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Taking Her UP Education to Heart: Story of a true blue Iskolar ng Bayan May 17, 2011

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“Somebody has to stay here and man the fort to make sure people are healthy. Give up the dollars, the prestige. Maybe that’s how UP molded me. UP has given us so much and the country expects so much from us in return. It’s really about being an iskolar ng bayan. Some people have forgotten that. That’s the UP spirit: not just brains, but also a big heart and the hand to serve”

This is a very inspiring story of reflections and insights from a true blue Iskolar ng Bayan which is worth emulating; hence, this repost.

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

ALTHOUGH Gert Gwendale Baron graduated with a record-breaking final grade at the University of the Philippines in 1982, she practically forgot about the accomplishment after receiving her diploma and delivering the valedictory speech.

For the unassuming eye doctor, grades, with the tedious decimal points that may make or break records, are not really the measure of a person.

What matters, she says, is the heart for service and love of country that one shows in and out of school—qualities that UP teaches every graduate.

“The GWA (general weighted average) is just a measure of being a good student. But does that make you a good person? Does that make you a productive member of society?” said Baron, who is married to Rene Reinoso, Inquirer’s senior vice president for sales and marketing.

“It’s all about living the life of a student even if you’re already old—being an eternal student and an eternal teacher. At the UP College of Medicine, we’re trained to always learn one, like a procedure, do one and teach one. So in life, it’s the same way,” Baron said.

She once held UP Diliman’s record for the highest post-war undergraduate GWA, with an average of 1.03, when she finished Bachelor of Science in Zoology, her pre-medicine course. The record was bested only this year by John Gabriel Pelias, who received a degree in mathematics with a GWA of 1.016.

Baron, who topped the 1978 UP entrance examinations, got a grade of 1.25 in only two subjects, the second highest grade in the university, throughout her college life—in freshman communications and one laboratory subject. The rest were perfect “uno.”

She then graduated cum laude from the UP College of Medicine, then finished her biochemistry doctorate with magna cum laude honors at the University of Michigan in the United States, where she studied on a scholarship.

Looking back, the glaucoma specialist said she almost felt a tinge of guilt delivering the valedictory speech in 1982. She felt a summa cum laude graduate of electrical engineering, a course she felt was tougher than hers, should have had the honor.

“There were seven summas in our class but I had the highest GWA so I was made commencement speaker. But there was this guy who was summa in electrical engineering … There were so many summas in engineering, and I think engineering is the toughest college in the whole UP system,” Baron said.

Believing scores in social science courses should not be compared to grades in the natural and physical sciences, Baron said, “That’s why I don’t like talking about GWAs. It’s not fair to (focus so much on) points.”

She was so modest about her grade that husband Rene and their children Eric John and Regina Teresa did not know about her accomplishment until the papers reported Pelia’s GWA and published the names of previous record holders.

“I kind of just forgot it because real life is different. When I went to the US, they didn’t know (about my grade). I didn’t want them to think I was bragging. That’s why my husband didn’t know that and my kids only knew about it recently,” Baron said.

True UP baby
Baron’s connection to UP started at birth. Both her parents are from UP. Her lawyer father Miguel was a university scholar while her mother, Gertrudis, a pharmaceutical chemist, finished her masters in pharmacy at UP.

Her brother John graduated valedictorian from the UP College of Medicine.

“My parents met in UP. They were married in UP. I learned how to walk in UP, I was baptized in UP. I learned to walk in the oval and learned how to run at Sunken Garden. It was all about UP for me,” Baron recalled life in the UP Diliman campus.

After finishing high school at St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City, she took the UP entrance examinations and was so confident she would pass the right-minus-wrong tests she did not even consider any other university.

“Everybody in my family is from UP. I even demanded that both my children go to UP. Even my husband is from UP (School of Economics). It was UP or nothing,” said Baron.

Almost 30 years since she made UP history, the 50-year-old Baron is now making her own little personal history in a small clinic at the Las Piñas Doctor’s Hospital in Las Piñas City, Metro Manila.
She left a lucrative practice in an upscale hospital to serve those most in need.

Serving the C-D-E market might have halved her income but Baron said the decision greatly multiplied the “psychic reward.”

“I’m serving a sector of society that is not served by big medical centers. And it’s pure service, which I got from UP,” she said.

“My patients are mostly old. One patient told me, ‘Doktora, when we get to heaven, we will all welcome you.’ It makes me happy knowing that all my patients die with clear vision,” Baron said, chuckling.

She considers every patient appointment a new opportunity to teach about general eye health and the still incurable glaucoma. She chose this field of specialization because of her family’s medical history. She herself is also afflicted with the disease, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the country.

The eye doctor’s fees depend on how much a patient can afford.

“If he (really has no money), then I give the check-up for free and I give medicine samples,” Baron said.

Relatives and doctor-friends in the US have been nagging her to move there and work. But the iskolar ng bayan has chosen to stay.

“Somebody has to stay here and man the fort to make sure people are healthy. Give up the dollars, the prestige. Maybe that’s how UP molded me,” Baron said.

“UP has given us so much and the country expects so much from us in return. It’s really about being an iskolar ng bayan. Some people have forgotten that. That’s the UP spirit: not just brains, but also a big heart and the hand to serve,” she said.


Krusada: “No Plastic Policy” Insights May 16, 2011

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Last week, I received an email inquiry from a staff of television program Krusada, a public-affairs documentary of media network ABS-CBN requesting for an interview regarding the No Plastic Policy implemented in Los Baños town, Laguna. It said that the program being hosted by Julius Babao will feature the non-use of plastics campaign of the town that figured prominently when it comes to waste management by virtue of its equally successful program on prohibiting and regulating plastic usage. Our Los Baños-based alliance, KALIKASAN Environmental Action Movement was identified as a reference entity. On Thursday morning, the interview was held somewhere at the foot of Mt Makiling.

Despite the short notice, I was able to hurdle the interview, the questions of which mostly pertain to the why’s and how’s of the campaign. I was speaking on my observation as an Alliance member and a Los Baños resident for eight years now and a witness to the no to plastic initiative. At some point, I injected the Alliance’s position and programs as regards the topic. For instance, as regards the impact, I echoed the belief that the non-plastic efforts are but one aspect of the whole environmental efforts to protect and preserve the environmental and should not be treated as a one-size-fits-all solution. I said that outside Los Baños, there are still larger and serious problems and threats to nature, such as mining, land conversion and development, climate change, among others. I failed to elaborate on the effluents and wastes, in solid or liquid form, coming from the industrial enclaves in Laguna’s 1st District which by the way also constitutes pollution of Laguna Lake. This and the bulk of waste from domestic sources contribute to the further degradation of the lake.

On the success of the campaign, I said that based on observations, it relatively caused behavior change among residents and businesses when it comes to consciousness on non-use of plastics and use of alternative or indigenous materials as containers. However, I reiterated the fact that success rate of the campaign on the long term depends on the will of the local leadership in terms of monitoring and ensuring the efficient implementation of the law. Otherwise, a return to the old ways is not a far possibility.

Mid-Summer Wishes May 16, 2011

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It’s summer season (read: mid-summer) and I guess everyone who’s into outdoor or field activities more or less have plans in their minds. Or for some, they have long planned their schedule for this season and are pretty excited right now to commence a long list of summer activities. Our recent visit to the Pahiyas Festivities in Lucban, Quezon yesterday reminded me of the long list of wishes and plans of outdoor activities ahead locally and who knows, abroad, possibly, SEA. But given the pressure at work, and hopefully becoming a student again might limit those travel wishes. Nevertheless, I still have few activities ahead to keep me sane and keep my list on the roll. Towards the end of this month, I’ll be back in Davao with the Backpackers after roughly a decade or so. Crossing my fingers to catch a glimpse of the Island Garden City of Samal and meet some relatives. Before that, I’ll be joining Ive on my first attendance to a major concert. Having Maroon 5 for a first, and our first time together is just so right and special.

CALL FOR ENTRIES: 1st AGITPROP International Film Festival July 2011 May 9, 2011

Posted by pilibustero in Arts & Culture, Politics & Society.
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This coming July 2011, the Philippines will be a venue for two international events – the International Conference on Progressive Culture (ICPC) and the 4th International Assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).

The ILPS is an anti-imperialist and democratic organization which at present includes more than 350 member organizations from over 40 countries. The ICPC, on the other hand, is an initiative of ILPS member cultural organizations.

Both events seek to forge a stronger and broader solidarity among organizations and individuals (including artists) in the struggle to advance and defend the peoples’ genuine democratic rights and aspirations throughout the world.

In lieu of such historic occasions, the Southern Tagalog Exposure is organizing an international film festival titled “AGITPROP” which will take on the similar theme of promoting peoples’ democratic struggles all over the world.

Please join us in this endeavor by entering your film/s in the festival.

Visit http://agitpropfilmfest.wordpress.com/ for details on how to join and other information.