Dr. Reynaldo Y. Rivera
If Silliman takes pride on being a campus by the sea, no one had a better view of it from the opposite side than this senior professor who at a young age worked himself out of poverty as a porter at the Dumaguete pier.
Studying in the University was part of a dream that he hardly thought would ever materialize. Sleeping by the gate of Silliman University located in between Guy Hall and the Administration building during his free time while working as a porter in 1969 was the closest that he got to Silliman.
But sheer determination, and the opportunities afforded him by at least two individuals, ferried him into the campus — this time, as one of Silliman's own.
Dr. Reynaldo Y. Rivera is the Dean of the School of Public Affairs and Governance (SPAG). Once trusted with only luggage as a porter, he is now among those consulted on matters involving strategic planning, curriculum packaging, and the development of critical thinking. Two of the academic units in the University that he helped establish are the Institute of Rehabilitative Sciences (formerly Physical Therapy Department) and the Medical School. . He also conceptualized the establishment of SPAG in 2007 with the help of colleagues, and now co-conceptualized the proposed School of Agro-Industrial Technology.
While others shun the mention of poverty, Rey draws strength from it. He was already working at a very young age, helping his parents make ends meet. His father was a household tailor, while his mother was a housewife. The harsh realities that confronted him and his family did not, however, hinder his perseverance and commitment to finish school. Even his siblings imbibed the same motivation — all of them are now professionals, with one currently serving as a trial court judge.
“While waiting for the ship to arrive — and since I hate gambling and drinking — I would stay at the gate in front of the Silliman Church and sleep. And I never realized that in just one roll, I would already be inside Silliman,” Rey recalls.
The love for education was strongly in the brew within him. His chosen field of study and area of specialization sprang in large part from the influence of the reading materials that he busied himself with.
“Even before I was able to study in Silliman, I was already reading philosophy books, economic books, the life of Jose Rizal, and most of all, the life of Andres Bonifacio,” Rey shares.
An opportunity came for him to realize his longtime dream of entering college in Silliman when he met two of those he considers as among the important persons in his life: Mrs. Letitia Du, who offered him a job away from the public market (where he was handling cargo after working as a porter), and now Vice President for Finance and Administration and former Dean of the College of Business Administration Prof. Cleonico Fontelo, who assisted him with his studies.
Rey took up Political Science in 1974. Barely able to finance his expenses, he served as a work student and, after school, did chores at a carenderia (food stall) owned by Tiya Pinyang. His work at the carenderia covered his meals and lodging in Dumaguete, since their house was in the neighboring municipality of Bacong.
“All these experiences prepared me for real work,” he says.
Immediately after graduation in 1978, Rey accepted an offer from Dr. Luz Ausejo, the late Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, for him to work as a teacher under the supervision of his mentors, Dr. Teodoro Cortez, Dr. Salvador Martinez and Ambassador McArthur Corsino.
In 1987, he was appointed Assistant Registrar and Admission Officer. A year after, he became University Registrar and Admissions Officer. This was three years after he obtained his degree of Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of the Philippines. Within the same period that he was Registrar, Rey completed two other degrees: Master of Arts in Philosophy (2003) and Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy (2005) from the University of San Carlos, under his German adviser, Fr. Heinz Kulueke.
When SPAG was established in 2007, he became its first Director, a position that was later changed to Dean.
As a teacher, Rey takes care of his students and sets a good example to them.
“I love my students and I love to teach. Transferring knowledge is life!” he says.
According to Rey what he learned in philosophy made him understand, analyze, integrate and find a way to make everything work practically.
“My philosophy deepened my faith in God and my relationship with other fellows in the community. It also strengthened my sense of nationalism,” he shares.
Rey is married to Esther, the clinical unit supervisor – medical ward and ICU at the Silliman University Medical Center. They are blessed with three children: Shiela Rae, Karina Mae and Khristian Rei.
Let us get to know Rey more:
Describe yourself in three words.
I have the humility and drive to listen. And I have the faith to help me accomplish assignments. And I focus on priorities.
What is your mantra in life?
Commitment to my clients and serve them with compassion that is deeply rooted to our Christian faith.
What is your favorite time/day of the week and why?
Between 10AM and 1PM — That's when I feel I can produce more.
What do you love doing when not working?
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
Four offices: SPAG, Philosophy Department, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Internal Audit.
What makes you blush?
When I am not understood.
If you were an actor/actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself.
I was a village fisherman and raised hogs and poultry when I was a little kid.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
I don’t usually play but I love watching baseball. My favorite teams were the Yankees and Boston.
What is your Idea of a relaxing day?
When I am at home with my family.
What one thing people would be interested to know about you?
People always ask me how I became a professor, a Dean and a Registrar being just a nobody in the community before; in fact I was humiliated and rejected a number of times. However, it gave me the endurance and humility.
What song best describes the YOU and the life that you have now?
“The Eagle” and “I have a Dream” by ABBA.
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
I attend to the laundry with my wife and cook breakfast.
What is your idea of a family?
A family is just like a very small community that is highly collective, bounded by love and faith for all members. It is where mutual sharing, adjustment and understanding are nurtured.
(NOTE: “Colleague of the Week'” serves as a window into the life of the faculty and staff members of Silliman University. It seeks to showcase colleagues from different departments and units, and present them as “the” faces that form part of the foundation of Silliman. Featured weekly are faculty and staff who have committed themselves to providing members of the Silliman community a campus experience that cultivates competence, character and faith within one and all. We get to know them as people who like any of us also have their fair share of challenges, successes, and an inspiring story to tell. Not all of them may be popular, but not a single one of them lives a life without hope and meaning to share.)