Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Culture of Giving

What I know for sure is that what you give

comes back to you.

Oprah Winfrey

When Silliman University President Ben S. Malayang III made an appeal last June 26 for the Silliman and Dumaguete communities to extend help to the calamity victims in Iloilo, the picture that would motivate people to help the storm Frank-battered province was not that clear yet. Then, Former President Agustin A. Pulido called and described the sad state of the campus of Central Philippine University, Silliman’s sister school.

The entire campus is flooded as Iloilo’s two major rivers overflowed. The water came so strong that it broke into the groundfloor of the Henry Luce Library and other buildings including the University Church. Also badly damaged are dormitories where most of the students were left with nothing but their bedroom attire that night. Followed by fluctuating electricity, the internet connection was down and then, panic buying by households led to lack of food for the dormitory residents. There was no water supply. (Days later, Dr. Doris Pulido had to go to the SM Traveller’s lounge for a 30-peso shower)

President Ben’s call which was also carried through text messages and by the radio stations in Dumaguete received immediate response. On that same day, the Alumni and External Office was kept busy receiving donations until 10’o’clock in the evening. The Silliman dormitories were the first to respond. More and more angels from the Silliman and Dumaguete communities responded with food and water supply, clothing and cash donations.

Silliman University teams have made two trips since then to deliver the needed help. The first team consisting of a cargo truck and the Silliman firetruck was led by Prof. Roy Olsen de Leon who is from Iloilo, this was a heart-wrenching return home for him. Driven to tears, he felt that everyone was a victim including his own family. With the shadow of depression all over, there was no welcome awaiting the Silliman angels except the thankful Drs. Gus and Doris Pulido who were there to coordinate. Silliman firetruck driver Virgilio Valencia described the layers of mud that covered the surface of the entire campus. His team which included two SU College of Engineering faculty, was the only working force that did the needed major clean-up for three days. Some work students of CPU were asked to report to assist the team but they could only handle the minor sweeping of floors. The Silliman team, on their own initiative, decided to ease the burden by cleaning out the thick layers of muddy silt on groundfloors of buildings, with water from the CPU swimming pool which the Silliman firetruck had transported. Another problem arose, however, when Iloilo’s primary water source threatened to overflow, and attempts were made to divert the water through a man-made hole. This led, however to another major flow which crested at a record flood level, engulfing every part of Jaro district where Central Philippine University is located. The flood that came from the watershed put an end to the Silliman team’s heroic attempts, they had to leave before the water would trap them.

Mrs. Carmen Larot Rio, a Dumagueteña based in Iloilo,waited patiently for the day when the water would recede this flood-ravaged city. With no potable water available, boxes of bottled water from relatives and friends in Cebu, Manila and Dumaguete helped her survive the long days. She texted me a message of joy when at 2AM on July 5 clean water was finally distributed at intervals by the city government. But the stressful week-long ordeal had her hospitalized.

The flooding that has inundated much of the Jaro district these last few weeks is not over, as the swollen tributaries continue to threaten dozens of communities. After the initial clean-up, the evacuations, the last-minute rescues and the days of anxious waiting for the water to go down comes the long road toward recovery.

A second trip was made last July 8 with 137 boxes of food and clothing which were received by former Bacolod mayor Hon. Joy Santos-Valdez who is the current president of the Silliman alumni group in Bacolod City. The Bacolod Sillimanians have taken the responsibility of bringing these boxes to Iloilo. More boxes of food and clothing are being delivered by individual donors, families and student organizations to the Silliman Alumni and External Affairs Office.

Dumaguete’s distinctive culture of giving is very much alive. We would like to thank all those who were a part of the very successful Silliman Sagip Iloilo Drive – a manifestation of the Christian love we all share.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hari ng Negros 2008: At The Homestretch

You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are! –John Lennon

Many are still talking about the outcome of this year’s Hari ng Negros pageant—especially since the expected winners did not make it to the Final 3. Disappointed fans of this very popular male beauty pageant in Southern Philippines are asking so many questions, with some even expressing very vocal complaints. Still, all these have to be taken as signs that this year’s batch of princes is really good. Many of these handsome and very talented young men did make major splashes on stage, and no member of the board of judges could be wrong in their choices for it was too easy to find good points to believe in in any one of the prince’s winning potential.

But then again, the organizers could have given the audience a set of formidable winners if this year’s pageant had, in the first, a well-defined set of criteria and rules. The last two portions, which were selections of the top 7 and the top 3, had interview results as bases for screening—and yet the announced finalists did not reflect the quality of the actual performance of the candidates during the question-and-answer segments. Could it be that some members of the board of judges insisted on only considering stage presence and visual impact? The audience’s judgment was on the quality of the answers since the last portions were about ‘intelligence,’ as effectively stressed by the host of the pageant, Hari ng Negros 2006 Mark Xander Fabillar. But in all actuality there is no use for all these insistent queries, for in every contest one steadfast rule prevails: the decision of the judges is final and irrevocable!

One of the strong bets who failed to make to it to the final 7 later on asked me for my own evaluation of his performance. He begged for it, telling me that my judgment will give him much-needed “peace of mind.” Thus, I’m encouraged to announce my own FINAL 7 (using my own criteria of criteria of 50% visual impact, 20% talent, and 30% communication skills). Here’s my take on the potentials of the seven noteworthy princes, arranged in an order of a royal march, with the one deserving of the title Hari ng Negros presented last:

Joseph Hornido, Prince of Guihulngan. This nurse from the City of Cabadbaran, was an early favorite because his communication skills in English truly reflects his potential as our country’s export to America. (I actually questioned why a pageant involving Filipino men in the Visayas would have to be in English). His Chinese-white complexion made him look like a Korean telemovie star. Somebody whispered that he resembles Rustom Padilla during the actor’s “straight” era. A lady insisted that he is more like AJ Dee of Philippine TV. He was struggling to shine in the portions that required skills of a dancer but he managed to call attention for he was always wearing the right combination of bright and dark colors to compliment his milky-white presence. His best moment in the pageant was when he asked Mr. Silay this question during the Top 7 portion: “How will you react if you are the father of a daughter who is involved in a sex scandal?” (Mr. Guilhulngan was awarded the First Runner-up title.)

Jay Cainglet, Prince of Sagay. Jay is the youngest candidate at 17 but he had the strongest stage presence. He is the one with the body of a Prince in an Asian fantasy film. He exuded grace and strength in the dance segments. He towers over most of the candidates, yet his innocent charm makes him “the cute boy” of the pageant. He needs to work on his voice quality for a more mature impact is needed in portions that require talent in speech. He was the bet who had much passion in every part of the show. His Best in Professionalism award was a perfect citation for it’s a wonder to see a young man who is a good listener and who has the heart of a good follower

Michael Angelo Cristobal, Prince of Dumaguete. This senior business student from Silliman University is definitely a Top 3 winner when it comes to face value. He has the appeal of a boy-next-door Latino. He is also one of the best dancers in the pageant. In fact, he won the rave dance grand prize. Although he has the tendency to give very long answers to simple questions, a good listener would know that this gentleman is actually very sensible. (Many were mad when his name was not called in the Top 7 honors, since he was actually expected to be in Top 3.)

Orville Cordova, Prince of Talisay. His facial appeal brings us a unique cross between American presidentiable Barack Obama and Asian filmstar Aniki—and yes, Obama is my new definition of enduring sex appeal, and Aniki is really among the most handsome Asian actors. Hollywood-oriented pundits will say Orville is too exotic. But Orville takes center stage with one of the best sculpted bodies of the pageant. His best moment was the all-out presence in the rave dance portion. His Oriental-inspired street fashion made him a star that night. Then, he captured all of us with one touching moment: Hollywood actress Emily Trempe, one of the judges, asked him the classic question on one’s fear and Orville confessed, “I’m afraid of my father. My fear is when I get to finally see him and he will not accept me as his son.” He made the audience cry. (Mr. Talisay was indeed worthy to be chosen in the Top 7.)

Carlos Ruiz, Prince of Silay. He may not equal the handsome presence of the former kings, but he has his own qualities that would have made him the effective upset contender for the major title— excellent communication skills, best smile, and a surprisingly handsome runway style. He deserved to win the Best in Barong (which went to Mr. Dumaguete) and he deserved to win the over-all Best Speaker glory (but that went to Mr. Mabinay). Listen to his answer to Mr. Guihulngan’s question with the sex scandal angle: “A father should not over-react. The daughter needs all the support with the psychological impact of the issue. I should lead my daughter to a spiritual retreat, for with God’s intervention, nothing is impossible.” Clearly, he was the man of wisdom in the pageant, and so, when he was not given the Top 3 honor, the crowd reacted. His manager actually made a violent protest (he had the plaque of recognition thrown at the over-all chairman of the event.)

Stalin Lescano Jr. , Prince of Bacolod. I was not surprised why some judges had to fight for him to be in the Top 3. This Best in Swimwear and Best in Tribal Attire winner is the most charming candidate – truly a rugged handsome prince. He projected a James Dean appeal. Stalin’s wisdom could have been heard better if only he was allowed to express it in his own language. As he struggled with English, his answers which were right sounded wrong. When he was asked to choose between fame and fortune, he started right with “Fame is forever,” but as he tried to expound, some of his points were lost. (Again, I have to stress that it’s culturally unfair to insist on having them express wisdom using a foreign language). The Prince of Bacolod was the most comfortable on stage – his pleasant projection was a gift of joy. (He got the controversial Second Runner-up title.)

Ralph Jansen Jadraque, Prince of Mabinay. On our way to Canlaon to watch the pageant last June 28, my friends had asked me to forecast the winner. With confidence, I told them it’s Mr. Mabinay. My basis was his performance during the speech improvement session I conducted for the candidates. Ralph has the down-to-earth subtle presence and what is endearing is his sense of humility. He was also the one with the consistently sincere smile. His appeal is that of a cute guy in a typical Pinoy neighborhood. He gave direct-to-the-point answers that led him to clinch the Best Speaker award which was based on the pre-pageant portion. In every segment, he always had the spirit of a winner. He may not have a strong physical feature of a typical title-holder but he is definitely handsome with boyish charm. His shining moment was when he walked down the ramp with his barong – the coolest guy of the evening, with an effortlessness that made him shine. His was also the truest voice of the pageant with his answer to the final question, “What is the legacy of the Hari ng Negros pageant?” Ralph’s cutting edge was this answer: “The legacy of the Hari ng Negros is tourism. This pageant is primarily an avenue to promote the tourism potential of Negros Island. This pageant also aims to bridge the gap between the two provinces, Negros Occidental and Oriental Negros. With this pageant, there is no Ilongo on one side and the Bisaya on the other. We are ONE ISLAND and we are all proud to be A NEGRENSE!” (Mr. Mabinay was crowned Hari ng Negros 2008.)