Sunday, July 03, 2011

Teogenes V. Magdamo: Builder of the peace spirit of home

By Moses Joshua Atega • Sun, Jun 26, 2011

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. 
-John F. Kennedy

This wisdom of a leader who believes in the value of peace as a working force in building foundations of enduring legacies became the world’s greatest inspiration.

It is the same inspiration that was totally echoed in the life of Silliman University’s hardworking leader Teogenes “Tatay Tony” Villanueva Magdamo.

The testimonies of Sillimanians from all over the world when Tatay Tony passed away on Father’s Day in 2010 recalled the many endearing ways he helped build peoples ‘lives. All tributes gave a portrait of a working peace- builder.

This SU College of Engineering dean had been hailed as the “builder of the peace spirit of home”.

His ways were of sure calculated steps but always with humility. When he assumed as dean after his graduate studies in Syracuse University, Tony Magdamo established a reform agenda.

He believed in a doable goal “to engage in the intellectual and spiritual formation of rational, sentient human beings who can use the great reservoir and genius of scientific analysis and technology in bringing about a world where man can truly be at home….”

He encouraged everyone to work for excellence and achieve a golden era in the history of the College of Engineering (now College of Engineering & Design). He gave his best in the teaching of Hydraulics and Strength of Materials.

Under his leadership, Silliman enjoyed excellent years of Engineering education. All three programs -- Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical -- consistently obtained a 100 percent passing rate in board examinations with a good number of topnotchers.

Dean Magdamo was noted to be a strict disciplinarian but sensitive to the welfare of the faculty, staff and students.

At one point, he recommended for promotion as faculty member one talented shop assistant/staff, the decision of which gave the worker greater opportunities for progress.

There was one school year when some foreign students tried to force Dean Magdamo to delete the requirement for study of the Bible in the Engineering curriculum. But the Dean stood strong in protecting the ideals of a Christian University.

Even a dear relative attempted to use “family relations/connections with Tatay Tony” to fix a son’s poor academic performance at the College. But the Dean in Tatay Tony persevered; he stood strong in abiding by University rules.

Dean Magdamo was determined in laying down the necessary foundations that have actually enabled Silliman to produce graduates who were above the usual cut of Engineers.

He built linkages with institutions in Australia and Japan, that gave the University wider horizons for technology advancement.

Graduates of the SU College of Engineering who passed through the strict training of Dean Magdamo were known for their ability to resolve conflicts, make instant solutions, and to express themselves clearly with excellent communication skills; and for their leadership potential, distinctively characterized by their creativity in setting directions amidst challenging times.

The University alumni tracer study shows that Engineering graduates of the 1980s are currently occupying leadership positions in their respective fields.

Indeed, they have become living profiles of Dean Magdamo’s definition of the Engineering profession: “to create processes and structures within our physical and spatial world that would advance man’s control of his environment, and thereby, realize his greatest potentials as a human being.”

One successful alumnus, Benjo Camins, affirmed Dean Magdamo’s leadership style: “He led…so magnificently… the Silliman College of Engineering is what it is today not by accident but by design, and its designer practiced what he preached.”

Dr. Levi Oracion also concluded that Dean Magdamo “…lifted his college to high levels of excellence.”

Beyond his Engineering College, there were students in campus like me who were only too lucky to have Dean Magdamo as our Tatay.

He was always a loving and caring mentor to us who families were in far-away Luzon or Mindanao. We were friends of his daughters, and co-builders of campus events.

Every now and then, we would run to the Magdamo home when we needed comfort and comforting, as we were confident and secure that Tatay Tony and Nanay Nilda would, as always, treat us like their own children.

I personally became close with Tatay Tony and his family as I was Meda’s classmate, a co-officer at Silliman Church, and in our Psychology Society. I was also working with Tatay Tony as I was one of the student representatives in leadership crisis meetings. Then I was able to work with Tatay Tony again at Silliman Church where he was an Elder and chair of the Pastoral Call committee.

More of his builder wisdom was evident in the discussions they would make as Elders of Silliman Church. I witnessed how the views of Tatay Tony were always well-respected, and how his influence affected many important decisions. His was the generous sharing of a builder’s wisdom so valuable in a period of crisis, and in mentoring youth leaders.

Inspite of the very demanding role as dean, and at one point, part of the three-man force as University officers-in-charge during a leadership crisis at Silliman, Dean Magdamo remained the bankable family man.

He was always inward-looking when faced with matters affecting the home.Coming from a traditional Protestant family orientation, with parents as pillars in the United Chuch of Christ in the Philippines in Digos, Davao del Sur, both his parents were naturally Sillimanians also -- allowing Tatay Tony to bring this spirit of home to build peace within and beyond his household.

The Silliman job was never financially-rewarding, but Tatay Tony found ways to always be a good provider, and brought the family’s financial stature a bit beyond what was just sufficient.

This he did by his natural acumen in real estate investments. With some properties acquired, Tatay Tony made sure that land disputes would never be a source of discontent in the Magdamo household. He made concrete steps so that every member of the family had a share to bank on.

Opportunities to develop a property were well-explored, and new discoveries were generously shared with everyone who needed it.

Every wisdom that worked at home was borrowed by friends, and some projects included borrowing Tatay Tony’s direct supervision.

The sharing was always with willingness that stemmed from the heart, as it was Tatay Tony’s passion to see properties acquired, and homes built -- becoming shelters of peace and progress.

The Moving Variations, one of the most successful dance groups in Dumaguete in the 1980s had Tatay Tony to be thankful for. That’s aside from the fact that it was his daughter Mae who was the gelling factor that kept the group solid in all challenges.

The Magdamo home at the Silliman campus became the emotional shelter for the dance artists. With or without engagements, the Magdamos were always there to ensure that all things needed were made available. Beyond the long dance career, the Magdamo home was always the enduring rendezvous even when the family moved on to a subdivision out of the campus.

The new home in Bantayan became Tatay Tony’s pride and joy, and he shared the spirit of a peaceful home with everyone. The Bantayan Barangay Council in fact, recognized this with a Model Family award for the Magdamos.

Tatay Tony was always willing to be there for us from the airport to any point of the home he built. I have called it my own peace shelter.

In fact, when I had to make a major decision to work at Silliman after getting my degree, it was the simplicity of the Magdamo home that became my inspiration.

Thinking of this spirit of home at Silliman gave me a sense of security, and made me see the things that really mattered.

Meda tells me she is forever thankful to her father who became the anchor of her marriage to withstand all challenges.

Tatay Tony was the faithful and loving grandfather to Joshua and Isaiah, standing in as the kids’ loving parent when Meda and husband Gino had work far away from home.

I remember one day when Tatay Tony asked me to join him in taking my godson Isaiah to school, and I was amazed how every little expression of intelligence from the child made him very happy.

It is also very easy for Joshua to become emotional when asked to talk about his grandfather -- who was always there for him. Joshua promised never to forget his Lolo’s legacy of love and faithfulness.

This overflowing love, however, always came with a sense of discipline, as Tatay Tony had a unique way of telling straight-to-the-point without hurting. Even with his own daughters, a reprimand was always muted in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Nanay Nilda was always the one precious gem in Tatay Tony’s life. He was so fond of asking artists to paint portraits of his lovely wife.

When asked why of all the men, she chose this humble man who loved basketball, Nanay Nilda just smiled and proudly expressed, “Tony was the perfect gentleman.”

Looking back, one would realize that the “home” was not just the wooden swing, or Mae’s room, or the kitchen table always laden with food that it became everyone’s favorite part of the house.

Home was Silliman distinctly defined by the welcoming heart of Tatay Tony anytime of the day, and any season of the year. There were a lot of memories in that Silliman home that he built – sweet memories of peace that we can easily embrace even beyond Tatay Tony’s lifetime.

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