Mrs. Araceli C. Tan
If Max Ehrmann has his way, we shall speak our truth softly yet without any uncertainty. As does Araceli C. Tan, the longest-serving Silliman University Staff Association (SUSA) president, at the Board Room or the Chemistry Department office, arguing with the administration panel for additional staff benefits or helping out clueless students who seem to have forgotten their lab instructor’s name. Or in replying to the “chika” questions of the wannabe writer from the Office of Information and Publications.
Having served SUSA for 15 successive years, Araceli has learned to “go placidly amid the noise and haste” while fighting to advance the cause of the staff union. She has mastered the tricky art of moving forward toward specific goals while fending off criticisms and demands left and right. Strong-willed and straight to the point, she was never defeated in SUSA elections since 1998. At present, a new leader is taking her place; she is retiring by the end of the year. She still sits though as member of the SUCCI board and in the Working Committee of the Cultural Affairs Committee.
A native of Amlan, Negros Oriental, Araceli traces back her 39-year Silliman odyssey to humble origins. She first came to the university as a working student at the Office of the Registrar and Admissions, where she developed her no-nonsense work ethic. As she herself describes it, back then her waking hours were hectic, and all she did was work, attend classes, then cook at home – ad infinitum (even ad nauseum), till the day she graduated. She had no time for extra-curricular activities, not even to join sports, because as a working student she had to catch up with her classes when not on duty and do the marketing and cooking for herself and her three sisters who were also studying in college.
After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, she was hired by the very same unit where she served as a student assistant throughout college. Four years later, she came to realize that the work at the Registrar’s Office, particularly at the Current Records, was too voluminous and terrific (in a back-breaking way) for her taste. It was just her luck that she had already known Atty. Riodil Montebon, then Human Resource head, and her request for transfer was duly entertained. To cut the story short, coincidentally, there was a vacancy at the Chemistry department.
As a student, her greatest achievement was graduating as a working student. As a staff, being elected president of SUSA for 15 consecutive years (from 1998 to 2014), a record stint that had never happened in any Silliman union history (and probably will never happen again). As a mother, her greatest triumph is having sent her two children to school, giving them the fullest education in Silliman. She also sent the daughter of one of her tenants through college at a neighboring state university.
As SUSA president, Araceli never had it easy. When she took over SUSA’s reins, there was no ex-officio officer to orient her on what to do or what expectations came with her new position. She had to put up with union mates who seemed to know better or who always found something missing whenever the SUSA leadership came out with their Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal. Sometimes she felt she was being arrogant for making all sorts of demands, that at some point she was already getting on the nerves of the administration. But then she would tell herself that it was all good because she was doing it for a just cause. As those in the know put it, such springs of misery come with the territory.
As all great leaders know all too well, life at the top is as lonely as it gets. To Araceli, however, no challenge or struggle is greater than her desire to make the living and working conditions of the university’s non-academic personnel better. And indeed, under her leadership, SUSA was albe to work with the Administration for better benefits for the staff. She was also instrumental in securing from the Department of Labor a livelihood grant package for the members of SUSA.
These days, Araceli thinks that her day-to-day mission is to finish her tasks as best she could. At the end of the day, after “the noisy confusion of life” at the office, she goes home to her children and her plants in peace, fulfilled in knowing that she has done what she had set out to accomplish.
Describe yourself in three words.
Strong-willed. Honest. Frank.
What is your mantra in life?
Enjoy life and live it to the fullest.
What makes you laugh?
Friends. Funny events.
What makes you cry?
What’s your favorite time of the day and why?
Morning, because I’m well-rested after a night’s rest.
What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Friday, since I can rest in the next two days.
What do you love doing when not working?
Chat with friends (in person, not on YM, FB or Skype). Do some gardening.
What is your favorite hangout in the University?
What makes you blush?
When I get angry.
If you were an actress, who would you be?
Sharon Cuneta, because she feels for the poor.
Could you tell us something about yourself?
Sometimes I can be so taray (feisty).
What was your favorite game growing up?
Swimming as a kid, basketball in college.
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
Fantasizing about getting rich.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I watch TV late at night until I fall asleep.
What song makes your day?
“Usahay” by Pilita Corales, who seems to haven’t aged; in fact, she’s blooming.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
Water my plants (but not the flowering kind ha).
What’s your idea of a family?
The family should be groomed.