[Blueboard] The Meaning of Service: On the 2007 University Service Awardees

Maricor E. Baytion mbaytion at ateneo.edu
Wed Nov 26 15:26:17 PHT 2008

When the University?s employees are honored and recognized for their  
years of service it is always a happy and special occasion. One of  
2007?s service awardees said that he always makes it a point to go to  
this annual event because ?it gives me a nice feeling that I get to  
mix with the people I work with, am happy to see them all there as we  
line up for the food, chat, remember the past.?

Last year 2007 marked a distinct milestone because its 35-year  
awardees were the very first five-year service award recipients when  
then Executive Vice President  Father Antonio Samson instituted the  
program in 1977.

Among those who were recognized last November 22, 2007, was LILLIAN  
VERGARA, who started her career in the Ateneo as a high school teacher  
in 1972, and was, until recently, Executive Director of OMIOD. In an  
interview, she said she felt that her stay in the Ateneo had been time  
well-spent in the midst of a caring community. Ironically it seems,  
she said her best memories of the Ateneo happened in the worst moment  
of her life, i.e., when her husband died. ?When Bert passed away, it  
gave me great consolation to know that the community was with me, that  
I was in the company of friends. I was getting notes of sympathy  
through email and text from even the mission and spirituality offices  
abroad.? In one of the wake Masses, ?Father Huang thanked the family  
for letting me work even during weekends on behalf of the Society. It  
made me feel a friendship, a sense of knowing that I was part of this  
community. Thus my wish for the University is for this feeling of  
belonging to a community of friends to be sustained.?

Lillian emphasized that ?regardless of many things, the University is  
important. We must remember that we are a part of a potential source  
of hope because it is a training ground for leaders. We have to  
understand that we are part of something noble. It is the meaning of  
the mission rather than personal interest. Thus service is giving your  
best because we have been loved by God, whoever your God may be. Our  
way of reciprocating the grace of being loved by God is by putting our  
talents to other people?s benefit. So it is not the number if years  
you put in it that matters, but how you make use of these talents for  
something for the greater glory of God.?

BONG ACAIN is a computer technician. Two and a half decades ago he  
began as a clerical worker, and has become adept at responding to  
computer-related needs of the students in the Rizal Library. According  
to Bong, ?Minahal ko yung trabaho ko at gusto ko magserbisyo sa  
estudyante. Natutuwa akong makapaglingkod sa Ateneo. Nakaka-boost ng  
spirit. Ang serbisyo ay pagtatrabaho nang buong puso, naglilingkod sa  
kliyente, nagbibigay ng panahon sa nangangailangan kahit lampas na sa  
oras ng trabaho mo, basta makatulong lang. Importante din ang pagiging  

Another long-lasting member of the Ateneo community is FATHER JOSEPH  
ROCHE. All combined he has taught philosophy and theology for  
forty-five years in both the college (now Loyola Schools) and the  
Loyola School of Theology. For him the value of teaching is in the  
interaction with students. He said he finds himself learning a lot  
from the students?even though it is to find out that they did not  
understand anything! He feels, for example, that many things are  
understood only on the academic level, rather than on the deeper faith  
level. He believes that while many in the faculty are committed to  
what the Ateneo stands for, ?we have to learn to teach the faith in a  
way that relates to college students. I for one would like to see a  
more explicit Catholic orientation.?

Another forty-five year service awardee last year, WALLY BELEN,  
considers the Ateneo his home and the community, his family. He went  
to the Ateneo de San Pablo for high school, he came to the AdMU for  
college, then returned to San Pablo to teach after graduation. The  
spirit that infused him in his college days he said he tried to bring  
back to San Pablo: he taught his students the cheers, he introduced  
class nights and other activities which, for him, instilled the Ateneo  
spirit deeply in those whom he mentored. His best memories are of  
teaching in the high school: ?they have become part of me and I of  

Being in the economics faculty, though on a ?permanent parttime?  
basis, has also been a source of happy memories for Wally. ?We are so  
close here, we enjoy eating together. If someone has come from a trip  
abroad, there is always pasalubong that is shared by everyone.?

?Service for me is giving without counting the cost, and loving the  
work. The beauty of it is that the people one works for change all the  
time. I still find delight in the knowledge that my former students  
have done well in their careers, or in school. One time I was invited  
to speak in Tarlac. It turned out that the one who introduced me was a  
student of mine in San Pablo. He said that after all these years he  
and his mother remember me well because of one field trip. He was  
begging off from joining it because they did not have enough money. He  
remembers me as letting him join just the same, and telling him,  
?having no money should not be a hindrance to something like this.? He  
is now a department head of a college in Tarlac.

?Ateneo has been my life. I feel so at home here because I know most  
of the people here, from Father Nebres to the most senior librarian.  
Even the the guards acknowledge me when I enter the gates. Some of my  
former students in economics have become my department chairs! My  
colleagues say that I make economics ?teachable? so when there are  
workshops for public school teachers, for example, I am asked to do  
it. That is my role. Indeed the university has been my life and I make  
sure the students are happy about my teaching. It gives me a feeling  
of completeness when I know that this happens.?

CONSTANTINO ?TIN? PLAZA began his employment in the Ateneo on his  
birthday, April 12, twenty-five years ago. He started as electrician  
when retired Col. Dimayuga was physical plant administrator. Tin is  
now the head of the telephone system under Mr. Lee Miralao as  
administrator. According to Tin, ?kaya ako nagtagal sa trabaho dahil  
kasundo ko naman ang aking mga kasama, masaya kami dito, at napamahal  
na sa akin ang trabaho ko.? There are also times when he performs  
technical work as extra services to students and faculty, which he  
does not charge for. He hopes the other Ateneo employees continue to  
love their work as they do it: ?Nakikita ko naman na maayos ang  
karamihan. Sana laging magtulungan sa trabaho, at iwasan ang inggitan.?

GINA YLAYA, also a 25-year awardee last year, finds that ?there is a  
good fit between what the place needs and what I do. I am very  
appreciative of the fact that it is a very humane, decent working  
environment. The people who run the University make it easy for the  
rest to do their jobs well. There are no moral dilemmas to deal with,  
no struggle outside that of the mental struggle required in doing  
one?s work. One does not have to fight for resources that one needs to  
perform one?s job. It is easy to take this for granted, but in my job  
where I get to interview people from all sorts of offices I am  
reminded of this each time, that in the Ateneo there is nothing to  
impede the successful performance of one?s work.

?One of the first things that struck me when I entered the campus  
twenty-five years ago was the serenity of the place: the presence of  
trees, the absence of concrete.? And it seems Gina was hooked from  
that first encounter with the Ateneo.

?Service to me is making the most of your talents to achieve a certain  
purpose or goal that?s bigger than yourself and that will be of  
benefit to others. In the Ateneo there are opportunities for doing  
something beyond the scope of one?s work. For some jobs the service  
aspect may not be that obvious as say, in teaching, medicine, but the  
University has all these activities where you can help?in its projects  
for the poor, in politics, and so on. It is up to you to join or not.?

  (to be continued)

*(This two-part article was to have come out last year. Apologies to  
those interviewed for not being able to post it sooner, but I am  
sharing what was generously shared with me, because they still  
inspire, a year after. Many thanks.)

Event in November: National Book Award winner for fiction MGA GERILYA  
SA POWELL STREET by Benjamin Pimentel goes onstage at the CCP,  
weekends. Stars Tommy Abuel, Bembol Roco, Lou Veloso, Bodgie Pascua,  
Dido de la Paz. Tanghalang Pilipino: 02-8323661; 09209621050.

Ateneo de Manila University Press
Bellarmine Hall, AdMU Campus
Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights
Tel 02-4265984; 4266001 ext 4613
unipress at admu.edu.ph
Visit our website: www.ateneopress.org

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
                           - Hannah Arendt

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