of the Olive ridley species..

This year’s ICC Day is the fourteenth observance in the Philippines after its commitment through Presidential Proclamation No. 470 issued on 15 September 2003. There was no nationwide observance last year, however, because the government declared a state of lawlessness. The Ocean Observancy accepted the cancellation for the safety of volunteers.

ICC observance in the Philippines in September 2015.
(Source: ICC Philippines 2015 Report)
In the 30th ICC Day in 2015 though, the Philippines was the top participating countty with 256,904 volunteers from 47 provinces, who cleaned up 1,162.8 kms of coastline, collecting 301,772 kgs of trash in the process. Of the total number of volunteers, 308 used watercraft, and 296 went underwater, to collect debris.

Zambales was number one in the top 10 of volunteers, followed by Batangas, Metro Manila, La Union, Cebu, Cavite, Antique, Catanduanes, Pangasinan and Leyte, in that order.

The province had 89,042 volunteers who collected 8,902 bags of trash that weighed approximately 61,407 kg from an estimated 372.1 km-long coastland, the longest in the list. The total of debris items collected was 5,392,915. Of these, the top ten debris amounted to 3,394,304 items comprising from the largest to the smallest: food wrappers (1,208,950), cigarette butts, straws/stirrers, other plastic bags, grocery plastic bags, plastic bottle caps, plastic take-out/away containers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic lids, and plastic cups and plates (140,545).

Last year’s 31st ICC Day, with the non-participation of the Philippines, the top three participating countries were the United States (183,321 volunteers), Hongkong (76,311), and Canada (24,475).

The Top 20 participating countries in ICC Day 2016 and weird items found in the marine debris.
(Source: Ocean Observancy's ICC 2017 Report)

There were 504,583 volunteers from 112 countries and locations who collected 8,346,055 kgs of marine debris from along 24,136 kms of beaches, coasts and waterways, comprising 13,840,398 debris items.

Top 10 items collected in the Philippines on ICC Day 2015.
Source: ICC Philippines 2015 Report.

The ICC was initiated by Ocean Conservancy in 1986 is the largest volunteer effort held annually every third Saturday of September to deal with trash, one of the biggest threats to the oceans.

On ICC Day, volunteers around the world remove trash and debris from beaches, waterways and other water bodies, identify the source of the debris, and record information on the debris collected. These activities can ‘change behaviors that cause pollution [and] raise awareness on the extent of the marine debris problem,’ and data analysis of results can ‘aid in better-informed policy decisions and improved solid waste management programs.’

Volunteers record the kind and material composition of objects they collect. The information is ‘instrumental in helping determine the effects that specific materials are having on ocean habitats. … scientists and ocean advocates will be able to identify the best remedies and advocate for solutions that will lead to a healthier ocean.’

Top 10 items collected worldwide on ICC Day 2016.
(Source: Ocean Obsservancy's ICC 2017 Report)

According to Nicholas Mallos, conservation biologist and marine debris specialist of Ocean Conservancy: ‘The ability to pinpoint the types and amounts of material on beaches and in the ocean – not just the kinds of products – makes the data more informative when supporting marine debris policy.’

Friday, September 15, 2017

Was there a new boa discovered in the Philippines in the 1880s?

Is the “new species” of a boa serpent found in the Philippines and featured in the 22 February 1882 issue of the weekly paper La Ilustración española y americana of Madrid still existing?

Was it really a Philippine species?

Jose Domingo Seoane, a captain in the Spanish Navy, was said to have captured the ‘colossal ophidian’ much earlier (‘some time ago,’ probably in 1881) in ‘Mindanao, around Ilo-ilo,’ according to the short article.

The illustration of Piesigaster boettgeri from La Ilustracion.
(Source: Biblioteca National de Espana)

He probably gave a live specimen to his brother, Victor Lopez Seoane, a naturalist, who described it in his pamphlet Neue Boidengattung und Art, von den Philippinen (Frankfurt, 1881) as ‘somewhat compressed body, twice higher than wide; prehensile tail; bent teeth, and intermaxillary bone without teeth; between the scales; vertical pupil; fine general scales and lanceolate [tapered oval].’ He also measured the total length from the mouth to the anale simplex (more than a meter), the tail, the length and width of the tail. And the dominant body color, he wrote, was grayish-white, approaching yellow.

The boa, according to the story, ‘dwells in basements, in dark places, and rarely comes out of its burrows during the day, always waiting for the night to find food, which consists of small reptiles, birds, rats, and even larger animals, for the specimen which Seoane found had a chicken in its stomach.’ It presupposed that the serpent was already fully developed, thus, nothing longer than that could probably be found.

The reporter was ecstatic because the discovery was ‘an interesting event to the scientific academies of Berlin, London and Paris, all the more so since only snakes of the Pithonidae family of the two genera of Boides are known in the [Philippine] archipelago and in southern Asia.’

In his monograph on ‘The Snakes of the Philippine Islands (1922), Edward H. Taylor included Victor Lopez Zoane’s paper in the bibliography (p 30):  Neue Boidengattung und Art von den Philippinen. Abh. Senck. Nat. Ges. (1881) 12. … Describes a new genus Piesigaster with the species Piesigaster boettgeri from "der Provinz Iloilo und Pollock auf der Insel Mindanao," supposedly captured there by a brother of the author, a ship's captain of the Royal Spanish Marine. The specimen is Epicrates inornatus Reinhardt from the West Indies.’

However, Taylor included this specie as one of those erroneously attributed to the Philippine Islands: “Piesigaster boettgeri Seaone (= Epicrates inornatus Reinhardt). .
This species was originally described from Panay through a wrongly labeled specimen. It is confined to the West Indies.”

In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the species with the taxon name Chilabothrus inornatus (Reinhardt, 1843) is synonymous with Boa inornata Reinhardt, 1843; Boella tenella Smith & Chiszar, 1992; Epicrates inornatus (Reinhardt, 1843); and Piesigaster boettgeri Seone, 1881.

Its common names are: Puerto Rican Boa and Yellow Tree Boa (English); Boa de Porto Rico and Boa sobre (French); and Boa de Puerto Rico (Spanish).

In 2009, it was assessed as ‘Least Concern due to its large distribution and ability to inhabit altered environments. Population numbers have declined in the past but this boa is still abundant in protected and inaccessible areas.’ This species is widely distributed in Puerto Rico, a native of that country.

Perhaps, the Spanish Navy captain picked up the boa in Puerto Rico, one of the Spanish colonies in the Americas, during one of his ship calls there, and gave the specimen to his brother, the naturalist.


Author Unknown. 1882, Feb 22. Historia Natural. La Ilustracion española y americana. 26:7(115, 125). Madrid.

Taylor, Edward H. 1922. The Snakes of the Philippine Islands. Manila: Bureau of Printing. Available from the Cornell University Library at

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Chilabothrus inornatus – published in 2010.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

9/11 Centenarians: Conching (Living) and Ferdie (Dead)

Two families celebrated the centennial of a loved one this year. One subject of celebration was around his grave site. The other subject is still alive and well to have a say on the manner of celebrating her 100th birthday.

The first subject, Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, was born in Batac, Ilocos Norte on 11 September 1917, who became a popular politician especially in the so-called Solid North of the Philippine archipelago, rose to become president of the republic on 30 December 1965, declared martial law on 23 September 1972, ruled the country as dictator until he was overthrown by People Power on 25 February 1986, died in his Hawaiian exile on 28 September 1989, and finally buried 'under protest' at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on 18 November 2016.

There were two Marcos celebrations: one at his resting place where his family, close friends and loyalists gathered to remember, and the other outside the gates of Libingan ng mga Bayani where activists raised placards and voices of protest. There were earlier reports that the widow Imelda wanted a grander celebration but daughter Imee wanted it simple. If there was any consolation to the protesters, President Duterte did not join former Ministers Cesar Virata and Juan Ponce Enrile at the grave site commemoration.

Sergia Favor Rico, 9/11 centenarian. (Photo by the author)
As far as we know, centenarian Sergia Favor Rico planned her birthday party, and listed 400 to be invited to a luncheon at Johneva Beach Resort in her coastal barangay La Paz in San Narciso, Zambales. Her kin in the USA and its territories, Canada came back for the occasion.

She knew that she will receive the centenarian incentive of PhP100,000 as provided by law: RA 10868, which Pres. Benigno Aquino signed on 23 June 2016. She is said to have told her kin that she will spend that cash gift for a grand celebration.

Conching, her popular name, manang/nana/auntie/lola to various people, may not be as strong as before to walk around to greet her well-wishers but she remains very lucid for the usual amiable conversations.

We do not know if Conching and Ferdie ever met in San Narciso during the World War II years. For some time, he stayed with a family in an interior sitio of this town to hide from the Japanese. That barrio though was far from Conching's coastal village. Both were in their late 20's at that time, and still single.

As an aside, centenarian Filipinos were featured in the 08 September 1873 issue of the Madrid weekly La Ilustración española y americana. 

Dona Rosa, 127 years old when she died in 1867.
(Source: La Ilustracion espanola y americans)
The author M.M. Cabellero de Rodas wrote about doña Rosa, la centenaría filipina (doña Rosa, Filipina centenarian) whose family name he forgot to note down. He met her in 1862, she was 123 years old, and he learned she died five years later. She was of mixed blood: Portuguese and Malay, who came to the country when she was four years old.

He also mentioned two other Filipinos with very long lives: 
(a) a pure indio coachman (a carruaje driver) he met in 1863, who reached 119 years; and

(b) a Boholana who was 116 years old in 1857. In her youth she did the laundry for the Jesuits until they were expelled in 1766.

These accounts of longevity came at the end of an article on hygiene in the Philippines, which also touched on the common diseases of the Filipinos at that time.

In this time and age of many affections and afflictions, to become a octogenarian or nonagenarian is already one reason for celebration. According to WHO (2015), the total life expectancy in the Philippines 68.5 years.

Monday, September 11, 2017

2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Gethsie Shanmugan, a lifetime psychosocial worker of Sri Lanka

Gethsie Shanmugan as she was being presented 
during the awarding ceremonies.
Gethsie Shanmugam has spent most of her life in psychosocial work starting with children and adults displaced by the civil war in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka in 1983 after she retired from teaching.

"My work with children and adults living with war, disaster and other hardships has shown me that even in the context of terrible violence, loss and suffering," she stressed, "there is always the possibility of growth, caring and hope. Life can not only continue despite pain and hardships, but can take on new meaning and purpose."

She spoke about how she encouraged and assisted children on the small tidal island of Nasivantheevu in the mid-1990s who "found the courage to negotiate with the warring parties to allow safe passage for the bus that took them to school, enabling access to an education that would transform their lives."

She told about a soldier who lost both legs in the war, thrice considered suicide, and mistrusted others not of his ethnic tribe. Her personal attention taught the young man "to set aside his anger to care for an older woman from a community he deeply mistrusted."

She worked with widows who were "suddenly thrust into new roles in a society that stigmatized them ... [and their] determination and hard work enabled them to overcome challenges to secure a life for themselves and their children."

Shanmugam, a member of the minority Tamil community, took up psychology while teaching in Colombo and worked as a volunteer counselor when psychosocial work was still new in Sri Lanka. 

When she retired from teaching, she joined the Save the Children Norway (SCN). Here, she braved bombings, searches, threats of arrest in the war zones, crossed the Sinhalese-Tamil divide to do counseling work in collaboration with her colleagues, trained teachers and NGO workers.

In SCN, she was involved in the design of programs, research, training, and counseling in projects aimed at building capacities for psychosocial support in war-affected schools and at helping war widows, orphans, and traumatized children.

After SCN, she remained active as consultant and volunteer in organizations working with women and children suffering from war trauma, domestic violence, alcoholism, and sex trafficking. She led in establishing a pioneering temporary home for young people victimized by abuse and in trouble with the law.

After the tsunami of 2004 tsunami, Gethsie trained eighty school teachers in a government pilot program to provide a supportive environment for traumatized children. Using her experiences in various countries, she experimented with small, simple ways to build psychosocial resilience adapted to local conditions and the lack of trained professionals; and actively disseminated her knowledge through publications and the mass media.

Gethsie received the medallion and certificate from
Vice Pres. Leni Robredo and RMAF Chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr.
Her concluding remarks in her response to the Ramon Magsaysay Award: "Whether working with children or adults, with individuals or groups, my four decades of experience has taught me that healing and transformation always starts with the person. For people who are in deep pain to begin to heal, it is essential for them to gain self-awareness and acceptance, which in turn shapes their capacity for healthy relationships with others or even towards themselves. This kind of personal growth is often something people overwhelmed by suffering find difficult to do for themselves, but with support and loving care from another human being, like the beautiful lotus that emerges from the mud, these people can be helped to bloom despite the pain they have experienced.

"As individuals we often feel that we can't do big things. But we can do small things. All change starts with a person. When one person becomes brighter and relates to others with genuine love, then small groups of individuals can form around them, creating small ripples of change in the world.

"I believe that each of us is a tool for the healing of ourselves, for the healing of others and for the healing of the societies we live in. No matter who or where we are, we can play a role in making the world a kinder and better place. This is the message that I would like to share with you all."

Gethsie Shanmugam was elected to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award in recognition of "her compassion and courage in working under extreme conditions to rebuild war-scarred lives, her tireless efforts over four decades in building Sri Lanka's capacity for psychosocial support, and her deep, inspiring humanity in caring for women and children, war's most vulnerable victims."

Friday, September 8, 2017

2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Tony Tay (Singapore) with his 'Willing Hearts'

'Willing Hearts,' a fully volunteer-based, secular and non-profit organization in Singapore, runs a soup kitchen that prepares and cooks six thousand meals a day for distribution at forty points around the island state.

Tony Tay with the other awardees seated behind him.
The hot, packed meals (segregated for the Muslims and non-Muslims) are for the needy: neglected and abandoned elderly, persons with disabilities, the sick, children of single-parent households, low-income families, and migrant workers.

Tony Tay founded this charity in 2003 starting with eleven volunteers. As of today, some three hundred regular volunteers operate the kitchen 365 days a year in a public community center.

Tay was born poor. Abandoned by their father when he was five years old, they were homeless with their mother engaging in transient jobs. He and a sister were put in an orphanage, and two other sisters were taken care by a foster family.

Tay dropped out of school at twelve, sought for food wherever he could, and worked at odd jobs. He persevered, slowly overcame poverty, and succeeded in the printing business he set up. He and his own family now live in modest comfort in his own home.

It was his mother that inspired him to start his 'one hot meal revolution': "[H]e was fifty-seven when, at his mother’s funeral, he was deeply moved by the great number of people who came to give their respects to his mother. Despite her own difficulties, she had devoted herself to charity work with the Canossian Sisters. Inspired, Tony and his wife began their share of doing good for others -- collecting unsold bread and vegetables from the market and bringing these to the Canossian convent to be given to the needy. Enlisting family and friends, they began to cook what they had gathered in their home kitchen, delivering packed meals to the poor and elderly."

Tay looks at 'Willing Hearts' as a way of being part of one family, one village considering that he did not have much of a family when he was growing up. “We are just sharing,' he said, 'sharing all that we have in life to make a better society.”

That simple sharing of food has fostered the spirit of volunteerism among taxi drivers (they deliver food packs), parents with their children (they help in the Willing Hearts kitchen--preparing ingredients, packing meal boxes, cleaning and washing), among others.

Tony Tay receiving the medallion and certificate from
Vice Pres. Leni Robredo & RMAF Chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr.

In his response after receiving the Ramon Magsaysay Award, he expressed his gratitude to those who answered "YES" when he asked for help:
  • the Canossian sisters to help collect extra bread that were not sold for the day from a bakery.
  • to distribute the rest of the bread to those who need it;
  • to collect the extra vegetables from wholesalers;
  • to my wife when she asked to cook for the elderly who cannot cook for themselves;
  • to all who asked for help along the way.
'Willing Hearts,' he said, 'is a journey of many who said "YES", yes to those in need. Willing Hearts started with one word -- YES.'

In electing Tony Tay to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognized 'his quiet, abiding dedication to a simple act of kindness – sharing food with others – and his inspiring influence in enlarging this simple kindness into a collective, inclusive, vibrant volunteer movement that is nurturing the lives of many in Singapore.'

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017 Ramon Magsaysay awardee: 'activist, victim, indigenous person' Abdon Nababan of Indonesia

Abdon Nababan.
Abdon Nababan is acknowledged today as the single most important person in the indigenous peoples (IP) movement in Indonesia. He has worked tirelessly with the movement for twenty-four years.

He is a Toba Batak from Sumatra, one of seventy million very ethnically diverse masyarakat adat (IP) of Indonesia.

Nababan began his social advocacy when he was still a student, and became an officer of a non-government organization (NGO) after graduation from Bogor University in 1987.

I became an activist in the late '80s,' he said, 'opposing the all-too-powerful New Order Regime. In the '90s I realized that I was also a victim. I am one of millions of Indigenous Peoples of Indonesia. At the time, I--an activist, a victim, an indigenous person--fought an industrial forest company in our ancestral lands.'

The land taken over by the big industrial company was actually ancestral land that belonged to his grandparents and other Toba Batak families.

'That company, however, was just a front for the real oppressor: authoritarianism and development,' he stressed. 'For them, we the Indigenous Peoples, were not wanted. We are to be oppressed, to be eradicated, criminalized, impoverished, victimized.'

After the fall of Suharto in 1999, he helped organize a congress that launched the mass-based organization called AMAN (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara or Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago).

AMAN today is the country's largest and most influential non-state organization with over 115 local and 21 regional chapters throughout Indonesia’s thirty-four provinces: these represent a collective membership of over 17 million. Before AMAN, Indonesia recognized only one million masyarakat adat.

The indigenous peoples have become a political force to reckon with. AMAN delivered 12 million votes to President Joko Widodo in the 2014 election after he made six commitments during the campaign to address the needs of the IPs. The government has yet to deliver on these commitments though. 

Under Nababan’s leadership, AMAN challenged the existing forestry laws. In 2012, they won a landmark constitutional court ruling that forests in IP territories are not “state forests,” hence, some fifty-seven million hectares of government-controlled forest land were returned to indigenous communities.

AMAN, with the support of NGOs, launched the Ancestral Domain Registration Agency in 2010 to create a single data base for verifying land and forest claims on ownership, use and tenure. With Nababan at the helm, they were able to submit to the government "indigenous maps" covering 8.23 million hectares in 2016.  

The constitutional court ruling and AMAN’s maps, however, are still awaiting implementation.

Nababan receiving medal and certificate from Vice Pres. Leni Robredo
and RMAF Chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr.

In his response to the award, he revealed that he accepted the challenge of the indigenous peoples of North Sumatra to run for governor of the province, which he described as 'so corrupt and violent ... controlled by mobs and drug dealers.'

In parting, he said: 'When differing opinions or interests manifests into violent conflicts, when the use of religion means more killings, when developing the economy means destroying the environment, standing here before you, I am offering the values and spirit of Indigenous Peoples to tackle present-day problems of our society and the environment--inequality, crimes, climate change--in a way that is not violent, but humane and sustainable. ... And let our countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, lead the world towards peace, where the well-being of people, plants, animals, water, soils and air prevail.'

Abdon Nababan was elected by the RMAF to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award in recognition of 'his brave, self-sacrificing advocacy to give voice and face to his country’s IP communities, his principled, relentless, yet pragmatic leadership of the world’s largest IP rights movement, and the far-reaching impact of his work on the lives of millions of Indonesians.'

2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Lilia B. de Lima - honest, competent and dedicated public servant

Atty. Lilia B. De Lima as she was presented to the audience.
'One-stop, non-stop shop, no red tape, and no corruption.' That's how Lilia B. De Lima described the brand of service she instituted at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) under her leadership for twenty one years.

For that, she got a rousing round of applause during the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremonies on 31 August 2017.

She was appointed the first Director-General of the organization in 1995. She told former president Fidel Ramos who was in the audience: 'If not for you, sir, I wouldn't be here [for this award].'

The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) noted that under her helm, PEZA became 'a showcase of successful regulatory reform, a model of honest and committed public service, and a key contributor to the nation's economic growth.'

'It wasn't a walk in the park,' she said. 'We inherited an extremely bloated bureaucracy. Trimming the fat by 60 percent was a long, torturous and emotionally draining process. It was the most bruising experience in my public career, Everything was thrown at me. But we did not waver, and we cleaned up.'

The awardee with Vice Pres. Leni Robredo
and RMAF Chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr.
'My twenty-one years at PEZA was a privilege as it was a commitment. It gave me the opportunity to serve my country and help generate employment for our people.'

PEZA generated some 6.3 million jobs for Filipinos in direct and indirect employment during her term.

She thanked the investors ;who trusted in our capability to ensure that their operations can be set up at the soonest time and at the least cost.'

'As we strengthened the organization, we also instituted sweeping structural and policy reforms to remain competitive and address the ever changing investment climate,' she said.

The country became one of the region's top investment destinations.

With De Lima at the helm, the number of PEZA ecozones increased by 2,000% (from the initial 16 to 343 by 2016); registered enterprises rose from 331 to 5,756; investments reached PhpP 3 trillion; and ecozone exports totaled USD629 billion. PEZA remitted to the national treasury PhP16.6 billion in corporate income taxes and dividends, and paid off the debt of PhP4.6 billon of its predecessor agency.

From day one, she emphasized, their mantra was 'absolute honesty and utmost service in all our dealings with our stakeholders.'

She added that she survived four presidents for only one simple reason: "do[ing] your job with integrity and professionalism [which] is the best credential you can have, and the only endorsement you will need.'

She expressed hope that PEZA will continue to be 'a clean and efficient organization with highly motivated, hardworking professionals.' 

The 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees with Vice Pres. Leni Robredo
and RMAF Chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr.

In recognition of 'her unstinting, sustained leadership in building a credible and efficient PEZA, proving that the honest, competent and dedicated work of public servant can, indeed, redound to real economic benefits to millions of Filipinos,' the RMAF board of trustees elected Lilia B. Delima as a recipient of the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Monday, September 4, 2017

2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)

It may be serendipity that the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) received the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award on its 50th year.

It celebrated its 50th Anniversary in April with a concert aptly titled Singkwenta (Fifty) which featured the best songs culled from around 500 plays--original, translated, or adapted--produced through the years.

The celebration was held at the PETA Phinma Theater at the PETA Center in Quezon City. This permanent home is a long way from the Rajah Sulayman Theater, converted from the ruins of the Spanish military barracks, where it all started in 1967 with the production of Bayaning Huwad, Filipino translation of Virginia Moreno's English play 'Straw Patriot.'

PETA president Cecile B. Garucho about to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay
Award from Vice Pres. Leni Robredo and RMAF chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr.

PETA was originally envisioned as a 'national theater' by its founder Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Ramon Magsaysay awardee for public service in 1972 before the declaration of martial law. It remained active during the dictatorship and together with other groups by 'staging theater as a medium of protest and conscientization.' After 1986, it was ready 'to respond to both new and continuing challenges, and through its collective of artist-teachers, 'to directly engaged with the realities of people's lives.'

"We were taught early on that whatever we learned as artists,we were to share by teaching others especially non-theater people," PETA president Cecille B. Garrucho informed the audience during the awards presentation. "We were to use our art to serve. We went in small teams to barangays all over the country, The purpose was always to draw out the creative power of ordinary folk: women in poor communities, students and public school teachers, child workers in the sugar cane fields, farmers, workers and fisherfolks, It didn't matter whether they were literate or not. The PETA workshop's main goal was to give people the creative tools to tell stories that tackled ways to solve their common problems, that could bring about healing from trauma, and that spoke of their dreams and aspirations. As actors we would bring the stories of the people we met to life onstage so their voices could be heard. ..."

Garrucho acknowledging the award with two PETA officers

"[T]he artist members plunged into years of trailblazing work adding more productions to PETA's list of original plays," Garrucho added. "Collaborating with many sectors, PETA developed and refined its pedagogy of People's Theater, This we shared with groups across the country, with our partners in the Mekong Region and Asia, as well as with migrant Filipinos in Europe, North America and Australia."

From 2005 to 2008, PETA led the Greater Mekong Sub-region Partnership in mobilizing, mentoring and supporting performing artists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and southern China. The mission was 'to effectively undertake advocacy-through-the-arts issues such as gender, health, sexuality, and HIV-AIDS.'

After typhoon Yolanda's devastation in 2013, the theater company launched Lingap Sining (Nurturing Through the Arts) in Leyte that creatively used the arts in various interventions like emergency relief, psychosocial debriefings, disaster preparedness and building of more resilient disaster risk reduction readiness in the communities.

PETA Chorale rendering the Makabayan Suite, a medley of 
nationalist songs from some of their play productions.

As an integrated, people-based cultural collective, PETA has major units to address specific missions: Kalinangan Ensemble as its repertory and performing arm, the School of People's Theater for its year-round training and development engagements, and a Special Programs unit for undertaking specific advocacies.such as women's and children's rights, plight of domestic and overseas workers, environmental protection, reproductive health, and electoral reform.

Thus, in recognition of 'its bold, collective contributions in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia, the board of trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation elected PETA as one of the awardees this year.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee: Japanese Yoshiaki Ishizawa in Angkor Wat

The annual Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremonies on 31 August, birthday of the late president, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines is one event worth attending.

Here, one meets outstanding individuals "who address issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity, and in doing so have made contributions that have transformed their societies for the better."  We learn about their extraordinary achievement from their citations, and hear directly from them their stories after receiving their medals and certificates.

This year's awardees comprise five individuals: Yoshiaki Ishizawa (Japan), Lilia de Lima (Philippines), Abdon Nababan (Indonesia), Gethsie Shanmugan (Sri Lanka), Tony Tay (Singapore), and one organization: Philippine Educational Theater Association or PETA (Philippines).

Yoshiaki Ishikawa as his citation was being read. Seated behind include the other awardees, 
Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo and RMAF board chair, Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr.

Ishisawa, an eminent scholar of Southeast Asian history and one-time president of Sophia University, is associated with Angkor Wat to which he has devoted fifty years of his life. This is a major Buddhist temple in the Angkor--inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992--which he first visited as a student in 1961. Since then he has been involved in its conservation except during the years of civil war and political unrest from 1970 until the Khmer Rouge went out of power in 1979. But by then, the Cambodian conservationists were all gone.

The conservation of Angkor, he said in his response to the award, "is not my efforts alone ... but of numerous friends and colleagues [and] his staff at the Sophia University Angkor International Mission [simply called the Sophia Mission]."

He started working again with the Cambodians in 1980, established international networks, campaigned for awareness and support in the Japanese media, and devised programs to protect and conserve Angkor. These all led to the launching of the Sophia Mission for research, training and conservation work.

Tourists today make the magnificent Angkor Wat in Seam Reap one of their major destinations in southeast Asia. What they see and enjoy as a premier cultural heritage of Cambodia came from Izhizawa's relentless leadership of Cambodians and Japanese experts in the conservation and restoration works.

They restored, for example, the Buddlist temple Banteay Kdei, excavated 274 statues of Buddha in 2001, and completed major repairs on the western causeway in 2007, which is now a key access to Angkor Wat.

Ishikawa about to receive his medal and certificate.

"Our reason," he said, "for insisting on rescuing Angkor Wat is because this would signify a call to the people to return to the peace that once characterized the Angkor period, as well as a call for them to rebuild their nation once more."

The appeal for Angkor's restoration is also "a plea for reconciliation between ethnic groups, and the revival of the [Cambodia's] culture," he added.

He stressed that "the preservation and restoration of Cambodian cultural heritage should be carried out by the Cambodians, for the Cambodians."

Towards that end, the Sophia Mission is deeply involved in the training of human resources. They selected 18 individuals and sent them to Sophia University to acquire doctorate and masters degrees. They are now senior officials of the government. The Mission has 'systematically raised awareness among Cambodian school children and villagers to take pride in their heritage and become its protectors and conservators.'

The board of trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) elected Yoshiaki Ishizawa to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award in recognition of 'his selfless, steadfast service to the Cambodian people, his inspiring leadership in empowering Cambodians to be proud stewards of their heritage, and his wisdom in reminding us all that cultural monuments like the Angkor Wat are shared treasures whose preservation is thus, also shared global responsibility.' 

All photos by the author.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Learning from the Aytas: beneficial and edible plants in the mountain forests

We went trekking to the Palacapac Falls in Omaya, the mountainside barangay of our hometown San Narciso in Zambales recently; this was the best time to go there, being the rainy season. Palacapac dries up in the summer but the rocky basins of water below it are good for very cool dips.

We followed a kilometer stretch of the bed of Veto River, clambering over big rocks and balancing on mossy, slippery submerged ones as we sloshed through the shallow waters. The Ayta children were fast on this rocky trail, swimming on pools under mini-falls of crystalline water through the gaps between giant rocks where they waited for us, the slow trekking party.

Before we got to the river, we passed through fields thick with tall grasses, shrubs and trees. Our Ayta guides were ahead of us cutting a trail through the grasses, and overhanging branches of shrubs and trees.

The Ayta women were quick to point out plants that are beneficial to them:

Marita shows the edible tuber of the lagyaban plant.

  • the lagyaban plant whose tuber can grow as big as singkamas (Pachyrhizus erosus, Mexican turnip). They said that the tubers are fully grown, and thus usually gathered, in September. These are dried, grated and cooked for the eating, or as a source of 'gawgaw' (stiffening starch) for the laundry.

Ripe alagat fruits.

  • the alagat plant whose edible red ripe fruits are sweet. 

Unripe arosip fruits.

  • the arosip, which bears clusters of round fruits, sour when green, and taste like the familiar bignay (Antidesma bunius). Probably, the plant name is derived from the similarity of the fruit clusters with the edible green ar-arosip (Tagalog lato) seaweeds.
In our first trek to the top of Palacapac Falls two months ago, Dante, the husband of the leader of the Ayta community, was apologetic that he was not able to show us the forest plant they call togatoy. We asked what was so outstanding about it, and we were stunned to hear it was viagratic. 

He described this plant is like orchids or ferns: it is anchored on tree trunks. The roots are 'erectile', he said, and these are cut, immersed in hot water for the stimulating drink.

The Ayta couple have eight children, and Dante attributed this to the power of togatoy. In this latest excursion to the falls, he was telling me that he and his wife each have to take a glassful of the potion for intense and prolonged lovemaking. Unfortunately, we were in an area far from the mountain top where the plant thrives.

We will have to find the scientific identities of these plants from the National Museum botanists. 

Some kudet mushrooms gathered from the forest.

An added feature of our mountainside excursion during this rainy season is the sighting of profusions of edible giant mushrooms under the clumps of bamboo trees. The Aytas call them kudet. The stems are tough and they have to be discarded. The cap is also a bit tough, but for easier cooking, this has to be torn into narrow strips along the gills. We found it suited for chicken broth with ampalaya leaves.

We told Dante that the next time we climb the mountainside, we will look for plants that are of value to them: for timber, medicine, or food. And he had to show me the togatoy plant for documentation purposes.

These plants and fungus are part of the life of the Ayta community. Certainly, these should be included among the cultural properties of our town when we do our cultural mapping project, which local governments are enjoined to do in partnership with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). 

Friday, July 28, 2017

No effigies burned on DU30's SONA 2017 afternoon

For the second time, the parliamentarians on the avenue leading to the Batasan Pambansa did not burn the effigy of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (DU30). Last year was honeymoon time for the chief executive and the so-called Left. He had appointed leftists to the Cabinet; hence, a cordial mood prevailed on Commonwealth Avenue.

After he delivered his long SONA 2017--scripted and ad libbed--before the joint session of the Senate and the House, the diplomatic corps, and the slick crowd in the galleries, and viewed live on TV by the common people, DU30 surprised the rally crowd by appearing on their entablado. He spoke briefly (around 13 minutes in the YouTube video) but hecklers interrupted him every now and then.

DU30 according to the Socialistas.

There were two effigies of DU30. The Socialistas, who did not mix with the Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) groups, spoke on their own entablado and displayed their DU30 effigy in military camouflage with sidearms, tagged 'pasista' on his cap. Aside from the large hardboard cut-out of DU30 as Hitler look-alike, Bayan also had effigies of the president held by the claws of the eagle Uncle Sam, with Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez and DND chief Delfin Lorenzana on the side.

DU30 according to the Bayan bloc.

One fellow hugged his own democratic space in front of the Batasan, right beside the Bayan assembly. In his placard, he described himself as a 'nuissance candidate' during the last presidential elections. He called DU30 a Hitler.

DU30 dubbed as Hitler.

The BlockDuterte group focused on the EJK or tokhang killings. They had sacks of old, junked shoes to display on a large swath of Commonwealth Avenue, past the St, Peter's Church but far from the entablados and red flags of the Socialistas and the Bayan groups. The shoes were intended to represent the missing, the victims of the illegal killings associated with the droga war.

We always tend to gravitate to the lumads participating in protest events in Manila: Lakbayan or the the SONA. The Manobos usually represent the lumads, the schoolchildren and adults with the leaders in their beaded takulong headgear. They lend ethnic color to the mass rallies.

Lumad schoolchildren in protest front line .

In this SONA, the lumad children brought to the fore their schools. They got the ire of DU30 who threatened to bomb these schools. He did not like the children joining anti-government demonstrations, and he alleged that the schools were illegal, not authorized by DepEd, and were being used for leftist indoctrination.

It was a sunless afternoon altogether with slight showers breaking up huddling groups every now and then. The police just watched the rallying crowd, the anti-riot shields stacked far from the entablados.

The surprise visit of DU30 was preceded by barong clad PSG members surveying the Bayan entablado area while he was delivering his SONA. Nobody suspected that he would be coming down here,. But may be Bayan Secretary Gen. Renato Reyes, Jr. and Saturnino Ocampo knew it before hand. There was an amiable exchange of words between them and the police general while the security survey was being done.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

'Nokanshi': the Japanese 'art' of preparing the dead for cremation

Image result for Masahiro Motoki AND Departures
Publicity photo in the internet.

We simply had to catch the last two movie features of the Eigai Sai Japanese Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex on EDSA: The Long Excuse/'Nagai Iiwake'  (Miwa Nishikawa,2016) and Departures/'Okuribito' (Yojiro Takita, 2008).  Eigai 2017 is the 20th festival, and in celebration, the Japan Foundation offered 20 films. That means we missed 18. We were in perfect attendance in the previous Eigais.

Death was the underlying theme of the two movies. And incidentally, Masahiro Motoki was the lead actor in both films. He performed characters who had to deal with issues of death in different contextual frameworks.

In The Long Excuse, Motoki is the popular writer Sachio Kinugasa whose wife Natsuko died when the bus she rode with her friend for a holiday in an ski resort crashed into a frozen lake. 

The movie delineated how Sachio coped with the loss of his wife of twenty years vis-a-vis his personal and professional circumstances. He stepped into the life the inconsolable husband of his wife's friend and his children, and in the process, all of them were able to move on. 

It was not part of the movie, but in real life, Sachio would engage a nokanshi to prepare Natsuko's body for cremation.

In Departures, Motoki is the cellist Daigo Kobayashi who  became a nokanshi in his old town where he and his wife settled down after the symphony orchestra of an urban city was dissolved. He was looking for a job and responded to an ad from what he thought was a travel agency. It was a mortuary; and a typo error indicated a task of attending to  the 'departed' not travel 'departures.'

The closest meaning of a nokanshi is "encoffiner or encoffining master" one who prepares the body before it is laid on the coffin and brought to the crematorium. Japanese law requires cremation, and usually the nokanshi is called while the dead body is still warm. 

As depicted in the movie, the family of the deceased watches the process, but the ritual is so practiced and refined that no one will see a bare body even if it is undressed for the donning of new clothes. The face is made up to look alive similar to the picture displayed in the memorial altar. In one scene, Daigo asked for the favorite lipstick of the departed.

Daigo the cellist brought to his job a musician's sense of control. His movements were elegant, almost theatrical, but showed compassion to the departed, and respect for those in grief.

The deliberate carefulness with which he cleansed and clothed the bodies--the transgender, the young girl who died in an accident, the grandmother, the operator of the baths, and his own father--reminded one of the Japanese art of gift wrapping. There was some sense of pattern, for example, in the way the hands were made to clasp together sometimes with Buddhist beads around them. Or, in the way of folding and arranging the sleeves of the kimono on the sides of the body. 

Certainly, the movie created some culture shock to the Filipino audience familiar with the business of dying in the country. There is no equivalent of the Japanese nokanshi; everything is left to the funeral parlor.

For his performance in the movie, Masahiro Motoki won four best actor awards in 2009: Asian Film, Japanese Academy, Blue Ribbon and Kinema Junpo. That year, Departures won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in the 81st Academy Awards, and ran away with ten of that year's Japanese Academy Awards including Best Actor and Best Director. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Women in the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2017

Sandiglayan 2017 in parade formation.

The Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) Class of 2017 is still male-dominated: of the 216 graduates, 17 are women. They received their Bachelor of Science degrees in Marine Transport (BSMT) and Marine Engineering (BSMarE) during the 196th Commencement Exercises at the Academy grounds in San Narciso, Zambales on 06 July 2017.

Two women graduated BSMarE cum laude: Kim Melody B. Canet and Agiebel P. Dulatre.

Of the 17 women, seven (7) were in the marine transport, and ten (10) in the marine engineering, degree programs.

The women among the 91 BSMT graduates were Bernadette S. Addun, Karen G. Alcoser, Shaira Marie D. Alzate, Maria Theressa D. Cabrera, Francine Gyneth P. Galino, Christine N. Genotiva and Charlotte S. Pelaez. Cabrera received an efficiency medal from the Department of Naval Science and Tactics.

And the women among the 125 BSMarE graduates were Mira Liza Balabag, Evan Royce A. Bautista, Theya Marie A. Bumanglag, Rizza Mae D. Cabrera, Chinnie Lhen I. Calba, Kim Melody B. Canet, Agiebel P. Dulatre, Kloise Floreca C. Opena, Zaira Margarette M. Rubia and Hazel Gayodan Tallongan. 

Zaira Margarette Rubia receiving the Philippine Coast Guard Sword.

Canet and Rubia were in the Top 10 in the MarE program. Rubia was the most awarded of this batch of women graduates. She was presented the Philippine Coast Guard Sword, the 'Iron Woman' award from the Department of Naval Science and Tactics, and Leadership and Discipline Medals from the Department of Midshipmen Affairs.

This is the 10th year ever since PMMA accepted women into the long blue line in 1997. Of the women graduates since then, two graduated valedictorian and magna cum laude of their respective classes: the first, Zulaika Mariano Calibjo in 2006,  and the second, Laarni Grace Pangilinan in 2014.

This year's batch named their class Sandiglayan, which means "Samahan ng Mandirigma at Manlalakbay ng Karagatan sa Kaunlaran ng Bayan."

Razor Dave C. Samortin, BSMT, magna cum laude, in his valedictory address, profusely thanked, on behalf of his classmates, their families and the Academy for their support and guidance as they sailed the course in the academy, and invoked courage when they face the rough seas in their chosen fields. Arjan Lyndl E. Flores regaled everyone when he recounted how he became stronger by overcoming his academic failures, and thus succeeded to earn the distinction of being 'Anchorman,' the guy with the lowest weighted average grade in their class. 

Samortin, Flores and their classmates entered the Academy through a rigid selection process. PMMA says that about 5% of around 6,500 applicants from all over the country pass the screening and get accepted as midshipmen in two academic programs of their choice: marine transport and marine engineering.

Eight of the 17 women members of Sandiglayan 2017.

Sandiglayan had four-year residency courses: the first, second and fourth years for academic studies on campus, and the third for a one-year internship training as deck or engine cadets on board commercial vessels plying the international ocean lanes. The fourth, the graduation year, is the professional stage where they learn the additional knowledge and skills to qualify as third mates and fourth marine engineers.

They were all government scholars who enjoyed free tuition, board and lodging, and an assured shipboard training on board international vessels with stipend. 

The famous painter Juan Luna y Novicio of Spoliarium fame preceded Sandiglayan by 143 years. He was 17 when he graduated Piloto de Altos Mares (Pilot of the High Seas) from the Escuela de Nautica de Manila in 1874. 

The Escuela was established in 1820 and through the years evolved into the PMMA as we know today.

After sailing for thirty months, Luna quit seafaring, even if he was called el marino atrevido (the daring seaman) by his shipmates, and went to study fine arts.

In the case of Sandiglayan, three career paths were opened for them: enlisting with Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard, and joining the Merchant Marine.

The PMMA stamp virtually assures them 100% employability with  immediate hiring by more than 30 partner international and manning companies of the Academy. Their promising careers include being master mariners, chief engineers, shipping executives, naval or coast guard officers, educators, trainers in maritime-related industries/institutions, etc.

The Philippine Coast Guard has already inducted 22 of Sandiglayan Class earlier on 03 July 2017 as Probationary Ensign, two of them are women. 

Valedictorian Samortin and Anchorman Flores are now P/ENS of the Philippine Navy.

"Our graduates," VAdm Richard Ritual, PMMA Superintendent, said, "constantly serve as Ambassadors of Goodwill, for they circle the different parts of the globe on board various international seagoing vessels bringing with them the positive tenets inculcated upon them during their Academy days: Kawastuhan, Kababaang-loob, Kagitingan (Righteousness, Humility, Courage)."

Sandiglayan tossing their caps in the air after the ceremonies.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

More are graduating summa cum laude in UP Diliman

Thirty six (36) of 4,610 students graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from the schools and colleges of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) Diliman campus during the 106th General Commencement Exercises on 25th June 2017.

This is the highest number of topnotchers since the university was founded in 1908. To earn the summa distinction, a student must earn a weighted average grade (WAG) between 1.0 and 1.20. 

In his opening remarks, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan recalled his year's in the university when there one or two or none at all who graduated with this highest honors, although there were those who earned the distinction of magna cum laude or cum laude.

Alumni wonder how easy it seems now to graduate summa. Could it be that there are no more 'terror' professors who can kill aspirations to get grades better than 1.5 in one's subjects? The most plausible is that the wealth of information available to students is within reach of the fingers from the world wide web unlike before when they had to dig into books in the library. Information technology has boosted chances to get to the top of one's classes.

Getting a 1.0 in a subject then was a great struggle. Thus, one gets awed by students who graduate with a weighted grade average (WAG) of just a bit close to that magic number like Williard Joshua D. Jose and Rangel DG. Daroya, who both graduated with Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering (BS ECE) degree from the College of Engineering: WAGs of 1.058 and 1.074, respectively.

Arman Ali Ghodsinia, who delivered the valedictory address, graduated BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BS MBB) from the College of Science, earned a WAG of 1.173.

The 36 top honors came from 10 degree-granting units of the university’s four clusters: science and technology (S&T), social sciences and law (SS&L), management and economics (M&E), and arts and letters (A&L).

The S&T cluster topped the number of summas with 17 (COE: 9, CS: 6, SS: 2). 
  • Following the cited topnotchers Jose and Daroya were these seven others from the College of Engineering (COE): John Ian V. Baytamo (WAG 1.115, BS Mechanical Engineering), Jeynald Jeyromme L. Endaya (1.133, BS Computer Science/CS), Johntee T. Tantuco (1.152, BS Industrial Engineering/IE), Quirby Angelo S. Alberto (1.154, BS IE), Marco Angelo DP. Samonte, 1.166 (BS ECE), Clare Feliz S. Tan (1.166, BS CS), and Ian Christian B. Fernandez (1.177, BS Computer Engineering).

    Eight of the nine summas from Engineering with Chancellor Tan and UP Pres. Concepcion.

  • Aside from Ghodsinia, there were five others from College of Science (CS): Philip Christopher S. Cruz (1.163, BS Physics), Christian Cariño (1.169, BS Chemistry/Chem), Kristine Larissa B. Yu (1.169, BS Chem), Jan Patrick C. Tan (1.174, BS MBB), and Ryan Timothy D. Yu (1.179, BS MBB). 

    The six summas from CS. Arman Ali Ghodsinia (4th from right) 
    delivered the valedictory addreess.

  • The two from the School of Statistics (SS): Paollo Deo R. Reyes (1.102, BS Statistics/Stat,) and Teod Carlo C. Cabili (1.196, BS Stat), 

The two summas from SS with university officials.

This was followed by eight from the SS&L cluster, all coming from the College of Social Science and Philosophy (CSSP).
  • Patricia S. Sy (1.089, Bachelor of Arts/BA in Sociology), Victor Carlo G. Irene (1.101, BA Philosophy), Stephanie Ann B. Lopez, (1.102, BA Psychology/Psych), Angelica Cielo B. Gozar (1.157, BA Psych), Arla Mae Nicole T. Salcedo (1.159, BA Psych). Krizzia Elyse B. Mañago (1.163, BA Linguistics), Corinna Victoria C. Martinez (1.177, BS Psych), and Marly Vea Clarisse L. Elli (1.182, BA Lingguistics).

It was almost all-women summas except for one from CSSP.

There were six from the M&E cluster (VSB: 4, AIT: 1, SE: 1):

  • The four from the Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business (VSB):  John Alexander O. Soriano (1.131, BS Business Administration and Accountancy/BAA), Christine Darla A. Bautista (1.171, BS Business Administration/BA), Marco G. Del Valle (1.173, BS BA) and Erica Camille U. Lau (1.193, BS BAA). 

The four summas from VSB with university officials.

  • From the Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT): Jennifer B. Rucio (1.173, BS Tourism). She is the first summa graduate of the institute.

Ms Rucio (inset, photo from UPD Information Office).

  • From the School of Economics (SE): Angelo Rafael E. Arcilla (1.183, BS Business Economics) 

The sole summa from SE with university officials.

The A&L cluster had five (CAL: 3, CHK: 1, CFA: 1).
  • The four from the College of Arts and Letters (CAL):  Martin Anthony M. Salud (1.104, BA European Languages), Jose Monfred C. Sy (1.166, BA Comparative Literature), and Mary Anne Balane (1.183, BA English Studies).

Sulud (top left), Sy (bottom left) and Balane. [The men's photos from UPD Information Office.]

  • From the College of Human Kinetics/CHK):  Katherine Adrielle R. Bersola (1.180, Bachelor of Sports Science). She is the first summa in the history of the college.

The first summa from CHK with university officials.

  • From the College of Fine Arts (CFA): Kamille Anne U. Areopagita (1.197, Bachelor of Fine Arts [Visual Communication]).

The sole summa from the College of Fine Arts with university officials.

In addition to the cited 36 summas, 337 received the Latin distinction of magna cum laude while 1,016 graduated with the honor of cum laude.

In our own recollection, it used to be that the magna cum laude graduates, like the few summas, were honored on stage during the general commencement exercises. 

With the growing number of summas, there may come a time when their acclamation will be confined in the recognition rites of schools and colleges.

I attended a graduation event in the New Hampshire in the US five years ago, and I noted the big number of summa graduates. They were not called on stage; it sufficed that their names in the program were followed by that Latin phrase of distinction. 

Note: Unless credited to the UP Diliman Information Office, all the photos are from the author.