Thursday, August 14, 2008

The 107th Founders Day Theme

The true test of the… ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.


Many of today’s speeches are inspired by the call of the new icon from America, presidentiable Barack Obama. In fact, when the initial meeting was called for Silliman’s 107th Founders Day theme, I reviewed some of the lines that he has uttered that truly made an impact. Hope on the possibility of a major societal change is rekindled with Obama’s “yes, we can!” call. Even the “In Christ, I Can!” theme of our University Christian Life Emphasis week is inspired by this call. And so were the discussions on this year’s Founders Day theme. With President Ben S. Malayang III’s final touch, the 2008 FD Committee headed by Prof. Carlos Plaridel M. Magtolis has chosen , “Silliman Education: Its Global Reach And Relevance” as theme of the 107th Founders Day.

It’s a theme that calls for a global direction. It is actually not something new to Silliman University for on its first year of operation as Silliman Institute in 1901, the classroom already had an international flavor. Aside from the Filipino students, the teachers were the American missionary Laura Cooks Hibbard and her husband David who was the Founding President. Later, there were two Chinese pupils from Jolo and a female classmate, Ethel Peed, from the home of an American local official. By 1910, a student from mainland China enrolled and two others from Bangkok in addition to students from the Chinese families of Cebu, Manila and Zamboanga. The Sultan of Jolo and all the other prominent families from Mindanao sent their sons here. Then, more American children joined as Dumaguete became a central Missionary station. There was no time in Silliman’s history when the international flavor was not present. Silliman University was and will always be an institution with global reach.

The school year 2008-2009 opened with 8,456 students enrolled, a slight increase in enrollment over last year’s figure and the result of more students enrolled in the Basic Education program this year. We have students from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The international population include students from Australia, Canada, Mainland China, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tibet, the USA and Vietnam.

Our alumni have entered through the Gate of Opportunity and many of them went beyond the Gate of Service. And beyond, they have maintained “global reach and relevance.”

Our alumni are our best advertisement, not just for Silliman but also for Dumaguete. Wherever they have come from, all of them think of Dumaguete as home. We are all proud of the following alumni who have made a global impact: Silliman University’s Peace Resource Center founder Dr. Al Fuertes who is the recipient of the 2008 George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award; Vice President and Senior Agency Director of Manulife Philippines Bellaflor Ledesma de los Reyes who is recognized for her outstanding performance in the corporate field and who received a 2007 Star of Excellence award at a recognition Dinner in Toronto; Macarthur "Mac" F. Corsino who took his oath as Philippine Ambassador to Cuba on June 19; and 1989 Outstanding Sillimanian awardee in the field of Medicine Dr. Eusebio C. Kho, who received the 2007 PEACE Humanitarian of the Year award from the Philippine Economic and Cultural Endowment, based in Oklahoma City. Dr. Kho has traveled far and wide giving medical assistance to the depressed areas in El Salvador, Jordan, Kuwait and the Philippines.

We are also as proud of the 2008 Outstanding Sillimanian awardees: Northern California’s Rev. Francisco “Frank” J. Beltran in the field of Specialized Ministry, Southern California’s Efren A. Cordura for inventions in package engineering (he will give a lecture on Package Design on August 14-10 AM at the Silliman University Audio-Visual Theater 1- the event will welcome the local manufacturers. Please contact the College of Engineering and Design for details.); New England’s Ester P. Timbancaya-Elphick in the field of Education; our very own Dr. Marjorie Evasco in the field of Creative Writing; our country’s Father of the Alternative Dispute Resolution and of the Katarungang Pambarangay Atty. Alfredo Flores Tadiar; and in the Community Health Service, we will honor Dr. Romulo G. Villanueva of National Capital Region of the USA.

O’er in high place or in lowly,

Fortune sends us joy or pain.

To our love for dear old Silliman,

Loyal shall we e’er remain.

Friday, August 01, 2008

BEAUTIES from my Hometown: The City of Cabadbaran

I want to be a person who makes a quiet difference.
- Ali MacGraw

For this week’s piece, I beg the reader’s indulgence as I write about the beauties of my hometown, many of them my close kin, of whom I am understandably proud. Silliman’s 107th Founders Day had seven beauties vying for the Miss Silliman crown on August 25 and one of top 3 winners is from my hometown.

The City of Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte had its charter celebration last July 28. In the many gatherings that I have attended, I loved that moment when I was with my own sisters, Joan Mita and Prosperity May. They were talking about their freshman year in Silliman University and how they were lured to join the Miss Silliman pageant which they had never done with their lack of self-confidence.

Joan came to Dumaguete in 1970, the year when the film Love Story introduced a new movie icon Ali MacGraw. Joan could not believe that a beauty from Mindanao could actually be noticed in this University Town where people were calling her as the “Ali MacGraw of Silliman.” As a Social Work student, she was chosen to represent the College of Arts and Sciences in the Miss Silliman pageant. The high school beauty queen of my hometown thought she would never find the courage to be in Dumaguete’s most prestigious pageant.

Prosperity May grew up being called by our father as “Miss Philippines.” Our late father would always introduce her as the most beautiful among his daughters. In our town, May also became Miss High School, like Joan. When she came to Dumaguete in 1973 as a college freshman, she was right away exposed to public attention when she was chosen to be the muse for the June 12 Independence Day city parade. The Dean of Students had chosen her to grace the parade and be the muse on the Silliman University float in the absence of the reigning Miss Silliman. Two months later, the dusky beauty from Mindanao was chosen to represent the College of Business Administration in the Miss Silliman pageant, but she felt that she wasn’t talented enough to do justice to the honor.

May’s daughter, Kara Atega Delgado, who was crowned Miss Cabadbaran in 2006 was recently crowned as Miss Silliman Headline Girl. She represented the College of Education in the 2008 Miss Silliman pageant. May was happy to hear the news on Kara’s selection. The proud mother and her sister, Joan came to Dumaguete on August 23 to witness the one who became something like a “blast-in-the-past-which-they-never-had.”

In 2001, it would have been my
niece Annaliz Atega who could have realized the old possibility when she was crowned as the Miss Centennial of the College of Education. But her busy schedule as a senior student teacher never gave her time to be in the search for Miss Silliman Centennial. Annaliz joined the Miss Cabadbaran and Miss Agusan Tourism pageants after her college graduation and won the two beauty titles in 2002.

In 1946, my father’s cousin, Patria Obsequio was crowned the first Miss Silliman. In Patria’s 2001 speech during the search for the Miss Silliman Centennial, she shared a vivid recollection of her selection: “'My story begins in June of school year 1939-1940, when I arrived here, a trifle shy but anxious to start my college education. For my parents, there could be no other school but Silliman. They sent five of us to this institution.
I was registered as a resident of Oriental Hall. It being my first time away from home, I thought I was going to be homesick, but I didn't because everyone was friendly, going out of their way to make life pleasant... In 1946, the Student Government sponsored a beauty contest which was actually more of a popularity contest. Important consideration was focused on academic grades which were scrutinized at the Registrar's Office. The selection committee inquired about our extra-curricular activities. There were no interviews, no measurment of vital statistics, no parading around in swimwear. Had there been specific contest rules followed to the letter, I would not have made it to first base. Students cast their votes at the Silliman Bookstore. After the votes were counted, results revealed that I garnered the most votes so I was then declared winner.... Our roommates were jubilant over the results. They were excited hunting gowns for us to wear during the proclamation at the Assembly Hall. A kind friend, Mercedes Mijares, loaned me her evening gown with a three-tiered skirt. During a simple program that evening, I remember vividly Henry Nicolas presented me as Miss Silliman 1946 after which he gingerly pinned the sash on me. There was no crown or coronet, no scepter, no cape not even a bouquet of roses. Yes, only a sash but it made history!'

Beyond Patria’s glory as the first Miss Silliman, our family is always associated with beauty pageants. The most popular family member who won national beauty titles was our first cousin, Veronica Atega, a pioneer in the Bayanihan Dance Company. Veth was crowned Miss Fil-Am Queen of the former Subic Naval Base on the fourth of July in 1961. Her crowning made headlines for with the honor came, as she expressed in a Philippine Daily Inquirer feature last year, “… a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet—and hold hands—with famous Hollywood actor Paul Newman who was my escort.” Veth became a favorite cover girl of magazines like the Philippine Free Press and she was also the cover girl for many of the Bayanihan albums. She was also crowned as Miss Philippine Air Force.

The 1996 Binibining Pilipinas-International Yedda Marie Mendoza Kittilstvedt is the granddaughter of my father’s sister, another Miss Cabadbaran, Basilisa Atega-Kittilstvedt. Yedda was a Camay Girl at the age of 15 and was 1st Runner-up in the Philippine Supermodel search. Yedda is now happily married to Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the present1st District Congressman of Leyte.

Basilisa's sister Prosperidad was also a Miss Cabadbaran title holder including their sister-in-law Adela, mother of Veth Atega.

In 1981, Miss Cabadbaran 1980 Jocelyn Sanchez was crowned Miss College of Business Administration and was first runner-up in the Miss Silliman beauty pageant. Joy married Nilo Bobon of Pamplona, Negros Oriental and is now a very successful entrepreneur.

Two Miss Cabadbaran beauties married two prominent members of the Amante family in Agusan: Congressman Edelmiro Atega Amante married Rosario Malbas, a Miss Cabadbaran who became Mayor of the town just like the first woman mayor of Cabadbaran Basilisa. Edelmiro's nephew Dr. Ferdinand M. Amante married Ivy Oga, a Miss Cabadbaran who belongs the prominent Calo family.

1973 Miss Journalism Marian Lim who was second runner-up in the Miss Silliman pageant is also from Agusan del Norte. Her sister, Nilda Grande was a Miss High School in Cabadbaran and was crowned Miss Agusan Tourism in 1976. Marian’s two daughters, Tonette who was Miss Engineering in 1996 and Ana who was Miss Arts and Sciences in 1996, followed their mother’s footsteps; both won the second runner-up title in the Miss Silliman pageant in their respective years.

Beyond my hometown, we take pride in the Miss Silliman title holders who are from Mindanao. A beauty from Basilan, Carlisle Dans was the first Miss High School to win the Miss Silliman crown in 1973. We have four from Davao: Leah “Jingle” Sibala in 1978, Jean EscaƱo in 1980, Pia Francisco in 1986 and Celynne Grace Echevarria in 2000. Dapitan City produced two queens, Jean Ramoga in 1988 and Yvonne Forster in 1995. Cherokee Dawn Esguerra of 1996 is from General Santos City and Jenny Ortega of 1999 is from Pagadian City.

The City of Cabadbaran and the province of Agusan del Norte are also home to the following who have become part of Oriental Negros’ line of beauties: Estrella Cabrera, the mother of Governor Emilio C. Macias II and wife of the late Congressman Lamberto L. Macias; Margie M. Calo who married the Hon. Doroteo Teves; Evansuenda Oga who married today’s Chamber of Commerce leader Ernie Quiamco; Agnes Cecilia Gogo-Carballo of AGC Lending Investor…. With or without a beauty title, there is one definite source of pride: many of our women have made their own valuable “…quiet difference.”