Saturday, January 2, 2010

UST Communication Arts student Celestino: A Pinoy teenager speaks to the world

JUST LIKE international award-winning speaker Patricia Evangelista, Communication Arts junior Vera Lorraine Celestino had been a Philippine representative to the international Soroptimist’s Violet Richardson Award for community service at the age of 17.

Celestino earned the right to represent the country in the 2005 award after ranking first in the national level and beating 16 other candidates from different provinces.
Celestino submitted her credentials to the headquarters of the Soroptimist in Cambridge, England where she competed with other young females from around the world in community service presentation. Although it was Tara Syed of Canada who eventually won, Celestino said she profited much from the experience.
“I still serve as one of the global voices for women and the underprivileged people,” she said. “Everyone can make a difference, no matter how simple his or her deeds, for the benefit of humanity.” The Soroptimist, founded in 1921 by Violet Richardson-Ward, means “best for women” in Latin. It is an international volunteer service organization that provides leadership opportunities to improve women’s lives. Among Soroptimist advocates were the late Princess Diana of Wales, who was known for her charity work for AIDS victims and for her pro-life Birthright foundation; and former president Corazon Aquino, the first woman president of the Philippines.
And now Celestino, at the young age of 19, is helping advance the vision of Soroptimist for strong women’s leadership.
When she won the Philippine led of the international award, Celestino was cited for her involvement in Cavite Institute’s Wishcraft, which raises tuition for children through the collection of recyclable materials.
“The award was a meaningful experience for me because it made a huge change on how I looked at life and myself,” Celestino said. “I’ve become more aware of the needs of people who have been deprived of their aspirations. I have realized that I could also help them in the best way I could.”
Through the support that she receives from non-government organizations such as the Rotary and Kiwanis Club, and from her high school mentors, Celestino helps children collect unused but recyclable materials like plastic or glass bottles, cartons and paper. A percentage of the children’s tuition is deducted depending on how many kilograms the students under the Wishcraft program collect.
Celestino’s hope to inspire the Filipina youth prompted her to try out for the Violet Richardson Award in the district level. Unexpectedly, she won and qualified for the national level. Her public-speaking skills, self-confidence, and congenial nature were a key in making her survive the contest. Given only 19 hours to prepare an essay consisting of 1,000 words, a Power Point presentation, and documentation of her achievements, Celestino was doubtful she could make it.
“I wasn’t even able to get a few hours of sleep and still had to present my work to the panelists after 19 hours. It was an hour and 30 minute ride from Cavite on the way to the venue in Manila for the national level. My coaches and I prayed with no expectations of winning,” Celestino said.
Ever since high school, Celestino has been very interested in social affairs. In fact, she was student council president during her senior year.
“A leader doesn’t only look into the horizon. He must think and understand as well what’s beyond it,” the Caviteña said.
She served her municipality when she was elected in 2005 as a Sangguniang Bayan youth councilor. Celestino got involved in Likhaan, a cultural program of the municipality for the performing arts. She said her work as a youth official developed in her patience and a critical mind.
Celestino has participated and won in various speech competitions within and outside her province. One of them was the UP Patalasanlahi, an annual competition on academics and the arts participated in by different secondary schools in the country. The speech competitions’ themes would usually concern social adversities in the country, which helped her gain knowledge on the needs of the people.
Although her family and peers expected her to take political science after high school, Celestino chose instead to take up Communication Arts in UST. Although she enjoys the fulfillment that public service brings, she now wants to venture into the art of communication. She believes that her current degree program will widen her knowledge on different ways of connecting with people.
“Politics isn’t the only way for one to be able to render service to society. Position is just one factor, but what’s really important is the willingness to serve without any expectation and being able to motivate others,” she said.
“I’m (advocating) for a more egalitarian and humane society through the art of communication,” Celestino explained.
Celestino joined a political party in the Faculty of Arts and Letters during her freshman year but eventually quit to concentrate on broadcasting. She became an active member of the Thomasian Cable TV where she is now an executive producer.
“The media play an important role in society. The power of information (comes in) different forms that can influence people,” she said.
Celestino said she believes that the Thomasian values of competence, compassion, and commitment direct the students to the right path.
“That’s the advantage of being young; we have more time for many good things to do for the world and we just need to work hard and be patient,” Celestino said. “God molds us everyday through the challenges that we encounter in life; we become more humble and responsible, and wiser.”

Movie and TV Director De Ramas - a Proud University of Santo Tomas Graduate

BEHIND the latest ABS-CBN teleserye, Walang Kapalit and other soap opera and movies that made an imprint in the mind and hearts of its televiewers is a former waiter turned film and television director.
Wenn De Ramas shares the popularity and honor to direct primetime soap operas such as Mula Sa Puso (1997), Saan Ka Man Naroroon (1999), Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan (2001), Bituin (2002), Buttercup (2003), Marina (2004), and Kampanerang Kuba (2005).

He also came up with laugh-out-loud movies which eventually become instant hits. Included in the roster are Ang Tanging Ina (2003), Volta (2004), D'lucky Ones (2006), Kapag Tumibok ang Puso (2006), and most recently, Ang Cute ng Ina Mo.

Making of a director
Life is a complicated script full of twists and turns. Wenn De Ramas knows this. What he is now is hardly prefigured by his 1987 graduation as a Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) student of UST.
At that time, De Ramas dabbled in events organizing, management strategies, and accounting, not film-making.
“Tourism and HRM were among the popular courses during my time. Sadly, things changed after the EDSA revolution,” he said.
But De Ramas does not regret taking HRM instead of a communication course.
“I learned management and accounting, which were my favorite subjects back then,” he said. “I have been able to apply these whenever I do production work since it deals with budgeting, supervising, and dealing with people.”
Known for his romantic Claudine Baretto soap operas and hilarious Ai Ai de las Alas comedies, De Ramas participated in short skits when he was in elementary school and was a member of the theater group in his high school. His passion for directing was further developed when he joined Teatro Tomasino, the official theater guild of UST, during his freshman year.
At Teatro, he immersed himself in learning the ropes of production such as lighting, directing, and even acting. “I also enjoyed working on props, make-up and costumes,” he said.
Aside from being a student and a loyal member of Teatro Tomasino, De Ramas was also a scholar of the University. Since his modest family could not afford his tuition, he had to maintain a high grade in order to retain his scholarship.
He shared one of his secrets on how he got through college life despite the seeming impossibilities: “I never bought any books that we needed in class,” he said. “I would borrow the books from the library, then return them in order to borrow the books needed for the next subject the following day.”
Being an HRM graduate, De Ramas applied as a waiter at the Aristocrat restaurant and worked there for two years. Although he was promoted to supervisor, he resigned soon after.
“I thought that it was time to resign because being supervisor meant that there was no other way up,” he said. “I had to move on. That was the peak for me at that job.”

True calling
From being a waiter and a supervisor in Aristocrat, De Ramas landed a job at ABS-CBN in 1990 after an old colleague from Teatro Tomasino recommended him as production assistant for the sitcoms Bistek and Abangan and Susunod na Kabanata. He has been with the network ever since.
“I was eventually trusted to handle the role of executive producer in a variety of shows which applied all the things I learned in UST like management skills, budgeting, and dealing with psychotic artists,” he jokingly said.
De Rama's said that in his directing, he is inspired by the late film directors and National Artists Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.
His lack of formal training in filmmaking was overshadowed by his vast experience in production and theater. In 1998, he directed his first movie, Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita, a drama topbilled by Rico Yan, Diether Ocampo, and Claudine Baretto.
De Ramas has proven his competence and flexibility as a director. He not only excels in directing television dramas and comedies; he has also achieved success as a film director.
“My mentors at ABS-CBN had intentionally trained me to do dramas in TV and somehow convinced me to venture into making comedies in the big screen,” he said. “It must have been really a calling for me because it has never crossed my mind to actually turn my passion into a profession,”
“I don't have a particular style when it comes to directing because it depends on the genre or story of the project,” De Ramas said.
Despite his flourishing career in show business, De Ramas said he plans to eventually go back to his first love and not let his degree in HRM go to waste.
“I plan to open a restaurant of my own,” he said. “But as of now, doing movies is my main priority.”
UST will always have a special place in De Ramas' heart as he really enjoyed his studies and extra-curricular activities in the University. He advised UST students to take advantage of what Thomasian education has to offer.
“I'm proud of UST and of course, Teatro Tomasino,” he said. “I loved my stay in the University and I am truly proud to be a Thomasian.”

University of Santo Tomas' music prodigy Reynaldo Reyes, a world-renowned pianist

WORLD-CLASS pianist Reynaldo Reyes has always believed that passion is the key to exceptional musicianship. It was this passion for music that led him to simultaneously attend UST High School and the UST Conservatory of Music and graduating at an early age of 17.

Reyes has always been a good student, although he never became an honor student. But he surprised himself when he decided to take high school and college.
During that time, students are still allowed to enroll in the Conservatory even without a high school diploma provided that classes are on private tutorial. Reyes even finished his Music subjects before finishing secondary school, but had to wait one year before he was allowed to graduate as minor subjects cannot be given until after high school. Being a high school and college student at the same time, he graduated from the University in 1950, Bachelor of Music.
After he graduated from UST, he continued his studies abroad, enrolling at the Conservatory of Paris where he won Premier Prix in 1957. The Premier Prix is a first prize title won in the year end-competition, a requirement for a music student to achieve before he is allowed to graduate. Upon graduation, he applied for his Master's degree and Artist's diploma at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland where he became a faculty member of the University in 1960. He was also named “Musician of the Year” by the University of the Philippines in 1957, 1961, and 1965—the only Filipino to be honored at three different times. In the international setting, he was a prize winner in three international competitions namely, the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition in Brazil, The Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy, and the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris, France.
Seven years after being indicted at the Peabody Conservatory, he returned to UST to receive the “Golden Cross Award”, the highest award the University bestows on its alumni for his contribution to music.
According to Reyes, his early education in UST contributed to his success abroad.
“One reason why I am very grateful to UST is because they managed to give lots of advance training for its students,” Reyes said. “I was part of almost all of the events at the conservatory so I had a very rich early experience as a musician which helped me a lot in Europe and the US,” he said.

Thomasian, Filipino, and proud
Reyes has been a Music professor at Towson University (TU) in Baltimore Maryland, USA for more than 40 years now. However, his tenure at TU does not deter his loyalty to his alma mater. He claims that he owes his education to UST, and feels that he has to give back something that the University will be proud of. Because of this, he is now using what he learned to benefit other people by using music as a medium of improvement for those who are mentally ill.
But apart from being loyal and grateful to his alma mater, Reyes also claims to be a nationalistic person. Although he has been living in the United States for 54 years, he says that he has never changed his nationality.
“I am still a Filipino citizen and will forever be. I feel that if I change (my citizenship), I will be selling my soul and gratitude,” he said.
Wanting to contribute to the progress of the country's intelligence, Reyes regularly comes home twice a year for three decades now at his own expense and time to talk about the importance of listening to classical music to students and rural folk, and since 2001, has performed free concerts and talks on the importance of classical music not only in terms of art and aesthetics, but also of education.
“Filipinos in general are not well informed enough,” Reyes expressed.
The effects of classical music on the brain are already known to First World countries, but unfamiliar to most Filipinos. Reyes believes that most Filipinos have a misconception about music as something abstract which only sounds good to the ear. For Reyes, many schools do not teach it because they are not aware that it can also be an objective avenue for self-improvement.
“Our officials are also not aware of the benefits of listening to classical music so our curriculum barely touches on that subject,” he explains.

Music for the brain
In a previous article from the Varsitarian, studies have proven that listening to classical music does not only nourish the brain, but can also help the mentally-disabled to improve.
Classical music is a good source of neurons, or new brain cells, which are continuously generated throughout one's lifetime. Moreover, classical music is also used as therapy for abnormal people, anesthesia for operations, and also therapy for the sick and the mentally-challenged.
Commonly known as the “Mozart Effect,” scientific research explains that the physiological, psychological, mental, and socio-emotional effects of listening to classical music are beneficial to patients because it regulates respiratory patterns, improves memory, and decreases tension.
There have been several cases wherein playing classical music to patients during and after surgery helped reduce the pain. A research by Drs. Kathi J. Kemper and Suzanne C. Danhauer from the Southern Medical Association reported that a number of vascular surgery patients showed decreased pain levels after a music session.
True enough, Reyes himself found improvement in his son who was initially diagnosed with autism when he was born. Now 25 years old, he initially couldn't speak until his father taught him to play and listen to classical music on the piano. Reyes' goddaughter who was mentally challenged also began to talk after five years of taking up music lessons.
His first efforts on putting the music therapy theory into use has benefited his family.
“My success, my ambitions and my energies to succeed stem from my family's ambition not to fail. We don't have to always emerge at the top, but we have to try to be the best. Learning does not stop with aging and improving is not hindered by age. It is hindered by lack of desire,” he said.

University of Santo Tomas Filmmakers

GREAT films are made up of moving pictures with much of the strips drawn from the inspirations and lives of the filmmakers themselves.

That's a grain of truth for Thomasian filmmakers Milo Tolentino and Brillante Mendoza whose distinct opuses echo much of their peculiar interests from the ordinary to extraordinary, whether personal or public.

Milo's mysteries
Tales of ghouls and goblins shaped the world of Communication Arts alumnus Tolentino—who has earned a name in making independent horror films—even when he was a kid.
Back then, Tolentino was an aloof kid who didn't play much with other kids his age as he would prefer to unwind at the backyard of his grandma's house in Lipa City, which overlooked a misty, serene river. Around this setting, his lola would tell stories about the supernatural, which roused Milo's interest in the netherworld.
“During those days, my lola never failed to mention about legendary fireballs, tikbalang (half-man, half-horse giant), and all those types of monsters in Batangas,” he said. “At first I was scared, but as she shared more afternoon stories with me, my fear of the unknown grew into fascination.”
Not only was Tolentino fascinated with the uncanny. He became a bookworm and developed a penchant for the theatrical arts. This enthrallment for the mysterious hooked him to Stephen King's best sellers and Steven Spielberg's blockbusters.
Fantasy stories and other forms of fiction transformed Tolentino into a fan of magic realism. He carried this obsession through high school and later on to his filmmaking career. Although Spielberg's fancy visual effects lured Tolentino's gaze toward the mystics, these did not make him readily fall in love with the film craft. Instead, Tolentino channeled his inclination to writing.
“I never imagined myself making a film,” Tolentino said. “The people around me saw my potential as a creative writer instead.”
On his sophomore year at UST in 1987, Tolentino joined the Varsitarian and was assigned to the News section.
“Since my style of writing was very descriptive, I felt really out of place as a news writer,” he said. “But although that's the case, I never lost touch with my literary forte.”
While writing news articles, Tolentino would contribute poems and short stories to the Literary section, as well as art critiques to the paper's Circle (arts, culture and media) page. He was promoted to Literary editor the following year.
“My first fiction short story was titled Dawn to Dawn, which was very much like the theme of my second Cinemalaya short film Orasyon,” he said. Both of his creations deal with the agony of ageing, as he was nostalgic of his grandmother.
While helping edit the Varsitarian, Tolentino was also an active member of the Salinggawi Dance Troupe, which granted him a scholarship. He was also the musical director of the Artistang Artlets and a member of the AB Enrolment Committee all at the same year. Tolentino managed the pressure of handling four extra-curricular activities simultaneously. In fact, he said he prioritized his non-academic affiliations over his academics.
“UST gave me venues that made my talents more mature and more visible,” he said.
Right after college, Tolentino worked as a junior copy writer for ADSystems where he previously had his on-the-job training. While into mountaineering, Tolentino embarked on photography with the prodding of his colleague, former Varsitarian photographer Roderick Javier. Within two years of taking images in black and white, Tolentino was able to put up two major exhibits, Earth Spirits and Heavenly Bodies, which both had fantasy themes.
As a freelance photographer and a mountaineer, Tolentino also contributed travelogues to the Women's Home magazine where he worked with Manila Times journalist Tess Pacheco-Mapa. With much admiration for Tolentino's writing and photography, Mapa boosted Tolentino's enthusiasm for filmmaking. Tolentino soon enrolled in several film classes in the University of the Philippines in 2003.
“When I knew that I could enroll for a post-graduate course in film, I took the opportunity and indeed, it was worth it,” he said.
Majority of Tolentino's preliminary projects were flavored with the horror genre. Faithful to his childhood fascination with the eerie, his first short film, Buog, which he began filming as a student, featured a ghost. Tolentino competed in Cinemalaya in 2005 when his second short film, Alimuom, about a murderer's agony over the reappearance of his victim's vanished cadaver, became a finalist. Although he did not bag the Balanghay trophy for the best short film, Tolentino was ecstatic.
“My priority was just for my film to be screened and be appreciated by people in Cinemalaya since I think it's the best venue for launching indies,” Tolentino said.
Alimuom was followed by another thriller, Orasyon, in 2006, which was also a Cinemalaya contender. The 30-minute monochrome feature tells about a pious widow's vulnerabilities with the arrival of a nosy, meddling housemaid. This time, Tolentino took home the grand prize and earned the respect of colleagues in the field.
“Even before the awards night came, Orasyon was an early favorite for the top prize, which really surprised me since it was the least likely to win, being in the horror genre,” Tolentino said. The film was also screened in the first UST CineVita film festival last March, for its theme on faith and care for the elderly.
Tolentino's roster of films includes his experimental project featuring hermit crabs in Pagudpud Beach titled Uwang-uwang: The Hermit Chronicles, and his Cinemanila workshop short about the feet, titled Apak. Recently, Tolentino submitted his reedited, three-minute feature, The Boy Who Loves Flowers, to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco), which granted him funds after his story was selected last year. Tolentino was the sole Southeast Asian filmmaker included in UNESCO's top 10 grantees. He is also currently working with the production company, Studio Indio.
Now, Tolentino is keeping his fingers crossed on his latest short film, Kanlungan Sa Impyerno, for the Cinemalaya 2007.
“Just like Orasyon, we shot Kanlungan in Lipa too,” Tolentino said. “I really hope it would fare well to be a finalist in this year's Cinemalaya.”
The brilliance of Brillante
Thomasian indie film director Brillante Mendoza loved surveying his environment. It's as if everything that surrounds him holds a story to tell. The most vivid of these images were those he encountered during his bus trips back home from UST.
“Whenever I took my bus ride home, I made it a point to look on both sides of the vehicle: the glass window where I witnessed the nostalgic sights from the highway and the center aisle where I observed my co-passengers,” he said. “As I gazed upon these characters, I was already inventing stories at the back of my mind.”
Mendoza is a true-blooded Kapampangan. In fact, his three films, Masahista (2005), Kaleldo (2006), and Manoro (2006), were all shot in the scenic plains and spots of Pampanga.
“Besides the fact that I grew up in San Fernando, there were really a lot to observe about Pampanga,” he said. “Pardon my biases, but Pampanga is really picturesque even after it has gone through disasters such as the deluge of lahar (volcanic ash fall).”
Mendoza entered UST in 1979 as an Advertising student. Throughout his four years of stay in the University, he impressed his professors and peers with his dexterity in the visual arts by winning numerous intercollegiate art competitions year after year. Aside from these, what made Mendoza's sojourn in UST most memorable were the times he spent with his colleagues such as Egay Litawa and the late Tatus Saldana, who both became line producers for films.
“I will always cherish the bonding we had during those days when we had to beat deadlines and spend overnight group works just to finish our art plates,” he said.
Mendoza pursued a Master's degree in Advertising at the UST Graduate School after he graduated from the old College of Architecture and Fine Arts (Cafa) in 1983. But he discontinued his studies after he discovered his interest in TV production.
“My friend, Cafa professor Rey Maniego, encouraged me to join a film class organized by Ateneo De Manila University and the Mowelfund Institute,” he said. “That was when I met director Peque Gallaga whom I believed gave me the break in the film industry as an art director for Virgin Forest.”
Fresh from his filmmaking classes, Mendoza became Chito Roño's production designer for the director's first film, Private Show in 1986. Other movies where he aided in production design were comics-inspired films such as Baleleng at ang Gintong Sirena in 1988 and Valentina in 1989.
Mendoza has also worked on TV commercials. His latest commercial is the Smart mobile phone ad featuring Sam Milby, Angel Locsin, Dennis Trillo and Anne Curtis. To date, Mendoza has been a production designer and art director for nearly two decades.
“Although most of the time exhausting, I had so much fun doing the creative background for these movies and commercials,” Mendoza said.
During his stint as a production designer, Mendoza used the name “Dante” for himself. Back then, he felt the name “Brillante” was a very common name.
“After Masahista competed in Locarno, Switzerland, I used again my real name which was actually an advantage for my film to be more recognized by foreigners, especially the Hispanics, who have a clue of my name's etymology” he said.
Masahista took home the Golden Leopard Award, the top award in the digital competition of the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. After the victory, international distributors in Europe started mailing Mendoza to buy the rights for commercial reproduction of the movie. The erotic but socially sensitive movie about a young Kapampangan masseur was also exhibited in other five international film festivals such as in Toronto and in Belgium.
Meanwhile, Mendoza's short film Manoro bested six other competitors in the local digital film category for the best film award in the 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival last year. Manoro also served as the opening film for the first UST CineVita film festival for its multifarious take on the Ayta indigenous community, literacy, and education.
Mendoza has his own production company, Center Stage Productions, which produced Siquijor: The Mystic Island (2007) and Mel Chionglo's Twilight Dancers (2006). In all the movies that he has produced and directed, Mendoza has always wanted to convey his reflections of honesty and truth.
“Whenever I make a film, I always remain faithful to the truth,” Mendoza said. “For me, it is important to translate reality on to the screen for the audience to realize the truth.”
Mendoza has recently finished his fourth full-length movie, Foster Child, which stars Cherry Pie Picache and Jiro Manio in a story about a mother's bitter struggle to have her child adopted. Foster Child was screened in the Director's Fortnight of the Cannes film festival on May 17-27, only the second Filipino movie to be featured in the important Cannes program introducing to the world new directors. The first Filipino director to be featured at the Director's Fortnight was Lino Brocka–in 1978, when “Insiang” was screened in Cannes.
Mendoza is again filming another movie, Tirador, which deals with the lives of small-time snatchers during the election season.
Both Mendoza and Tolentino share their sentiments on the growing industry of films in the digital and video format.
“It's great to know that there are film festivals in the country that aid in the commercialization of independent films and the separation of the high-quality stories from the substandard ones,” Tolentino said.
“For as long as you have the right subject matter for film, embedded in an honest, well-woven storyline, the format should be the least of your worries,” Mendoza said.
According to these two Thomasian directors, aspiring filmmakers should take note of three values when crafting a film: sincerity, passion, and dedication.
“When I make my films, my whole mind, body, and soul are very much drawn to the whole process,” Mendoza said. “That is why after bringing my films to their completion, a distinct kind of fulfillment seeps into me.”
With several years more ahead of their budding careers as filmmakers, both directors promise more unconventional stories and stirring ideas in the future.
“I haven't thought about and made my dream project yet, and I'm not going to stop filming until I do so,” Tolentino said.

Seven presidential bets troop to UST

FOR THE first time since the filing of their candidacies, seven presidential hopefuls trooped to UST along with their supporters to face each other in a forum last December 2.

Former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, senators Benigno Aquino III and Richard Gordon, former president Joseph Estrada, Olongapo councilor John Carlos de los Reyes, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, and evangelical preacher Eddie Villanueva answered questions from students and personalities in “Harapan,” the presidential forum organized by the ABS-CBN News Channel, UST, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, and the Commission on Elections.

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar backed out at the last minute, according to news anchor Ted Failon.

Questions ranged from light ones such as “What vice or luxury can you not live without?” to those asking their opinions on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's bid for Congress, political dynasties, the Maguindanao massacre, and the reproductive health bill.

Two bets—cousins Teodoro and Aquino—appeared to have softened on their support for the population bill. Aquino did not say whether he would vote for it, but pointed out that the government should help parents decide on the number of children, and that the Church has a role in educating couples.

He noted that the population had doubled in the last 20 years. “We cannot deny the problem.”

Teodoro said the state should not have an active role in controlling the population, and that there was no need for a reproductive health bill.

“It is the moral responsibility of those who don't want legislation to control population, to do it themselves in the way they think is moral,” he said.

Gordon proposed to renegotiate with the country's foreign creditors, to free up the budget for more spending on social services.

Many of the candidates hit Arroyo for seeking a congressional seat in Pampanga to stay in power.

Teodoro, the candidate of Arroyo's party Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said he would “do the right thing” as president in response to a question on whether Arroyo as House speaker would have a negative effect on his administration.

On the Maguindanao massacre, candidates blamed President Arroyo for tolerating warlords in Mindanao, but Teodoro said the real issue was lack of money to strengthen the police and military.

De los Reyes, running under the Ang Kapatiran Party, said: “Kung hindi pinadrino 'yan ni President Arroyo, hindi 'yan mangyayari,” referring to the brazen slaughter of 57 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last November 23.

Partido ng Masang Pilipino candidate Estrada, who played the crowd, said: “I will not tolerate warlords in the area. If I were president, they would all be arrested in 12 hours.”

The debate happened four days before the proclamation of Martial Law in Maguindanao, which drew flak from lawmakers, who questioned its legality as there was no rebellion in the province. President Arroyo lifted the declaration on December 12.

Asked by the Varsitarian whether he would do ban so-called political dynasties, Liberal Party bet Aquino said the term “political dynasty” should be defined first, and that acts rather than personalities should be the basis so as not to restrict people from being in government for having the same surnames.

Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas Party said he would exercise “moral and righteous” governance and won't allow relatives to abuse power.

“I would automatically resign in case my immediate relatives commit corruption or crime against the government,” Villanueva said.

The auditorium was filled with around 800 people, most of whom were supporters of the candidates. Prominent political figures such as Ernesto Maceda, Partido ng Masang Pilipino spokesperson, and Bayani Fernando, Gordon's running mate, were also present.

'Presidential alumnus,' barred

Ernesto Ramos, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of the Philippines and alumnus of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (now Arts and Letters), said he was “barred” by ushers of ANC from entering the Medicine Auditorium to join the forum.

“I feel there is discrimination here. It was my first time to step again in the University after almost 30 years of stay in America. I feel that I am not welcome in my own alma mater,” Ramos, who graduated in 1960, told the Varsitarian at the sidelines of the forum.

Ramos, who tags himself as “The Alternative Leader,” said he was a speech writer for United States Rep. Carrie Meek in Washington, D.C. before he decided to “come home.” Danielle Clara P. Dandan

UST researchers enter global tilt finals

THOMASIAN researchers were named finalists in the Global Development Awards and Medals Competition 2009 for a research proposal dealing with the impact of the economic crisis on overseas Filipino workers.

The proposal titled “Crisis-generated Socio-economic Coping Mechanisms by Overseas Filipinos” by Alvin Ang, director of Research Cluster for Culture, Education and Social Issues, and Faculty of Arts and Letters professor Jeremaiah Opiniano, bested over 140 participants across the globe to become one of the three finalists in the competition together with researchers from Brazil and Uruguay.

This marks the first time in 10 years that Filipinos made it to the final round of the contest.

Ang and Opiniano were nominated for the Japanese Award for Outstanding Research on Development category, with the theme “International Migration: Crossing Borders, Changing Lives?” The merit is given to “exceptional, on-going development projects that have given maximum benefit to local communities and need further financial assistance to scale-up the project.”

“Our research aims to determine how overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are coping with the impact of the global economic crisis on their jobs, income, and family welfare conditions,” Ang said.

The study will discuss how OFWs in Taiwan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) were dealing with the economic meltdown. Taiwan and UAE are countries which have the highest number of displaced workers in the electronics sector.

Ang said the study would focus on how the government could provide medium- to long- term responses to the prevailing economic crisis.

“In a situation where the Philippines remains dependent on overseas employment and remittances, the crisis will still see no end until the government responds,” Ang said.

Just last September, OFW remittances reached $12.8 billion, a year-on-year increase of 8.6 percent, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed.

The final round will be held at the Global Development Network's Annual Conference in Czech Republic from Jan. 16 to 18, 2010, where finalists will present their proposals before a jury.

Joining Ang and Opiniano in the finals were “Regional Impacts of the Global Economic Slowdown in Trade Flows: the case of Brazilian states” by Gilberto Libanio (Brazil), and “Survival of Uruguayan Manufacturing Firms in a Trade Openness Process” by Dayna Zaclicever (Uruguay).

University of Santo Tomas : Youngest Civil Law dean appointed

COMMERCIAL law professor Nilo Divina is the new dean of the Faculty of Civil Law, starting his tenure as the youngest dean of the oldest law school in the country in the second semester.

Divina, 44, took over officer in charge Augusto Aligada, who replaced former dean Roberto Abad who was appointed to the Supreme Court last August 10.

Divina said his objective is to put UST in the top three law schools of the country during his three-year term.

“I know it's a gargantuan task, but it can be done,” he said.

To do this, Divina has set a three-point agenda. “[These are]: improving the roster of faculty members, improving the Civil Law facilities, and recruiting the best students not just from UST, but also the best from all over the country,” he said.

In the recent listing of the Commission on Higher Education, UST was ranked 7th among law schools nationwide based on the bar exams passing rate. But Aligada, in an earlier interview, dismissed the listing as “inaccurate” since it lumped all law schools in one listing without taking into account the number of lawyers they produced.

Aligada cited the case of the newly established La Salle-Far Eastern University MBA Juris Doctor program. It placed fourth because of its 77 percent passing rate, with 24 bar takers passing the test. UST, meanwhile, had a lower passing rate of 51.81 percent, but was able to produce 100 new Thomasian lawyers.

Divina said his office would coordinate with the Office for Alumni Relations to attract “well-meaning” patrons and friends to raise funds.

“Coupled with a scholarship grant, it would be easier to attract the top students from all over the country to enroll in UST if you have the best faculty members and the best facilities,” Divina said.

Moves to establish the Center for Commercial Law started under Abad's tenure will have to wait, he said.

“Bobby (Abad) had laid the groundwork for the establishment of a commercial law center. We will continue that. But first, my priorities are fixed on my three-point agenda,” Divina said.

Divina also plans to put a website for the faculty, which would serve as a legal search

By Darenn G. Rodriguez