2019 OSA recipients highlight importance of service

2019 OSA recipients highlight importance of service

As the six 2019 Outstanding Sillimanian Awards (OSA) recipients thanked Silliman University (SU) in their response speeches during the OSA convocation, Aug. 28 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, they also challenged the University and the Silliman community to extend their service, as a way to allow more people to experience Silliman education and to reaffirm its commitment to the development of the society and environment.

Family, community, service

“Silliman education has provided me with a firm foundation to navigate the world in competence, character and faith, but more importantly, in courage, perseverance, compassion and a deep commitment to service,” said Atty. Myrish Cadapan-Antonio, OSA recipient in global leadership development.

In her speech, Antonio paid tribute to Silliman University’s (SU) “most important gifts” in her life: family, community and service.

“Being raised in a Sillimanian home and being married to another Sillimanian, where the values of integrity, humility, hard work, equity, inclusion and kindness permeated my every day, significantly gave me the courage to venture outside of my comfort zone, to test boundaries, to blaze trails, to make mistakes and succeed; to make more mistakes, and succeed,” she said.

The communities Antonio found in Silliman, she said, “provided her a venue for learning, re-learning and un-learning,” and awakened in her a deep commitment to social justice and human rights and in creating “a free and equitable world, especially for those who are underserved and underrepresented.”

She also gave credit to the kindness, mentorship and support of communities that “only the Silliman spirit can sustain.”

“Such support has inspired me to open doors for others, to build a bigger and more inclusive community, especially for Filipinos in the US,” said Antonio, who is based in Massachusetts as the director of fellowship and leadership of Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership.

Antonio also shared how her experience as a student leader in the SU student government taught her the power of volunteerism and its ability to drive change.

“For as long as I can remember, Silliman always instilled in us the importance of giving back…The type of service that Silliman teaches is genuine and selfless. It does not count the costs, it does not depreciate the nature or size of the task, does not seek for acknowledgement or recognition. It is the type of service that just gives and continues to give even if it hurts; that leads and follows. It is the type of service that I have seen in so many Sillimanians,” she said.

Great responsibility

 “This award…demands great responsibility to live our lives in ways that, despite inevitable human frailties and weaknesses, [we] continue to affirm the founding principles, purposes, spirit and faith of this great university,” said Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, OSA recipient in environment and academic leadership.

However, Malayang said certain challenges such as climate change can make it difficult to uphold the virtues and values of the University.

“Climate change…has been creating unfamiliar new normals that have been wreaking havoc on the familiar old ways…and education, long defunct of our aspirations to keep elevating ever higher dignity, humanity and capacities of our civilization, is being assaulted by the new laws in our social, economic and political discourse…Whenever the power of rationality is pulled down with irrationality of power, education quakes and cracks at its core,” said Malayang, who served as SU’s 12th president and undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

While the responsibility of exemplifying Silliman values would “not be easy,” Malayang said it could still be done.

“As long as Silliman and institutions like Silliman would continue letting in and enter its portals of opportunity for great knowledge and Godly wisdom, and let out through its gates of service, young men and women staunchly committed to live justly, love [mercifully] and walk humbly with God, the world will then turn for the good rather than for the bad,” he added. 

Giving back

“This [award], for me, is not a culmination but a commencement of things that I would rather do in life: to share my knowledge for the betterment of my home country and my hometown,” said Moses L. Alcala, OSA recipient in applied environmental geology.

Alcala shared his experience as an environmental consultant in New York and New Jersey, and as a Licensed Site Remediation Professional, “performing the work of many professionals, all rolled into one,” such as a regulator to ensure compliance with government regulations; a consultant to property owners; and an environmental engineer who designs and implements systems that clean up the environment, among others.

“As an environmental geologist with training and experience in the US, I aim to help and improve the quality of life in this country in whatever small ways I can. One thing I’d like to preach is that we should never take for granted our natural resources which many other countries don’t have or don’t have enough of,” he said.

Even though Alcala spent his college years in University of the Philippines where he obtained his BS Geology degree, he said his “heart always belongs to Silliman.”

“I have Silliman to thank for providing wholesome Christian education and for molding me professionally and spiritually. My Silliman experience has made me what I am and has guided throughout my career,” said Alcala.

Shared vision

“Through the years, I realized that when the vision comes together with a need, the dream ceases and becomes a reality…Let us continue sharing our knowledge, sharing our time, and sharing ourselves since in giving, we receive more,” said Dr. Jonathan C. Amante, OSA recipient in medical services development.

Amante, founding dean of SU Medical School (SUMS) who led its establishment, said that for some years, the medical school was only a “dream” until the work to establish the SUMS started in 1997 until its opening in 2005.

Establishing medical schools, he said, is a “stimulus” to the improvement of healthcare delivery. Amante’s plans, however, did not stop after the establishment of SUMS.

“These are my advocacies: creation of training program, establishment of our medical school, then finally, [to] provide a state of the art hospital, a better place for graduates to practice,” said Amante.

Many graduates of SUMS, said Amante, work in local hospitals in the province, but he said there needs to be more places where doctors can practice.

“These number of physicians, after finishing their trainings both in community referral system and hospital practices, must have a place to practice. This can no longer be accommodated in our present system, therefore one of the solutions to address this need is a providential opportunity for me together with few others to set up a new hospital system with state of the art facilities. So when all our graduates come back to serve, we have a place to practice, and more importantly, they can call their own,” he added.

Amante has led several initiatives in the Negros Oriental and neighboring provinces, such as the first Accredited Residency Training Program in Internal Medicine in SU Medical Center (SUMC) and Holy Child Hospital, and the Allied Clinical Experts (ACE) Dumaguete Doctors Hospital, aimed to help solve the lack of hospital beds in present hospitals in Dumaguete.

“I’m happy because what we completed, we were able to help…our patients and doctors alike. So, I leave this into the younger hands who are still in the sunrise of life….I have done what I have to do together with those who shared my vision,” he said.

Faith-based service

“Silliman University, especially the Divinity School and Silliman Church…have taught me the meaning of service that is faith-based and Christ-centered, hence, I am forever grateful,” said Rev. Dr. Al B. Fuentes, OSA recipient in conflict transformation and peace-building.

Fuertes, an associate professor of peacemaking and conflict resolution at George Mason University in Fairfax and covenant minister of the United Church of Christ in Wellspring, Virginia, has worked in conflict areas in the Balkans, East and Central Africa, all over Asia, Canada, and the US.

“As I receive this award, the faces and images of communities and people who have helped me understand the nature and dynamics of conflict and conflict-transformation and healing, are becoming once again present to me,” said Fuertes.

While it can be “sorrowful” in his field of expertise, Fuertes said his journey has been “celebrative” most of the time, as he journeyed with others and as he tries to be “constantly mindful of the presence of God and where God has been actively working” in his life and the lives of others.

“At times, my journey has been sorrowful, especially when it brought me to places that have been affected by war, armed conflict, human violence and natural disaster…I have experienced many obstacles and challenges along the way, but one thing I know: My God has never left me helpless and hopeless. This Outstanding Silliman Award is one of the many blessings that I received at this journey,” he said.

More to give

“I realized how fortunate we are to be students and now, alumni of Silliman University, a University with golden gates of opportunities. Let us share these golden opportunities to the less fortunate, disadvantaged, the poorest of the poor, but most deserving students,” said Dr. Leonilo B. Oliva, OSA recipient in educational service.

Oliva, director of scholarship of University of Cebu, said SU alumni can sponsor scholarship programs in the university as a way to give more people the opportunity to study in SU.

“Yes, we (SU alumni) have the number. We have the God-given capabilities and resources to undertake this project (scholarship program)…For it is written in the Holy Bible, in Luke 6:38, that we will never run out of anything to give…in the more we give, the more we will receive,” said Oliva.

When Oliva was a working student in SU, he said his days in the university were “filled with difficulties and challenges” because he came from a poor family.

“I became a working student at the same time a houseboy in faculty houses in Silliman University. With time, I built some castles in the air. I imagine myself as a recipient of an award from the same university. Today, that seemingly impossible and unrealistic dream became a reality,” he said.

(Photo by Heaven Gocotano, SU Camera Club)