Mrs. Elsie Ansalan-Elum

Mrs. Elsie Ansalan-Elum

Tucked away in the Electronic Library of the Medical School is one akin to a tribal princess.

Mrs. Elsie Ansalan-Elum, the librarian to Silliman’s future doctors, is the granddaughter of the first Subanon tribe chieftain in Barangay Mandih of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte. Her people are among the first settlers in the Zamboanga peninsula area. 

The name Subanon means “river people,” as her ancestors originally lived along riverbanks in the lowlands. Disturbances and competition with other settlers pushed the Subanon people further into the interior. Since then, they have thrived by cultivating farm lands. 

It comes as no surprise then that both Elsie’s parents were themselves farmers too. Their house was built on stilts in the middle of their family rice fields. Her family also raised livestock including pigs, chickens, and cattle.

Life in the farm lands start at dusk. In fact, her father would start doing roll call of all 12 sons and daughters at 3 o’clock as it marked the start of their day. All chores had to be done by six in the morning so that they could get to school on time. The nearest school was seven kilometers from home, which took an hour to travel by foot. 

Elsie’s passion to help those in need landed her in a course that trained her to do exactly that. She enrolled under the Bachelor of Science in Social Work program at the then Zamboanga State College, now the Western Mindanao State University.

Her life was forever changed during the summer of her freshmen year when Dr. Hubert Reynolds, an American Presbyterian missionary and former faculty member of the Sociology-Anthropology Department in Silliman, visited their tribe in Mandih.

Dr. Reynolds was in search of a Subanon baby in a photo taken years ago. The infant in the photo was Elsie’s younger sister.

The good anthropologist had traveled far to offer that baby a scholarship to study college at Silliman University. Elsie’s parents only agreed in one condition: that Elsie accompany her sister to Dumaguete city as her chaperone.

Elsie and her sister arrived in this city in 1978. Her sister enrolled under the University’s Social Work program, while Elsie signed up for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, following the advice of her aunts. She was a scholar under the National Integration Scholarship Grant Program. 

Unfortunately, Elsie had to drop out of school after her third year in college due to financial considerations. She chose to give way for her sister’s school requirements and board exam expenses. 

It was about this time that she met a charming young man named Alberto Elum Jr., whose friends shared the same boarding house as she. He often visited to play music with his friends. Their common love for music brought the two together into a friendship which quickly blossomed into romance.

Elsie and Alberto tied the knot in 1984. Their union bore five children: Clint Jones, a family man; Rossan Britche, a 2nd year Computer Engineering student; Phoebe Deborah, a 1st year Information Technology student; Octzen Burt, a 3rd year Agriculture student; and Roosevelt Jig, a 4th year Library Science student. 

Three years into their marriage, Elsie decided to seek employment to help augment the family income. The Silliman University Medical Center (SUMC) was hiring nursing aids at that time. With three years of good nursing education up her sleeve, Elsie applied for the post and took the qualifying exam. She passed with flying colors, having been listed among the top five highest scoring examinees. Elsie was officially on board the SUMC team in 1987.  

Administrative changes at the SUMC in 2000 got her reassigned to the post of Office Assistant at the Circulation Section of the Robert B. & Metta J. Silliman Library. Eight years into the job, with much prodding from her colleagues at the library, Elsie pursued studies in Library and Information Science in 2008.

She juggled her school requirements with a full time job at the Library while raising her five kids. But with hard work and commitment, Elsie earned her degree in Bachelor of Science in Library and Information Science in 2014. That same year, she took the Licensure Exam for Librarians and passed. Months later, she was appointed Librarian at the Medical School 

Though far from home, Elsie remains a true Subanon at heart. She echoes her people’s values and virtues in everything she does. She also hopes to honor her roots as she completes a book about her tribe and her people in her hometown in Mandih.  

Describe yourself in three words.
Firm yet flexible.

What is your motto in life?
“Whenever I can, I will.”

What makes you laugh?
Anything funny. 

What makes you cry?
Abuse and injustice.

What’s your favorite time of the day and why?
When I get home from work, because that’s when I get to relax.

What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Sunday, because there’s no pressure to wake up early and it’s the only time I get to spend quality time with family.

What do you love doing when not working?
Read mystery novels.

What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
Main Library.

What makes you blush?

If you were an actress, who would you be?
Jennifer Garner, especially in her role in the TV series “Alias”.

Tell us a fact about yourself.
I’m Subanon.

What’s your favorite game growing up?
Shatong” and “koro

What is your idea of a relaxing day?
A day spent with friends and family without worries and pressure.

What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I have a heart problem that’s why I try not to stress myself.

What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
I can’t think of any particular song. 

What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
Thank God for giving me another day.

What’s your idea of a family?
Family is not limited to central members. It can include those whom you are not related to by blood, as long as you get together and enjoy each other’s company without any feeling of discrimination.