Mrs. Blanchie M. Utzurrum
Physicists and cosmologists agree, the universe is shaped in great part by an attractive force we call gravity. It may be the weakest among the four fundamental forces of physics, but its reach is furthest and holds sway over all objects that have mass even through the vacuum of space. Without it the universe will disintegrate, the galaxies will unravel and the stars will drift away on separate ways like lovers who finally discover that they were never meant for each other. But another sort of gravity determines the shape of one’s personality, and it comes with a name only scholars of endangered languages could love. The ancient Romans called it Gravitas, sister virtue of Pietas, Dignitas, and Virtus and the very quality that lends credence to any pretense of depth and substance. And Gravitas might as well be the middle name of Mrs. Blanchie Utzurrum, the one-of-a-kind secretary of SAITE (School of Agro-Industrial and Technical Education).
Silliman by orientation may be a Christian institution unified by its motto of Via, Veritas, Vita, but it is also a university run by a bureaucracy that by nature is replete with forces that do not always traverse the same trajectory, a bastion of academic freedom where everyone is free to say nay to a certain degree, where immovable objects eventually collide but never budge, where imaginary battle lines are drawn on imagined battlegrounds and imaginations go blank or draw a blank when imagining intersections, where in the end the ultimate agreement is to agree to disagree. It is on this mimetic minefield of made-up mindsets that Blanchie tiptoes, placing her steps at the exact narrow gaps between tripwires that may explode at the slightest perturbation. And just as the universe itself is fine-tuned for certain constants and conditions, she has honed her discretion to such a point that she can walk back and forth across the divide without setting off a conflagration.
If on the day of reckoning reincarnation turns out to be something more than just a Hindu delusion, that indeed the myth of our existence is a story rehashed over and over again in infinite variations unless stymied to a halt by the hand of enlightenment, then maybe somewhere in eternity Blanchie was a tightrope walker whose sense of balance is made more impeccable by the strength of her personality. But then again perhaps she’s just had plenty of practice, as she is wont to set her friends in separate compartments as far as she can remember, and in time she got adept at dealing with each group without compromising the others, especially those that are in ill terms. In college, she had study group friends, God-matters friends, hangout friends, out-of-town adventure friends, dress-to-the-nines-and-paint-the-town-red friends, and even what she calls basta lang friends. She’d go out with each group in turns, depending on her mood or the occasion at hand, and rarely did she introduce members of one group to those of another.
Or maybe it’s something she developed from her experience in working with all sorts of volatile personalities, sometimes with opposites that are so polar apart that never the twain shall meet. Although she is a native of the city of Cagayan de Oro, the man she decided to spend the rest of her life with is from these parts, so she followed her star to Dumaguete and found herself eventually in Silliman. For 12 years she worked as secretary at the university church, for which she counts herself lucky to have served under pastors whom she considers as true shepherds of Christ. It is partly from them that she got her charm in dealing with even the most difficult people, as well as her ability to steer clear of issues that will just ruffle feathers and entangle her to one side or another. For all the balancing act that she does to keep an open line to parties on both sides of the fence, she might as well be a UN diplomat on a constant mission to douse out the sporadic wildfires that blaze among nations that do not see eye to eye.
Blanchie was raised a Catholic and got her education from Catholic schools. In fact, she got a loyalty award from Lourdes College (formerly Lourdes High School), her hometown alma mater, for studying there from prep school to high school. She went to college at Xavier University (aka Ateneo de Cagayan) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in History. At present she is taking up MPA units in her spare time to raise her pay grade, and from being a “not hardcore Catholic” she now considers herself “very Protestant.” She did a Martin Luther when she married her husband, Federico of the formidable Utzurrum family, with whom she’s blessed with four kids: Bonfilia Emille, Federico Jr., Emmanuel and Rafael. She has been with SAITE since it opened in June 2013 and currently sits as member of the board of SUSA and the Board of Deacons of Silliman church. But to many of her friends and acquaintances, her most precious asset is her own self, particularly her seeming ability to make no enemies and to light up everyone’s mood even on the darkest of days.
To paraphrase that otherwise silly love song from a group whose name would have saved Marie Antoinette’s neck from the guillotine: if one by one the stars would all wink out, extinguished by the actual application of the principle of mutual annihilation, chances are Blanchie would still be out there, unscathed and bubbly as ever, shining brightly like Dr. Cesar Ruiz Aquino’s sun.
Describe yourself in three words.
Strong-willed. Trustworthy. Sparky.
What is your mantra in life?
“Everything happens for a reason.”
What makes you laugh?
As a newbie granny – Luke Xanti, my grandbaby.
What makes you cry?
Dealing with my children’s struggles.
What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Friday, because I can stay up late and not worry about waking up early the next day.
What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Sunday. This is the time when the whole family gets together at the big house to celebrate and update each other.
What do you love doing when not working?
Watch movies non-stop.
What is your favorite hangout in the University?
I just stay at the office, and my friends usually come to visit me.
What makes you blush?
If you were an actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself?
I am very hardworking.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
When I’m not doing anything in particular and I’m just going with the flow.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I get along with people very well, even those on opposite sides of a long-running conflict.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
I don’t really listen to particular songs. Mostly I just have music as a background when I’m working.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning (excluding morning rituals)?
Plan the things I have to do for the day while sipping my coffee.
What’s your idea of a family?
The family sticks together through thick and thin.