Assoc. Prof. Michele Joan D. Valbuena
She is a woman who doesn’t want to just stand in one corner and wait for events to unfold. Undaunted by criticisms, she continues to display a positive disposition. She stands firm on her principles, and fights for what she strongly advocates for.
Assistant Professor Michele Joan D. Valbuena, “Bing” to many, is a cause-oriented lady. She is among the faces on campus who carry on the battle of women against violence.
“I was already an activist at heart while growing up. There were so many norms that I questioned,” she says of herself.
Being a girl, there were a number of things that Bing was forbidden from doing. Among them was being active in sports. “I wanted to be involved in sports but I couldn’t, and it was because those were ‘boys stuff’ and I am a girl.”
In that period of her life, while she questioned decisions that did not favor what she wanted to do, Bing had not been able to concretely define gender biases. It was not until she was already in the University that she made sense of gender-based discriminations.
It was former Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann who exposed her to the women’s movement. “That was when I realized that every girl, while growing up, experiences a lot of discrimination, abuse and victimization in any form,” Bing shares.
From that time on, she built within her an active consciousness about the need to address gaps in the appreciation of gender, particularly of women. A faculty at the Psychology Department, she organizes Gender Consciousness Week and the more popular V-day, a global movement that relays stories of abuse, pain and suffering of women across the globe.
While naturally strong and independent, Bing attributes her view of life and how she can live within and with its complexities to her parents.
“In so many ways, my parents taught me how to decide for myself and be on my own. They taught me to really stand for what I believe is right,” she says.
Bing's mother is a teacher, but she never dreamt of following in her footsteps. “I saw how she had to make lectures and check papers. And that was something I never thought of doing.”
However, when she was already in her senior year in college, part of the requirement of the course was for her to be a student teacher. That provided Bing a glimpse of what takes place in a classroom from a teacher's perspective. When she graduated, she applied as a graduate teaching fellow at the Psychology Department. That experience changed her: “It was then that I wanted to experience teaching because it is what I wanted to do.”
Bing obtained her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Silliman University in 1997. She holds two graduate degrees: MA in Psychology major in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (Silliman, 1999) and Master’s in Humanities major in Women Studies (St. Scholastica’s College, 2006). She is currently taking her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Sports Psychology from the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.
Bing admits that she has a congenital disease which forbids her to be involved in strenuous activities. But such condition has not affected her passion for sports. And this connection to sports has inspired her to pursue a related field of study that would allow her to examine sports beyond simply being a game.
According to Bing: “Sports is a very powerful tool in making people better especially the young ones… If we put more effort into what we do, it helps us become better individuals. We are able to solve our personal problems. And it disciplines us and teaches us how to be responsible.”
Let’s get to know Bing more.
Describe yourself in three words.
Brave. Activist. Inspired.
What is your mantra in life?
Be kind to everyone, be kind to the world.
What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh – just all sorts of things, little things for other people may make me laugh. …Just cracking jokes, being around with my nieces and nephews, talking to old friends and remembering some embarrassing moments. There are so many things that make me laugh.
Cry – when other people tend to be rude when they are not supposed to be rude, and when friends don’t treat you well. Primarily when you get hurt by people whom you think least would.
What’s your favorite time/day of the week and why?
Anytime. When I feel very productive, I feel so very productive at that time. There just times when I feel lazy. Just anytime of time of the week, anytime of the day. Sometimes, I love Mondays, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I like Fridays, sometimes I don’t.
What do you love doing when not working?
Watching movies, all sorts of movies. Reading all sorts of stuff.
What is your favorite hangout place in the University?
The office, it’s a nice place to be in as long as there are no crazy people.
What makes you blush?
If you probably ask me this 10 years ago, I would talk about some crushes, Now? …When I get excited about something that is really beautiful, something I haven’t experienced before. Maybe that’s adrenaline just rushing to my head and making me blush. Sometimes in your excitement, you can’t shout, so you just have to hold it in.
If you were an actor/actress, who would you be?
Tell us a fact about yourself?
I know I am brave — sometimes, it’s hard.
What’s your favorite game growing up?
Patintero and bulan-bulan.
What is your idea of a relaxing day?
When I don’t need to meet deadlines, no pressures. And when I wake up really late.
What one thing would people be interested to know about you?
I don’t really know. I have a lot of friends, I’m talkative to my friends, and my close friends know so much about me.
What song best describes the YOU and the life you have now?
“I’m Every woman” by Donna Summer and “Footloose” by Kenny Logins
What is the first thing you do right after waking up in the morning?
I drink one liter of water, a way for staying healthy.
What’s your idea of a family?
Family is when you have people who support you.
(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.)